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The Talmud and the Law – Jewish Learning Institute offers a course approved for continuing legal education credits

By Stacey Dresner

WEST HARTFORD – On Jan. 1, a new law went into effect that requires lawyers practicing in Connecticut to complete 12 continuing legal education (CLE) credits annually, with at least two credits in “ethics and/or professionalism.”

On Jan. 30, Chabad of Greater Hartford began offering a course to help Connecticut lawyers — both Jewish and non-Jewish — comply with the law.

“The Dilemma: Modern Conundrums. Talmudic Debates. Your Solutions,” a six-week course that is part of Chabad’s Rohr Jewish Learning Institute (JLI), is approved for nine CLE credits in not only Connecticut, but in 28 other states as well.

JLI offers educational programming in 900 communities worldwide, including The Dilemma, which explores modern legal situations using original Talmudic texts.

“In The Dilemma, we encounter fascinating, real-life conundrums; situations which your gut instinctively responds to one way, but your brain tells you quite the opposite,” says Rabbi Shaya Gopin, director of education at Chabad of Greater Hartford and the course’s instructor. “To solve these dilemmas, participants are asked to break into study groups and explore hair-splitting Talmudic arguments that they will then debate and apply to solve the cases using new, interactive polling technology.”

Attorney Emily Moskowitz of West Hartford was looking for a law course to satisfy the CLE credits when she received an email from Chabad about The Dilemma.

In the past, “we took classes if we felt we needed them, but it was never a requirement each year,” Moskowitz explains. “[Then] they decided after all these years we needed to take CLEs. This one was far more interesting to me than some of the dry law stuff that I’ve been doing for 30 years. I like to study Talmud and talk about the rabbinic rulings. It is much more interesting than studying trusts and estates.”

Moskowitz says she has been involved in Jewish education for many years, teaching at the former Midrasha community Hebrew high school in West Hartford and as a religious school teacher at Congregation Beth Israel. She practices law with her husband, Robert Kor, who also took the course, and she brought three other lawyers who are not Jewish to Chabad for the class.

“They had never been to any other classes about Talmud. I was surprised at how much they loved it,” she says, adding that the class “really presented the dilemmas that we certainly face in our own lives and in our legal lives.”

One session on “Liability for Proximate Cause” uses as an example the phenomenon of the Pokémon Go app, the location-based game in which players use a mobile device’s GPS to locate, capture, and battle virtual Pokémon characters who appear to be in the same location as the player. In some cases Pokémon characters are “located on” private properties and some overzealous players have caused damage or committed crimes on these properties.

The Dilemma asks, “Should Pokémon Go be required to remove their virtual figures from private property? Does responsibility lie with the users who play the game or should the owners of Pokémon Go be held responsible for the crimes and damages caused by their platform? Is there a difference in legal responsibility between crimes enabled by this platform, and injury or property damage similarly facilitated?”

“That is something people have to face,” Moskowitz says. “There may have been some lawsuits regarding Pokémon Go and how you resolve them is very interesting because there was never a full opinion [in class]. You know – three Jews, four arguments.

“Some people thought they were responsible for the damage and some people thought not. It was very interesting what everyone’s perspective was. And the non-legal people there had a very different perspective.”

Gopin says JLI plans to present more courses that lawyers can use to get CLE credits, including possibly some lunch time classes that may run this spring and summer.

Emily Moskowitz says she would recommend The Dilemma and other JLI ethics courses to her fellow lawyers.

“I think it gives them a different perspective on the law. One, it humanizes it more, and two, there are ways to think about the world other than the way we are taught in law school,” she says. “The kind of didactic learning that goes on in a Talmudic class is something I think young lawyers could benefit from.”

CAP: Attorney Emily Moskowitz (left) and her husband, attorney Robert Kor, consider a Talmudic dilemma at the recent JLI course.

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