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All Questions Answered by
Rabbi Reuven Bulka

Question: In what ways do Jewish values address incarceration, and particularly prisoner wages for work done? In the USA, federal and state prisons "employ" prisoners at very low wages ($0.25-2.00 per hour) for work both inside and supervised work outside the prisons.What does Judaism say about treatment of prisoners?
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Question: I'm curious about what Judaism says. William Shatner was being criticized for not attending the funeral of his best friend, Leonard Nimoy. Mr. Shatner said he couldn't come due to attendance at a charity event in Atlanta on the same day (he had committed to attend to help raise funds). His daughters did attend the funeral in his place (as his representative). Since i grew up believing that Tzedakah is important (Hadassah Life Member) and sending a representative is acceptable, and I know that both men are Jewish, I wanted to know what the proper behavior would have been, and if the criticism is warranted. Thank you.
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Question: To obtain closure from abuse and/or abandonment, can one sit shiva for a family member still living?
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Question: Why do some Jews believe they have to give up their pets if they become more religious? You wouldn't give up your children for the same reason.
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Question: I am a non-denominationally affiliated Jew. I am not frum, but I am constantly working on observing more mitzvot and find myself enjoying different things about Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox communities. I want to know what the stance would be on me wearing a tallit katan. Up until this point I have not because I feel like it would be misrepresenting myself (I already wear a kippah and that alone often leads people to think i'm Hareidi even). It is not that I am offended by being seen as Orthodox, quite the opposite - I don't think I deserve to be viewed as that observant when I am not. I do not want to do something akin to chillul Hashem (or rather.... hillul frum communities? if that makes sense?) if I were ever to do something not-frum while donning them. However on the other hand I hold a firm belief that the mitzvot are not dependent on each other, and that every little step is progress. I also think that if a mitzvah or custom is going to make me better and has a meaningful significance to me, then it is appropriate to observe it. What are your thoughts, either on the points I mentioned, or new points all together in regards to a more "liberal" Jew wearing a tallit katan? Thank you for your time and knowledge.
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Question: What is the Jewish view on bone marrow transplants? What is the opinion on being a Jewish organ donor if Jews are supposed to be buried within 24 hours of death? [JVO Kids: 7]
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Question: What is G-d's gender? in the prayer books and the Tanakh (bible) it says He, Him, and His? [JVO Kids: 4-6]
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Question: My mom says that I am mean to my sister, but it doesn't seem that way to me. Can you please advise? [JVO Kids:4-6]
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Question: How can I earn (re-gain?) trust if I lied to a loved one? How do I tell the truth after a lie if no one trusts me? [JVO Kids: 4-6]
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Question: Why does G-d make so many people go through prejudice? Why did G-d let there be slaves in the USA if it already happened in Egypt? Does he care? [JVO Kids: 4-6]
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Question: Hello rabbi, I will apologize ahead of time for the words I'm about to write. I'm 14 years old, and from what I know masturbation is against Jewish law, but I find it really hard not to do so when my body really demands it. Maybe I could do it one last time because I haven't done so in three months. Please tell me what I can do that is acceptable within Jewish law and thought. [Admin Note: A similar question was answered on Jewish Values Online previously; see - http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=153.]
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Question: I've been struggling with attending High Holiday services when I don't believe in God. I grew up Orthodox so the push from my parents to attend is quite strong, but I feel that the services are becoming less meaningful every year. I'm feeling very confused about what I should do: 1) attend services even though I don't find them meaningful because it would make my parents happy, or 2) do something meaningful during that time which pushes me towards my other values in life (friends, helping others, etc.)?
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Question: Why are sesame seeds considered kitniyot (not acceptable for Passover for Ashkenazim)? They are not related in any way to beans or cereals and nobody makes flour out of sesame.
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Question: I would like a Jewish perspective for this question that appeared in the New York Times Magazine,:"The Ethicist." Is it unethical to lie to your boss for the purpose of getting a job elsewhere? [Administrator's note: A related question is found at http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=428.]
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Question: If ones daughters married non-Jews, can their children and spouses attend the Pesach seder according to Jewish law and custom? [Administrator's note: See http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=384 for a similar question answered on JVO earlier.]
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Question: I would like to invite my son’s girlfriend to accompany us on a vacation. They are twenty-year-old college students. There will be three adult mothers and their young adult children all-staying in the same five-bed room rented house. My son’s girl friend is the only person who will not have a parent along for the trip (the girlfriend's parents are not part of the trip). Is it appropriate for a young Jewish woman to be invited in this circumstance, or is asking her placing her in an improper situation? I must add that both of these young adults are smart, mature people and wise well beyond their years. What does Judaism say about this? Thank you for your insight.
