Thursday, May 17, 2018

Judge Diana E. Murphy (1934 - 2018)

Last night, I received the very sad news that Judge Diana E. Murphy had passed away. She was 84.

As many of you know, I clerked for Judge Murphy from 2012 through 2013 (occasioning the great and terrible one year blackout of this blog). It was one of the great honors and great joys of my life. While I knew she was having health problems, I'm still in a bit of shock -- I'm in Minnesota right now, and I was actually planning on visiting her in chambers today before getting the news from one of my co-clerks last night.

Among the many, many friends and colleagues who adored her, I'm exceedingly lucky to be one of those writing a tribute to her that will be published in the Minnesota Law Review in a few months. For now, I'll just say that Judge Murphy was an inspiration in every possible sense of the term: she was smart, she was empathetic, she was caring, she was funny, and she was kind. There's no other judge I'd rather have clerked for, and I'm unaccountably fortunate to have had her in my life.

She was widely loved, and she'll be missed. Rest in peace, Judge.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Big Media David: Israel Doesn't Care About American Jews

I've been on a travel kick this week -- came back to DC for a wedding, stayed for Mother's Day, and now am departing for Minnesota for my wedding tasting(!) -- and, as you may have noticed, haven't really been able to blog. Frankly, given how terrible this week has been, I don't mind being mostly off the grid.

But I did make time to write a column for the Forward on what's been a very painful realization for me: While American Jews care a lot about Israel, Israel doesn't give a damn about American Jews.

We've spent all this time and energy to foster a sense of "connection" between American Jews and Israel, only to discover that it flows almost entirely one way. We'll step up to bat time and again to defend Israel in debates and controversies, even when we're unsure of the wisdom of their particular policy choices. But when we try to assert reciprocity, what do we get?

  • A sneering disdain for the two-state solution, or basically any efforts to secure political equality for Palestinians;
  • A busted Western Wall agreement;
  • Continued fealty to an ultra-Orthodox Rabbinate that openly discriminates against the denominations that represent most American Jews; 
  • Invocations and prayers by viciously bigoted Evangelical preachers guaranteed to make American Jews blanche; and
  • A level of snuggling up to Donald Trump that might as well constitute a taunt.

On any one of these issues, one might be able to say "Israel's a democracy, it gets to make it's own calls." Nobody is saying American Jews should be able to dictate Israeli policy. But we could justly say Israeli Jews should consider American Jewish perspectives, just as we've often (very often) heard that American Jews should consider Israeli viewpoints. But when time and again, over and over, we're completely ignored to the degree that there's barely even the pretense of considering the position or status of American Jews as a data point of consideration -- well, it becomes very obvious how much we matter in the scheme of things.

Israel, it seems, has made a calculated decision that it can do without American Jews. Whatever we can give them -- votes, aid, opposition to BDS, whatever -- they can get from other sources. Now one might have thought -- and many of us did think -- that the relationship between American and Israeli Jews wasn't one built solely on necessity or self-interest; it didn't depend on what one party could give to the other, it was a relationship grounded on a sense of shared identity and camaraderie. But no longer think that's true. Israel has decided it doesn't need us, and -- more importantly -- that if it doesn't need us, it doesn't care about us.