From Emancipation to Assimilation: Is Secular Liberalism Still Good for Jewish Lawyers?
From Emancipation to Assimilation: Is Secular Liberalism Still Good for Jewish Lawyers?, in Jews and the Law (Ari Mermelstein, Victoria Saker Woeste, Ethan Zaidoff & Marc Galanter, eds. 2014)
36 Pages Posted: 9 Dec 2014
Date Written: December 8, 2014
Jewish lawyers played a central role in the development of secular liberal jurisprudence, with its commitment to equal treatment of individuals, including the legal campaigns for civil rights and for separation of church and state. Secular liberalism similarly provided the impetus for ending widespread discrimination against Jewish lawyers in the legal elite. Today, however, during the crisis of professionalism, secular liberalism’s focus on privatizing identity in order to maximize individual freedom deprives Jewish lawyers of resources that could help construct a meaningful professional identity. Similarly, secular liberalism provides ambiguous guidance in battling the most significant remaining discrimination against Jews – discrimination against Orthodox Jews.
This chapter suggests that Jewish lawyers consider integrating their religious commitments into their professional role, an approach consistent with a wide range of Jewish theological perspectives, from Reform, Reconstructionist, and Conservative, to Orthodox. This grounding would provide a strong foundation for meaningful Jewish identify as a lawyer committed to equal justice under law and the public good.
Keywords: professionalism, liberalism, public good, religious lawyering, Jewish lawyer, Judaism, lawyer’s role, legal profession, legal ethics
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