This March 19-20, the Louis D. Brandeis Center hosted its fourth annual National Law Student Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. The conference brought together law student leaders from 13 of LDB’s law student chapters across the country, and educated these students on topics including civil rights law; international law and the Arab-Israeli Conflict; legal responses to terror and how to pursue them; religious liberty; and how to use legal tools to combat anti-Semitism and the Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Additionally, the students were presented with networking opportunities amongst their peers, attorneys, and legal scholars.
“The conference was informative, as well as encouraging.” said Daniel Berlinger (University of St. Thomas JD Candidate, 2017). “It helped provide the means to inspire law students to continue the fight against anti-Semitism on campus and beyond.”
Students were given the opportunity to engage with each other in a dialogue about the issues facing them as aspiring lawyers and proponents of civil rights for the Jewish people and all people through a series of lectures, panels, and roundtable discussions. With several prominent figures in academia, government, and professional law as guest speakers and fellow attendees, law students were also given an opportunity to enhance their knowledge and participate in discussions with multiple legal experts.
Participants included law students from LDB chapters at UC Berkeley, Penn, Emory, University of Virginia, and the University of Chicago in addition to students from various other campuses. The LDB law student chapter initiative, launched in 2014, includes 18 chapters nationwide. LDB chapters fill an important gap in American legal education, offering educational programming that connects students’ legal education to pressing Jewish civil rights issues.
Many of the students in attendance were members of their chapters’ respective leadership boards. The conference’s speakers covered a variety of legal and political topics relating to the Brandeis Center’s mission: empowering student leadership, federal protection of the civil rights of Jewish students, and fighting anti-Semitism so that the culture on American college campuses can change into one where anti-Semitism is taken as seriously as other forms of discrimination.
The conference kicked off with LDB Director of Legal Initiatives Aviva Vogelstein welcoming the students to the Fourth Annual National Law Student Leadership Conference. Vogelstein went on to discuss the importance of the role the students were playing at their respective universities, and commended them for the initiative they’ve shown in helping combat anti-Semitism.
LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus then gave opening remarks, focusing on the legal progress that had been made against anti-Semitism, and the many steps yet to be taken. Marcus chronicled the successful adoption of ethno-religious standards within the framework of Title VI and the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). Marcus then discussed OCR’s history of dealing with campus anti-Semitism cases, attributing the weakness in approach to the absence of a formal OCR definition of what constitutes anti-Semitism. The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2016, a bipartisan bill which unanimously passed the U.S. Senate in December, was highlighted as an example of the positive progress being made in the United States in regards to legal means of combating anti-Semitism. Marcus ended his remarks with a spirit of optimism, pointing out the various state legislatures that are currently drafting bills to combat anti-Semitism within their respective states.
After LDB President Kenneth Marcus finished speaking, the floor was turned over to Professor Abraham Bell, of San Diego State University and Bar Ilan University. Bell’s talk, entitled “International Law & The Arab-Israeli Conflict,” focused on Israel and international human rights law. Bell’s talk was a witty, informative, discussion that provided legal and rhetorical strategies, while simultaneously disavowing libels frequently levied against the one Jewish state. Bell’s talk ranged from discussions of the legal status of settlements, to the question of what exactly international law is.
After Professor Bell’s discussion, a keynote address was given over dinner by Richard D. Heideman, of Heideman, Nudelman & Kalik. Heideman’s address, entitled “Holding Sponsors of
Terrorism Legally Accountable,” was a powerful declaration of the power of an individual lawyer to change the world. Heideman discussed overcoming insurmountable odds to bring cases against world leaders, foreign powers, and figures considered generally untouchable in the legal community. Heideman represented clients against Muammar Gaddafi, as well as the nations of Libya and Syria. Heideman sought justice for the victims of the Abu Nidal terrorist organization attacks on the Vienna and Rome airports, along with the American victims of the EgyptAir flight 648 hijacking. Heideman chronicled the difficult road his law firm faced in obtaining justice and compensation for victims of crimes that were perpetrated decades earlier, crimes for which no one believed justice could be obtained. Heideman spoke about the importance of anti-terrorism law, of having a White House committed to the fight against terror, and his theory of confluence: when the victims, lawyers, congressmen, hearings, an amenable White House, and the State Department all come together, anything can be accomplished. Richard Heideman ended his discussion with a piece of advice for all of the aspiring lawyers in the room “Stand up, speak out, and seek justice.”
The second day of the conference began with LDB Director of Legal Initiatives Aviva Vogelstein turning the floor over to various students who had worked on combating anti-Semitism on their own campuses.
