Ethics and Values | Reconstructing Judaism
Ethics and Values

Often described as a way of life, Judaism must shape the everyday conduct of Jews to deserve that description. While most modern Jews do not see Jewish law (halakha) as binding, Jewish approaches to moral thought and action deserve attention, study, and engagement.

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In this text study, Rabbi James Greene examines the evolution of Jewish ideas of fatherhood over time, with an eye toward contemporary responsibilities of Jewish fathering.

In an essay that appeared in Philadelphia's Jewish Exponent, Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Ph.D., makes the case that Reconstructionist Judaism matters now more than ever.

An act of consent lies at the heart of the whole rabbinic Jewish enterprise. The rabbis understood the covenant at Sinai to be the foundational moment of the ongoing relationship between God and the Jewish people. In order for the covenant to be valid, Israel must have agreed to it.

Theology, Ethics and Values

Drawing on the surprisingly sophisticated classical Jewish perspective on sex and gender, Rabbi David Teutch advocates for celebration and inclusion of transgender people as a fundamental issue of justice.

Rabbi Toba Spitzer shares detailed guidelines and best practices on communal discussions around Israel.

The TEL (Teens: Experience and Learning) post-b’nai mitzvah program focuses on the values of spiritual peoplehood that form the cornerstones of Reconstructionist Jewish education. Each curriculum focuses on a different value. Derekh Eretz is a Hebrew expression broadly meaning "treatment of others." 

D'VAR TORAH
Genesis 32:4-36:43

Text study and discussion questions on the reunion of Jacob and Esau after decades of separation

Jewish values and practical strategies for improving classroom discipline in supplemental religious schools

Overview of the centrality of Jewish texts in congregational conversations around Jewish values

To Rabbi Jill Jacobs of T'ruah, rich vibrant Judaism demands breaking down the boundaries between prayer and justice. 

Rabbi Jacob Staub, Ph.D., explains why spirituality can be such an important aspect of mental health. 

Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben, Ph.D. is a nationally recognized expert in the field of moral education and has written extensively on that topic. In this recording of a community teaching call, he discusses raising ethical children of character and share ten keys to leading your children to ethical choices in everyday life:

Values-based decision making (VBDM) provides a way for individuals and groups to think through and express their policies, procedures and behavior, informed by Jewish values and contemporary insights. It has been used within the Reconstructionist movement for more than 20 years and is most recently embodied in A Guide to Jewish Practice.

A list of traditional and contemporary values shaping the process of Values-Based Decision Making. This article is excerpted from the Guide to Jewish Practice

Rabbi Jeremy Schwartz explores the role of text study in Reconstructionist congregations' decision-making process, with several case studies. This article is excerpted from the Guide to Jewish Practice

Study sheet and leader's notes on the Jewish sources, ethics and interpersonal consequences of lying and truth-telling.

How can congregations best handle controversial issues and explore the values underlying disagreements about issues? 

What is tikkun olam? In this extended article, Rabbi Jeremy Schwartz digs deep into the sources, underpinnings, and implications of "world repair."

Interview with Rabbi David Teutsch, Ph.D., about the issues addressed in the new Guide to Jewish Practice

D'VAR TORAH
Exodus 13:17-17:16
  In this text study for Parashat Beshalakh, Rabbi Toba Spitzer examines the fate of the Egyptians at the Red Sea and our tradition's ethical sensitivity to their plight.

[Our religious traditions] all believe in the importance of these values: speaking the truth, the sanctity of human life, and the obligation to treat every person with dignity.

Rabbi David Teutsch, Ph.D., discusses the role of the free press in the Jewish community and American society, and what Jewish values can teach us about journalistic ethics.

Rabbi David Teutsch, Ph.D., discusses the role of the free press in the Jewish community and American society, and what Jewish values can teach us about journalistic ethics.

Video and transcript of conversation on journalistic ethics and Jewish values

D'VAR TORAH
Exodus 19:1-20:23

Rabbi David Gedzelman explores the Book of Ruth with an eye toward structures of covenantal openness, societal protection and compassion towards the other.

This excerpt from The Guide to Jewish Practice delves into the holiday's meaning and message. 

D'VAR TORAH
Genesis 12:1-17:27

This provocative Rosh Hashanah sermon draws parallels between Hagar, Sarah's mistreated servant, and today's immigrant workers.

Rabbi Brant Rosen's poem responds to Psalm 79, challenging us to welcome the stranger even, and especially, in uncomfortable ways.

This alternative Amidah was used during mincha prayers by members of the Reconstructionist Rabbinic Association outside of an Immigration Processing Center in order to call attention to the plight of immigrants and underscore the importance of the Jewish obligation to welcome the stranger. 

D'VAR TORAH
Genesis 21:1 – 22:24

To love the stranger represents an outrageous leap out of the typical moral economy, in which we do kindnesses and expect to be repaid in kind. In loving the stranger, we transcend self-interest.

The Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities are strongly opposed to President Trump’s recently announced decision to end the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals or DACA and put the lives of over 800,000 young people in America at risk.

Ethics and Values

Ariana Katz, the inaugural recipient of the 2016 Launch Grant, created "Kaddish," a podcast about illness, death, and mourning in Jewish ritual traditions. Her work seeks to build an online community that "holds space at the intersection of life and death."

In a piece for the Forward, Reconstructionist rabbi Michael Strassfeld argues that posting inflammatory comments on social media isn't just tacky. It's a sin. 

Ethics and Values, Yom Kippur

In our first Fair Trade session with Ilana Schatz, we dove into a discussion about the standards of Fair Trade certification and the values behind it.

Ethics and Values

In our second Fair Trade session, we looked into an issue a little less than sweet: child labor in the chocolate industry. Together, we discussed the ways that synagogue communities can take steps to invest in buying ethically-sourced chocolate for their holiday celebrations. 

Ethics and Values

Our Network for Network Builders discussion, led by Cyd Weissman, welcomed us into a world of thinkers and leaders guided by a "culture of generosity." By taking time to share success stories, open up challenging discussions, and provide mentorship, we learned about building a network of trust among colleagues near and far.

In our followup to the 2016-17 Innovators Incubator, our new Rev Your Engines session focused on the development of a close-knit, supportive network of participants facing similar challenges in their start-up endeavors. From teen focused programming to a havurot for baby boomers, we looked into the support and development resources available to these community leaders.

In our second session of Reconstructing for Tomorrow, we were led in a discussion about the spiritual and tangible ways we can integrate ecological values into our Jewish lives.

In our second Network for Network Builders session, we discussed the values that drive our work and identified strategies for weaving our values into building networks.

Reconstructionist leaders call for institutional reform and lasting change in the wake of the #metoo campaign.

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