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The Whizin Prize Essays

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Each year, the Center for Jewish Ethics sponsors an essay contest to encourage fresh thinking on contemporary Jewish ethics.

Established by Bruce Whizin, z”l, the Whizin Prize in Jewish Ethics is awarded for the best essay, research paper or curriculum addressing a contemporary ethical issue from a Jewish perspective. The prize includes an award of $1,800 and publication on the Center’s website. The contest is open to graduate students and rabbinical students. Submissions of any length are welcome, including those written in fulfillment of class requirements.

Entries should be mailed or emailed to the Center for Jewish Ethics, 1299 Church Road, Wyncote, PA 19095 or JewishEthics@RRC.edu with the subject “Whizin Prize.”

Name, address, email and title should be on a separate sheet so that the judges do not see them. All entries must be received no later than March 15, 2024. The winner will be announced by May 1, 2024.

Whizin Prize Essays

2023 Whizin Prize Winners:

The Ethics of Consistency: American Jewish Leadership for Reparations in the 20th Century and Why African Americans Deserve No Less Today

by Steven Goldstein

Steven Goldstein, a rabbinical student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, is a lawyer and longtime civil rights leader who has played a role in the passage of more than 200 civil rights laws as the executive director of state and national social justice organizations and as a senior staff member in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate.  His interest in reparations began 25 years ago when he worked for U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) of blessed memory.  He wrote this essay as his master’s thesis at the Academy of Jewish Religion in New York.

So the Children Should Ask: A Model of Repair

by Jessica Spencer

Jessica Spencer is a fourth-year rabbinical student at Hebrew College and also learns with the Yashrut Institute. Jessica is a co-founder of Azara, a new cross-communal British yeshiva opening Jewish texts to everyone. She was moved to write this essay by thinking about how the ways we tell stories shape us as a people and in particular out of a desire to repair breaches in her own family story.

2022 Whizin Prize Winner:

by Nathalie A. Smuha

This year’s winning essay comes from Nathalie A. Smuha, a doctoral student at the Faculty of Law at KU Leuven in Belgium. This essay takes on the ethics of Artificial Intelligence. AI algorithms put human dignity and relationality at risk. Smuha proposes that the contributions of Jewish thinkers who opposed totalitarianism in the 20th century can help address the threat of algorithmization today.

2021 Whizin Prize Winner:

by Miriam Attia

This year’s winning essay comes from Miriam Attia, a doctoral student in religious ethics at the University of Chicago Divinity School. The essay focuses on the writings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (1903-1993), widely revered as a leading light of Modern Orthodoxy, whose views on women loom large in the recent debates about the ordination of Orthodox women rabbis. Through a careful comparative analysis, Attia demonstrates that regrettably, Orthodox claims for the spiritual equality of men and women are not borne out in Soloveitchik’s writings. The essay sharpens the argument that the Orthodox rejection of female clergy undervalues women.

2020 Whizin Prize Winner:

by Daniel Mackler

Daniel Mackler stages an engaging conversation between two modern Jewish thinkers, Orthodox Rav Joseph Soloveitchik and contemporary feminist theorist Mara Benjamin. The juxtaposition is surprising, and it pays off in a rich array of insights about how it feels and what it means to be a person with obligations.

2019 Whizin Prize Winners:

by Rabbi Ariel Root Wolpe
Pornography has never been more accessible than it is today. In this Teshuva, newly ordained Rabbi Ariel Root Wolpe (Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies) examines traditional Jewish texts and recent scientific research and generates guidelines for contemporary Jews to develop a healthy, moral, spiritual relationship to their sexuality, specifically around the use of pornography.

by Vincent Calabrese
This essay by University of Toronto doctoral student Vincent Calabrese addresses the profound influence of Immanuel Kant on modern Jewish ethics. It focuses on Michael Wyschogrod, the “last exponent of the German-Jewish tradition.” An outspoken critic of Kant’s elevation of ethics over religion, Wyschogrod is nonetheless indebted to Kant in his understanding of conscience.

