B’nai Sholom’s popular Synagogue Scholar series of talks by members of our community begins Friday, December 18 with a lecture by congregant Paul Finkelman. Finkelman, an expert in constitutional history and constitutional law, freedom of religion, and civil liberties, among other topics, will deliver the talk, “Getting Ready for Brandeis: The Centennial of the Nomination of our First Jewish Supreme Court Justice.” Following a format first tried last year with great success, he will speak during the oneg reception after the service, to allow for more informality and greater interactive discussion.
On January 28, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson nominated Louis D. Brandeis to be a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, the first Jew to serve on the high court. Four months later, the Senate would finally confirm him. The fight over his nomination – the longest in U.S. history – was tinged with anti-Semitism, but the so-called “Jewish issue” cut in two directions. Some senators used anti-Semitic language and code words to oppose him; others supported him because he was Jewish. As the 100th anniversary of his nomination approaches, this lecture will prompt thought about Brandeis and perhaps about the role of the Supreme Court in modern society.
Finkelman is the Ariel F. Sallows Visiting Professor of Human Rights Law at the University of Saskatchewan College of Law in Canada and senior fellow in the Program on Democracy, Citizenship and Constitutionalism at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author or editor of more than 40 books and 200 scholarly articles, and his op-eds and shorter pieces have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today and the Huffington Post. He has appeared on CBS, NBC, C-SPAN, PBS and the History Channel. Finkelman holds a doctorate in U.S. history from the University of Chicago and was a fellow in law and humanities at Harvard Law School.
Future synagogue scholar lectures will include Martha Rozett discussing the novel, Days of Awe, by Achy Obejas, on January 29; David Liebschutz discussing “What We Can Learn About Leadership from our Jewish Tradition,” on March 11; and Steven Stark-Riemer speaking on a topic to be announced later in the spring.