Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Jewish Lawyers: A Legacy of Hard Work and Education

The recent nomination of Elena Kagan to be the newest Supreme Court Judge received criticism from conservative commentator Pat Buchanan, who questioned President Barak Obama's selection of Kagan, solely because she is a Jewish.

If Kagan is confirmed, Jews, who represent less than two percent of the U.S. population, will have 33 percent of the Supreme Court seats, Buchanan stated in a column for WorldNetDaily.

Although the comments from the former Nixon-advisor could be spun as anti-Semitic, there is no argument that Buchanan stumbles into an old stereotype; there are a lot of Jewish lawyers.

Before proceeding any further, it is important to stress the difference between the phrase sterotype and prejudice. A stereotype is a commonly held public belief about a specific group of people. It can be either true or false, and does not have to be one or the other. Prejudice is a prejudgment, preconceived opinion made without reason, and is more commonly negative due to high levels of ignorance. Therefore, while suggesting that there are a lot of Jewish lawyers, as this article intends to, may be interpreted as a stereotype, it in no way, shape, or form, could be interpreted as an anti-Semitic prejudice, and to suggest that it is would be in itself, overly sensitive and ignorant.

Now, back to the point: that there are a lot of Jewish lawyers. Ben Brafman, the attorney for Sean Combs, Plaxico Burress, and the late Michael Jackson, is Jewish. Marcia Clark, the prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson trial, is Jewish. The late Roy Cohn, the chief attorney for Joseph McCarthy, was Jewish. Even Judith Sheindlin, more commonly known as Judge Judy, is Jewish.

Additionally, there have been seven Jews on the United States Supreme Court (not including the likely-to-be-confirmed Kagan). So with recent Census totals estimated the Jewish-American population at under seven-million, which would equal approximately 2% of the entire United States population, it does not seem unreasonable to ask why have such a disproportionate number of American Jews become lawyers?

The high number of Jewish lawyers is typically attributed to the same reasoning behind the stereotype that a strong majority of Jews become doctors, government officials, and business executives: The Torah.

At a very young age, Jewish children are taught the importance of learning, a message emphasized in the Jewish Bible. The Torah commands for the people of Israel to be a light unto the nations, and one way that that is achieved is by seeking professional prominence, often times through the study and mastery of the Law.

The high number of Jewish lawyers has also been attributed to the centuries of being forcibly relocated from their homes. After all, knowledge and intellect are the rarest of things, for the reason that they cannot be taken away. With a long history of being at risk, the Jewish people have adopted a mentality that certain trades and professions will always be in need, regardless of the environment, and have therefore pushed themselves to strive for such professions.

So, to respond to traditionalist Catholic Pat Buchanan, yes, there are a lot of Jewish lawyers. Of course, stating that being Jewish is the one and only thing that Justice Stephen G. Breyer and soon-to-be Justice Kagan represent is ignorant, foolish, and a clear example of what it means to think like a bigot.

But yes, there are a disproportionate number of Jewish lawyers, and there will continue to be in the future. This is not a result of such anti-Semitic stereotypes such as greed, money-grubbing, or power-hungry assumptions. It is simply a compliment to the strong work ethic and importance in education preacher to young Jews through the Torah.

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