National Conference of Jewish Lawyers brings together top legal professionals for comparative study
“The program was planned months ago, but sessions about Israel and terrorism took on special poignancy in the wake of recent events,” said its organizer, Rabbi Meir Hecht referring to the kidnapping and murder of Israeli students Eyal Yifrach, Gil-Ad Shaer, and Naftali Fraenkel and Israel’s subsequent fight to defend itself from Hamas terrorists in Operation Protective Shield.
Rabbi Hecht is Chicago Director of The Rohr Jewish Learning Institute (JLI), the sponsor of the conference that was held during the organization’s ninth annual National Jewish Retreat. The conference took place on Aug. 6, the first of the five days of the retreat, at the historic Palmer House Hilton Hotel that brought together over 1,000 Jews from communities across the U.S. and around the world. Co-sponsoring organizations of the lawyer’s conference include the National Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, Lubavitch Chabad of Illinois and Jewish National Fund Lawyers for Israel.
The conference was chaired by prominent Chicago attorneys who are leaders in the Chicago Jewish community and strong supporters of Israel. David T. Brown of Much Shelist and JUF/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago's board chairman, Daniel I. Schlessinger of Locke Lord and the National President of American Friends of Hebrew Uiversity, James H.M. Sprayregen of Kirkland & Ellis and Keith J. Shapiro of Greenberg Traurig and a member of the JUF board of directors.
JUF/Jewish Federation President Dr. Steven B. Nasatir addressed the lawyers conference and the guests from around the country. He welcomed them to Chicago and offered thoughtful insights on the importance of Jewish education for all ages, especially at these trying times for our people all throughout the world.
Alyza Lewin, President of the NAJLJ opened the conference with an overview of her ongoing ten-year legal battle to have “Israel” stamped as country of birth on the passport of Menachem Zivotofsky, a Jerusalem-born, American citizen. The keynote panel addressed the war on terror in U.S. courts and featured former U.S. Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey.
The theme of the conference was Talmudic Ethics with multiple sessions throughout the day offering comparative studies of the Jewish and American legal perspectives on a wide range of topics. Talmudic Scholar from Israel Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, shared his wisdom on the application of Talmudic law to today's legal world. Judge Grace G. Dickler, Presiding Judge of the Cook County Domestic Relations Division presented a comparative look at child custody laws alongside the Chicago Rabbinical Council's new chief Justice, Rabbi Yona Reiss. An elite panel of bankruptcy and restructuring experts included Harvey Miller of New York City's Weil, Gotshal and Manges, James H.M. Sprayregen, Professor Steven Resnicoff and was moderated by Judge Jack B. Schmetterer.
In an intriguing debate between Professor Sheldon Nahmod and Nathan Lewin on the recent Supreme Court decision, Town of Greece v. Galloway, the two leading experts in civil liberties argued whether the decision was a boon or setback for Jewish interests.