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Jews and Religious Freedom

August 2–14, 2020 | New York City

For current undergraduates and recent college graduates

Faculty and Speakers: Daniel Mark, Alyza Lewin,Philip Munoz, Meir Soloveichik, Mark Rienzi, and others

Mentoring sessions with David Schizer, former dean of Columbia Law School

$1,000 Stipend & Housing

Application Deadline: Application Deadline has passed.

What is the meaning of religious freedom? Is it peril in the United States today? If so, what can and should leaders in the Jewish community do about it?

One of the most striking features of American exceptionalism is the extent to which America has been a welcoming home for the Jewish people. Though it is counter-intuitive to many, America has been an exceptionally welcoming home even as – or, perhaps, precisely because – Christianity has had a large role in defining the country’s character. Why has this been so? What is it about the way religion is regulated by policy and lived out in communities that has made America different?

The question is a fascinating one from an academic perspective, but current events make it an urgent political and social question as well. Simply put, religious freedom is on trial in America, both in legislative debates at the state and federal levels and in court cases now working their way through the judicial system. As the cultural environment for orthodox believers, Christian and Jewish alike, becomes more hostile, Jews will increasingly confront some difficult questions: Will American society continue to respect the religious freedom of traditionalist communities? Will the teachings and practices of Jewish schools and synagogues be restricted, and will leaders of these institutions be kept out of the public square? What can Jewish leaders and activists do to help protect and preserve religious freedom in America—not only for Jews but for all Americans?

This seminar will examine the philosophical and historical roots of the American regime, including the key cases that have defined the meaning of religious freedom as constitutionally protected right. The seminar will also turn to a series of current issues where that meaning is being tested and argued. It will examine the core issues at stake and the human goods that each side of the debate is aiming to defend, guided by expert teacher and practitioners in the field.

The course will be led by Dr. Daniel Mark, assistant professor of political science at Villanova and the former chairman of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom. Dr. Mark will be joined by professionals in law and public policy who are playing leadership roles in today’s debates, including Alyza Lewin, President and General Counsel of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, Mark Rienzi, president of Becket Law, and rabbi, columnist, and community leader Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik.

The bios of students enrolled in the program for summer 2020 can be found here.

Meet the Instructors

Daniel Mark

Villanova University

Daniel Mark is an assistant professor of political science at Villanova University, where he teaches political theory, philosophy of law, American government, and politics and religion. He also chairs  the nine-member, bipartisan United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, to which he was appointed by Speaker John Boehner. Dr. Mark is also an assistant editor of Interpretation: A Journal of Political Philosophy. He holds a BA, MA, and PhD from the Department of Politics at Princeton University. There, he was affiliated with the Witherspoon Institute, the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, the Program in Law and Public Affairs, and the Penn-Princeton Bioethics Forum. Before graduate school, he spent four years as a high school teacher. He also attended Yeshivat Har Etzion (Gush) in Israel.

Alyza Lewin

Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law

Alyza D. Lewin is a co-founder and partner in Lewin & Lewin, LLP where she specializes in litigation, mediation and government relations. She is also the President and General Counsel of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, a non-profit organization established to advance the civil and human rights of the Jewish people and promote justice for all. The Brandeis Center conducts research, education and advocacy to combat the resurgence of anti-Semitism on college and university campuses.

Ms. Lewin has represented numerous high-profile clients. Her work includes criminal defense, civil litigation, anti-discrimination, security clearance and Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) matters. In 2014, Lewin argued Zivotofsky v. Kerry (the “Jerusalem Passport” case) before the U.S. Supreme Court, a case involving the constitutionality of a law granting any American citizen born in Jerusalem the right to list “Israel” as the place of birth on his/her U.S. passport. Ms. Lewin was involved in the 12-year pro-bono litigation conducted by her firm in the District of Columbia courts and in the Supreme Court of the United States.

Ms. Lewin, together with her father Nathan Lewin, also successfully represented the Boim family in its landmark civil tort litigation which established the right of American victims of terror to obtain damages under American law against organizations that knowingly provide financial support to international terrorist groups. Boim v. Holy Land Foundation for Relief, 549 F.3d 685 (7th Cir. 2008).

Prior to establishing Lewin & Lewin in May 2002, Ms. Lewin worked at Wilmer Cutler and Pickering (now WilmerHale) and at Miller Cassidy Larroca and Lewin. Ms. Lewin began her law career in Israel where she clerked on the Supreme Court for Deputy President Justice Menachem Elon. Ms. Lewin is the Immediate Past President of the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists (“AAJLJ). She served as AAJLJ President from 2012 – 2017. Ms. Lewin has also served on the Board of Directors of the Jewish Community Relations Council (“JCRC”) of Greater Washington and the Board of Directors of the Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia.

Ms. Lewin is admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and New York. She was trained as a mediator by the American Arbitration Association and the Center for Dispute Settlement. Ms. Lewin received her B.A. from Princeton University in 1988 and a J.D. from New York University School of Law in 1992. She is married to Eliezer M. Halbfinger and has four children.

