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Our employee was overpaid as a result of an error in payroll submissions. The amount of overpayment was not insignificant and the overpayment continued for several months (the employee apparently did not notice) before the mistake was found. When the Congregational board president approached the employee about the error the employee balked at repaying, claimed it would be a hardship to return the money and did not feel he was obligated to do so. Ultimately, after demands and threats, the employee did agree to repay the overpayment, but only after negotiating a long repayment plan that spans more than a year (and without any interest). Do Jewish law or Jewish values require that this money be returned? If so, was the employee in violation of either Halachah or Jewish values by refusing to repay the money? Should it have been returned without delay (as soon as the error was pointed out) and without stipulation? Was the Congregation in any way in error in requesting repayment? What is the proper behavior according to Jewish values and ethics?
Reading your website concerning cremation, it appears the more liberal sects in Judaism discourage it, but tolerate the wishes of those who choose it, while the more observant or strict sects absolutely discourage or prohibit it, on various grounds. My thought was that cremation would be a way to be in solidarity with those who died in the WWII ovens, 9/11 and so forth, that their death circumstance was not a dishonor to them. A cremation, in my view, would dignify their situation. I do understand that the circumstance was not their choice, but nonetheless, it is their factual situation. Also, cremation would solve a problem for me personally. I'm a widow with two spouses buried in two states. Having two cremation urns would allow me to spend eternity with my two basherts, which would save me from making a choice of whom to be buried near. Any thoughts? Given what I read on your site about what Judaism says, is there any leeway? What Jewish values might help me to decide this issue, and resolve my problem concerning choosing which husband I should be buried with?
I am an employee at a Jewish institution who was abruptly elevated to fill the role of my superior a few years ago when my superior unexpectedly retired. I was under contract with multiple years still to go on that contract. As the employing organization was in turmoil over the sudden retirement, there was a great deal of confusion, distress, a precipitous loss of supporters, and there was a financial crisis due both to the economic downturn and the loss of support. On taking the role of my superior, I turned my attention to reassuring the staff, retaining and recovering supporters, and providing continuity of leadership, in order to stabilize and to rebuild the organization. All those efforts have proven successful. Now that the employer has seen support re-established, and has largely restored and even begun to improve its overall financial position, I have asked them to renegotiate my contract to reflect my current position and role, the role I have actually fulfilled during the past several years, rather than continuing to hold me in the lessor role that I previously filled. The organizational leadership did not choose to bring up the issue, or consider making this change on their own. I have now raised it. Assuming that the renegotiation proceeds as expected, I will be confirmed in the superior role, and will be awarded a compensation commensurate with that role. My question is whether it is appropriate for me to ask the organization to compensate me for the difference in the amount I was paid in the junior role while serving in the role of the superior? In other words, am I owed 'back pay' for stepping up and fulfilling the more challenging role? I believe that there is an argument to be made that the organization may have transgressed several Jewish values and principles in this matter, including Kavod HaBriyot, Yosher, and perhaps even Geneiva. I am asking specifically in regard to Jewish values, not secular law issues here. What is your take on this?
I am an Orthodox Jew and all in my family are Orthodox too. Recently the man I am dating told me that whilst his father is Jewish, his maternal grandmother converted to Judaism through the Liberal Movement, which technically means he is not Jewish according to Orthodox halachah. He attended a Jewish elementary school, works for a Reform Synagogue and considers himself to be Jewish. Indeed, he has a stronger Jewish identity than many people I know who are halachically Jewish! I know that if we were to get married our children would technically be Jewish, through me, but I still have concerns such as: Would we be able to have an Orthodox Jewish wedding? Would my Synagogue call him up/give him a aliyah (honor of being called to the Torah) were he to visit one Shabbat? Would he be counted in a Minyan (quorum for prayer), etc? Are there any other practical implications I haven't thought of that I need to consider? This is a very difficult subject for him as he is quite sensitive about not being recognised as Jewish by other Jews.
I am interested in converting to Judaism. While I currently have no friends or family who are Jewish, I have been doing quite a bit of personal study, while praying to G-d for discernment on the matter, and feel deeply that this is the right choice for myself and my family. My husband is very supportive and has agreed for our family to live a Jewish lifestyle, he would like to learn more before making the decision to convert himself. I have two questions. First, is it possible for myself and our son (he is 4) to convert, with my husband's blessing, if my husband does not choose to as well? Second, there are only 2 synagogues in my area, both of which are at least a 40 minute drive from our home. One is conservative, the other reform. The nearest orthodox synagogue is about 2 hours away. Is it possible to receive our instructing of Judaism in a conservative synagogue, but the actual conversion (mikvah and so forth) in the orthodox one due to proximity reasons? I hope that makes sense.
