B. S. Jackson, B. Lifshitz, Alyssa M. Gray, and Daniel B. Sinclair
The academic study of ‘halacha’, like its traditional study in the yeshiva, is far broader than the study of ‘Jewish law’. The halacha, in both its scope and concerns, goes well beyond the scope and concerns of that section of it which has counterparts in secular, Western legal systems. For the purposes of this article, ‘Jewish law’ is that latter subsection of the halacha, a subsection moreover which has attracted the particular attentions of scholars trained in secular jurisprudence. This article surveys trends in the field, in relation to both halacha and Jewish Law, in terms of the fourfold division — historical, dogmatic, comparative, and philosophical.
David H. Jones
This article assesses the aftereffects of the Holocaust on human rights law. Addressing the so-called ‘promise of Nuremberg’, which began in 1945 with the Charter of the International Military Tribunal, it argues that the Charter, partly as a response to the evil of the Holocaust, broke dramatically with traditional international law by mandating ‘individual responsibility’ for crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity committed by the leaders of the Axis Powers. The Nuremberg Principles were codified into international law by the United Nations General Assembly in 1946; the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide followed in 1948. However, the promise of Nuremberg remains largely unfulfilled. None of these post-World War II documents included mechanisms for executive or judicial enforcement, the UN Security Council was stymied by the power of the veto held by its permanent members, and the UN became a community of bystander states that has allowed numerous genocides and mass killings to occur. Among the possibilities for making the world safer for human rights are reform of the Security Council, creation of an international Rapid Response Force, the spread of democracy, and a reduction of poverty in the underdeveloped world.
This chapter examines Jewish political ethics as it has emerged in the American setting. Unlike virtually all the places where Jews have lived throughout history, American Jews are full-fledged citizens, and some have taken leadership roles in both local and national politics, to say nothing of the professions, academia, and business. Four different approaches that Jews have taken to respond to this new reality are described: (1) Jews should participate in American politics in service of Jewish self-interest; (2) political participation replaces religion; (3) the United States is a step in the march toward messianic redemption; and (4) Jews should involve themselves in American politics, as Jews, for the betterment of all. The chapter describes each of these positions, quotes some representative spokespersons for each, and shows how each has influenced Jewish political ethics in America, and then illustrates how varying Jewish prayers for the nation articulate each of these approaches.
This chapter addresses the following questions: Who is a Jew to qualify for immediate citizenship under Israel's Law of Return? Who may be married or buried as a Jew? How can Israel be both a Jewish state and a democratic state open to non-Jews as well as Jews? What authority, if any, should classical Jewish law have in the Jewish state in contrast to laws legislated by the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) and precedents used by judges (based largely on British Common Law together with decisions of Israeli courts from 1948 on)? How should Israel respond to the Palestinians claiming to be refugees driven from their lands in 1948, and what should it do with the large Arab population living in the West Bank that Israel conquered in the 1967 war? Can it remain a Jewish state and also a democracy if it retains the West Bank and then, in the not-too-distant future, the majority of the population is no longer Jewish?
This article examines the hitherto unquestioned consensus in Judaic studies that Judaism embraces a positive attitude towards sexuality. Grounded in the new scholarly trends of cultural and gender analysis as well as feminist critique and their impact on Jewish studies, it singles out four focal issues: sexuality in ancient rabbinic thought, to which the most scholarly attention has been directed; and issues in modern Halakhah that have just begun to inform scholarly research: the ethos of modesty and the construction of the female body; homosexuality and lesbianism; and reproduction and sexuality. The discussion reflects the tension between these two scholarly trends, and between the conceptual-theological stratum of Judaism and its reflection in the practical-legal sphere of Jewish law (Halakhah). This examination of Jewish attitudes towards sexuality, in light of the new scholarship, leads to the conclusion that although Judaism affirms sexuality, this cannot be grasped in a simple, superficial, or monolithic fashion.
Laurie L. Levenson
This chapter explores Jewish criminal justice, first discussing the rationales that make punishment moral and not just an exercise of sovereign power. It then addresses capital punishment, decreed for thirty-six different offenses in the Torah but made virtually inoperative by the Rabbis. Next, the chapter turns to what makes a defendant criminally liable, describing the conceptions of causation, joint offenders, criminal intent, and defences in Jewish law; with that as a foundation, it asks whether there is anything like a victimless crime in Jewish law. Finally, it describes the lessons that Western criminal justice can learn from both the content and the processes of Jewish criminal law.