Jewish Ethics On Facebook
03/18/09
Staff Writer
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Imagine you have a needy relative who’s always hitting you up for money. The person’s a nudge, irresponsible, undependable and ungrateful. Should you keep loaning that person your money? That scenario has been a hot topic on the Internet for a month. It’s the first “moral dilemma” posed on “The Jewish Ethics Project,” a new Facebook group established by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin. Founded as a follow-up to Rabbi Telushkin’s latest book, “A Code of Jewish Ethics, Volume 2: Love Your Neighbor as Yourself” (Bell Tower, 2009), the Facebook group (www.jewishethicsproject.netbounce.com) is the first one that offers such interactive moral suasion from a Jewish perspective, the rabbi says. But it’s open to anyone, and many of the first 500-plus members are not Jewish. “I wanted to put a renewed emphasis on Jewish ethical teachings,” says Rabbi Telushkin, a prolific author and lecturer. “I want to affect and elevate people’s behavior. You reach people [on Facebook] whom you might otherwise not reach.” Each week he introduces a particular ethical topic, augmented by a dilemma to which the group’s members respond. The dilemmas, like the shnorrer relative, are more about intrapersonal issues than current headline topics. “Family resonates,” Rabbi Telushkin. Georgianna Johnson, a group member from Massachusetts, says she joined after she read “A Code of Jewish Ethics” and did some online research about the rabbi. “The book was addressing some issues I was discussing.” Johnson, who is Catholic, is a student of Scripture. The Facebook group, she says, lets her learn more about “Scripture the way it is taught” in the original Jewish tradition. “It’s really a nice group,” Johnson says. “It’s really worthwhile to participate. “I’ve posted a couple of times,” taking part in discussions about one of the rabbi’s moral dilemmas, she says, Responses to the first dilemma ranged, Rabbi Telushkin says. Stop giving money to a miscreant, some people suggested. Don’t stop, said others. The rabbi’s own answer? None, so far. “The message is sometimes there isn’t necessarily a definitive answer to every question.” Sometimes, the rabbi says, he’s more interested in provoking thoughtful discussion than in providing a definitive answer. “This one, I may leave open.”

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02/09/2010 - 05:15

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