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May 20, 1994 - Image 4

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-05-20

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

"..*

••.•••



,

PAST



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•.?: • •



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PIMENT

,

Jewish Justice

The Senate's likely confirmation of Stephen G.
Breyer for the Supreme Court will mean that
two Jews will be sitting on the High Court for
the first time since 1938. By joining Ruth Bad-
er Ginsburg on the bench, Judge Breyer's pres-
ence will replicate — at least as far as religious
affiliation goes — the only other time two Jews
were simultaneously on the Court: the six years
between 1932 and 1938, when both Louis Bran-
deis and Benjamin Cardozo were justices.
In fact, President Clinton's appointment last
year of Justice Ginsburg to the Court marked
the restoration of the Court's so-called "Jewish
seat": the uninterrupted presence of a Jewish
justice from the 53 years that began with Jus-
tice Brandeis' Senate confirmation in 1916 to
Abe Fortas' resignation from the Court in 1969.
But what does it mean for there to be a "Jew-
ish seat," or, in the case of the Brandeis-Cardo-
zo and, presumably, the Ginsburg-Breyer
phenomena, "Jewish seats"? Does the Jewish
experience and the prime Jewish concept ofjus-
tice — melding justice with charity — inform
the deliberations and decisions of these Jewish
justices?
Further, does a Jewish justice vote exclusively
for "Jewish interests" and "Jewish causes"? And
is such a voting pattern desirable?
These questions get to the heart of being a Jew
— and of being a Jew in America. They address
the particularity of Jewish experience and the
universality of Jewish teachings and wisdom.
One assumes — one hopes — that Judaism is
not so insular that its wisdom applies only to a
the small fraction of Americans who call them-
selves Jewish; and that the Jewish experience,
especially in regard to minority rights and oc-
casional minority oppression, can be extrapo-

lated beyond the immediate borders of the Jew-
ish community. If not, then Jews are 1) only
speaking to themselves; 2) in danger of being
isolated from the rest of the country; and 3) prac-
tice a religion that is prophetically pretentious.
But if a Jewish member of the Court myopi-
cally favors "Jewish issues" while on the Court,
then neither justice nor America are being
served. Such a justice is merely the proxy of yet
another tunnel-visioned interest group.
From what is so far known about Judge
Breyer, he will unavoidably be a justice who is
a Jew, but probably not a "Jewish justice."
Morton Horwitz, a legal historian and former
faculty colleague of Mr. Breyer's at Harvard Law
School, told the New York Times that the nom-
inee has little in common with such past Jewish
justices as Brandeis, Cardozo and Felix Frank-
furter.
"Breyer's social instincts are conservative,"
said Mr. Horwitz. "If we still believe there is this
social justice strand in the best version of the
American judiciary, and that's what all these
Jewish justices stood for, Breyer doesn't stand
for that. The words 'social justice' would some-
what embarrass him."
While hoping that Mr. Breyer is never em-
barrassed by either his beliefs or the imperative
of "social justice," we also hope he never forgets
that the same Hebrew root is used for "justice"
and "righteousness," that the thought and prac-
tices of the Jewish people have been strongly
molded by this concept and by the conviction
that the world is preserved by "truth, justice and
peace." This does not mean that he has to be a
"Jewish justice" in the most narrow sense of that
word. Just that he should temper justice with
mercy and fairness with charity.

The "S" Word

Given its importance to all of us and the range
of emotional buttons associated with sex, the
Conservative movement's attempt to steer a
mid-course through the troubled waters of con-
temporary sexual mores was destined from the
get-go to upset traditionalists, Orthodox or
otherwise. No sooner had a commission of the
movement's Rabbinical Assembly issued a pre-
liminary report stating that non-marital het-
erosexual sex could embody "holiness" than
critics condemned it for undermining the sanc-
tity of the Jewish family (while the report also
touched on homosexuality, its comments on het-
erosexual marriage have received the most at-
tention).
Given the radical societal changes that have
already altered traditional family life, does the
report contribute positively or negatively to Jew-
ish identity?
Judaism strongly advocates marriage as the
ideal, and the report by the RA.'s Commission
on Human Sexuality underscores that teaching.

