Israel was foremost on the minds of over 250
attorneys from all over the Chicago metropolitan area who gathered for the
inaugural National Conference of Jewish Lawyers.
“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.
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.
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