HomeDecember 2015Understanding the Jewish State

Understanding the Jewish State

1215chiefjusticeRetired Israeli Supreme Court Chief Justice Aharon Barak delivered the inaugural lecture in a three-part lecture series at UCI’s School of Law. The lecture, which took place on October 12, 2015, is part of a distinguished lecture series entitled, Democracy and Human Rights in Israel: Views from the Supreme Court. Co-sponsored by Jewish Federation & Family Services’ Rose Project, Hillel Orange County, UCI Law, UCI Department of Political Science, and UCI School of Social Sciences, the lecture series (part of JFFS’s Rose Project community education initiative), seeks to provide outstanding presenters to the community to discuss aspects of Israel and the region.

During the day, Justice Barak spoke at a luncheon to a group of community leaders and Orange County faculty and administrators. The topic covered Israeli “constitutional” democracy and the characteristics of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Barak is the architect of what has become known as “Israeli Constitutional Democracy” even though Israel officially does not have a constitution. The Basic Laws, which Barak was instrumental in developing, serve as Israel’s constitution. The Basic Laws, similar to the United States’ Bill of Rights, enshrines basic rights to all Israeli citizens. He talked about the impact of Jewish law on court decisions, and how Jewish law helps to inform the interpretation of democracy and democratic rights. Barak also discussed the ways judges (himself included) have drawn from Jewish law and texts in determining their findings on court cases. According to Barak, Jewish law and democracy complement each other in many ways. For example, where there is conflict, it is up to the judges to determine how law needs to be interpreted. Justice Barak spoke in the evening at the law school to an audience that included students, faculty, and community members. Also in attendance were the predictable protesters that remind those present of the purpose of the Rose Project’s lecture series.

The topic is exceedingly relevant on college campuses, as Israel is often accused of being an “apartheid state” by anti-Israel activists. Israel’s status as a Jewish state is also used against it, as it is accused of being racist (a state only for Jews, where non-Jews are systematically discriminated against). The lectures give great insight into the workings of Israeli democracy, and helps to clarify Israel’s commitment to democracy despite her enormous security challenges.

The hope of those involved in the lecture series is that students and community members will leave with a better understanding that Israel’s status as a Jewish state is not about being discriminant of others, it is about incorporating Jewish values into its democratic system.

Lisa Grajewski, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist and adjunct Assistant Professor at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. She has been a contributing writer for Jlife magazine since 2004.


Thursday, February 18,
7:00 p.m. 

The Honorable Justice
Dalia Dorner (Ret.) will
speak on Protecting Human Rights in the Age of Terrorism and Asymmetric Warfare
at Temple Bat Yahm.

Tuesday, April 5,
7:00 p.m.

The Honorable Justice Salim Joubran will speak on Freedom of Religion and the Role of the Supreme Court in Israel at Temple Beth El.


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