Confronting Scandal: How Jews Can Respond when Jews Do Bad Things

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Jewish Lights Publishing, 2010 - Religion - 166 pages
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What Should We Do When We See Other Jews Behaving Badly?

Most Jews are good, upstanding people who live by a strong moral code and follow Isaiah's words to be a light to others. But when Jews in the public sphere make headlines for being caught in scandals, their actions can provoke anger, shame and a sense of betrayal in the larger Jewish community.

In this insightful and timely book, Jewish scholar Dr. Erica Brown presents an intentional, disciplined framework to explore the emotions provoked in the Jewish community by reports of Jews committing crime. She proposes that we transform our sense of shame into actions that inspire and sustain a moral culture. Drawing from the Hebrew Bible, Talmud and our centuries-long Jewish commitment to ethics, she outlines ways you can activate and operate your personal moral compass, and shows how you can empower yourself with sacred obligation, responsibility, kindness and knowledge to increase Jewish pride.

"A fascinating, disturbing, and important one of the most important voices in Jewish life today. Brown asks us to grapple with very real issues."¨Deborah E. Ligstadt, PhD, Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies, Emory University

"A bold, honest, and necessary book about our collective Jewish failure to come to terms with our collective Jewish failures. Engagingly written by one of American Jewry's most refreshing new voices, it deserves to be widely read and deeply heeded."¨Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of Britain and the Commonwealth

"Important reading for Jewish community leaders who are already facing the terrifying issues Brown raises without the benefit of her Jewish knowledge and wisdom. Courageous...clear, informed, and wise."¨Barry Shrage, president, Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston

Discomfort, shame, ethics, pride and wise judgments in an age of choice.

Jews seem to be in the news today for all the wrong reasons. Whether it is Bernie Madoff or money laundering by rabbinic leaders, or rabbis who commit sex offenses and then stand at the pulpit offering moral guidance, the Jewish community has yet to take stock of what these breaches of civil law and ethical teachings mean to us as a people. How do we manage collective discomfort and shame?

With wisdom on morality from the Hebrew Bible, Talmudic commentators and midrash, as well as insights from modern scholars and media professionals, this challenging and timely look at Jewish ethics invites Jews to join in a conversation on:

Airing Our Dirty Laundry

Reporting Crime

Religious Hypocrisy

Conversion and Repentance

When Jews Do Good Things

...and more

"An honest and thoughtful examination of one of the most vexing issues in Communal life. A must read for anyone who cares about building a strong and ethical Jewish community for the future."¨Rabbi Jill Jacobs, author of There Shall Be No Needy: Pursuing Social Justice through Jewish Law and Tradition

"A compelling guide on the direction Jewish life must take if we are to remain true to the tenets of Judaism and have something to teach the world. This is an important book by an important writer."-Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author, Jewish Literacy, A Code of Jewish Ethics, and Hillel: If Not Now, When?

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Above the Law?
Airing Dirty Laundry
Jews in Crime Who Are Doing Time
Thou Shalt Not Shame
Oy Hypocrisy
Is Repentance Possible?
When Jews Do Good Things

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About the author (2010)

Dr. Erica Brown, an inspiring writer and educator, is scholar-in-residence for the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. She consults for the Jewish Agency and other Jewish non-profits, and is a faculty member of the Wexner Foundation. She is an Avi Chai Fellow, winner of the Ted Farber Professional Excellence Award, and the recipient of a Covenant Award for her work in education. She is author of Inspired Jewish Leadership: Practical Approaches to Building Strong Communities, a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award, and Spiritual Boredom: Rediscovering the Wonder of Judaism; and co-author of The Case for Jewish Peoplehood: Can We Be One? (all Jewish Lights). She lectures widely on subjects of Jewish interest and leadership. She lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, with her husband and four children, and can be reached at

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