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Question: What specifically does Judaism say about money? I often tell people that Christians believe that there is nobility in poverty (the meek will inherit the earth) but Jews have no such concept and encourage people to have means to take care of their families. This is me spewing out gibberish based on no actual facts. Is this in fact true and if so, what does Jewish law/wisdom say about money?
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Question: I would like to name my daughter Ava. My grandfather's (living) name is Avraham but his nickname is Ava. Would it be okay to name my daughter Ava if it's a variation of grandpa's name? (Ashkenazi tradition). [See also the following questions already on Jewish Values Online: http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=59, http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=184, http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=840. Administrator]
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Question: My uncle's family is holding a one-year memorial and stone unveiling honoring my uncle... on Yom Kippur! I was not close to my uncle but my mother was, and she is urging me to go to this event. I am thinking I should be at services, including yizkor to honor my father, whom I was extremely close with. They are even planning to make it into a celebration of my uncle's life and have food afterwards. My uncle was Jewish and my mom is, but these family members arranging the event are not. What are the principles I should consider and is there a clear imperative in what I should do? What would Jewish law and thought tell me is the way to proceed?
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Question: During the three weeks (of mourning for the destruction of the Temple, between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av) can I get a haircut on erev Shabbos (the eve of Sabbath) or on Rosh Chodesh (the start of the new month) [i.e., what is the custom/minhag during this period]?
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Question: I was wondering. I've heard different things from different people, and was told a lot of different opinions. In Judaism, among Jews, what is considered as 'losing your virginity', particularly for a girl? I've always viewed it to be when a girl's hymen is broken by a man in a sexual act, but some people have been telling me otherwise. So my question is, 'What constitutes 'losing your virginity' for a girl?' What would change her status from 'virgin' to not?
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Question: Hello, my name is Gabriela, I am from Argentina. My question is: why G'd created soul mates and then separated them and made them look for each other during their lives? What is the purpose of that? I dont understand.... [How does this fit into Jewish values?] Thank you.
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Question: Why is sefirat haomer (the time of counting the omer - the period from the second night of Pesach/Passover to Shavuot/Feast of Weeks) considered a period of mourning?
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Question: What does Judaism have to say about aging, the aged, and the treatment of the elderly?
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Question: Is there anything we can (or should) do to combat the stereotypes and frequent misinformation about Jews in television and movies? Or does drawing even more attention to it just make it even worse?
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Question: We live in Germany (I am American, my husband is German, working for a German airline). After various postings to foreign countries, we are now here permanently with our 12-year-old daughter. We have purchased a piece of property and will be building soon on it. Currently there is an old house on the property, in which many generations of the same family were born and raised, until the remaining elderly owner passed on with no heirs, just 1 year ago. The property reverted to the state, from whom we purchased it. Before the bulldozers come I would like to: 1. Pay tribute to the almost 100 years this family dwelt in the place. All who enter the old house express that it feels warm and inviting, with an overgrown but lovely garden. 2. Address any Nazi connections which may have existed. There is no indication of this in the deceased's history (I've googled him and asked many neighbors) but he was of that generation. 3. After the old house and yard have been removed and prepared for building, I would also like to bless the property prior to building. To summarize, I am interested in an appropriate Jewish: 1. dedication 2. acknowledgement of possible misdeeds 3. property blessing My upbringing was as Conservative Jew in San Diego, later practicing Reform.
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Question: Many of the movements, and even individual congregations, are writing their own prayerbooks/siddurim. Is this valid and inline with Klal Yisrael (All Israel) and other Jewish values?
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Question: Was it wrong for the Israel ministry of absorption to launch a media campaign with the message that Jews living in the U.S. can never live a fully Jewish life? Is this true?
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Question: How does the concept of “tzedakah” apply to government, especially in Israel, since it is a Jewish state? Does the government also have a religious obligation to provide for the needy members of society? Or is this just an issue for individuals?
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Question: I am Jewish and marrying a Catholic woman who respects my religion and who requested we be married by a rabbi. I will remain Jewish, and my wife will remain Catholic. My parents are both deceased, buried in a Jewish cemetery. They purchased 2 plots many years ago planning for me and my future wife to be buried next to them (my parents). Will it be a problem to have my Catholic wife buried next to me and alongside my parents in the Jewish cemetery?
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Question: According to political experts, the social protest movements in the U.S. lack clear demands and strong leadership. Should Jewish leaders stay on the sidelines or help lead?
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Question: I am taking a college course on Politics and Religion. Why don't Jews, like Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses and other faiths go out and spread the word?
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Question: I have heard that gossip is considered the same type of sin as murder in the Jewish religion. Could you clarify the reasons for this?
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Question: If a bad practice (sin) has become part of our personality, how can we stand before Hashem to ask for forgiveness knowing that it is probably unrealistic for us to change our ways?
