April 18, 2024
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Touro’s Lander College for Men Holds Third Annual Model Beis Din Competition

In Israel, a father and caregiver for his mentally impaired son was diagnosed with kidney failure, and all attempts to find a suitable organ donor failed. His son, however, was a near-perfect match, but incapable of providing any reasonable form of consent. Could the son be allowed, under Israeli law, to donate a kidney to save his father’s life?

Ultimately the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that he could not, but was this consistent with Jewish law?

This question was put to students from eight U.S. high schools who squared off in the third annual Touro College Beis Medrash L’Talmud-Lander College for Men (LCM) Model Beis Din competition at the Kew Gardens Hills campus. In different rounds all teams were tasked with arguing both sides of the debate.

“The Model Beis Din was an exciting and creative way of demonstrating the dynamic nature of halacha—how the Torah can inform and confront moral and legal challenges in the most sophisticated way,” said Rabbi HaRav Yonason Sacks, esteemed Rosh HaYeshiva of the Beis Medrash L’Talmud. “I was quite impressed with the caliber of the students’ presentations. They were creative and articulate and reflected a thorough knowledge of many mekoros. I am confident that they found this forum to be a most enriching experience.”

The winning team, for the third straight year, was the Torah Academy of Bergen County (TABC) in Teaneck, New Jersey. Other participants were the Mesivta High School of Greater Philadelphia and the Cooper Yeshiva High School of Memphis, Tennessee placed second and third, respectively. Students from the Jewish Educational Center (JEC) in Elizabeth, New Jersey; Yeshivat Shaare Torah in Brooklyn, New York; Rambam Mesivta in Lawrence, New York; Yeshiva Ohr Yisrael in Boston, Massachusetts; and Hebrew Theological College’s (HTC) Fasman Yeshiva High School in Skokie, Illinois.

“We spent the last five months preparing the material, so to be able to put it into practice and argue our case made the learning fun and exciting,” said Yaakov Weiss, a 10th grader from the Mesivta High School of Greater Philadelphia. “We got to say what we thought and show what we know. After everything we did, I feel great. I feel like all the work we did really paid off.”

The high schools received the details of the scenario in September, along with a packet of relevant halachic sources to consider for their arguments. A rabbinic faculty member for each school served as an advisor for their teams.

“For our students, it was a marvelous opportunity to engage in serious and complex halachic discussions with motivated peers and expert scholars,” said Rabbi Zev Eleff, chief academic officer of HTC, who advised the Fasman team. “Personally, I took great pride in preparing the material with our high school students and cheering them on as they debated and argued.”

Following lunch—during which Rabbi Dr. Moshe Sokol, dean of LCM, spoke about the differences between a beis din and a secular court—the teams proceeded to the final round of the competition. Rabbi Manheim, LCM’s Coordinator of Admissions and the organizer of the competition, provided the schools with another real-life case to consider, which relied on the same sources as the first: Can an individual suffering from organ failure accept a kidney secured from state prisoners who had been executed, a former practice of China? Each team was given an hour to prepare their arguments, which they then presented to the judges, who tallied up the aggregate scores to determine the winners.

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