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Ethical Standards – Working Group

In the spring of 2012, the Institute set up a “blue ribbon” panel to examine ethical questions in Jewish genealogy. Its terms of reference are to examine ethical and  moral dilemmas relating to Jewish genealogy, with a view to recommending guidelines for Jewish family historians and others to consider as they proceed with their research work, especially if it is planned to publish the results.

Baroness Ruth Deech, a member of the IIJG Honorary Advisory Board, is chair of the panel, and Adv. Rony Golan, IIJG’s legal counsel, is its deputy chair. Both have a deep interest in Jewish genealogy and also in professional ethical behaviour. Baroness Deech gained renown in the United Kingdom as chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority from 1994 to 2002, where she took a special interest in ethics in modern medicine. Adv. Golan teaches a course at the Hebrew University on ethics in the legal profession and has given thought to halacha (Jewish religious law) as it bears on ethical issues in Jewish genealogy. The other members are Dr. Arnon Hershkovitz (Worcester, MA); Judge Katherine Mader (Los Angeles, CA); Queen’s Counsellor Eleanor Platt (London, UK); and Prof. Richard Sobel (Harvard University, MA). All of them have engaged in aspects to the subject at hand.

Examples of ethical dilemmas include issues concerning the Halacha (Rabbinic law) on who is a Jew, children born out of wedlock, “mamzerim” and marriages that were religiously, but not civilly valid; or various forms of disclosure, such as Holocaust-related        data that could cause grief and, more generally, information about criminal records, scandals and embarrassments that families have preferred to keep under wraps.

The panel invites Jewish family historians to submit ethical dilemmas or problems they have encountered in the course of their genealogical work. Please send a brief description of the issue to Dr. Arnon Hershkovitz, the panel’s coordinator at <> for its consideration.