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Question: "A man is not his crime" is a famous saying about looking beyond the criminal act to the person, to their inherent dignity, as a way to help them find hope, remorse and renewal. Is that from Talmud? A young cousin just went to prison and we are struggling to comprehend how this happened and how to rebuild.
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Question: We pray daily for the rebuilding of the Temple. But when it is rebuilt, will Korbanot be reinstituted as well? It seems like a custom that is not really in tune with our modern ideas and sensitivities.
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Question: Do you think it could be helpful to women in the Jewish community to have a private place to talk about things of a sexual nature?
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Question: Recently, certain whiskey distillers in Scotland made a decision to boycott Israeli products. Is a boycott the best/most effective response to a boycott? Is there a better way for Jewish leadership to guide their constituents to express their unhappiness or displeasure with a decision?
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Question: I am uncomfortable to the degree to which the Holocaust is used to justify [the existence of the modern state of] Israel. I feel the linkage between the two is often overplayed. Is there a way to remember the Holocaust and also fully justify the Jewish homeland without necessarily always linking the two?
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Question: Is copying music muttar (permitted)? i've heard someone quote Rav Eliyashev and other rabbonim saying yes, and that you can ignore disclaimers on cds (not to copy). The second part of the question is: I like a band which permits crowd [attendees] recording their concerts [at the concert] and giving the recording out for FREE to others (very rare). But the band has a site which sells recordings of those exact same shows, recorded in better quality. Based on Halacha can I ignore their rules (on the site) prohibiting downloading their online recordings of these shows because they permit me to have a copy of that same show downloaded from a friend who gives it to me, just in a slightly worse quality recording?
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Question: What are the Jewish rulings on cybersex (defined as two people exchanging sexual messages over the internet, often in chatrooms) and pornography, for men and for women?
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Question: Can you give me some pointers for "Jewishly guiding" my kids through the morass of pop culture - reality TV, snarky videos - that seems to delight in embarassing people? I don't want to sound like "a mom"....but if I could sound like a spiritual leader, it might go over better....
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Question: Is one allowed to pray for an outcome that probably has already happened, but is as of yet unknown to you? ie: good results on a CT, genetic health of a fetus? Is this considered a "tefilla levatala"?
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Question: I saw one of my 14-year-old son’s female friends post something on Facebook that I feel is very dangerous and makes her easy prey for Internet predators. I vaguely know this girl and her mother from around town. Where are the boundaries of ‘lashon hara’ here? Can I say something to the mother?
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Question: What is the Jewish view on ‘stewardship’? We are told that we were given dominion over the land and all within it – it seems that some have taken that to mean ownership and the right to destroy or waste. Is that the Jewish view?
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Question: A more religious neighbor does not allow her housekeeper of 5 years to turn on her stove when cooking for her; she says it breaks some law of non-Jews cooking for Jews. Can you possibly explain this very offensive rule? Is my neighbor correct?
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Question: Is there any Jewish Law-derived imperative for the private corporate owners of the recently discovered natural gas find offshore Israel to share their profits with the State to fund social programming? I know there is a controversy about this in Israel. Any solution in Jewish Law?
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Question: A neighbor is going through a really hard time after both members of the couple lost their jobs last year. What is a community’s responsibility towards its own members? Does this trump other, broader giving (like to umbrella organizations) when triage must be done? Does it change your answer if I tell you that this neighbor is not Jewish?
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Question: Tzedakah (giving to others) is a given in Judaism. I know Maimonides wrote about a ladder of levels of giving. Did he also address to whom one should give (picking recipients)? How about how to prioritize? Is there a Jewish approach to how to do this?
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Question: Is there such a thing as a “chained man”? What happens in Jewish Law when a wife refuses to grant a divorce?
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Question: I just found out that my spouse has been chatting intimately (and suggestively) with a total stranger when I accidentally stumbled on his Skype dialogue box. I am extremely hurt. Should I be considering his actions the same as if he had an affair? What does Judaism say about ‘emotional affairs’?
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Question: What is the Jewish view on selling one's body parts for money? Selling organs in the U.S. is illegal and would therefore fall under the prohibition of dina d'malchuta dina, but what about selling eggs, sperm, hair, or being a maternal surrogate when primarily motivated by cash rather than to do a mitzvah?
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Question: What’s the most important message to learn from Chanukah? Is it a lesson about God’s miracle or about the Jews' overcoming adversity? Or is it about religious freedom?
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Question: Many families sing Chanukah songs before lighting the menorah, unlike on Shabbat, when the candles are lit before we say the blessings. Is that how it should be or are we supposed to refrain from singing songs and reciting the Chanukah blessings until the menorah has been lit? What is the proper way to do this in Judaism?
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Question: Can a rabbi, congregation, or anyone in need ever knowingly accept a donation of money that was acquired illegally, for instance under extreme circumstances, when it may be very badly needed?
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Question: November 9, 2010, is the anniversary of Krystallnacht. How should we be continuing to remember the Holocaust today?
