“When there was no Jewish justice on the Supreme Court,” Antonin “Nino” Scalia told me, “I considered myself the Jewish justice.”
Antonin Scalia, a Supreme Court Justice of the United States, was found dead yesterday at the Cibolo Creek Ranch in Texas. He was found in his room with a pillow over his head. Judge Cinderela Guevara ruled that Scalia died of natural causes and no autopsy was necessary. It was determined by bureaucratic fiat he died of a heart attack. Whatever the circumstances of his death, Scalia was a chameleon to most Catholics. For most if asked would say he was a staunch traditional Catholic who attended the Indult Mass. If pressed a few might mention his ties to the supposedly ‘uber-Catholic’ Opus Dei. Almost none would know of, much less bring up his obsession with the Talmud and Talmudic law, nor his close ties to the Orthodox community of Talmudic Jews. Below are articles (as always the underlines in the articles are ours for emphasis), Scalia's own word, and photos which highlight this.
left to right: Nathan Lewin (author of article), Sima Soumekhian, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and Marc Zweben at the Char Bar in Washington, D.C., the kosher restaurant owned by Soumekhian and Zweben, May 2015.
[CMJ's note: Scalia's friend, Nathan Lewin is a lawyer for AgriProcessors, one of the worst known breakers of American law at their Pottsville ‘kosher’ slaughterhouse.]
Scalia is regarded as the embodiment of the Catholic conservatives. He is careful not to be seen mixing politics and religion, but his faith clearly influences his work on the high court. While he is not a member of Opus Dei, his wife Maureen has attended Opus Dei's "spiritual functions," says an Opus Dei member. Scalia's son, Father Paul Scalia, helped convert Clarence Thomas to Catholicism four years ago.
Scalia's talmud teacher, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
But the ban did not hold. Many prominent Orthodox rabbis had plenty of good things to say about the Steinsaltz Talmud and today it can be found on countless bookshelves around the world. According to the website of Shefa, the organization publishing and promoting Steinsaltz’s works, students include Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, US Senator Joe Lieberman, celebrity lawyer Alan Dershowitz and former Italian prime minister Giulio Andreotti. In 1988, Steinsaltz received the Israel Prize and earlier this year was among the first recipients of Israel’s Presidential Award of Distinction.
source: Times of Israel, Never mind the Bible, it’s the sanity of the Talmud you need to understand the world and yourself
Dialogue between Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz and Justice Antonin Scalia, moderated by Prof. @NoahRFeldman in New York City.
Mr. Steinsaltz has had public dialogues with other notable people. The time he had a dialogue with Alan Dershowitz, he said, Mr. Dershowitz's mother was in the audience. Asked about a dialogue he once had with Justice Antonin Scalia, Mr. Steinsaltz said, "There was something very wrong about one of us - we seemed to agree about so many things." A Catholic Supreme Court justice and an Orthodox rabbi and Talmudic authority found much in common.
Worlds collide! Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia held a dialogue on Talmudic and Co...
Publisher's note : Adin Steinsaltz is widely acclaimed as the greatest rabbi of our time. His most fervent disciple in this country is Arthur Kurzweil who has accompanied him on his regular travels throughout the US for 23 years, shepharding him to hundreds of speaking events, learning seminars, special appearances on national media, at the US Senate, universities, think tanks, secondary schools, synagogues, colleges, graduate seminars, and countless encounters with journalists, politicians, religious and spiritual leaders, public figures, and various celebrities. In this book, Arthur will present stories about this wise and holy man as he has never been seen before, personal, humorous, inspiring tales of the great Rabbi as he gives Talmud classes to Senator Pat Moynihan, Yitzhak Perlman and Justice Antony Scalia, lectures Ministers of the Chinese Government, and appears on major media with Ted Koppel. In this unprecedented and intimate view of his guru, Kurzweil writes about Rabbi's Steinsaltz views on Jewish identity and role in modern society, on parenting, marriage and divorce, the Rabbi's background growing up in a secular, socialist home, his views on Madonna and the popularization of Kabbalah, on smoking marijuana, non-kosher food, and dozen of other topics never mentioned in his previously published books. Filtered through Kurzweil's story-telling, Rabbi Steinsaltz comes alive in a much less academic and scholarly than in his previous books, including Simple Words (a philosophical discussion of death, love, goodness), Simon and Schuster, 40,000 copies sold) and our recent publication We Jews (a collection of essays by the Rabbi, just published, with 6,628 to date), and previously Opening the Tanya ( 8,577) These more difficult titles are filled with ambiguity, nuance, and unanswered questions. That's why this new book -- the first deliberate package of anecdotes, stories and quotations -- is a really original version of Rabbi Steinsaltz's life and work that can break through the more traditional, observant Steinsaltz market and reach a much broader audience. In this delightful, inspiriting, and entertaining book, Kurzweil will talk about his personal experience with the Rabbi, very much like Tuesdays with Morrie . In all a revealing, entertaining, inspiring, easy to understand version of this holy man's wisdom in a package that will appeal far beyond his traditional market.
