By Yitzhak Bronstein
We are thrilled to announce the launching of Maimonides Moot Court Competition (MMCC) as the premiere program for students to grapple with contemporary ethics through a prism of Jewish legal tradition. Powered by the Hadar Institute and supported by Maimonides Fund, the Maimonides Moot Court Competition builds upon the international competitions for high school and college students previously known as Moot Beit Din, in which participants defend ethical arguments grounded in Jewish wisdom in response to a modern ethical issue. In recent years, competitions have addressed timely issues including tainted money, whisper networks, and artificial intelligence through the intensive study of traditional and modern Jewish sources.
When ethical questions dominate public discourse and are ubiquitous in everyday conversation, our utmost priority must be to ensure that young Jews have the ability to fully participate in these conversations defining their generation. Through creating educational resources that are both accessible and rigorous, our aim is to inspire a shared ethical conversation that unites students across religious observance, political affiliation, Jewish literacy level, geography, or any other fault line through which the Jewish community is all too often divided. All that we require is a sincere willingness to grapple with the texts.
Particularly in this uncertain moment when so many fundamental assumptions in the field of Jewish education are being reexamined, this modality of Jewish learning, designed to be studied and debated in small groups, is extremely well-suited for the present challenges. Expanding access to MMCC programming will be prioritized, ensuring that Jewish students of all backgrounds can participate in the essential and often complex work of applying Jewish wisdom to present-day ethical challenges.
Our case this coming year will address a crucial question of human rights and criminal justice through a Jewish lens: what are the rights of an individual who has been convicted of a crime and has served their punishment? In particular, for how long should a person’s criminal record be associated with them, and for what purposes? At a time when the FBI holds records of more than 77 million individuals in its criminal database and racial disparities in criminal justice systems are under scrutiny around the world, the significance of this question cannot be understated. Our sourcebook examines this question through a prism of traditional and modern Jewish texts which speak to the issue from a number of perspectives.
We look forward to deepening relationships not only with a diverse group of day schools, but also with supplementary schools, synagogues, youth movements, and other organizations impacting students throughout North America and beyond. On the collegiate level, we will engage students beyond the nearly 40 campuses which have participated in recent years, broadening our perspective to include students on campuses with small or underserved Jewish populations.
Ethical questions will remain at the forefront of our lives for the years ahead. It is essential that we train students to engage Jewish sources to inform their moral responses to modern issues. At the Maimonides Moot Court Competition, we are thrilled to be pursuing precisely this mission.
Applications for our 2021 programming for high school students and college students will open in July.