RIETS Student Chosen for Unique International Ethics Program
Judah Kerbel, a student at Yeshiva University-affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS), is one of 12 seminary and divinity school students chosen by FASPE (Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics) to participate in a two-week program for future clergy that will take place this summer in New York, Germany and Poland.
“While I have learned a lot about the Holocaust in Jewish contexts, I think there is an important conversation to be had about the impact of this far-reaching chapter in history across the different faiths,” said Kerbel. “Also, religious leaders can wield a great deal of influence, and as a result there is an immense moral responsibility of which clergy must be aware. I hope that my participation on this program will make me even more sensitive to ethical issues in religion and I think I will learn a lot from this diverse group of students.”
Now in its sixth year of operation, FASPE is an international program that explores the history of the Holocaust as a way to engage graduate students across five different fields (business, journalism, law, medicine, and religion) in an intensive study of contemporary ethics in their discipline. FASPE is predicated upon the power of place, and in particular, the first-hand experience of visiting Auschwitz and traveling in Germany and Poland, where fellows study the past and consider how to apply the lessons of history to the current ethical challenges they will confront in their own professions.
Run under the auspices of the Museum of Jewish Heritage—A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York, FASPE examines what role professionals in business, journalism, law, medicine, and the clergy played in Nazi Germany and underscores that the moral codes governing these essential professions can break down or be distorted with devastating consequences. “By educating students about the causes of the Holocaust and the power of their chosen professions, FASPE seeks to instill a sense of professional responsibility for the ethical and moral choices that the fellows will make in their careers and in their professional relationships,” said C. David Goldman, founder of FASPE.
Over the course of 12 days, fellows will participate in seminars run by leading scholars who serve as FASPE faculty, and attend lectures with a range of guest speakers. The program integrates historical, cultural, philosophical and literary sources; survivor testimony; and workshops in Berlin, Auschwitz and Krakow.
Originally from Atlanta, Kerbel hopes to earn a master’s degree in Judaic studies in addition to his semicha [ordination] at RIETS. “As a rabbi, I will have the opportunity to speak to audiences on a regular basis—how will I choose my words so that they inspire love and not hatred?” said Kerbel. “The Holocaust is history, but what do we learn from it? Many people declare ‘never again’ – and indeed we pray that nothing close to that magnitude ever be repeated – but what are the lessons we need to learn in order to make sure that it is ‘never again?’”