Touro’s Lander College For Men Hosts Model Beis Din
High School Students Apply Halachic Sources to Real World Situations in Annual Competition
Executive Director of Communications
In 1977, a Jewish couple from Lakewood NJ learned that their pregnancy would lead to conjoined twin girls sharing a single heart. It would be impossible for both babies to survive. Surgeons at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia recommended separating the twins to allow the stronger one to live.
The couple decided to seek Rabbinic counsel before deciding to allow one baby to die. What would the right decision be? Was it ethical to allow the weaker baby to die in order to save the stronger one? The rabbis deliberated for days before deciding.
Students from yeshivas in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Tennessee representing eight teams struggled with the same question at Touro’s Lander College for Men’s Model Beis Din. The boys had spent several weeks reading sources, weighing the moral and ethical considerations and reviewing halachic opinions. The night before, they stayed up late into the night finalizing their team’s positions. They got up early to finalize their opening statements. By morning they were ready to debate.
Now in its fifth year, the Model Beis Din is a unique opportunity for students to learn how to use Torah sources to inform complex decisions. “The dilemma posed in this case was a morally complex one, and the students succeeded in mastering difficult Jewish sources which brilliantly addressed it. This is just the kind of nuanced reasoning we cultivate in the students at Touro’s Lander College for Men (LCM). There is no area of life that the halacha does not address, and our Model Beis Din competition brought that principle to life,” said Dr. Moshe Sokol, Dean and Professor and LCM.
The competing teams took turns arguing their case before a judge—rabbinic faculty from LCM. Students nervously shuffled stacks of papers as they strived to prove their points. Over time, the nerves settled and students became strong and confident speakers. They rebutted each other’s arguments and parried questions from the judges, honing their analytical skills and learning from one another. “We are all competing with each other, but the inter-team discussions are very complementary. It’s fun,” said Yitzy Tanner of Mesivta of Philadelphia.
“The students have gained a tremendous amount through the experience. This brings them closer to Torah, to halacha, to Judaism and most important, to G-d,” said Rabbi Chaim Jachter of Torah Academy of Bergen County.
At the end of the day, the entire group gathered to celebrate the winning team. A team from Mesivta of Philadelphia’s A Team took the first place prize. (The school brought two teams, thanks to the program’s popularity.) Yeshiva Ohr Yisroel of Boston took second place and Cooper Yeshiva High School of Memphis came in third.
“It is an inspiration to see your accomplishments and to watch you grow to the best of your abilities as ben ha Torah,” said Rabbi HaRav Yonason Sacks shlita, esteemed Rosh HaYeshiva of the Beis Medrash L’Talmud and one of the judges.
About the Touro College and University System
Touro is a system of non-profit institutions of higher and professional education. Touro College was chartered in 1970 primarily to enrich the Jewish heritage, and to serve the larger American and global community. Approximately 19,200 students are currently enrolled in its various schools and divisions. Touro College has 30 campuses and locations in New York, California, Nevada, Berlin, Jerusalem and Moscow. New York Medical College; Touro University California and Touro University Nevada; Touro University Worldwide and its Touro College Los Angeles division; as well as Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Ill. are separately accredited institutions within the Touro College and University System. For further information on Touro College, please go to: www.touro.edu/news