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A maverick in many ways, Lewin does not live in an area with a high concentration of Orthodox Jews. He built a home in Potomac about ten
years ago, where he lives with his wife and two college-age daughters. He walks about a half-mile to shul each Shabbat, and often teaches a
Torah class on Saturday afternoons.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 1988
(involving the domestic sale of foreign
goods) should be kept open.
In the last decade Lewin has defended
such clients as actress Jodie Foster, the
late nursing home operator Bernard
Bergman, militant Rabbi Meir Kahane,
and Rabbi Menachem Schneersohn, leader
of the Lubavitcher Chasidic movement, in
addition to former Attorney General
Meese. Each case has been very different
but Lewin's style is always 'the same.
"As a lawyer, his is a damn-the-torpedoes
approach," says Michael Berenbaum, who
worked closely with Lewin when the two
men were the professional and lay leaders,
respectively, of the Jewish Community
Council of Greater Washington in the early
1980s. "Nat is forceful and fearless, and
people treat him with respect and some-
times fear.. There are times when he goes
for the jugular."
"He's a tiger in the courtroom," says
Julius Berman, a New York attorney and
COLPA leader who has known Lewin since
college days at Yeshiva University.
And Lewin's wife, Rikki, a photographer,
has said that her husband is "the opposite
of a pacifist."
"I am an aggressive lawyer," says Lewin
in an interview in his spacious Georgetown
office. "I have to be confrontational in
court, but I'm not that way with other
lawyers. I see it this way: My clients' lives
are at stake. I see myself as a buffer
between my client and the prosecutor."
There are those who question whether
Lewin's aggressive style may sometimes
work against him. "He likes a fight," says
Marvin Schick of New York, a founder and
leader of COLPA. "He can be abrasive in
court and that hurts him. He is sometimes
preachy to judges in court, and they don't
According to Julius Berman, "some-
times Nat becomes so convinced of the
justice of his position that he may be less
willing to compromise."
In the yarmulke litigation, a number of
COLPA officials opposed taking the case
to the Supreme Court because they feared
they would lose. "If you have a losing case
that can make bad law, the general belief
is don't take it to the Supreme Court,"
explained one official.
Schick recalls meeting with Lewin in
New York and trying to persuade him not
to pursue the case. "We felt we didn't have
a prayer in that case," recalls Schick, "and
I told Nat that I would eat my yarmulke,
and his, if we won."
But Lewin could not be swayed. He lost
the case 5-4, but, Schick notes, "Justice
(William) Brennan's dissent was so - power-
ful that in a sense, we won. In retrospect,
Nat was right?!
In another case, an employee of a
department store in Connecticut was dis-
missed because he would not work on
Sunday, his holy day. He sued under a
Connecticut law whose protection was