On May 15, 2008, an article was posted by the Jewish Exponent entitled "Lawyer and Ethicist to Keynote Jewish Law Day", by Lynn B. Edelman, which highlighted the next Jewish Law Day activities to be held on June 4, 2008, in Philadelphia, featuring keynote speaker Rabbi Elliot N. Dorff.
Jewish Law Day in America appears to be distinctive to Philadelphia only, where that celebratory day has been held annually since 1982.
An announcement for a prior (19th Annual, held in 2001) recognition, noted the importance of Jewish law as a source for American law:
Over the past 4,000 years, the Jewish People have compiled a code of laws, ethics and morals that has served as the cornerstone of modern legal theory and practice throughout the world.The article noted the background of Jewish Law Day:
From individual human rights to community responsibility, Jewish law and the scholars who have interpreted it have inspired progressive developments in both Jewish and non-Jewish spheres.
In the United States, such fundamental documents as the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence draw upon the principles that Jews have handed down from generation to generation.
Jewish Law Day was created in 1982 by an ad hoc committee of lawyers and judges together with the Board of Rabbis of Greater Philadelphia in order to establish an annual celebration commemorating the monumental contribution of Jewish Law to the development of American jurisprudence.
The Honorable Anne E. Lazarus, a judge on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, Orphans Court Division, since 1991, explains the origin of Jewish Law Day as "a Jewish response to the annual Red Mass."
"The mass," she explained, "is a religious service celebrated annually in the Roman Catholic Church for judges, prosecutors, attorneys, law school professors, students and government officials on the Sunday before the first Monday in October when the Supreme Court convenes. Celebrants request guidance from God for all who seek justice."
Judge Lazarus was the first Chancellor of the Louis D. Brandeis Law Society, a group for Jewish lawyers and judges.The society has co-sponsored Jewish Law Day with the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and the Vaad: The Board of Rabbis of Greater Philadelphia for the past 26 years. * * *
[The program] is traditionally held immediately prior to Shavuot, when God gave the Ten Commandments to the Jewish people, Lazarus explained. * * * [links added]
This year, the 26th Annual Jewish Law Day will be held on June 4, 2008 at 4:30 p.m. at the Jewish Community Services Building, 2100 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA.
The article noted the guest speaker's credentials and topic:
Rabbi Elliot Dorff, Ph.D., is the rector and professor of philosophy at American Jewish University.A special aspect of the 26th Annual Jewish Law Day celebration will be the presentation of an honorary award to Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.
Rabbi Dorff, who has directed the rabbinical and masters programs at AJU for 23 years, will speak on the contributions of Jewish law to Western jurisprudence, a topic taken from his new book, For the Love of God and People: A Philosophy of Jewish Law (Jewish Publication Society, 2007) [which will be available for purchase]. * * *
In his role as chair of the Conservative Movement's Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, he has produced papers that have shaped the movement's stance on such controversial topics as infertility treatments and end-of-life issues. His rabbinic letters on human sexuality and on poverty have become the voice of the Conservative movement on those topics. * * * [links added]
The Jewish Law Day session in Philadelphia will be free of charge and open to the entire community. For lawyers, the program will qualify for one substantive hour of CLE credit.
If interested in attending, you may obtain more information by calling Rabbi David Gutterman, event co-chair (215-832-0865), or Adam Laver (215-569-1764). You can register here online.
I thank Judge Anne E. Lazarus, of the Orphans' Court, of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, PA, for providing this information to post.