An interviewer of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz can ask a single question, sit back and witness an amazing stream of topics, the workings of an uncommon mind. The rabbi’s clear blue eyes light up when he knows he has taken a particularly satisfying ramble. Many speak of his genius: A master of Talmudic law and of Judaism’s hidden wisdom, his interests and command of subjects is vast.
Rabbi Steinsaltz is a man who moves easily in many worlds. He is devoted to his family, has written more than 60 books and set up institutions of Jewish learning in several countries. He is sought out by religious leaders of other faiths and major thinkers in various fields. He has met with the Dalai Lama, Alan Dershowitz, Leon Kass and Woody Allen, and has studied Talmud with Yitzchak Perlman as well as a group in Washington including the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Justice Antonin Scalia and Sen. Joseph Lieberman.
A photo of two ‘conservatives’ in the Oval Office, President Ronald Regan and Antonin Scalia. Reagan appointed Scalia to the Supreme Court. Reagan was also a big promoter of the Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbe Menachem M. Schneerson, the Noahide Laws and proclaimed Schneerson's birthday as "Education Day, U.S.A."
President Richard M. Joel introduces Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, center, and attorney Nathan Lewin, second from right. Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik (left) moderated the panel.
Scalia, however, thought Talmud study did offer his Jewish classmates one advantage: “They knew from the beginning of the year that there were no answers to the questions we were studying.”
The topic Scalia and Lewin discussed was “Synagogue and State in America: The Landmark First Amendment Cases of Our Age.”
What does the Talmud have to say about legal and moral controversies in modern America?
Plenty, according to the creators of the new Washington-based National Institute for Judaic Law, which opened with a lavish Supreme Court dinner last month.
Some Orthodox activists say they can’t figure out exactly the point of the whole thing. But Noson Gurary, a Lubavitch rabbi who came up with the idea and won backing from some top Jewish legal experts, harbors no doubts.
“It will be an eye opener for judges, scholars and law students,” he told The Jewish Week. “Before you know where you’re going, you have to know where you came from. And Jewish law is the basis of our legal system in America.”
Gurary said that the idea for the institute came in an exchange of letters in which Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the most conservative Justices, expressed his “fascination with Jewish law.”
“And as a teacher of Judaic studies, I began to see the excitement of students who were being exposed to Jewish law for the first time, who now had a better understanding of where Western law come from,” Gurary said.
Gurary, who teaches at the University of Buffalo law school, said his target audience includes judges around the country and law students, not politicians and lawmakers.
According to Gurary, the group, which has hired two researchers to compile reports, will focus initially on the issue of business ethics. Eventually, the goal is to compile a library and database in Washington that will offer Jewish law insights into a host of contemporary issues and to help create courses on the subject at law schools nationwide. The institute will also inaugurate a monthly lunch series for legal machers in Washington.
The Buffalo rabbi is a relative unknown in the Jewish world. Not so some of the participants in the new project, including Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz, former U.S. Solicitor General Seth Waxman and top constitutional lawyer Nathan Lewin and his law-partner/daughter, Alyza.
Alyza Lewin noted that “the idea is to make Jewish law accessible to the public — to jurists, legal scholars, the press, anybody.”