After the students concluded their stories, Vogelstein took the floor to discuss “Law and Campus Anti-Semitism.” Vogelstein’s talk discussed the state of anti-Semitism on campus, and delivered eye-opening statistics, such as a highlighting of the fact that over 50% of all Jewish students self-reported facing a situation they would consider anti-Semitic in 2015. Vogelstein discussed cases the Brandeis Center has dealt with, ranging from verbal abuse to physical battery. This discussion also included a breakout session that trained the law students how to represent undergraduates who face anti-Semitic incidents.
Jennifer Gross then spoke about “BDS & The Law.” The talk focused on challenges to BDS resolutions: under state law, corporate charters, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), the Export Administration Act, and the Ribicoff Amendment, and other legislation. Gross discussed how certain BDS resolutions, such as the American Studies Association’s unlawful boycott of Israel, and student BDS resolutions on several campuses, are ultra vires (meaning “outside the scope/purpose of”). Gross’s talk highlighted means by which all the students in the room could directly combat anti-Semitic resolution on their campuses firsthand.
Following Gross’s talk on campus anti-Semitism, Alyza Lewin covered several issues relating to constitutional law in her talk,
“Is Religious Liberty in Danger in America?” Lewin, of Lewin & Lewin, has argued before the Supreme Court, and is a staunch supporter of an individual’s rights to free expression of their religious beliefs. Lewin spoke at length about the changing face of the public and legislative approach to religion and its place in American law. Lewin examined the changes beliefs of the U.S. Supreme Court, of the rise and fall of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and various examples of how religious freedom is being inhibited legally throughout the American legal landscape.
After Lewin’s discussion on religious liberty came to a close, a panel was held featuring Eric Fusfield, Director of Legislative Affairs for B’nai B’rith International, as well as Richard Heideman, and Alyza Lewin. The panel was moderated by Kenneth Marcus. The panel, entitled “Legal Career Directions and the Pursuit of Justice,” offered life and career advice to the aspiring lawyers in attendance. The various members of the panel discussed how they got started in the fields they work in, as well as how to successfully balance legal pursuits with personal time. The panel participants also touched upon the importance of believing in your work, and how to rationalize pursuing moral goals instead of mercenary ones. The panel members were very receptive to student questions, and informed all of the students as to how to best proceed in their future endeavors.
The conference wrapped up with Kenneth Marcus giving closing remarks. The remarks highlighted the importance of the work the law students in attendance were doing. Marcus discussed further means of advancing in their goals, as well informing the law students about future opportunities to continue working with the Brandeis Center.
After the closing of the conference, law student David Rosenberg of Emory, said that “The conference was educational due to the fact it enumerated both the steps and actions we should take in pursuing the fight against anti-Semitism. This conference felt very practical in nature, all of the speeches and activities were great because they gave us tangible means to continue pursuing our goals as lawyers entering our respective fields.”
Jared Beim, of the University of Chicago Law School, stated that the “LDB conference was a valuable way to learn about anti-Semitism and how we can all make a difference at this crucial time.”
Jennifer Kleinman, of Cardozo Law School, said “I felt not only inspired and confident in my experiences with those fellow law students I met at the conference, but feel truly secure in our future due to the great allies we have working on our behalf.”
Sharon Rogart, of the University of Virginia Law School, enthusiastically spoke of the conference, saying that “The LDB conference was a wonderful opportunity to meet with like-minded individuals and learn more about how to speak up and take leadership in situations of anti-Semitism.”
Dr. Diane B. Kunz, Esq.
Equal treatment before United States law and government. That is a foundational American principle. Its aspirational neutrality, usually achieved, is one reason why people from so many nations with different ethnicities and differing religious beliefs have thrived in this country. Now J Street would challenge this basic principle in the purported service of helping to bring about a two state solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict. This discriminatory and wrong-headed idea must be opposed by anyone who supports an objective government of laws not ideology.
J Street calls “on its supporters and all who support a just Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement to urge the US Treasury to review the tax-deductibility status of contributions to groups working to entrench or expand Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank.” The rationale is that because the U.S. government has expressed opposition to Jewish settlments in the contested territories, charitable contributions that concretely aid such settlements should not be tax deductible under the U.S. tax code.
Does J Street and its allies, really want the IRS to determine which organizations supports goals and ideas that in some way oppose some aspect of federal government policy and which do not pass inspection?
