The Ethical Life: Jewish Values in an Age of Choice

A Turnkey Curriculum in Jewish Ethics from JTS

From political and financial scandals to rapid progress in biomedical science and technology, the complex issues of modern society are, at their core, issues of ethical and moral concern. Now more than ever, we require a solid understanding of how Jewish ethics can inform our discussions and decisions about the critical questions of the day. Judaism has a long history of wrestling with moral questions, responding to them in a way that considers all sides of an issue. 

This complete, turnkey course for adult learners gives rabbis and educators the resources to facilitate nuanced communal conversations grappling with today’s most pressing ethical dilemmas. It includes videos featuring JTS faculty, other expert scholars, and practitioners in the field; classical and contemporary texts; an extensive leader’s guide; and additional resources online. 

How to Order

The price for this complete course is $500. This includes all video lectures on USB, and password-protected access to all course materials online. 

Discounts are available. If your organization is not able to afford this price, please email ethical.life@jtsa.edu.

Order now

What the Curriculum Includes

  • Video Lectures: JTS faculty members and other expert scholars lecture for approximately 10–15 minutes, offering a reasoned position on an ethical dilemma.
  • Sourcebook: The sourcebook includes primary texts for each lecture—in the original language and with English translation—and recommended background readings.
  • Leader’s Guide: An extensive collection of resources for course leaders, including guidelines for conducting conversations about ethics; recommendations for how to structure each session; an outline of each video lecture; hevruta questions and explanatory notes for primary sources; illustrative case studies; suggested discussion questions; and recommended background resources.
  • “Voices from the Field”: Videos 3–5 minutes long featuring individuals from the American Jewish community who, in their professions, grapple with ethical challenges on a daily basis.

All course materials are housed on a password-protected online platform. Video lectures are also provided on a USB drive. Textual sources are provided as PDFs, to be printed locally by each participating community or accessed on electronic devices for a paperless experience. The Leader’s Guide is provided both in print and online as a PDF.

Course Contents

I. Foundational Sessions

  1. Introduction:
    • The Centrality of Ethics to Jewish Life: Chancellor Arnold Eisen
    • Does Ethics Need God?: Dr. Alan Mittleman
  2. The Sources of Jewish Ethics:
    • Ethics and Halakhah (Law): Rabbi Gordon Tucker, PhD and Rabbi Elliot Dorff, PhD
    • Ethics and Aggadah (Narrative): Dr. Eitan Fishbane
    • Ethics and the Lived Experience—A Feminist Approach: Dr. Michal Raucher 

II. Ethics of Global Citizenship and the Public Good

  1. The Ethical Dimensions of Food Production: Dr. David Kraemer
  2. Fracking: A Case Study in the Ethics of Neighborly Relations: Rabbi Eliezer Diamond, PhD
  3. Is Teshuvah Possible? Rethinking Mass Incarceration: Rabbi Jill Jacobs
  4. Modern-Day Slavery and Our Ethical Responsibility: Rabbi Gordon Tucker, PhD
  5. The Ethics of Torture and Just War: Rabbi Melissa Weintraub 

III. Personal and Interpersonal Ethics

  1. Advance Directives and the Ethics of End-of-Life Care: Rabbi Mychal Springer
  2. Disabilities and the Ethics of Inclusion: Rabbi Daniel Nevins
  3. Surrogacy and the Ethics of Relationships: Dr. Michal Raucher
  4. Better than Normal? The Ethics of Enhancement: Rabbi Leonard Sharzer, MD
  5. Is Lying Ever Ethical?: Rabbi David Hoffman, PhD

A Modular Framework

The videos and accompanying materials are designed to be used by clergy or educators as part of an ongoing study program, rather than as stand-alone sessions. However, each unit stands on its own, so course leaders may select which sessions they wish to include and in what order they wish to teach them. 

