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!
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • Is Handel’s ‘Messiah’ an anti-Semitic screed?
  • Meet the Master of the Matzo Ball.
  • Pierre Dulaine wants to do in his hometown of Jaffa what he did for kids in Manhattan: teach them to dance.
  • "The first time I met Mick Jagger, I said, 'Those are the tackiest shoes I’ve ever seen.'” Jewish music journalist Lisa Robinson remembers the glory days of rock in her new book, "There Goes Gravity."
  • 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.