Tax deductibility can be obtained by: A community chest, corporation, trust, fund, or foundation, organized or created in the United States or its possessions, or under the laws of the United States, any state, the District of Columbia or any possession of the United States, and organized and operated exclusively for charitable, religious, educational, scientific, or literary purposes, or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals. See here.
If so, here is a partial list of organizations that may lose tax exempt status:
- Save the Children, since it aids Morocco whose annexation of parts of the Western Sahara is not recognized by international law.
- SOS Children’s Villages, because it aids Turkish controlled North Cyprus, whose existence as an independent nation is recognized only by Turkey;
- Unicef, because it aids Indian Kashmir and Jammu, whose borders have been contested since 1948.
Most on point, any organization which in anyway supports the BDS movement because one of BDS’ founding principles is Israel is not and cannot ever be “a state like any other.” The” Israel as international pariah” position violates U.S and well as International law.
How about domestic policy? Should donations to Catholic churches and Evangelical Christian churches be denied because their priests and ministers preach against abortion? Should donations to Islamic mosques be denied because Imams preach against gay marriage?
To ask these questions is to show how disastrous the policy J Street advocates would be were it ever to be applied. But the “peace” advocates do not see past their one-sided obsession with Israel.They are willing to jeopardize a basic American core belief that federal agencies like the IRS must treat all taxpayers, including 501 (c) 3 non-profit organizations equally, regardless of whether or not they are for or against abortion, for or against giving aid to Turkish Cyprus or for or against settlements in the West Bank When Richard Nixon misused the IRS we rightly called foul. We call foul now.
Dreams Deferred: A Concise Guide to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict & the Movement to Boycott IsraelMichelle Yabes : August 31, 2016 9:22 am : Anti-Israelism, Anti-Semitism, Freedom of Speech, Religious Freedom
Cary Nelson has published his latest book Dreams Deferred: A Concise Guide to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict & the Movement to Boycott Israel. Nelson is a professor of English at University of Illinois at Urban-Champaign and has published a wide array of works, Dreams Deferred marking his second book after The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel to strike back at the BDS Movement. His most recent publication provides an informative and succinct reference guide to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Comprising of 60 essays from experts and scholars, including LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus, Dreams Deferred offers a comprehensive look into various aspects of the conflict.
Each essay is illuminating, and highlights different issues on the topics of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, in addition to providing concise historical background. The expert contributors of this work delved into the connection between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, anti-Jewish boycott movements including BDS, contemporary anti-Semitism, and how the term “apartheid” has been used, among many other subjects. LDB President Marcus contributed several fascinating pieces on the history of anti-Jewish boycotts, anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism, and Jewish anti-Zionists.
This book makes a great encyclopedic guide for casual readers unfamiliar with the subject matter, as well as for other experts. With its vast range of perspectives and in-depth analyses of common debates, Nelson’s latest work provides a strong reference point for research into the various aspects of anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism compacted into one source. Easily accessible and highly enlightening, Dreams Deferred is a must-read for those interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the issues and history surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
‘Dreams Deferred: A Concise Guide to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict & the Movement to Boycott Israel’ is now available on Amazon.
We have more exciting news for our readers! The Canadian Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism (CISA) and Indiana University Press has announced that they are releasing a new scholarly periodical Antisemitism Studies in April 2017. Antisemitism Studies will join The Journal for the Study of Anti-Semitism and the Journal of Contemporary European Antisemitism in rounding out the field for next spring. Catherine Chatterley, founding director of CISA, serves as Editor-in-Chief for this upcoming periodical and is also a member of LDB’s Academic Advisory Board.
A Call For Papers is forthcoming.
About Antisemitism Studies:
Antisemitism Studies will provide the leading forum for scholarship on the millennial phenomenon of antisemitism, both its past and present manifestations. Multidisciplinary and international in scope, the journal will offer a variety of perspectives on, and interpretations of, the problem of antisemitism and its impact on society.
Each issue is composed of a brief introduction by the editor, a selection of scholarly articles, and several reviews of significant new books published on the subject.
For more information on this upcoming publication, please click here.
Our friends at the Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism – Birkbeck, in partnership with the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, will host a symposium entitled ‘Protecting and Offending Jews: Speech, Law and Policy’ on June 28. The event take place from noon to 4 pm in the Jubilee Room, Westminster Hall, House of Commons, London.
