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Thursday, June 23, 2005

Conservative Judaism Weighs in on Judges

Ori Nir in The Forward, June 24, 2005

WASHINGTON * America's second-largest synagogue movement has jumped into the debate over the Supreme Court, with letters to President Bush and members of Congress stating its criteria for an appropriate judicial candidate.

Breaking with a long tradition of neutrality on judicial nominations, leaders of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism called in their letters for nominees who are not ideologically driven and are not extremists. Liberals, who interpreted them as a plea for Bush to avoid appointing right-wing ideologues, hailed the letters.


With the United Synagogue's decision to enter the judicial fray, and the Reform movement already gearing up to fight any right-wing nominee, the White House could find itself opposed by the country's two largest synagogue movements.


The movement leaders listed three criteria for an appropriate federal judge, which were the result of an attempt by the policy committee to identify what the Jewish legal tradition and the American legal tradition have in common, and therefore what both legal systems require from a successful jurist. They argue that nominees should enjoy "wide respect among diverse segments of the society," eschew "an ideologically defined approach to judicial interpretation," and demonstrate balanced "respect for foundational documents, reasonable interpretation and societal realities."

Though relatively mild by the standards of ideological politics of Washington, the United Synagogue letters were enthusiastically endorsed by Jewish organizations that previously opposed several of President Bush's nominees to the federal bench.


C. 2005 the Forward