Monday, February 15, 2016

R.I.P. Antonin ‘Nino’ Gregory Scalia

“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 had been on the Supreme Court since Ronald Reagan appointed him in 1986, so there were seven years during which Scalia saw himself as the court’s guardian of Jewish heritage. The New York-raised judge was shocked that he had to teach his colleagues how to pronounce “yeshiva” (Chief Justice Rehnquist William called it “ye-shy-va”) and, Scalia added proudly to me, “I even told them what a yeshiva is.”
Scalia’s admiration for Jews and Jewish learning explains the frequent references in his opinions to the Talmud and other Jewish sources, and the significant number of Orthodox Jewish law clerks he hired.
We became friends again when Scalia was named by Reagan to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. In my first appearance before him, Judge Scalia gave my legal arguments a thorough drubbing and wrote the court’s opinion rejecting every legal claim I made – and then some. He did, however, vote to rehear another appellate-court decision that had rejected my constitutional claim for an Orthodox Jewish Air Force psychologist who wore a yarmulke with his military uniform. When he was promoted to the Supreme Court shortly thereafter (which I viewed as appropriate Divine reward because he and Ginsburg both made it to the highest court after they voted with us in the yarmulke case), we revived our law school friendship.
Scalia and his wife were guests in our sukkah, and he was kind enough to meet with law school classes I brought to Washington to hear Supreme Court arguments. (Zealously liberal students who claimed not to be able to tolerate Scalia’s judicial philosophy melted into personal fans after they met and spoke with the man. Rather than meeting the cantankerous grouch they were expecting, they saw and heard from a funny, modest, gregarious and intellectually honest judge.) He also accepted my recommendations to attend and address Orthodox Jewish gatherings such as colloquia run by Chabad-Lubavitch, sessions and dinners with Agudath Israel of America, and a mass meeting at Yeshiva University where he and I discussed current issues of constitutional law and public policy. Each event was enormously successful.
We seemed to share identical views on church-state issues. Scalia did not read the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment as broadly as secular Jewish groups do. In cases I argued before the court, he voted with a court majority (against the ACLU and the American Jewish Congress) to sustain the Chabad menorah in front of Pittsburgh’s City Hall and dissented when six members of the court held that public financing of a school reserved for handicapped children in the Satmar Village of Kiryas Joel, New York, was unconstitutional aid to religion. His views on government financing of religious institutions were applauded by Orthodox Jewish groups.
I asked Scalia how he could possibly reconcile that 1990 decision with the 1984 vote cast, when he was a federal appellate judge, in favor of the Air Force psychologist whose religious observance compelled him to wear a yarmulke. Scalia was, as usual, entirely forthright.
“I was on a lower court then and had to follow Supreme Court precedent,” he said. “When I was on the Supreme Court, I was the one who decided what the precedent would be.”
Apart from that one significant departure, Scalia had a consistent record of supporting minority religious observance. In June 2015, when he announced the decision he wrote in favor of  a Muslim applicant for a job at Abercrombie & Fitch who was unlawfully denied employment because she wore a headscarf, he called it an “easy case.”
There is universal agreement that Nino Scalia was brilliant, amazingly articulate and a real mensch. There is strong disagreement, however, over the side he chose in ideological battles. Scalia is, of course, an Italian name. If one writes it with Hebrew letters, there are two possible – albeit squarely contradictory – ways of writing Scalia. One is to use the letters sin, kaf, lamed, which are also the root of “sechel” –  Hebrew for “wisdom.” The other is to use the Hebrew letters samech, koof, lamed, which are the root “sokol” – meaning “to stone.”
Some praised Nino’s wisdom; others were ready to stone him. But all must concur that he was a great man, that the United States he loved is greatly diminished by his loss, and that he greatly revered Jews and Jewish tradition.

the Pittsburgh Chabad-Lubavitch menorah

“He has commented at times on the fact that he thought that people who had a talmudic training had a head start,” Lewin said of Scalia.

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

Founding Partner Leon Wildes,  pictured with Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, the Honorable Antonin Scalia and Aviva Miller, Development Director National Yiddish Theatre – Folksbiene, attended The  Aleph Society Dinner on June 10, 2014.  
On Tuesday, June 10, 2014, the 20th Aleph Society Dinner was held at The Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York, NY.  Founded in 1988, The Aleph Society supports Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz’s worldwide network of institutions, educational programs and publishing projects and has operations in Israel, Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom. The dinner honored the work of Rabbi Steinsaltz and featured a tribute to the late Italian Prime Minster Guilio Andreotti for his generous and crucial contribution to the revitalization of Jewish life in the Former Soviet Union.

Not only is Leon Wildes considered a scholar in the field of U.S. Immigration and Nationality Law, having founded Wildes & Weinberg, a boutique immigration law practice with offices in New York City, Englewood, NJ, and Aventura, FL, nearly 55 years ago, he successfully represented Former Beatle John Lennon and his artist wife, Yoko Ono in their deportations proceedings, the circumstances of which have inspired many articles, books, and films. In addition, Leon Wildes served as an Adjunct Professor of Immigration Law at The Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City for 33 years prior to handing over the reigns to his son and law partner, Michael Wildes, who now teaches a course on Business Immigration at Cardozo.

