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January 22, 2013

Rabbi brings back ethics classes

By Eric Czarnik
C & G Staff Writer

WEST BLOOMFIELD — A popular Jewish ethics series will reveal new lessons of right and wrong in metro Detroit this month.

Starting Jan. 27, Rabbi Shneur Silberberg from the Tugman Bais Chabad Torah Center will teach a six-week ethics class titled “Living with Integrity: Navigating Everyday Ethical Dilemmas.” The class will be taught on Sundays at Bais Chabad and again on Thursdays at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit in Bloomfield Township.

Silberberg said last year’s ethics course was successful and well accepted, but this one is based on different topics. The class is supposed to challenge people and help them grow personally by expounding on daily life issues exploring charity, commitments, forgiveness, honesty, parents and privacy, he said.

“Last year, the focus was on business ethics, which was legal ethics,” he said. “Life ethics are how to live life. Forgiveness, commitment, as well as one’s obligations to commitments and privacy are questions we deal with every day.”

According to Silberberg, ethics are the guidelines to goodness and morality. While most people would like to be “good,” he said, it’s important to abide by principles; his course outlines some of those in a practical, relevant fashion, he said.

In light of the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last month, many people are looking at big solutions to preventing such tragedies and are debating the government’s role in fixing them, Silberberg said. 

“Perhaps it’s also a time or an opportunity to look inwards and act,” he said. “If each and every one of us would look better, perhaps we can create a stronger consciousness among everyone.”

Using teaching materials from the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute, the ethics course will include lessons from sources of Jewish wisdom, such as the Torah and the Talmud. Silberberg said those texts have plenty to say on contemporary issues, and they can contrast with prevailing American ethics.  

“Just in the area of privacy, the Jewish ethical system has a much stronger stand with prohibitions against breaching one’s privacy, which American law is perhaps less stringent about,” Silberberg said.

Marion Bronstein, staff associate for the Jewish Federation, said Silberberg’s previous ethics classes have had a strong turnout.  “People of all Jewish denominations are attending — Orthodox, Reform and Conservative,” she said.

Although the class is based on Jewish teachings, Silberberg said it’s open and relevant to people from Jewish and non-Jewish backgrounds.

Silberberg will teach “Living with Integrity: Navigating Everyday Ethical Dilemmas” as part of a six-week winter course starting the week of Jan. 27.

Classes will be held Sunday mornings at Bais Chabad, 5595 W. Maple Road in West Bloomfield, and again on Thursday evenings at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, 6735 Telegraph Road, in Bloomfield Township. Learn more or register by calling (248) 207-5513 or visiting www.baischabad.com/jli.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Eric Czarnik at eczarnik@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1058.