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Question: What does Judaisam teach us is the responsibility of Jews living in the diaspora to defend the state of Israel?
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Question: The 33 Chilean miners rescued on October 13 made a pact with each other while trapped underground for 69 days that they wouldn't share publicly the details of their experiences. But in the midst of their own poverty combined with significant media attention, some of them have broken that pact. Are they allowed to break a promise to each other in order to take care of themselves and their families?
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Question: Today, in Israel, there is a question of the law as seen by the Rabbinate as opposed to the Knesset. I refer to the book, "Torat Hamelech". I believe the stated rabbinical position would be the end of Israel. What is the position of the Orthodox rabbinate of North America? The Conservative rabbinate? The Reform rabbinate?
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Question: People across the country are up in arms about the proposed Islamic community center near Ground Zero. The Jewish community, too, seems divided. What sort of Jewish values & teachings should we take into account when determining where we stand on the issue?
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Question: Is swordfish kosher? Why or why not? Would it be proper to serve swordfish to friends who keep kosher?
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Question: I was raised to believe that as Jews, we do not believe in a "life after death"..that we live on through our children. I always wondered if this was truly a Jewish belief. Does the Jewish religion think we have a "soul", an afterlife?
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Question: What is the best advice you can give to a victim of domestic violence, whether a spouse, parent, child, boyfriend, girlfriend?
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Question: What are your views on persons asserting Crypto Jewish heritage in the American SouthWest who want to claim Jewish status?
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Question: Sustainability and environmental protection are becoming popular discussions these days and I want to play my part in the movement. Is there anything that Judaism forbids me to do to help the environment?
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Question: Governors and Christian leaders in the Gulf Region called for a day of prayer on behalf of the devastating oil spill. Why haven't Jewish leaders also come together in prayer over this? Does Judaism allow prayer in this form?
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Question: The Jewish community seems divided about the Israeli conversion bill. As individual Jews living in the Diaspora, what should we be paying attention to or responding to? How are the denominations responding?
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Question: A lot’s been made of our constant interaction with information. Does Judaism have anything to say about powering down from computers, cell phones and the like?
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Question: Has the Jewish perspective on the state of Israel evolved over the years since the position of Jews in the Diaspora has changed? Is it a central focus of the religion today?
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Question: My father is Jewish and I have been raised Jewish my entire life. My mother was not raised Jewish but her side of the family believes that my great grandmother (my mother's mother) was Jewish. We are not 100% percent sure if she was Jewish or not and this has left me very confused. I do not know if I should convert or not and I am very hesitant to do so because I already feel Jewish. Converting would not change my ethnicity or how i feel as a Jewish person. I feel that if i would convert it would mean that I wasn't Jewish before and that is not how I feel. What should I do?
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Question: My grandmother and my grandfather were both Jews. They left Germany to escape the Holocaust and went to Brazil. My mother is not a Jew and my dad studied at a Catholic school. Am I considered a Jewish person?
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Question: At MD Anderson (hospital) our son had visitations by a rabbi, but also by a Catholic priest (chaplain) who prayed with him. What is the Jewish view of this when there is a rabbi available?
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Question: American political culture has become so polarized and there's almost no civility in public discourse. Judaism to me encourages intense discussions about laws and values, but is there a Jewish perspective on how one should debate and discuss political matters?
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Question: Did Maimonides believe in an afterlife? Resurrection of the dead?
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Question: Is there a halachic obligation for a Jew to move to Israel? What is the basis for remaining in Chutz L’aretz (outside of Israel)?
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Question: Is it halachically permissible for an observant homosexual/lesbian couple to adopt a child and raise him or her as a Jew in accordance with Jewish tradition? As a follow-up question, is it halachically permissible for a Jewish school to refuse to admit the children of a homosexual/lesbian couple even though such school readily admits children of homes that are not Shabbat observant.
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Question: Should the laws governing kashrut be amended and/or applied to include the ethical treatment of workers, including wages, working condition and respect of employees?
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Question: Some people feel it is better not to tell a person information that they feel would be hurtful to them. Is leaving information out considered lying and is that acceptable or an act that needs forgiveness?
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Question: Some Jewish young adults (usually, college age) think that it is 'cool' to have their bodies tattooed. Will these kids be barred from most Jewish cemeteries upon their death many years from now?
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Question: While kashrut, at one time, embodied humane methods of slaughter, today the methods seem outdated. Are there any movements within Judaism that advocate "modified" versions of kashrut that incorporate today's standards of humane slaughter?
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Question: What should a Jewish person do if his or her loved one (also Jewish) wants to be cremated after they die?
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THE VIEWS EXPRESSED IN ANSWERS PROVIDED HEREIN ARE THOSE OF THE INDIVIDUAL JVO PANEL MEMBERS, AND DO NOT
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