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Professor Michelle Greenberg-Kobrin Discusses Sexual Assault with Eleventh-Grade Talmud Students

After finishing the Rodef unit in their Talmud curriculum, the eleventh grade heard from guest speaker Professor Michelle Greenberg-Kobrin to culminate their learning. The Rodef unit centers around the question of what bystanders should do when they see that a crime is about to be committed, and the text specifically addresses sexual assault. 

Greenberg-Kobrin, a law professor at Cardozo School of Law and lecturer at Columbia University, is involved in sexual assault prevention and investigation initiatives. She helped document Hamas’ war crimes against women and children on Oct. 7 and works to combat sexual assault on college campuses. 

In her lecture, Professor Greenberg-Kobrin explained that when rape is used as a form of warfare during conflicts, the goal is to lower the status of a group of people. She asserted, “Stranger rape is always about power, control, and degradation.” 

This idea is also found in the Gemara that the juniors studied, which teaches that when an betrothed woman is raped, it results in the lowering of her value. 

Although rape is not an official war crime, war crimes are classified based on intent. On Oct. 7, Hamas established clear intent to degrade Israeli citizens by proudly documenting their actions online for the whole world to see. Professor Greenberg-Kobrin explained that this declared intent is what allows Hamas’ sexual assault against Israeli women to be classified as a war crime. 

Professor Greenberg-Kobrin’s lecture was very well received by students, who found that she did an excellent job discussing sexual assault in a way that is relevant to today.

Junior Charlotte Levine said, “The program allowed us to apply our studies to a real-world situation, which really enhanced my learning.”

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