Scalia's letter to Rabbi Gurary
Jewish legal experts have created a new institute that will educate jurists and others about 2,000 years of Jewish law and promote the application of the teachings to contemporary legal disputes and other modern-day issues.The launch of the Washington-based National Institute for Judaic Law was marked Tuesday night with a kosher dinner at the Supreme Court attended by 200 people, including three Supreme Court Justices - Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen Breyer, and Antonin Scalia.
source: Concurring Opinions, Justice Scalia’s Conception of Privacy
Antonin Scalia, Supreme Court judge, is said to be a devout Catholic with a fascination for Jewish law. Under circumstances that are not explained, Justice Scalia developed a correspondence with Rabbi Noson Gurary (a disciple of the late Rabbi Schneerson). During this exchange, Scalia mentioned his "fascination with Jewish law." That prompted Rabbi Garary to found the National Institute for Judaic Law (NIJL). (45) The Institute promotes courses on Talmud-based law in American law schools and otherwise injects Talmud-based law into American society.
The founding of NIJL was celebrated by a gala kosher dinner on November 5, 2002. Justice Scalia and two other Supreme Court judges were among 200 dinner guests. Where was the dinner held? In the Supreme Court building.
The American public first learned of the Supreme Court kosher dinner by reading the news in The Jerusalem Post, November 9, 2002. (45) This remarkable event was not reported contemporaneously by either The Washington Post or The Washington Times. Missing from The Jerusalem Post coverage was the role Scalia may have played in securing the use of the Supreme Court building as a banquet hall for Rabbi Gurary.
Why a devout Catholic like Justice Scalia would promote Talmud-based law is not clear. The Talmud classifies Christians as idolaters, and the Noahide regulations require that idolaters — devout Catholics, for example, people exactly like Justice Scalia — be put to death. Could it be that Rabbi Gurary did not tell Justice Scalia about the Noahide provisions to execute people like Scalia?
Justice Scalia has demonstrated a soft spot for Judaism in other ways. He was the first judge to use the world chutzpah in a Supreme Court decision. (41)
According to an article in Jewish Law, "… Justice Scalia … has repeatedly called for more expressions of tradition and religion in American society. The use of the word chutzpah, with its historical roots and association with Judaism, may fulfill such a role. It also comports with his legal philosophy. He favors the 'nonpreferentialist' view, which posits that government may support religion in general but not in a way that prefers any particular religion. For Justice Scalia to use a term of a Jewish cultural language in a Supreme Court decision could be viewed as in keeping with the nonpreferentialist legal doctrine." — Jewish Law (54)
The word chutzpah is not a religious word, nor is it a traditional American word. It is a Yiddish word meaning, roughly, "unmitigated gall." It is surprising that Jewish Law would attach such significance to the incidental use of a Yiddish word.
If given a judicial opportunity, will Justice Scalia rule in favor of the Noahide Laws? He could describe them as "nonpreferentialist," in the much the same way that Congress described them as "the bedrock of society from the dawn of civilization." That sounds most "nonpreferentialist," provided one does not mention death sentences for Christians.
Talmud law also provides that Jews and non-Jews be judged by dramatically different standards. For example, in capital cases, 23 judges must sit in judgment on a Jew; two eyewitnesses must have witnessed the offense, and warned him of the potential penalty. In contrast, a Gentile gets one judge, and is convicted on the testimony of one eyewitness with no warnings. See US v. Talmud Law for more details on capital cases. See The Talmud Lives for Jews for details on civil cases.
Justice Scalia has sworn an oath to uphold the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Given that the words Equal Justice Under Law are emblazoned over the cornice of the very building that houses Scalia's office, Justice Scalia is one Very Interesting Person.
(41) "While the Messiah Tarries," by Rabbi A. James Rudin, Forward, February 22, 2002: http://www.forward.com/issues/2002/02.02.22/oped2.html cached at: http://www.come-and-hear.com/editor/forward.
(45) "Jewish Law Comes to D.C.," The Jewish Week, 12/06/2002, http://www.thejewishweek.com/news/newscontent.php3?artid=7074%20 cached at http://www.come-and-hear.com/editor/cp-jw-01-08-03
(54) "The Supreme Chutzpah," by Jack Achiezer Guggenheim, Jewish Law, http://www.jlaw.com/Commentary/SupremeChutzpah.html cached at http://www.come-and-hear.com/editor/na-chutzpah
For more on Justice Scalia's citing the Talmudic maxim, see Justice Scalia Cites the Talmud: An Exegesis by Michael Hoffman.
Scalia visits Chabad
"I assume I'm here to talk about federal law because I must confess that my Daf Yomi attendance has been lackluster," joked Scalia, a Roman Catholic, referring to the daily study of Talmud.
more photos from Scalia's visit to Chabad
Was Scalia a ‘traditionalist’ in the same sense that Francis is?