Beit Midrash Students Shine at Moot Beit Din Shabbaton


This past weekend, five students in Hillel’s Beit Midrash program participated in a Shabbaton at the Maimonides Moot Court Competition (MMCC) in Maryland. The students, led by their advisor Rabbi Rodney Feinerman, presented their opinion on a case of Jewish law before a mock “court” of judges. The topic of conversation was Artificial Intelligence and its place in the business world.


Sadie Lemmer (‘25), Ilana Mareyna (‘25), Sara Haime (‘25), Sara Woldenberg (‘25), and Shalom Meisels (‘24), represented Scheck Hillel. Hillel was one of 22 schools that comprised an attendance of around 130 students. Diverse groups of students came to the competition from schools and youth programs throughout the United States, Canada, and Israel.


The Shabbaton was hosted at the Pearlstone Conference and Retreat Center in Baltimore County, Maryland. Thursday – the first day of the Shabbaton – included various activities such as “icebreakers,” discussions about the value of Halachic disputes, and s’mores by the bonfire. On Friday, students learned about the future of AI and its implications for Jewish life from Johns Hopkins professor of Computer Science, Mark Dredze. The students were also led through Pearlstone’s premises and got to see all kinds of sustainable agriculture and even some farm animals. After lunch, program participants were asked to take part in “Mini Moot” Beit Dins, where they were given an entirely new case about kidney donation in Halacha and accompanying sources to help guide their arguments. This small-scale competition helped get Hillel’s team ready for the actual competition that would be taking place the following Sunday.


Shabbat at Pearlstone was an unforgettable experience for both students and their advisors. Shabbat activities included singing Shabbat songs, eating Shabbat meals, and learning about an array of Torah topics delivered in classes taught by school/program advisors. Students also participated in Tefillah services throughout Shabbat and had plenty of recreational time to get to know other teams more personally. 


Sunday – the day of the competition – students congregated at an opening ceremony to learn about the perimeters of the Moot Court proceedings and the rules surrounding presentations. The case provided, set ten years in the future, concerned the city of Glendale. The city of Glendale uses a taxi transportation service known as “Glenride.” The service is threatened by a driverless taxi service called iTaxi that will likely make Glenride obsolete. Using 29 sources from various areas of Halacha, students were asked to determine: “1) Whether the city is halakhically permitted to ban or regulate iTaxi… such as by instituting a fee that would help sponsor a job retraining program, [and] 2) Whether this is the morally right course of action.”


After the competition, those on the trip reflected on their experiences. Rabbi Feinerman said: “I had a wonderful time hanging out with my students, bonding, sharing Shabbos together, and even singing Zemiros.” Sadie Lemmer, one of the students presenting, said: “I think that Moot was a great opportunity for us to show our halachic skills and really meet a broader spectrum of Jewish people outside of our community.”