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PREFACE

Irene Merker Rosenberg and Yale. L. Rosenberg were our colleagues at the University of
Houston Law Center until they passed away from cancer – Yale in 2002 and Irene in 2010. They
shared many values including a belief in excellence, a love of learning and scholarship, a passion
for justice, and their devotion to Judaism. Both of them had their own areas of legal scholarship
in which they excelled (Irene – juvenile law and criminal procedure and Yale – the law of habeas
corpus and federal jurisdiction). They also collaborated on articles about juvenile law, criminal
law and on the comparative American and Jewish criminal law studies that are compiled in this
work. Irene Merker Rosenberg began this book as a tribute to Yale’s memory. Unfortunately she
was unable to have the manuscript published before her passing. With the support of Dean
Baynes and the University of Houston Law Center we have been able to publish an online
version of the manuscript. We know this book can be helpful, not just to legal scholars, but also
to Jewish scholars.

COMPARATIVE AMERICAN AND TALMUDIC CRIMINAL LAW reflects the journey undertaken by the
late Irene Merker Rosenberg and Yale L. Rosenberg in their pioneering comparative studies of
Jewish and secular criminal and juvenile law. They did not argue that contemporary secular law
should be modeled on Jewish law. Rather, the authors presented the two legal systems side by
side, transcended clichés about the Bible that were all too often misused to justify harsh
treatment, and deeply considered the ethical underpinnings of law. Irene Merker Rosenberg’s
Introduction is an Overview of Jewish Law—Written and Oral—including the Bible, the Oral
Law, and the major commentators. It is meant to be accessible to beginners but also includes
detailed footnotes in which the author delves deeply into the subject. Chapter One is her
Overview of the Talmudic Criminal Justice System that explains how the rabbinic legal system
functioned. It demonstrates that Jewish criminal law was constrained by very strict procedural
rules that created many obstacles to conviction. The chapters that follow compile their work of
nearly thirty years in which the co-authors explored concepts of guilt, the force of precedent in
the law, the “actus” requirement in criminal law, the dangers of predicting criminal behavior
based on prior conduct, the eye-for-eye justification for capital punishment, the distinction
between murder and manslaughter, the causation requirement in criminal law, circumstantial
evidence, self-incrimination, and the law of capital punishment. In each case, the Rosenbergs
seriously interrogated a specific Jewish legal provision for its own sake but also in order to learn
something important about secular criminal law. Infused with the authors’ spirit of humanity
and deep understanding of the law, this work is truly unique in its ambition and in its execution.

                                                                          Ellen Marrus and Laura Oren
                                                                          Houston, February 9, 2016

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