2nd International Berg Conference
Co-sponsored by Boston University Law School and The David Berg Institute for Law and History Tel Aviv University Faculty of Law
This conference is a pilot study, aimed at exploring two interrelated questions: what is Jewish identity and how does it interact with judicial decision making.
Some questions we wish to ask are: How does one’s Jewish identity affect one’s interpretation of one’s legal system? Is it possible to isolate the Jewish element in the decision making process? Does the Jewish element make a difference to the judge? Do judges feel or should they feel any tension between their identity and Jews and their commitment to uphold “the law”?
The question of Jewish identity is inevitably complex. Jewish identity may mean different things to different persons. Some salient aspects of Jewish identity are: religious (one is Jewish because one observes mitzvoth, the norms of Jewish Law); cultural (one is Jewish because one is immersed in Jewish history and tradition); political (one is Jewish because one is a Zionist or one contributes to AIPAC or to the NIF) or CULTURAL (one is Jewish because one grew up among Jews, because one’s parents had a distinctly Jewish lifestyle or immigrated from a shtetl, or because one is expected by one’s colleagues or by the Jewish community to adopt a Jewish identity). This list is not exhaustive.
Another question particularly relevant to our exploration is whether there is a divide between Jewish identities as they are experienced in the Diaspora (US, Canada, UK) and as they are experienced in Israel. Does the fact that Israeli Jews perform in the only Jewish state make a difference? How so? What then happens to Arab-Israeli identity, do Israeli Arabs become the “Jewish judge in the diaspora” ?
These issues will be examined in the context of biography. Rather than philosophize about identity and law, we shall examine actual judges and try to understand how they experienced their Jewish identity and to what extent they –and the scholars who studied them—believed that elements from that identity affected their decision making process or outcome.
Dates: December 7, 2010.
Place: Tel Aviv University, Faculty of Law
Organizers: Pnina Lahav, Boston University Law School,
Ron Harris, Tel Aviv University, Faculty of Law