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Jewish Choices, Jewish Voices


Edited by Rabbi Elliot N. Dorff and Louis E. Newman

Publication Year: 2008

Is it O.K. to be wealthy? How do we know when we have too much? Enough? Is wealth relative--are those born into wealth entitled to accumulate more money than those born in poorer circumstances? What are we obligated to do with our money? How much are we supposed to give to charity? Can Jewish charitable institutions accept money that may be "tainted"? How big a role should income play in our identity, in our life plan, in our pursuit of happiness? Each volume in this series presents traditional and contemporary sources on specific topics, followed by hypothetical cases and study questions to provoke discussion. Supplementing these are brief essays written by a diverse group -- political figures and journalists, business professionals and authors, scholars and artists, young voices and old, traditional believers and iconoclasts. As a conclusion, Dorff and Newman present their own reflections, providing a counterpoint to the contributors' perspectives. These voices from the Jewish tradition and today's Jewish community give us new questions and perspectives to think about and encourage us to consider our moral choices in a new light.

Published by: Jewish Publication Society


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii

No series of books such as this comes about without the creative energy and support of many individuals. We wish to thank, first and foremost, Ellen Frankel, editor-in-chief of The Jewish Publication Society, for her vision in first conceiving of this series, and her willingness to entrust it to our editorship. Her wise and patient guidance throughout the process ...

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Description of the Jewish Choices, Jewish Voices Series

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pp. ix-x

This series is intended to provide a forum for discussion of some of the most critical moral issues of our time. Because the Jewish tradition is rich in moral experience and insights, each volume includes Jewish materials from ancient, medieval, and modern sources. And because the Jewish tradition, from its very beginnings, is multivocal, the sources presented ...

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Introduction: Money

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pp. xi-xvi

The very first question that God asks each one of us after death, according to this passage in the Talmud, is whether we handled our monetary affairs honestly. The Talmud does not ask the expected questions - Did you murder anyone or injure anyone? - presumably because it assumes that most Jews do not do those things. What we are tempted to do, though, is to cheat in monetary affairs. Thus the way one handles one’s money is a sensitive barometer of the moral mettle of a person and hence the very first question we are asked. ...


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First Case Study: Morally Troubling Jobs

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pp. 3-12

Ellen and Frank are two unrelated, single people in their 20s who are thinking about their future careers. Both come from middle-class families, and both still have college debts to pay off. Both of them have recently been offered jobs with salaries they never imagined that they could get at their age, Ellen in the clothing industry and Frank for a tobacco producer. Ellen discovers, however, that the firm offering her ...

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Second Case Study: Credit Card Debt

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pp. 12-18

Jennifer recently graduated from college and began her first job as an administrative assistant at a publishing house. When Jennifer first came to college, several credit card companies actively pursued her and persuaded her to open accounts with them. During the course of her four years in college, Jennifer accumulated considerable debts on these cards, and now receives regular and increasingly threatening letters and calls from the companies. On her salary, ...

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Third Case Study: Child Care

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pp. 18-25

Ira and Jackie have been married for five years and now have a three-year-old and a one-year-old. They both work full-time and therefore need to make arrangements for the care of their children during the day. They have two choices, both of which raise moral questions. They could put their children in a large day-care facility, where they know the staff is underpaid and ...

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Fourth Case Study: Allocating Public Money

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pp. 25-34

You are a state legislator. Your state, like many others, has recently required substantial budget cuts in order to remain fiscally sound. Even if taxes were raised significantly, there simply would be no way to avoid either cutting programs or reducing the amount of money allocated to them. You are committed to voting in a way that is consistent with your understanding of Jewish values. Assuming that there ...


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Money: Social Issues - Working for a Living? A Jewish Perspective on the Living Wage Movement

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pp. 37-44

IN THE mid-1990s, pastors in inner city Baltimore began to notice that working people constituted an alarmingly high percentage of their churches’ soup kitchen, food pantry, and shelter clients. Indeed, statistical evidence corroborates the observations of these pastors. As of 2005, in America’s 24 largest cities, 40 percent of adults who applied for emergency food assistance and 15 percent of homeless adults were employed. Sparked ...

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Executive Compensation in Public Corporations

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pp. 45-51

In 2005, Occidental Petroleum paid its chief executive officer (CEO), Ray Irani, more than $63 million in salary, bonuses, stock options, and other forms of compensation. That means that Mr. Irani took in more than $170,000 per day that year. Therefore, he earned more on a Sunday spent playing golf than most families in the United States see in a year, whether he shot a good game or not. ...

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Government Money

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pp. 52-58

Government provides for some needs of the members of society better than individuals could do on their own. This requires, among other things, taking money from people by law and force through taxation. Those who run government decide how much of the wealth and the income of various members of society government will take for shared public purposes and what those shared public purposes will be. ...

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Money, Women, Children, and the Jewish Future

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pp. 59-64

"Money makes the world go ’round,” sings the star of the musical Cabaret. And, at the beginning of the 21st century in the United States, it seems as if he is correct. Money affects, and sometimes even controls, not only purchasing power but less concrete things as well: health, social status, and ability to run for political office. Although money cannot buy love, it can certainly buy many of the things that can help make one ...

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Money: Personal Issues - The Kotzker and the Nanny

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pp. 65-78

Rabbi Israel Salanter, the founder of the Mussar (morality) movement, was a mashgiach, a person who supervises kashrut (compliance with Jewish dietary restrictions). His job was to watch the workers preparing matzah. Once, when he was ill, his students asked what they should look for while they were taking his place. He said “You know those women who knead the dough?” “Yes,” they replied. “You know that the ...

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pp. 79-84

The funny thing about money is that it is a problem for those who have enough as well as for those who don’t. It is a problem for those busy making it, for those who will never make it all, and for those who have finished with the give and take of the commercial jungle. The heart-wrenching challenges faced by those in need (and by any reasonable standard, this comprises most people alive in the world today) are ...

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Reflections on the Case Studies

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pp. 85-109

Forty-four San Francisco Bay Area teens sat gathered in the Jewish Federation conference room. They were awaiting a video conference hookup with six Israeli-Ethiopian teens who traveled to Jerusalem just to talk with the Jewish Community Teen Foundation board members. This was intended to be an informal dialogue, connecting Israeli and foundation teens. The question was asked, “What are you most concerned ...

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PART III: CONCLUSION: Money and Morals

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pp. 113-122

Every day we confront issues concerning money. What constraints are there on how we earn money and on how we spend it? How can we ensure that women and minorities receive fair compensation for their labor and attain the most prestigious (and most highly compensated) positions in society? How do we determine what constitutes fair compensation, whether for the clerk at the supermarket or the CEO of a major ...


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pp. 123-125

Suggestions for Further Reading

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pp. 126-132

Editors and Contributors

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pp. 133-135


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pp. 136-138

E-ISBN-13: 9780827609785
Print-ISBN-13: 9780827608610

Publication Year: 2008