The symposium aims to consider the aspects of discourse which offend Jews. It will address the questions, “Is offensive discourse necessarily antisemitic? Do people take offense too readily and endanger free debate? At what point does criticism of Israel become offensive?” Secondly, the symposium will ask whether, in view of growing concern over antisemitism, the law should be augmented or amended to protect Jews further or whether current laws that target discrimination and prejudice give adequate protection. The presentations will be short and will allow for plenty of time for discussion. more »
Our colleagues at the Academic Studies Press have recently announced a Call For Papers for the new issue of The Journal of Contemporary European Antisemitism (JCEA), set to publish in spring 2017. Lesley Klaff, senior lecturer of law at Sheffield Hallam University, serves as an editor for JCEA and is also a member of LDB’s Academic Advisory Board. We are happy to share this announcement with our readers who may be interested in contributing. The deadline for submissions to the first issue is August 1, 2016.
LDB is pleased to once again partner with our friends at The Israel Forever Foundation in co-sponsoring the upcoming Institute for Law and Policy Summer Program for International Students and Attorneys, hosted by The Hebrew University at Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem. The program will span three weeks from June 27 to July 14, and will offer timely and informative courses on topics such as International Economic Law, International Criminal Court, Israel’s Human Rights Challenges, and the Legal aspects of the Middle East Conflict.
Our friends at Indiana University have alerted us to a conference on “The New Unease: Antisemitism in Europe Today – Variations, Impact, Counter-Strategies,” which will be held in Berlin, Germany on July 7. The event is sponsored in cooperation with The Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism (ISCA) at Indiana University, Indiana University Europe Gateway, the Moses Mendelssohn Center (MMZ) at the University of Potsdam, and the International Institute for Education and Research on Antisemitism (IIBSA). LDB Academic Advisory Board member Professor Alvin Rosenfeld serves as the Director of ISCA, as well as Professor of Jewish Studies and English at Indiana University.
For the full list of panels and for more information about the event in English, please click here.
Lawfare Project Announces Victory: LP Legal Actions Force Shutdown of ALL Kuwait Airways Inter-European FlightsMichelle Yabes : May 4, 2016 2:38 pm : Anti-Israelism, Anti-Semitism, General, Litigation, Religious Freedom
The Lawfare Project (LP) recently announced a major victory against Kuwait Airways Corporation (KAC) and the Arab League boycott of Israel. LP’s Swiss Counsel Philippe Grumbach filed civil and criminal complaints against KAC in Geneva, for refusing service to Israeli nationals, in violation of anti-discrimination laws.
The complaints against the airline were filed on behalf of an Israeli national living in Switzerland, after being denied a ticket on a KAC flight from Geneva to Frankfurt, Germany. The criminal complaint against KAC was filed with the Prosecutor General, and is based on the “airline’s violation of the Swiss Penal Code as well as Swiss constitutional provisions that protect individuals facing discrimination based on race, religion or ethnicity.” The civil complaint, filed with the Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA), argues that the KAC “is violating the fundamental rights of Swiss residents and those traveling through Switzerland,” and also “asks that the FOCA demand an end to KAC’s discrimination and withdraw the airline’s operating license until such time as the airline comes into compliance with Swiss law.”
Kuwait’s law prohibits “all domestic companies from conducting business with Israeli citizens,” including “KAC flights between third countries.”
KAC flights between the United States and Europe have been terminated since last December, following U.S. Department of Transportation’s investigation of airline’s policies and practices. Their findings lead them to determine that the airline “was unequivocally operating in violation of federal anti-discrimination laws.”
The Lawfare Project stated, “[b]y cancelling these lucrative flight paths rather than admitting Israelis on KAC flights, the airline–a wholly owned instrumentality of the Kuwaiti government–is demonstrating its commitment to discrimination even while exposing itself to enormous pecuniary loss… National origin discrimination has no place in global commerce, and these practices will be prosecuted and penalized whenever and wherever they are attempted in the Western world.”
This victory sets an important precedent in halting illegal attempts to boycott the Jewish state.
To read the original article, please click here
The government’s relationship with religion, if anything, means that the government may not categorically subject a particular religious group to heightened requirements for religious exercise, may not endorse and codify a particular interpretation of religious doctrine, and may not limit the religious exercise of an individual because the government disagrees with the individual’s interpretation of his faith.
In Ben-Levi v. Brown, each of these first principles was violated. A federal district court and federal appeals court determined nonetheless that the plaintiff’s constitutional and statutory challenges could not go before a jury. For its part, the Supreme Court of the United States declined review. Only Associate Justice Samuel Alito, writing for himself, identified the fundamental problems in this case. In what follows, I will comment on why this case warrants serious concern and Justice Alito significant credit.
