American Jews have long been active advocates in the courts, pressing arguments that speak to questions of Jewish communal identity, values, and interests. In this class, we will explore important legal cases of unique Jewish interest and what Jewish advocacy in those cases tells us about who we are as American Jews and how we fit into the American project. Our exploration will focus on seminal, and often dueling, briefs filed by Jewish institutions in some of the most important cases before the Supreme Court. Mining these documents will reveal how rivaling Jewish legal advocates draw upon different visions of the past, present, and future of American Jewry.
Dr. Michael A. Helfand
Dr. Michael (Avi) Helfand is an expert on religious law and religious liberty. A frequent author and lecturer, his work considers how the state treats religious law, custom, and practice. He is currently an associate professor at Pepperdine University School of Law and co-director of Pepperdine University’s Diane and Guilford Glazer Institute for Jewish Studies. He received his JD from Yale Law School and his PhD in Political Science from Yale University.
His academic articles have appeared in numerous law journals, including the Yale Law Journal, New York University Law Review, and Duke Law Journal. Professor Helfand’s commentary has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and the Forward. In addition to his academic work, Professor Helfand is an executive board member of the Beth Din of America, where he also serves as a consultant on the enforceability of rabbinical arbitration agreements and awards in U.S. courts.
Meet the Instructor
Tikvah aims to make all of our courses available to as many qualified students as possible. In the event that Tikvah needs to add additional sections, this course may be taught by a different faculty member with a similarly high level of expertise.