The Jewish Family Ethics Textbook

About the Book

2021 National Jewish Book Award Finalist in Contemporary Jewish Life and Practice

Judaism offers us unique—and often divergent—insights into contemporary moral quandaries. How can we use social media without hurting others? Should people become parents through cloning? Should doctors help us die?

The first ethics book to address social media and technology ethics through a Jewish lens, along with teaching the additional skills of analyzing classical Jewish texts, The Jewish Family Ethics Textbook guides teachers and students of all ages in mining classical and modern Jewish texts to inform ethical decision making. Both sophisticated and accessible, the book tackles challenges in parent-child relationships, personal and academic integrity, social media, sexual intimacy, conception, abortion, and end of life. Case studies, largely drawn from real life, concretize the dilemmas. Multifaceted texts from tradition (translated from Hebrew and Aramaic) to modernity build on one another to shed light on the deliberations. Questions for inquiry, commentary, and a summation of the texts’ implications for the case studies deepen and open up the dialogue.

In keeping with the tradition of mahloket, preserving multiple points of view, “We need not accept any of our forebears’ ideas uncritically,” Rabbi Neal Scheindlin explains. “The texts provide opportunities to discover ideas that help us think through ethical dilemmas, while leaving room for us to discuss and draw our own conclusions.”

“In this thoughtful and thorough work, Rabbi Scheindlin brings traditional Jewish texts directly into conversation with contemporary Jewish voices, managing to both honor the tradition and the values of our day. Rabbi Scheindlin does not shy away either from the aspects of the tradition that seem most remote from—or offensive to—our own social mores or from the thorny real-life dilemmas of our experience in twenty-first-century America. This guide speaks directly to our most difficult questions. It is an extraordinarily useful resource for all those who seek to teach the tradition—whether in a synagogue, school, or home—and all those who seek to live an ethical life rooted in Jewish tradition and responsive to contemporary life.”—Rabbi Rachel Timoner, senior rabbi, Congregation Beth Elohim, Brooklyn, New York

“This is the book we have been waiting for! For inquisitive high school students and adults of all ages and streams of Jewish life who are eager to wrestle with questions of ethics, this creative book by an esteemed teacher grounds the most urgent moral issues of our time in eye-opening texts. The Jewish Family Ethics Textbook is sure to generate lively conversations from the classroom to the dinner table.”—Rabbi Judd Kruger Levingston, director of Jewish studies, Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and author of Sowing the Seeds of Character: The Moral Education of Adolescents in Public and Private Schools

“Neal Scheindlin’s book is a gold mine for educators. Distilling decades of wisdom from a master teacher, this rich trove of important Jewish texts bears on challenges that teenagers, families, and schools grapple with every day.”—Rabbi Joshua Cahan, educator, Leffell School, Westchester, New York

“This is a most important book introducing students to the profound depth of Jewish Family Ethics found in classic Jewish literature.”—Rabbi Mel Gottlieb, president, Academy for Jewish Religion, California

“A richly rendered, sensitive, and nuanced volume. As a beloved teacher of Jewish studies in a pluralistic Jewish high school, Scheindlin presents cutting-edge issues that loom large for today’s youth with warmth and empathy toward his audience and a reverence for Jewish tradition.”—Elliott Rabin, director of thought leadership at Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools, New York City

“This is an essential study guide for parents, educators, young adults, and teens seeking to clarify and deepen their understanding of and relationship to Jewish ethics. Educators will appreciate this well-curated collection of cases and texts as a valuable compass to navigate explorations with teens about challenging essential questions of our day. In an era when opinions are so often shaped by influencers and soundbites, this book provides substantive Judaic source material to ground student learning about ethical dilemmas in our tradition in our times.”—Miriam Heller Stern, national director, Rhea Hirsch School of Education, Los Angeles

“[The Jewish Family Ethics Textbook] will be of ongoing utility in high school classes and informal learning groups for years. It has set the bar for combining the practice of text study and ethical conversation.”—Aryeh Cohen, Professor of Rabbinic Literature at the Ziegler School for Rabbinic Studies of the American Jewish University

Rabbi Neal Scheindlin

Rabbi Neal Scheindlin is an adjunct lecturer in rabbinics and biblical commentaries at Hebrew Union College–Los Angeles and the Ziegler School at American Jewish University. For eighteen years he taught and developed curriculum in Jewish law and ethics at Milken Community Schools.


Study Guide

Abridged Table of Contents

Read an Excerpt: Ch. 5, Medical Ethics at the Beginning of Life

See an Excerpt from the Table of Contents (for Chapter 5)

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