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Harvard to Establish Jewish and Israeli Law Program

Professor Noah Feldman will direct the new academic initiative

Liel Leibovitz
November 03, 2015

Thanks to a generous gift from Mitchell R. Julis, one of America’s most successful hedge fund managers, Harvard Law School announced today the launch of the Julis-Rabinowitz Program in Jewish and Israeli Law. The new initiative will fund visiting scholars and fellows, hold classes devoted to traditional Jewish legal texts, host an annual conference, and organize events related to “the impact and study of Jewish law in Israel, in the United States, and across the world.” The announcement follows the September launch of a similar center for Islamic law at Yale, made possible by a $10 million gift from Saudi banker Abdallah S. Kamel.

The Harvard program’s director will be Noah Feldman, the Harvard law professor and public intellectual best known for helping to write the Iraqi constitution in the aftermath of Operation Iraqi Freedom. “Jewish law and Israeli law are distinct and different,” Feldman said, explaining the rationale for the new center, “yet they also interact and make claims on each other. It makes sense to study them both in the same program, even as we study them independently.” The Julis gift, he added, “gives us a broad ambit to bring in a wide range of voices to explore these fascinating and rich topics from all sides.”

Over the past few years, Feldman, joining other members of Harvard’s faculty as well as visiting scholars, has taught courses on Jewish legal topics such as “Custom and Legal Authority” or “The Other and the Enemy in Jewish Law.” He will be aided in running the new center by Tablet contributing editor Menachem Butler, who will serve as special advisor for Jewish Law Projects.

“Throughout history, Jewish law has made profound contributions to legal thought and practice, and it remains vibrant and relevant around the world,” said Martha Minow, the law school’s dean. “Through their extraordinary generosity, the Julis Family has created significant new opportunities for our community to explore this living legal tradition as well as the laws and legal discourse of a nation, which shares the same roots and many new branches.”

Liel Leibovitz is editor-at-large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One. He is the editor of Zionism: The Tablet Guide.