Meir Soloveichik

Yeshiva University & Congregation Shearith Israel

Rabbi Dr. Meir Y. Soloveichik is director of the Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University and rabbi at Congregation Shearith Israel in Manhattan, the oldest Jewish community in the United States, founded in 1654.

In our students’ words:

“The entire week of classes with Rabbi Meir Soloveichik changed my perception of the Jewish family. Having grown up in a Modern Orthodox community, I took many of these ideas for granted. Never before had I spent serious time in an intellectual environment contemplating the fundamental principles of Jewish marriage and Jewish civilization. As noted above, I am now even more certain about the importance of family and the Jewish lifestyle.” – Daniel Mael, SF ’15

Phillip Munoz

Vincent Phillip Muñoz is the Tocqueville Associate Professor of Religion & Public Life in the Department of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame. He is the founding director of Notre Dame’s undergraduate minor in Constitutional Studies and directs Notre Dame’s Tocqueville Program for Inquiry into Religion and Public Life.

Muñoz writes and teaches across the fields of constitutional law, American politics, and political philosophy with a focus on religious liberty and the American Founding. His first book, God and the Founders: Madison, Washington, and Jefferson (Cambridge University Press, 2009) won the Hubert Morken Award from the American Political Science Association for the best publication on religion and politics in 2009 and 2010. His First Amendment church-state case reader, Religious Liberty and the American Supreme Court: The Essential Cases and Documents (Rowman & Littlefield) was first published in 2013 (revised edition, 2015) and is being used at Notre Dame and other leading universities.

David Schizer

David M. Schizer is Dean Emeritus and the Harvey R. Miller Professor of Law and Economics; Co-director of the Richard P. Richman Center for Business, Law, and Public Policy; Co-director of the Charles Evans Gerber Transactional Studies Center; and Co-director of the Center for Israeli Legal Studies. A leading expert in tax and energy law, he worked at Davis Polk & Wardwell before joining the Columbia Law School faculty in 1998. Dean Schizer is a graduate of Yale University, where he earned his B.A, M.A., and J.D. He clerked for Judge Alex Kozinski of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the U.S. Supreme Court. Dean Schizer has authored numerous books and articles on taxation and governance, including works on financial instruments, executive compensation, gas taxes, the charitable deduction, and press subsidies. Students awarded him the Willis L.M. Reese Prize for Excellence in Teaching in 2002.

Howard Slugh

Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty

Howard Slugh is a founder and General Counsel of the Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty. He is also an attorney in Washington, DC focusing on constitutional law. His writings have been published in National Review Online, The Weekly Standard, The Daily Wire, The Baltimore Sun, The Public Discourse, The American, American Thinker, and other media.

Mark Rienzi

Mark joined the Becket team in 2011 and was elevated to President in 2018. He splits his time as Professor at The Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law, and as Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School. Mark teaches constitutional law, religious liberty, torts, and evidence. He has been voted Teacher of the Year three years in a row by the Law School’s Student Bar Association.

Mark has broad experience litigating First Amendment religious exercise and free speech cases. He has represented the winning parties in a variety of Supreme Court First Amendment cases including Hobby LobbyLittle SistersWheaton College, and Holt. In January 2014, Mark argued before the Supreme Court in McCullen v. Coakley, a First Amendment challenge to a Massachusetts speech restriction outside of abortion clinics. The Justices ruled in favor of his clients 9-0. Mark also led a successful eight-year litigation battle against Governor Blagojevich’s effort to force religious pharmacists to distribute the morning-after and week-after pills.

Mark’s academic writing focuses on the First and Fourteenth Amendments, and has appeared in a variety of prestigious journals, including the Harvard Law Review.

Mark is a widely sought after speaker on constitutional issues, particularly concerning abortion and the First Amendment. Professor Rienzi has been invited to discuss these issues at Harvard Law School, Columbia University Law School, Georgetown University Law Center, Boston College Law School, Notre Dame Law School, the National Press Club, and the Capitol. He has been quoted on constitutional law issues on NPR, in the Washington Times, The New York Daily News, and the Chicago Sun-Times. Mark has also been featured on the Kelly File, Fox News Sunday, Your World with Neil Cavuto, Geraldo at Large, CNN Tonight, CNN Live, Andrea Mitchell Reports, and Wall Street Journal Live.

Prior to joining Becket, Mark served as counsel for the litigation department and the intellectual property litigation practice group of WilmerHale LLP. His practice focused on complex civil and appellate litigation with a particular emphasis on intellectual property and First Amendment issues. Prior to joining WilmerHale, he served as law clerk to the Hon. Stephen F. Williams, senior circuit judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Prior to that, Mark was an editor of the Harvard Law Review, and earned his J.D. from Harvard Law School and B.A. from Princeton University, both with honors.


Aaron Bondar

Associate Director for University and Young Professional Programs