Elena Kagan Would Be Third Jew on Supreme Court

By Ron Kampeas (JTA)

Published May 10, 2010.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Elena Kagan would make it three – three women and three Jews on the U.S. Supreme Court for the first time in its history.

President Obama, announcing Monday the nomination of his solicitor general to fill retiring Justice John Paul Stevens’ seat ont the Supreme Court, made one historical element of the nomination explicit; the other was implied.

“She would relish, as I do, the prospect of three women taking their seats on the Supreme Court for the first time in history,” Obama said of Kagan’s late mother, who fought gender discrimination as a lawyer.

The implied reference to Kagan’s Jewishness – joining Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer – also arose in reference to her parents at the announcement, delivered at the White House alongside Vice President Joe Biden. Both Obama and Kagan referred to her late parents as “children of immigrants.”

The immigrant staus of her grandparents, Kagan said, instilled in her parents a belief in the right of “all Americans, regardless of their background or beliefs, to get a fair hearing and an equal chance at justice.”

Kagan – whose years in the upper reaches of academe have not softened her long, oval New York-bred vowels – got to know Obama through her association with Abner Mikva, the Chicago-area former federal judge who mentored both of them as young lawyers making their way in Chicago. Kagan tried to persuade Obama to seek tenure at the University of Chicago, where he taught for a time, but he had other plans.

Mikva became one of Obama’s most prominent backers as the president’s political career was launched in the mid-1990s. The former judge often would make Obama’s case to the Jewish community.

Kagan, 50, likely would not face Republican opposition in U.S. Senate confirmation hearings. A number of leading conservatives have endorsed her as a moderate.

As dean at Harvard Law, Kagan sought to redress what she perceived as an ideological imbalance by hiring conservative professors.

Conservatives on Monday issued statements critical of Kagan, particularly for resisting military recruitment at Harvard because of the military’s discriminatory policies against gays.

However, U.S. Sen. John Kyl (R-Ariz.), a member of the Senate Republican leadership, told CNN that a filibuster was unlikely. Obama wants Kagan confirmed by the August congressional recess.

Jewish groups that have surveyed the likely picks – Obama reportedly was down to four – have been enthusiastic about the prospect of a Kagan candidacy.

“She’s intellectually brilliant, and politically gifted at finding common ground and finding consensus,” Rabbi David Saperstein, who directs the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center, said when Obama picked Kagan to be his solicitor general.






Find us on Facebook!
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.