The “Ben-Levi” in the case is Israel Ben-Levi, a Jewish inmate housed by the North Carolina Department of Public Safety (DPS). According to the DPS, inmates may not hold group meetings without prior approval. In 2012, Ben-Levi sought permission to hold a minyan, or Jewish study group. The request was submitted to Betty Brown, the DPS Director of Chaplaincy Services. Brown in turn consulted with a local rabbi by email and, based on this correspondence, determined that a minyan requires at least ten adult Jews or the presence of a rabbi. As Ben-Levi’s proposed group consisted only of three members and as a volunteer rabbi was not available, Brown denied Ben-Levi’s request.
In general, the First Amendment prevents a prison from substantially burdening the religious exercise of an inmate, unless the prison can demonstrate that the relevant prison policy is “reasonably related to legitimate penological interests.” The district court ruled that the DPS minyan policy did not infringe upon Ben-Levi’s religious exercise because DPS merely enforced its policy.
That policy, however, embodies DPS’s interpretation of Jewish doctrine. DPS admitted as such, writing that its “position was based upon its understanding of the basic tenets of the Jewish faith[.]” But evaluating and determining religious tenets is a solemn function reserved to the individual. Government is not to arbitrate among, or have veto power over, differing religious perspectives considered by the individual.
Even if DPS believes that its policy contains the correct interpretation of a minyan, the Supreme Court has never insisted upon accuracy or consensus, or otherwise indicated that only a single interpretation may give rise to protected religious exercise. Rather, the Court has permitted religious exercise to spring forth from a range of religious interpretations, provided that the individual’s interpretation is sincerely held.
Here, there is no basis to dispute the sincerity of Ben-Levi’s view that it would be better to have a Jewish study group of three than no group at all. As Justice Alito stated, “Ben-Levi believes that relaxing the minyan requirement promotes his faith more than sacrificing group Torah study altogether.” Similarly, in Holt v. Hobbs, the Supreme Court, in an opinion written by Justice Alito, unanimously recognized the sincerity of a Muslim inmate’s belief that, while Islam required he be completely unshaven, it is preferable to grow a 1/2-inch beard than to have no beard as mandated by the prison’s grooming policies. For Ben-Levi, the district court wrongly focused on the DPS policy and not, as Justice Alito pointed out, whether the DPS “policy imposed a substantial burden on Ben-Levi’s ability to exercise his religious beliefs, as he understands them.”
In this case, the denial of the request to hold a Jewish study group prevented Ben-Levi from exercising his faith as he sincerely interpreted it.
The district court also concluded that, in the absence of a minyan, Ben-Levi could have engaged in private or corporate worship. It is no answer that Ben-Levi may have had other ways to practice his faith; the law does not give the government an “alternative means” safe harbor or permit the government to cherry-pick how an inmate can pursue his religion. The relevant question is whether DPS burdened this particular means of religious expression. Brown’s denial of Ben-Levi’s request settles this threshold question.
Next, DPS stated that, assuming that it substantially burdened Ben-Levi’s faith, that the policy was nonetheless supported by several interests. Brown herself declared that group gatherings “can compromise order, security, operation, safety, and inmate relationships in the prison system,” and can operate as a cover for “gang activity.” But, as courts nationwide and the Supreme Court in Holt have pointed out, prisons may not rely on generalized, conclusory justifications for their policies. Instead, courts are to assess whether the inmate has given rise to penological concerns justifying the relevant policy.
Here, there is nothing to suggest that Ben-Levi has undermined prison security or is affiliated with a gang. “Nor is there any indication that a Jewish study group is more likely… to impede order, compromise inmate relationships, or absorb personnel resources,” Justice Alito noted. Accordingly, there is no basis for holding Ben-Levi or Jewish inmates as a whole to a standard — ten members or a volunteer religious leader present — that is not imposed on other religious groups seeking group study.
In the end, Ben-Levi’s case is troubling because the DPS strayed from corrections to theology. In doing so, DPS deprived Ben-Levi of his religious rights and, more broadly, breached otherwise central principles concerning the role of government in religious affairs, principles that still exist within prison walls. The injury to Ben-Levi and these principles is doubled by the fact that the lower courts did not permit a jury to weigh the parties’ assertions; the courts found the issues too clear to warrant jury involvement. Justice Alito should be commended for being the lone Justice to recognize the problematic conclusions reached by the courts below and for signaling to future judges that such deprivations of religious freedom in the prison context will not go unnoticed.