Our competitions are structured around a detailed case alongside a curated sourcebook of traditional and modern Jewish texts. By applying the texts in the sourcebook, students construct legal arguments to address the ethical issues of the case. Cases in recent years have addressed timely issues including tainted money, #MeToo, and artificial intelligence.
Powered by the Hadar Institute and supported by Maimonides Fund, the competition offers students the opportunity to present their arguments in front of a panel of expert judges. Our aim is to inspire rigorous ethical debate rooted in Jewish legal wisdom, providing students an international stage to engage the most significant moral challenges facing the Jewish community and the world.
We offer students an empowering look at the inner workings of Jewish legal tradition. In the months leading up to the competition, students are provided a detailed case involving a contemporary ethical quandary. They collaborate under the guidance of an advisor to craft a written decision and oral argument based on a provided sourcebook of curated sources. Following a shabbat celebrated in community, students debate their rulings in front of a panel of expert judges.
Jewish scholarship has always involved vigorous minds engaged in lively debate. We model this dynamic process on an international stage, demonstrating to students how Jewish wisdom can span cultures, geography, and time to influence our moral clarity today. Through a deep engagement with the sources, we aim to inspire the development of moral leadership skills rooted in the timeless wisdom of Jewish texts.
Yitzhak is the director of Maimonides Moot Court Competition, overseeing all educational content and student programming. Previously he served in Chicago as the Senior Regional Jewish Educator for Moishe House, working with young adult leaders to strengthen educational experiences in their peer-led communities. He is an alumni of the FASPE Ethics Fellowship (Fellowship at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics) and is a participant in the M² Senior Educators Cohort. Originally from New York, Yitzhak has studied at the University of Chicago Divinity School and Yeshiva University. He lives in Washington DC.
Rabbi Avi Strausberg is the Director of National Learning Initiatives at Hadar, and is based in Washington, DC. Previously, she served as the Director of Congregational Learning of Temple of Aaron in St. Paul, Minnesota. Avi studied at Hadar as a year fellow, and served on our summer faculty in 2014. She received her rabbinic ordination from Hebrew College in Boston and is a Wexner Graduate Fellow. She also holds a Masters in Jewish Education. While pursuing her studies, Avi was honored to serve as a rabbinic intern at Kehillath Israel and Temple Sinai. She has taught students of different ages and backgrounds at Kehillath Israel, Temple Sinai, Makor, and Hadar. Additionally, Avi has worked as a chaplain intern at Hebrew Senior Life and organized an anti-trafficking campaign as a rabbinic fellow at T’ruah. Energized by engaging creatively with Jewish text, she has written several theatre pieces inspired by the Torah and maintains a Daf Yomi haiku blog in which she writes daily Talmudic haikus. Avi is most grateful for her wife, Chana, and two children, Ori and Niv.
Drew is the student director of the Maimonides Moot Court Competition, working closely with the director and managing the student executive committee. With a unique religious upbringing, he aims to ensure that students of all backgrounds are able to engage with Jewish textual tradition and build meaningful networks through the program. He has previously led international scouting groups and recently developed programming with his local Hillel to help students explore the diversity of their Jewish community. Originally from Baltimore, Drew currently studies international development at Washington University in St. Louis.
In preparation for our annual competitions, students are provided a detailed case which engages a contemporary ethical issue. Our sourcebooks contain curated texts spanning the full breadth of Jewish tradition; ancient and medieval texts are juxtaposed with modern perspectives from our present moment. A strong argument will engage these sources and bring them into conversation with each other.
This year’s case addresses a crucial question of human rights and criminal justice: what are the rights of an individual who has been convicted of a crime and has served their punishment? Students will evaluate the “Beyond the Box” initiative, which encourages universities not to inquire about the criminal histories of applicants during the admissions process.
A group of student climate activists struggling financially is approached by a donor who allegedly profited from human rights abuses at a detention center for asylum seekers. How should the student activists respond?