What People Are Saying

“JTS offers rabbis in the field a tremendous resource in The Ethical Life. The materials themselves are beautifully put together and reflect the high level and seriousness behind the curriculum. The complementary videos are professional and integrate seamlessly. My adult students are really enjoying the text study and video lectures, and I’m grateful to JTS for embarking on the project.”
—Rabbi Joel Levenson, Midway Jewish Center, Syosset, NY

“The Ethical Life course gave the students the ability to make connections between Jewish wisdom and the 21st century.”
—Rabbi Kobi Chumash, Temple Shalom, Colorado Springs, CO

“I taught The Ethical Life to an active and animated group of about 25 adult students. They were engaged with the texts and the videos, enjoyed the opportunity to study with JTS scholars and benefitted from the sustained discussion about each topic. When we concluded the course, they asked for more time and topics.”
—Rabbi Baruch Frydman-Kohl, Beth Tzedec Congregation, Toronto, ON

“The fundamental wisdom of the ancient masters combined with the wisdom of contemporary Jewish scholars demonstrates that the Conservative Movement continues to evolve and broaden its scope to address the ethical issues of the 21st century. Some issues were timeless and some were timely.”
—Course Participant, Fair Lawn Jewish Center/ Congregation B’nai Israel, Fairlawn, NJ

Sites offering The Ethical Life include:

