Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Is our criminal justice system fair? What's the Jewish perspective?


January 18, 2019

This February, Chabad Centers throughout Orlando will offer “Crime and Consequence,” a new six-session course by the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute (JLI) exploring 3000 years of Jewish perspective on conviction, sentencing, and criminal rehabilitation.

Beginning the first week of February, participants in the course will challenge their thinking, ponder the implications of ancient Talmudic wisdom for complex modern cases, and get to the heart of the most pressing injustices facing our criminal justice system today.

“DNA testing is proving that we’ve been convicting innocent people. When we incarcerate first-time offenders, we’re turning them into hardened criminals. Known murderers are able to walk free on a technicality. How can we stand by and remain silent to these serious flaws in our criminal justice system?” Rabbi Mendy Bronstein of Chabad of Altamonte Springs, told The Heritage. “I believe the first step is for us, as a community, to acknowledge the issues and explore possible solutions. And can you think of a better place to look for guidance than Judaism’s wisdom of the ages?”

Participants in the course will ponder foundational questions: What is the goal of criminal punishment—to gain retribution for the victim, to keep criminals off the streets and safeguard from future crime, to set an example and instill the fear of law, or to rehabilitate the criminal and reintroduce him to society? Should we consider testimonies given in exchange for a reduced sentence as reliable evidence?

The course also boldly addresses society’s most serious sentencing questions: Is life-without-parole a justifiable penalty? May we sentence a person to death? When would these options be warranted? Is there a better way?

“Crime and Consequence is for people who care deeply about humanity, who are enraged at injustice, and who are fascinated by real-life catch-22 scenarios,” remarked Rabbi Sholom Dubov of Chabad of Greater Orlando. “Participants in the course will uncover the humanity within all people—including criminals, question judicial practices that seem unethical and unfair, and explore effective crime deterrents.”

“It is a profound irony that the United States is a true beacon of democracy, freedom, and the rule of law while it imprisons more of its own citizenry than any other country,” wrote Professor Alan Dershowitz, professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, in his endorsement of the course. “Crime and Consequence... brings rigorous legal analysis, statistical data on incarceration and rehabilitation, and case studies into a uniquely profound dialogue with the values undergirding our entire political tradition.”

The course will begin on either Tuesday or Wednesday, Feb. 5 or 6 and be held in the evening (see Chabad locations below for start dates). New for this course, the Longwood location will be offering a daytime class from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on Wednesdays in addition to their Tuesday night option.

“Over the years, we’ve gotten many requests from stay at home parents, retirees and those that are self employed requesting that we offer a day time class. We are glad to finally be able to offer this option to accommodate everyone’s schedules,” said Rabbi Yanky Majesky. 

Interested students may visit http://www.myJLI.com for registration and for other course-related information. The course will be offered at these Chabad locations:

Longwood: Tuesday, Feb. 5, 7:30 p.m.- 9 p.m. and Wednesday, Feb. 6, 11 a.m. at Nate’s Shul, 1701 Markharm Woods Rd. 407-636-5994.

Altamonte Springs: Tuesday, Feb. 5, 7:30 p.m.-9 p.m. at Chabad of Altamonte Springs, 414 Spring Valley Lane. 407-280-0535.

Maitland: Wednesday, Feb. 6, 7:30 p.m.-9 p.m. at Chabad of Orlando, 708 Lake Howell Rd. 407-644-2500.

Orlando: Tuesday, Feb. 5, 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m. at Chabad – Center of Jewish Life, 7347 W. Sand Lake Rd. 407-354-3660.

Crime and Consequence is accredited in Florida for attorneys and other law professionals to earn continuing education credits. Like all JLI programs, this course is designed for people at all levels of knowledge, including those without any prior experience or background in Jewish learning. All JLI courses are open to the public, and attendees need not be affiliated with a particular synagogue, temple, or other house of worship.


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