How can Jewish ethics provide a framework for considering the moral value of Whisper Networks which emerged from the #MeToo movement?
A potential bone marrow donor is confronted with a life-or-death dilemma: Should they risk their own life in order to potentially save the life of another person? This sourcebook was produced by Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools.
We design our programs to be meaningful for Jewish students of all backgrounds, irrespective of previous experience with studying Jewish texts. There is no “ideal” background for students, beyond a willingness to grapple with ethics through our curated sources.
Yes! Participants are provided a sourcebook with all of the materials needed to compete. All texts are included in their original language alongside an English translation.
Our goal is to inspire a rigorous conversation around a hotly contested ethical issue which directly impacts the lives of students. In recent years our cases have explored a broad range of moral issues including artificial intelligence, #MeToo whisper networks, climate change, and medical ethics. This year we have chosen criminal justice as our annual theme.
Absolutely! For many participants, this moot court experience is their first public speaking competition. The unique structure ensures that participants can engage even without prior experience.
We design our programming for students and schools of all backgrounds, and so we offer a pluralistic Shabbat experience that accommodates a variety of Jewish practices in accordance with halakhah. Please be in touch if you have any concerns.
We welcome college students of all backgrounds to apply to participate in the competition. The application consists of several short answer questions.
Yes! Students can sign up with a group of teammates, or let us place you on a team. Irrespective of whether you have a team in mind or not, all students must apply individually.
Teams typically consist of 2-4 students.
Over the course of a weekend, participants enjoy conversations led by prominent guest speakers, small group activities, and social programming, all of which occurs in an immersive Shabbat environment. The competition takes place on Sunday morning.
Each team’s presentation will have three components, which will last 20-25 minutes.
(1) An initial Oral Argument of up to 10 minutes.
(2) Judges then have an opportunity to ask 1-2 questions to the team.
(3)The team has the option of offering a closing statement of up to 2 minutes.
Yes! While arguments should be primarily rooted in Jewish sources, you are welcome to introduce secular texts to buttress your argument.
The judging rubric scores four criteria:
(1) Knowledge and comprehension of topic
(2) Creativity of argument
(3) Quality of Responses
(4) Presentation delivery
Since the collegiate competition launched in 2018, we have welcomed students from nearly 40 campuses throughout North America and Israel. We are excited for an even larger expansion in the coming year.
Once accepted, participation is fully subsidized and includes a generous travel subsidy. Registration includes: hotel accommodations, competition costs, Shabbat programming and all meals.
Maimonides Moot Court Competition is open to all high school students and designed to be a meaningful experience irrespective of the type of school one attends. There is no “ideal” background for students, beyond a willingness to grapple with ethics through our curated sources.
Come study with us over Winter Break! This is a great opportunity to meet other high school students and explore the materials in preparation for the competition. Learn more here.
No! While many students form teams within their school, we welcome you to form a team with students who attend other schools. Synagogues, youth groups, JCCs, camps, and other organizations are all welcome to participate in the shabbaton and competition.
Student teams typically have 3-4 students.
The competition will take place on March 7, 2021. We are planning for both virtual and in-person possibilities; all students will have the option to compete virtually. If the circumstances allow, our Shabbaton and conference will be held outside Baltimore on March 4-7. We will announce a decision in early December.
Programming begins on Thursday evening and continues through Sunday afternoon. The first three days are dedicated to community building, preparing for the competition, conversations around Jewish ethics, and celebrating Shabbat. The actual competition will take place on Sunday, March 7, 2021.
The deadline to apply is December 15, 2020.
Our 2020 competition had over 100 students from schools and synagogues across the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Israel. Our 2021 competition will involve twice the number of students.
Maimonides Moot Court Competition is a pluralistic program that welcomes students across the full spectrum of religious observance. Our shabbaton is often one of the highlights of the experience for students of all backgrounds.
All meals served will be fully certified Kosher, and all programming is accord with halakhah at all times. Multiple options are provided for prayer spaces to ensure there are comfortable options for everyone.