MEOR Penn, the Penn branch of a national organization that runs programs for Jewish college students, launched a new business ethics seminar to teach students that their faith and their jobs do not have to be separate.
The weekly seminar — Jewish Executive Track — brings in Jewish executives and managing directors from financial and consulting firms to speak about their experiences in the business world. The speakers, who have all spent at least two years studying some form of Jewish ethics, also analyze Jewish texts and discuss ethical dilemmas they have encountered in the workplace.
The seminar was founded by self-termed “Wharton Rabbi” Rick Fox, a 2007 Wharton graduate and executive director of MEOR Penn. Fox said he began the seminar because he felt there was a need for a program to highlight the role of personal faith in work.
“You have your life at home and your life at work, but they’re not separate things,” Fox said.
Fox added that in the program, speakers and participants go through "case studies" of specific ethical issues in the workplace, such as stealing time from the company by doing non-work tasks like using Facebook during work hours. He said this semester, more than 30 students are participating in the program, selected from a pool of around 60 applicants.
College senior Cameron Isen, a student representative for MEOR, said he got involved in coordinating speakers because he wanted to provide students with mentors who could teach them about the connection between occupation and values.
"A lot of times, you don't get a perspective on 'what is the relationship between my financial success and my ethical success?'” Isen said.
The program hosted a number of guests this semester, including 2013 College graduate Sam Levenson, who is currently a consultant at Bain & Company. College freshman Leah Lerner, a member of the program, said the speakers have given her a model for integrating Jewish values in a business career.
“It’s really difficult to get involved in your academic life and be successful in your field, but also to maintain a spiritual element of your life,” Lerner said. “Through Jewish values and the texts, [the speakers] talk about how to balance the two.”
Beyond just hearing about business, Fox said he also wants to give the students a chance to “see it in action.” In the spring, the Jewish Executive Track will begin an ambassadors program, where select students from the seminar will meet the speakers for dinner in New York City and visit their offices.
Fox said in the long term, he hopes the Jewish Executive Track will have a lasting effect on many aspects of the members' lives.
“We have a very holistic approach,” he said, citing how the program takes members out to shop for clothing, works through ethical dilemmas, and mentors students in both their intellectual and spiritual lives.
“You could be in real estate,” Fox said. “But why build buildings when you could build people?”