Chabad Offers Class on Ethics in War

In the weeks and months following 9/11, the Bush administration launched what it named the “War on Terror” against militant Islam. With the realization that the West was doing battle not with a particular nation-state, but a world-wide terror network, many conventional methods of warfare suddenly became obsolete, as did the traditional definition of war.

Almost immediately controversy erupted surrounding the advanced interrogation techniques used by the CIA to elicit information from suspected terrorists. Today, some contend that those interrogation techniques were actually torture, and thus illegal, adding that they were ineffective as well. At the same time, there has been significant pushback from the intelligence community, much of which continues to maintain that the techniques did, in fact, save lives.

How can the inherent conflict between maintaining national security and protecting civil liberties resolved? With the recent destabilization of much of the Middle East and the dawn of ISIS, this question has never been more relevant.

On August 18, the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute (JLI) will present Justice and the War on Terror, a special Continuing Legal Education-accredited two-part series, which shines a light on this modern dilemma.

Rabbi Avrohom Litvin of Chabad of Kentucky will conduct the two-part course at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays, August 18 and 25, at Chabad House, 1654 Almara Cr.

“The questions being asked in this series are unfortunately very pertinent today,” says Rabbi Litvin, the local JLI instructor in Louisville. “We will be discussing the legal issues involved from the perspective of U.S. law and contemporary Israeli law, and compare them with concepts laid out in Talmudic law.”

The second part of the course will focus on negotiating with terrorists for hostages. From Israel’s exchange of 1,027 prisoners for one captured IDF soldier, to the United States government’s insistence that ransom payments made by family of those kidnapped by ISIS were illegal, these life and death situations have real world bearing.

“The Jewish people have experienced similar situations throughout our arduous history,” explains Rabbi Zalman Abraham of JLI headquarters in New York. “When Rabbi Meir of Rothenberg was imprisoned for ransom in the Middle Ages, he ruled on his own abduction in light of Talmudic law.”

The rabbi refused to allow his students to pay his ransom, and he died in prison after seven years, where his body remained for a further 14 years until it was redeemed by a wealthy German Jew.

“His was a devastating, but principled course of action,” Rabbi Abraham said.

Like all previous JLI programs, Justice and the War on Terror is designed to appeal to people at all levels of Jewish knowledge, including those without any prior experience or background in Jewish learning. All JLI courses are open to the public, and attendees need not be affiliated with a particular synagogue, temple or other house of worship. There is a fee of $49 for this class.

Interested students may call 502-459-1770 or visit for registration and other course-related information.

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