I have a question regarding a charitable endeavor my shul is involved in. For many years, we have hosted homeless guests (from a nearby shelter) for a week in our building. About three years ago, we started taking them in during the week of Christmas. Our homeless guests are non-Jews, and we have had a Christmas tree placed in our building for them. We have even brought in a "Santa Claus" to pay a visit to the children. As we are a Conservative congregation, there are, naturally, members who oppose the tree and other signs of Christmas in the shul building. I am one of those who also dislike the practice, however, I continue to volunteer to care for our guests. But I wonder, are we going too far, in terms of the Christmas celebrations? Our rabbi states that we shouldn't take offense because, after all, many of the symbols connected with this holiday are from pagan origins, rather than being specifically connected with Jesus. Personally, I view that (pagan symbols) as being just as bad, perhaps even worse! It is my opinion that we should go back to hosting the homeless on a week other than that involving the Christmas holiday. This would solve the problem about causing offense to some of our more traditionally-minded congregants (regarding the tree and Santa). I was wondering what your take on this situation might be.
An article (in the Science & Health section of the Feb. 14, 2012 edition of the New York Times) stated that a senior residence facility passed an edict that residents in the assisted living and nursing facility can not eat in the same dining room as the independent living residents. (I recommend you read the article). Some couples and friends can no longer dine together. Various reasons were cited for the decision, including space, mobility, safety and concern about depressing the independent residents. This is screaming out to me as a great discussion topic in Jewish values. I can point to the values of caring for the sick and disabled, treating your neighbor as you would like to be treated, honoring the elderly, etc., but I am looking for specific sources and quotes to use as a teaching lesson. Thanks.
What are the obligations of the community to the individual? What is the responsibility of a synagogue to a Jewish member,specifically in terms of helping that congregant deal with extraordinary stresses of his/her life? What responsibility does the community organization have to that member, and particularly in regard to informing them of consequences of their behavior in advance? I know of a case in which an active member of the Jewish community (one who has contributed much time to the synagogue and has been extremely supportive to individuals in need) was ordered not to continue to have contact with the clergy for personal matters as a condition of continued membership. When the member violated this restriction (by leaving a telephone message for a clergy person when in distress), the congregant was told she/he could not at any time enter the doors of the synagogue at the threat of calling the police. The congregant did not receive advanced notice of this, but was told by a custodian upon coming to services that she/he could not enter. What Jewish values address this situation?
In my girlfriend's parents' Orthodox community, it's fairly common for people to refuse to eat at other families' houses. Sometimes it's for kashrut [keeping kosher, observing the dietary laws] concerns (disagreements over acceptable heckshers) [hecksher=notation indicating supervision for Kashrut by a known group or organization], but the majority of the time it's for seemingly unrelated issues (e.g., the wife not covering her hair or wearing pants) that somehow also reflects on that family's kashrut observance for these people. I find that kind of divisiveness disturbing -- wasn't it "because of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza Jerusalem was destroyed"? [Administrators note: this refers to a story about sinat chinam - baseless hatred and shaming another.] Which is the more important Jewish value -- unity among Jews [klal yisra'el] or strictly maintaining your religious standards? Can they be reconciled?
I am a Jewish woman, as my mother is Jewish. My father is not Jewish. I was raised as a Conservative Jew. I am in a relationship with a modern orthodox man who is a Cohen (a descendant of Aaron, one of the High Priests). We want to marry, but we have been told there are restrictions on him marrying me, because in addition to other restrictions on Cohanim (High Priests), one of the restricted classes of women for Cohanim are those whose fathers are not Jewish. Can you please clarify this for me? Is this true? I have done a lot of reading and I keep seeing the restrictions for widow, divorcee, convert, but not for a Jewish woman whose father was not Jewish. Since my mother is Jewish and Judaism is a matrilineal religion - and I have read in some places Judaism doesn't even recognize the religion of the father - I am Jewish. If it is true that one of the marriage restrictions of the Cohanim is to a woman whose father is not Jewish, can you please advise on what we can do in our situation to marry?
Currently I am in the process of finding an Orthodox Rabbi to sponsor me for conversion, but I heard that the Chief Rabbinate of Israel only accepts Orthodox conversions that were done with Rabbis recognized by Israel. I visited the Rabbinical Council Of America and clicked on the Conversion to Judaism tab, and it provided very useful information, but I want to know where can I find a recognized sponsoring Rabbi in the State of Maryland. For ALL DENOMINATIONS: Can I convert with anyone (Orhodox or other) not approved by the Israeli rabbinate, if I convert in the US? Will that conversion be accepted in Israel? [Administrator's note: A similar question is found on Jewish Values Online at question 848 which you can find by searching for Chief Rabbi in Israel, or entering link "http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=848" in your browser]

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