The Graduate School of The Jewish Theological Seminary of America announced last week that is establishing a new academic program — a master’s degree in Jewish ethics. The program, to be headed by Alan Mittleman, a professor of Jewish philosophy at the school, will focus on such area as bioethics, business ethics and legal ethics. The Jewish Week interviewed Mittleman by e-mail. This is an edited version of the transcript.
Judaism is mostly a rationalist tradition that embraces free will, critical thinking, and the importance of the intellect. Most endeavors that mandate irrational and overly chancy behavior are forbidden by the Jewish tradition. Gambling is one of the prevalent modern activities that may make for fun sport in moderation, but when treated as a primary source of income it borders on the irrational.
So far, “Occupy Judaism” is an embryonic offshoot of the nationwide economic protests sparked by the Occupy Wall Street camp in Lower Manhattan. Like any embryo, it has potential, and it is fragile. Unlike those who are alarmed by Occupy Judaism’s take on the economy and see its synthesis of religion and politics as some kind of cynical manipulation, we do not doubt the Occupy activists’ sincerity.
As we approach the Days of Awe, our annual exercise in self scrutiny and stock-taking can be a daunting task. Rather than highlight a single ethical dilemma this week, I offer here some suggestions, some “ethics-ercises,” as it were, to assist you on this journey.
Q. The mother of my worst enemy just died and I'm not sure whether to visit during Shiva. In truth, I sincerely see this as a chance to reconcile (we haven't spoken in about five years but have a lot of friends in common). My only concern is that he would misinterpret the reason for the visit and kick me out of the house. I really don't want to cause him any discomfort. What should I do?
Q - I frequently use a 10-trip punch card on the LIRR. Often the conductor fails to appear to punch the card before I get off.What is my obligation here? Should I tear up the card before it runs out to make up the difference or am I free to use it again as it is the responsibility of the railroad to collect the fare? This does not involve deception since I am ready to pay the fare.
As major carrier grapples with the issue, ADL official says other U.S. airlines face the same problem.
Jewish Week Correspondent
An upcoming partnership between Delta Air Lines and Saudi Arabian Airlines is raising ethical questions over how cozy American firms should get with foreign governments or carriers that have practiced discrimination.
Q - In the wake of recent sex scandals involving Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Time Magazine ran a cover story asking the rhetorical question, "What Makes Powerful Me Act Like Pigs?" Ethically speaking, how does Judaism account for this constant abuse of power by piggish men?
Q - I am the designated medical surrogate for an individual who has a living will specifying DNR/Do Not Resuscitate. The physicians and hospital have been informed and have copies of the living will and DNR. Our loved one took a downward turn but the medical team resuscitated him. The patient prospered from their efforts and returned to his pre-resuscitation health status. Should I report the medical team for ethical non-compliance of the DNR/living will orders?
Q - With baseball’s spring training underway, I’m reminded of an incident from last season. Derek Jeter, one of the few superstars from the past decade not implicated in baseball’s steroid sample, was caught on videopretending to be hit by a pitch.