Elliott Dorff Lectures on The Living Tree: An Introduction to Jewish Law

January 11, 2005

Professor Mark Loewenstein and Professor Elliot DorffRabbi Elliott Dorff presented a well-attended lecture titled The Living Tree: An Introduction to Jewish Law on Tuesday, January 11, 2005, at the Law School. Dean David Getches welcomed Professor Dorff, and Professor Mark Loewenstein introduced Professor Dorff. Elliot Dorff was ordained a Conservative rabbi by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1970 and earned his Ph.D. in philosophy from Columbia University in 1971 with a dissertation in moral theory. Since then he has directed the rabbinical and Masters programs at the University of Judaism, where he currently is Rector and Distinguished Professor of Philosophy. (Click here for his University of Judaism web site.) He also teaches a course on Jewish law at UCLA School of Law as a Visiting Professor. He was awarded the Journal of Law and Religion's Lifetime Achievement Award, and he holds three honorary doctoral degrees. Rabbi Dorff is Vice-Chair of the Conservative Movement's Committee on Jewish Law and Standards and served on the editorial committee of Etz Hayim, the new Torah commentary for the Conservative Movement. His papers have formulated the validated stance of the Conservative Movement on infertility treatments and on end-of-life issues, and his Rabbinic Letters on human sexuality and on poverty have become the voice of the Conservative Movement on those topics. He has chaired two scholarly organizations, the Academy of Jewish Philosophy and the Jewish Law Association and is currently Vice-Chair of the Society of Jewish Ethics. In Spring, 1993, he served on the Ethics Committee of Hillary Rodham Clinton's Health Care Task Force. In March, 1997 and May, 1999, he testified on behalf of the Jewish tradition on the subjects of human cloning and stem cell research before the President's National Bioethics Advisory Commission. In 1999 and 2000 he was part of the Surgeon General's commission to draft a Call to Action for Responsible Sexual Behavior; and from 2000 to 2002 he served on the National Human Resources Protections Advisory Commission, charged with reviewing and revising the federal guidelines for protecting human subjects in research projects. He is currently working on a project on Judaism and genetics for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and he is a member of that organization's Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion Advisory Committee. In Los Angeles, he is President of Jewish Family Service, and he is a member of the Ethics committees at the Jewish Homes for the Aging and U.C.L.A. Medical Center. He serves as Co-Chair of the Priest-Rabbi Dialogue of the Los Angeles Archdiocese and the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, and he is a Vice-President of the Academy for Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Studies. Rabbi Dorff's publications include over 150 articles on Jewish thought, law, and ethics, together with ten books, including A Living Tree: The Roots and Growth of Jewish Law (1988) (with Arthur Rosett).