According to Leon Wildes, “it was so nice to meet at The Aleph Society dinner with the Honorable Justice Scalia, who has been proudly serving  the U.S.  in his capacity of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court since 1986 and to be reunited with my former student, Aviva Miller, Development Director of the National Yiddish Theatre – Folksbiene, a performing arts company whose events celebrate the Jewish experience and transmit a rich cultural legacy in both English and Yiddish. For over 25 years, the Aleph Societies across the world have worked hard to promote the development of Jews, Jewish identity, and Jewish communities. May they continue to actualize their mission for many years to come.”

Describing himself as a "fairly centrist judge, by my standards at least" on religious observance cases, Scalia noted that he voted with a high court majority that ruled observant Jews in the military do not have a constitutional right to wear yarmulkes on duty. In the wake of the court decision, Congress voted to permit the skull caps, if designed and issued by the military.
The conference explored the contrasts and similarities between the 3,000-year-old Talmudic tradition of Jewish law and contemporary American case law. Jewish law, much like American case law, relies on precedent, said Rabbi Jack Simcha Cohen, of Congregation Shaarei Tefila in Los Angeles.
It is "not simply the precedent of law, but argument of logic to rationally think through issues, and not take things simply by rote," he said.
Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz of Jerusalem, who is responsible for the definitive English translation of the Talmud, delivered the day's other keynote address on the contrasts between the two legal traditions.
Earlier in the day, Steinsaltz and Scalia led a closed seminar for judges on "The Art of Judging."

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.
source: Adelph Society Inc., 'Once-in-a-Millennium Scholar' To Discuss Anti-Semitism

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.
source: fnac, On the Road With Rabbi Steinsaltz

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. 
source: Adelph Society, Endangered Species?

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.”
source: Yeshiva University News, On Matters of God and State
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.

Justice Scalia recently spoke about privacy at a conference hosted by the Institute of American and Talmudic Law. The event sounded quite interesting, and I wish I could have been there. An AP report provides a brief overview of Scalia’s views on privacy:
Scalia said he was largely untroubled by such Internet tracking. “I don’t find that particularly offensive,” he said. “I don’t find it a secret what I buy, unless it’s shameful.”
He added there’s some information that’s private, “but it doesn’t include what groceries I buy.”
Data such as drug prescriptions probably should be protected, he said, suggesting areas off-limits to data gatherers could simply be listed for legal purposes.
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: cached at:

(45) "Jewish Law Comes to D.C.," The Jewish Week, 12/06/2002, cached at

(54) "The Supreme Chutzpah," by Jack Achiezer Guggenheim, Jewish Law, cached at
source: Come and Hear, New America: 1. America's New Government Church

source: Supreme Court of the United States, CAPERTON ET AL. v. A. T. MASSEY COAL CO., INC., ET AL
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.
source: Col Live, Justice Scalia's Visit to Chabad

 more photos from Scalia's visit to Chabad

Was Scalia a ‘traditionalist’ in the same sense that Francis is?



  1. Why don't they yank down & burn the American flag & raise a blue hexagon flag over our public bldg's & school's?

  2. Because they're liberal, not aligned and don't love any country which they live in, neither Israel, that's the jew way of the world, rule without a flag, they don't need it.

  3. He was 'prolife' like all those "conservative" "faithful" catholics who are praising him too!

    Sure wouldn't want to face Jesus Christ w/these "prolife" words on my record (but I guess that's why 60 million babies have been murdered in the U.S. & 3,000 more today):

    "Dissenting in Casey, Justice Antonin Scalia stated, "The states may, if they wish, permit abortion-on-demand, but the Constitution does not require them to do so.""

    "What is the connection between your Catholicism, your Jesuit education, and your judicial philosophy?" Stahl asks.

    "It has nothing to do with how I decide cases," Scalia replies. "My job is to interpret the Constitution accurately. And indeed, there are anti-abortion people who think that the Constitution requires a state to prohibit abortion. They say that the Equal Protection Clause requires that you treat a helpless human being that's still in the womb the way you treat other human beings. I think that's wrong. I think when the Constitution says that persons are entitled to equal protection of the laws, I think it clearly means walking-around persons. You don't count pregnant women twice."

    Guess "the states" may pass laws if they wish to murder people on demand by denying them water & food or by lethal injection or by putting a pillow over their face."

    Scalia was just another Jesuit (georgetown)-educated, hell bound criminal pervert "guess it all depends on what the definition of "is" is" or "as long as I have 9 kids, what the hell do I care about my brother (how many bro/sis murders or the bro/sis that's murdered)?"

    1. In other words,a typical novus ordo jew/masonic bootlicking Caiphus?

  4. Guess you explain this question: Is Ruth Bader Ginsberg having an affair with Justice Scalia? The two seem unusually close and spend an unseemly amount of time together...

  5. "Opus Judei" is absurd, and an insult. What has to do with Judaism Opus Dei? Da Vinci Code?