North America

  • Calgary, AB—Beth Tzedec
  • Phoenix, AZ—Beth El Congregation
  • Scottsdale, AZ – Congregation Or Tzion
  • Aliso Viejo, CA—Temple Beth El of South Orange County
  • Long Beach, CA—Temple Beth Shalom of Long Beach
  • Los Angeles, CA—Temple Beth Am
  • Los Gatos, CA—Yavneh Day School
  • Walnut Creek, CA—B’nai Tikvah
  • Colorado Springs, CO—Temple Shalom
  • Bloomfield, CT—Mandell JCC
  • Bloomfield, CT—The Neshama Center for Lifelong Learning @ B’nai Tikvoh-Sholom
  • Greenwich, CT—Temple Sholom
  • Manchester, CT—Beth Shalom B’nai Israel
  • Middletown, CT—Adath Israel
  • Stamford, CT—Temple Beth El
  • West Hartford, CT—Beth El Temple
  • Washington, DC—Adas Israel Congregation
  • Washington, DC—Georgetown University Jewish Life
  • Boca Raton, FL—B’nai Torah Congregation
  • Boca Raton, FL—Shaarei Kodesh
  • Clearwater, FL—Congregation Beth Shalom
  • Delray, FL—The Neshamah Institute
  • Fort Myers, FL—Temple Judea
  • Gainesville, FL—Congregation B’nai Israel
  • Naples, FL—Beth Tikvah of Naples
  • Chicago, IL—Anshe Emet Synagogue
  • Highland Park, IL—North Suburban Synagogue Beth El
  • Northfield, IL—Am Yisrael Conservative Congregation
  • Springfield, IL—Temple B’rith Sholom
  • Springfield, IL—Temple Israel
  • Louisville, KY—Keneseth Israel Congregation
  • Lexington, MA—Temple Emunah
  • Natick, MA—Temple Israel of Natick
  • Needham, MA—Temple Aliyah
  • Pittsfield, MA—Knesset Israel
  • Taunton, MA—Agudath Achim
  • Worcester, MA—Congregation Beth Israel
  • Baltimore, MD—Chizuk Amuno Congregation
  • Damascus, MD—Congregation Or Chadash
  • Frederick, MD—Beth Sholom Congregation
  • Olney, MD—B’nai Shalom of Olney
  • Potomac, MD—Congregation B’nai Tzedek
  • Rockville, MD—Kol Shalom Synagogue
  • Ann Arbor, MI—Beth Israel
  • Portage, MI—Congregation of Moses
  • Southfield, MI—Congregation Shaarey Zedek
  • West Bloomfield, MI—Congregation Beth Ahm
  • Minnetonka, MN—Adath Jeshurun Congregation
  • Northfield, MN—Carleton College
  • Northfield, MN—St. Olaf College
  • Northfield, MN—Temple Sholom
  • St Louis Park, MN—Beth El Synagogue
  • Creve Coeur, MO—Congregation B’nai Amoona
  • St Louis, MO—Jewish Federation of St Louis
  • St Louis, MO—Kol Rinah
  • St Louis, MO—Hillel at Washington University in St. Louis
  • St Louis, MO—St. Louis Jewish Community Center
  • Charlotte, NC—Temple Israel
  • Raleigh, NC—Beth Meyer Synagogue
  • Omaha, NE—Beth El Synagogue
  • Nashua, NH—Temple Beth Abraham
  • Basking Ridge, NJ—Congregation B’nai Israel
  • Bridgewater, NJ—Temple Sholom
  • Cherry Hill, NJ—Temple Beth Sholom
  • Closter, NJ—Temple Emanu-El
  • East Windsor, NJ—Beth El Synagogue
  • Fair Lawn, NJ—The Fair Lawn Jewish Center/Congregation B’nai Israel
  • Hoboken, NJ—United Synagogue of Hoboken
  • Livingston, NJ—Temple Beth Shalom
  • Long Beach Island, NJ—Jewish Community Center of Long Beach Island
  • Middletown, NJ—Congregation B’nai Israel
  • Millburn, NJ—Congregation B’nai Israel
  • Morris Plains, NJ—Adath Shalom
  • Oakhurst, NJ—Congregation Torat El 
  • Rockaway, NJ—White Meadow Temple
  • Scotch Plains, NJ—Congregation Beth Israel
  • Somerset, NJ—Temple Beth El
  • South Orange, NJ—Oheb Shalom Congregation
  • West Orange, NJ—B’nai Shalom
  • Teaneck, NJ—Congregation Beth Sholom
  • Ventnor, NJ—Shirat Hayam
  • Woodcliff Lake, NJ—Temple Emanuel of the Pascack Valley
  • Albany, NY—Temple Israel
  • Dix Hills, NY—Dix Hills Jewish Center
  • Flushing, NY—Hollis Hills Bayside Jewish Center
  • Flushing, NY—Temple Gates of Prayer
  • Greenport, NY—Congregation Tifereth Israel
  • Mamaroneck, NY—Westchester Jewish Center
  • Mount Kisco, NY—Bet Torah
  • Newburgh, NY—Congregation Agudas Israel
  • New City, NY—New City Jewish Center
  • New York, NY—Central Synagogue
  • New York, NY—Fort Tryon Jewish Center
  • New York, NY—Park Avenue Synagogue
  • New York, NY—Sutton Place Synagogue
  • New York, NY—Town and Village Synagogue
  • Niskayuna, NY—Congregation Agudat Achim
  • Oceanside, NY—Oceanside Jewish Center
  • Orangeburg, NY—Orangetown Jewish Center
  • Pelham Manor, NY—Pelham Jewish Center
  • Port Chester, NY—Congregation KTI
  • Port Washington, NY—Temple Beth Israel
  • Roslyn Heights, NY—Temple Beth Sholom
  • Rye, NY—Community Synagogue of Rye
  • Rye, NY—Congregation Emanu-El of Westchester
  • Scarsdale, NY—Shaarei Tikvah
  • Syosset, NY—Midway Jewish Center
  • Syracuse, NY—Temple Adath Yeshurun
  • Cincinnati, OH—Adath Israel Congregation 
  • Columbus, OH—Tifereth Israel
  • Pepper Pike, OH—B’nai Jeshurun Congregation
  • Toronto, ON—Adath Israel Congregation
  • Toronto, ON—Beth Tzedec Congregation
  • Vaughan, ON—Beit Rayim Synagogue
  • Bethlehem, PA—Congregation Brith Sholom
  • Dresher, PA—Temple Sinai
  • Harrisburg, PA—Beth El Temple
  • Harrisburg, PA—Chisuk Emuna Congregation
  • Lancaster, PA—Temple Beth El
  • Penn Valley, PA—Congregation Beth Am Israel
  • Reading, PA—Kesher Zion Synagogue
  • Richboro, PA—Ohev Shalom of Bucks County
  • Montreal, QC—Shaare Zion
  • Knoxville, TN—Heska Amuna Synagogue
  • Memphis, TN—Beth Sholom Synagogue
  • Dallas, TX—Congregation Shearith Israel
  • Houston, TX—Congregation Or Ami
  • San Antonio, TX—Congregation Agudas Achim
  • Alexandria, VA—Agudas Achim Congregation
  • Arlington, VA—Congregation Etz Hayim
  • Hampton, VA—Rodef Sholom Temple
  • Seattle, WA—Congregation Beth Shalom
  • Glendale, WI—Congregation Beth Israel Ner Tamid

International

  • Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg–Liberal Jewish Community of Luxembourg in Esch/Alzette

Contact Us

To learn more about this course, please contact ethical.life@jtsa.edu

This course is made possible through the generous support of the Hereld Institute for Jewish Studies of JTS.