Crime and punishment to be explored from Jewish perspective

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New London — "An eye for an eye," the Biblical concept often cited to justify the death penalty or other harsh punishment, is not what it appears, Rabbi Avrohom Sternberg says.

"According to a Jewish tradition, eye for an eye is not literal," said Sternberg, director of Chabad of Eastern Connecticut and spiritual leader of Congregation Ahavath Chesed in New London. "It's a monetary compensation for the value of an eye."

Jewish law has been dealing with the concepts of reward and punishment for more than 2,000 years, through study of Biblical texts and the Talmudic oral tradition, Sternberg said.

The topic is "extremely relevant" today, said Sternberg, who is leading discussions about the Jewish approach to crime, punishment and justice during a six-week course that begins this coming week at the synagogue. Crime and Consequences is offered through the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute (JLI), which is a Jewish education network for adults, and will be taking place at 400 locations worldwide.

The course will be offered during the day on Tuesdays beginning Feb. 5, from 12:30 to 2 p.m., and during the evening on Wednesdays beginning Feb. 6 from 7:30 to 9 p.m., at Congregation Ahavath Chesed, 590 Montauk Ave., New London. Students will be allowed to float between the day and evening sessions for their convenience.

The course is accredited for those who need to earn continuing legal education (CLE) credits and will incorporate multimedia presentations, videos, news articles, PowerPoint presentations and comparisons between modern law and ancient law, Sternberg said.

Students will receive a textbook, which will have the primary citations and additional readings, and materials also will be available on a website. The course fee, including the textbook, is $84.

Congress recently adopted the First Step Act to address issues such as mass incerceration and mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders. The Crime and Consequences course will continue the discussion by addressing topics such as "What's the purpose of prison: punishment, deterrence or rehabilitation?", "What's Judaism's position on the death penalty?" and "Can criminals ever make amends, and if so, how?"

"We're going to take a look at it from a traditional Jewish perspective, gaining a tremendous insight into the debates of today," Sternberg said. "Many of us have a certain notion that somebody who had been involved in criminal activity is doomed forever. We have a hard time accepting them back into society, offering them jobs. Part of the discussion will be what people can be doing on giving people time to rehabilitate themselves."

Those interested in the course may call (860) 437-8000 or visit www.myJLI.com for registration and more information.

k.florin@theday.com

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