Moreover, for holiness to be present in a non-
marital relationship, the report states that core
Jewish values — such as respect for one's part-
ner, honesty, fidelity, modesty and Jewish ritu-
al practice — must be exercised.
Critics argue that is not enough; that it is use-
less to advocate proper action and then, in their
view, undercut the institution conditional from
which all else is supposed to flow.
Would we prefer a situation in which all het-
erosexual couples married and then raised chil-
dren in a loving, Jewish environment? Of course.
Can promiscuous, non-marital sex be psycho-
logically and spiritually damaging (not to men-
tion the physical dangers most dramatically
represented by AIDS)? Of course.
As issued, the report was intended as a start-
ing point for debate within the Conservative
movement on one of the most vexing areas of hu-
man activity. That the Rabbinical Assembly is
willing to publicly wrangle with the issue is note-
worthy of praise.

Letters

Council President
Corrects Statement

In the May 13 Jewish News, a re-
porter stated that I felt that the
Jewish Community Council's
'traditional liberal stance on abor-
tion and the Middle East peace
process" kept the "Orthodox corn-
munity at arm's length from the
Jewish Community Council."
This statement in no manner
reflects what I feel, what I said,
or what is true. The Jewish Corn-
munity Council board has rep-
resentation from all segments of
the Jewish community, includ-
ing some Orthodox members. I
am aware that Orthodox Jews
are not a monolithic communi-
ty with common views. I am
quite certain that Orthodox Jews
view the Middle East peace
process in as many ways as non-
Orthodox Jews.
Furthermore, the past three
years or so have seen an in-
creased level of participation
from all segments of our com-
munity with the Jewish Com-
munity Council ...
As I conclude my term as pres-
ident of the Jewish Community
Council, after three years of pos-
itive, accurate and fair reporting,
I regret that I feel I had to write
to correct the impression that I
had made such a statement.

the great work of these two men,
they are changing. These two
men have been a vital part of this
metamorphosis.

Arnold Michlin

Farmington Hills

The Chain Of
Responsibility

The April 29 editorial states that
the Jewish Federation should "fo-
cus its talent and resources on its
core business — our collective fu-
ture and the raising of funds to
provide for it."
Yet, only a few lines previous-
ly you state that Israel travel
desks are not part of Federation's
mission. Surely, the statistically
high correlation between the Is-
rael experience and its effect on
young people and their Jewish
identity is undisputed in its cru-
cial role in strengthening "our col-
lective future."
The Michigan/Israel Connec-
tion is far more than an "Israel
travel desk." It is a proven, force-
ful operation working diligently
toward providing a spiritual and
physical link between young
Jews and the state of Israel, a
link which sadly cannot be tak-
en for granted in younger gener-
ations.
Jeff Kaye
Community Shaliach
Editor's note: The editorial stated,
Jeannie Weiner "Running bus services,neighborhood
Jewish Community Council loan projects, information services,
Editor's note: Staff writer Lesley Pearl Israel travel desks and other
stands by the accuracy of the article.
programs that are not part of
Federation's mission should be left to
the communal agencies Federation-
Two Priests
raised dollars support."

Are Lauded

Our community is suffering two
great losses. We were fortunate
in having Bishop-elect Alex
Brunett "on our side" for so many
years — and Monsignor Leonard
Blair for the last few years...
We were lucky to have these
two wonderful men as vigorous
friends. We look forward to their
frequent returns to visit family
here. Both have left their mark
in the Jewish community.
They have helped alleviate
and reduce centuries of prejudice
by bringing a sensitive and
sensible approach to Catholic-
Jewish relations. Their work
to foster learning about Juda-
ism and Jews has borne much
fruit.
Old habits die hard, but due to

Condemnation
Of Bigotry

The condemnation by Judge Da-
mon J. Keith of the bigotry and
anti-Semitism currently es-
poused by some radical black na-
tionalists belies the concerns
expressed by the community
leaders who, in recent days, have
written The Jewish News re-
garding the present state of
black-Jewish relationships.
Judge Keith's comments have
been endorsed by a variety of
community leaders, black and
white.
What The Jewish News com-
mentators seem to ignore is the

CONDEMNATION page 8

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