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Volume 9, No.1 Fall1990 TEACHING JEWISH ETHICSJEWISH THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY AND UNION THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY Gordon Tucker GORDON TUCKER is a professor at The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, where he also serves as Dean of the Rabbinical School. Author of a number of significant studies on Jewish law, ethics, and philosophy, Dr. Tucker includes among these studies "The Confidentiality Rule: A Philosophical Perspective with Reference to Jewish Law and Ethics," published in Fordham Urban Law Journal (1984/5). THE MAKING OF "ETHICS IN JEWISH AND CHRISTIAN COMMUNITIES" 85 Situated on diagonally adjacent street corners on the Upper West Side of Manhattan are Jewish Theological Seminary, the academic center of Conservative Judaism, and Union Theological Seminary, the largest ecumenical Protestant seminary in the United States. For many years, these two institutions (henceforth: JTS and UTS), both of which train students for the clergy and grant advanced graduate degrees in religious studies, have cooperated on a number of levels. This cooperation has been particularly close and constructive since the current president of UTS, Dr. Donald W. Shriver, arrived in New York in the mid-1970's. JTS and UTS students have free access to courses at the sister institutions, seminarians from both institutions meet regularly to discuss general matters of theology, religious scholarship, and social concern, and faculty members of both schools have, over the years, met formally in joint session and, more important, developed personal and scholarly ties one to the other. In recent years, it has become a priority in this relationship to create courses that would be taught jointly by faculty members from UTS and JTS, and that would cover topics which could be uniquely enriched by an ap- 86 SHOFAR proach combining Jewish and Christian perspectives. Such courses have been created and taught in the fields of ancient Jewish and Christian history, biblical exegesis, and Rabbinic and Patristic literature. In 1988, Dr. Shriver, who is an ethicist by academic training, approached Dr. Gordon Tucker, Dean of the Rabbinical School and a member of the philosophy faculty at JTS, with the idea of creating such a joint course for students of both schools in the field of religious ethics. There was actually precedent for this, since about 15 years earlier, an undertaking of that nature was entered into by Professor (now Emeritus) Roger Shinn of UTS and the late Professor Seymour Siegel of JTS. Drs. Shriver and Tucker quickly agreed to update that effort. Much thought and planning went into the course. It was felt that we should aim primarily at those students who were in ministry or rabbinic tracks in the respective schools, but that we would not close the course to graduate students studying for academic careers as long as the latter understood that the topics covered would necessarily be of an overtly religio-ethical nature, and would often speak directly to concerns of the clergy. We further agreed that it would be necessary to limit the size of the course, so that it could be run as a seminar, with maximal student participation. The reason for this was simply a recognition of the pioneering nature of this endeavor; we felt that everyone involved in the course, instructors included, would be standing on relatively new ground, exploring the traditions of others and stacking them up against their own. It therefore appeared clear that we had to strive to develop a colleagueship, rather than a teacher-student hierarchy, in the classroom. We eventually decided to limit the class to no more than 16 students, and agreed that we would attempt to control the enrollment in such a way that half of the students would be from UTS and half from JTS. As it turned out, after two students left because of scheduling problems, we had 14 students. Nine were from JTS and five were from UTS; interestingly enough, however, the Jewish/Christian ratio was 8/6, since one of the JTS students was Christian. To our great delight, we found that we not only had very well-motivated and adventurous students, but that they brought to the class a diverse range of experiences. There were relatively few who were just a year or two out of college. One...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 85-93
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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