Chabad centers around the world, including some in this region, are launching a new Rohr Jewish Learning Institute course, “Crime and Consequences,” exploring 3,000 years of Jewish wisdom as society grapples with criminal justice reform.
Rabbi Mendel Ceitlin of Chabad in Metairie said it is “a powerful course on an important contemporary issue.”
Rabbi Peretz Kazen of Chabad of Baton Rouge said participants “will learn to see and recover the humanity within criminals, help eliminate unethical and unfair practices from our system, come away with a clear objective in why we need to punish criminals, and explore ways to prevent crime from ever taking place.”
Alan Dershowitz commended JLI for “pushing the American political conversation in a more humane and informed direction” with this course.
In preparation for the course, Ceitlin has been meeting with area criminologists, magistrates and attorneys.
In Baton Rouge and Metairie, the first class is a stand-alone session and is open to the community. For the Feb. 5 class in Metairie, noted attorney Mike Fawer, who recently published his memoirs in “From the Bronx to the Bayou: A Defense Attorney’s Odyssey, from Charles Evers to Edwin Edwards and Beyond,” will speak.
The first lesson, “Lock and Key,” discusses the “unparalleled” incarceration rate of today, considering what the goal is when people are locked up, and what secular and Talmudic texts have to say about criminal justice.
The second week deals with Judaism and the death penalty, balancing the irreversible nature of some crimes with how humans make mistakes. How, then, does one respond to the most serious crimes?
“Justice, Justice You Shall Pursue” discusses the standards of evidence in the Talmud and today, including the standards for credible testimony, confessions and informants.
The fourth week explores how criminals can make amends, and what the ultimate goal of the criminal justice system is — restitution or rehabilitation, or both, and how to best accomplish those goals.
What happens next? That is the exploration of the fifth session, “Moving Forward,” on how people who exit prison have difficulties re-entering society. The discussion will include what Jewish law says about second chances.
The final session, “An Ounce of Prevention,” is about addressing crime before it happens, what role societal factors play, and the roots of criminality.
Registration can be completed online, and a course textbook is included. In most states, the course is CLE accredited for attorneys.
In Birmingham, the course will be at Chabad of Alabama on Wednesdays at 7 p.m., starting Feb. 6, or Thursdays at 11:30 a.m., starting Feb. 7. Registration is $89.
In the New Orleans area, sessions will be on Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. at the Chabad Center in Metairie, starting Feb. 5. Registration is $70, with a 10 percent discount for more than one person, or for returning students.
In Baton Rouge, the sessions will be at BREC Jefferson, Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. starting Feb. 5, or Wednesdays at 10 a.m. starting Feb. 6. Registration is $89.