Center for Jewish Law and Contemporary Civilization at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

Oct 31, 2007 — The inaugural public event of The Center for Jewish Law and Contemporary Civilization (CJL) drew an audience of 100 academics and members of the community to the law school on Sunday night, Oct. 28.

The crowd heard a cross-disciplinary discussion of “Military Ethics in an Age of Terrorism” by experts on Jewish, Islamic and constitutional law and moral philosophy. The panelists, who included CJL Director Suzanne Last Stone, offered their views on the impact of global terrorism on the ethics of warfare — particularly whether this relatively new threat should alter the moral constraints ordinarily imposed on combatants.

One of the problems in discussing terrorism is that it doesn’t easily fit the way we think about either war or crime, said Stone, who is a professor of law at Cardozo and an expert on the intersection of Jewish law and legal theory. “Is it war? If so, what do we do about these noncombatant civilians? But if it is a crime, how do we manage [what is] a sliding scale between perpetrators and innocents?” she asked.

Stone said she was pleased with the outcome of the discussion. “I think that it demonstrated that the perspectives of very different legal and religious traditions are very relevant to a central topic of urgent concern,” she said. “Each of the speakers was utterly frank and forthright, but also trying to convey the complexities of their tradition.”

In 2004, Stone established the Program in Jewish Law and Interdisciplinary Studies at Cardozo. It was re-launched this summer as a full-fledged center, with a broader mandate than the original focus on interdisciplinary studies. CJL will bring together scholars from a variety of traditions and fields to enhance the study of Jewish law through dialogue with Western legal theory and other religious and secular legal traditions.

The Center will develop publications and course offerings, sponsor fellowships to train scholars of Jewish studies and expand academic ties with scholars and institutions in Israel, and develop joint programs with YU’s other schools and interdisciplinary centers. The center will also organize conferences, workshops, colloquia and public events like the Oct. 28 panel discussion.

In addition to Stone, the panelists were Sohail Hashmi, associate professor of international relations at Mount Holyoke College; George P. Fletcher, Cardozo Professor of Jurisprudence, Columbia Law School; and Daniel Statman, professor of philosophy at Haifa University and a visiting scholar at CJL during October. The moderator was Arthur Jacobson, Max Freund Professor of Litigation and Advocacy at Cardozo.

CJL is Yeshiva University’s fourth interdisciplinary center, joining the Rabbi Arthur Schneier Center for International Affairs, the Center for Ethics and the Institute of Public Health Sciences.

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