2018 Whizin Prize Winners:
“Between Ethics and Jewish Law: Torat Ha-Melekh and the Moral Problems of Contemporary Halakhic Discourse”
by Bar Guzi, Brandeis University
Torat Ha-Melekh is an extremist tract that deploys halakhic arguments to justify and even promote the killing of non-Jews. Bar Guzi brings this work and the controversy it unleashed in Israel to English-reading audiences. He demonstrates that it is not enough to counter such violent chauvinism on the basis of halakhic sources alone, it must be opposed from a foundation of ethical principles that are universal.

“למען נחדל מעשק ידינו-Wage Theft and Consumer Boycotts”
by Morris Panitz, Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies
What ethical responsibilities do consumers have when big corporations exploit their workers? Morris Panitz makes a halakhic argument in support of consumer boycotts.

2017 Whizin Prize Winner:
“Facing End-of-life Issues in Jewish-Protestant Families”
by Dr. Birgit E. Klein, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

2016 Whizin Prize Winner:
“One Throne for Justice, One Throne for Mercy: The Radical Rabbinic Metaethic of a Value Pluralist God”
by Ben Greenfield, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School

2015 Whizin Prize Winner:
“Sabbatical Consciousness: The Jewish Leisure Ethic and the Spirit of the Sabbath”
by Daniel Ross Goodman, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School

2014 Whizin Prize Winner:
“Sexual Orientation in Jewish Ethics: Towards an Inclusive and Empathetic Halakhic Approach”
by Daniel Ross Goodman, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School

2013 Whizin Prize Winner:
“TRUTH… in Politics?”
by Marcia Tilchin, Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies

2012 Whizin Prize Winner:
“Sexual Ethics for Rabbis: A Return to the Source” 
by Lev Meirowitz Nelson, The Rabbinical School of Hebrew College

2012 Whizin Prize Winner:
“Reexamining Kashrut: Taking into Consideration the Treatment of an Animal Prior to Slaughter”
by Samuel L. Spector, Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles Campus

2011 Whizin Prize Winner:
“Regarding the Limits of Permissible Zionist Support for Israel and the Correlating Obligations Upon American Jews,”
by David Singer of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, AJU

2010 Whizin Prize Winner:
“Jewish Ethics of Employee Treatment and Communal Responsibility,”
by Dani Passow of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah.

2009 Whizin Prize Winner:
“Jewish Law and the Issues of Fair Trade,”
by Deborah Silver of AJU, LA.

2008 Whizin Prize Winner:
“Values-Based Decision Making in the Real World of Dementia and Truth,”
by Michael Dickerman of RRC

2007 Whizin Prize Winners:
“Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis for Enhancement: A Jewish Ethic,” by Justus Baird of HUC-JIR, NY.

“How Do We Pass on Blessing? A Jewish Guide for Group Discussions on the Decision to Have or Not Have Children,” by Danielle Stillman of RRC.

2006 Whizin Prize Winner:
“A Reconstructionist Approach to Understanding Abortion,” by Nicole Wilson-Spiro of RRC.

2005 Whizin Prize Winner:
“To Recycle Photocopies of Sacred Writings or Bury Them in a Genizah? Preserving the Environment vs. Preserving the Holy Names of God,” by Devora Fond of the University of Judaism, Los Angeles.

2005 Whizin Prize Runner-Up:
“An Examination of the Cochlear Implant From a Jewish Bioethical Perspective,” by Darby Leigh of RRC.

2005 Whizin Prize Runner-Up:
“Toward A Jewish Ethic Regarding Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD),” by Josh Snyder of RRC.

2004 Whizin Prize Winner:
“Barely-Charted Territory: Some Ethical Considerations in Genetic Testing for Jewish Prospective Parents,” by Donna Kirshbaum of RRC.

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