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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?
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 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.
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?
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?

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