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B’nai Sholom “Synagogue Scholars” Lecture Marks 100th Anniversary of First Jewish Supreme Court Justice

B’nai Sholom Reform Congregation in Albany will mark the 100th anniversary of the first Jewish Supreme Court justice with a lecture by legal scholar Dr. Paul Finkelman.

              Finkelman will deliver his talk, “Getting Ready for Brandeis: The Centennial of the Nomination of our First Jewish Supreme Court Justice,” immediately after the congregation’s Shabbat service Friday, December 18. The service and program, part of the congregation’s popular “Synagogue Scholars” lecture series, begin at 8 p.m. and are open to all who wish to worship and learn. B’nai Sholom is located at 420 Whitehall Road, Albany, New York.

On January 28, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson nominated Louis D. Brandeis to be a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Four months later, the Senate would finally confirm him. Brandeis was the first Jew to serve on the high court. The fight over his nomination – the longest in U.S. history – was tinged with anti-Semitism, but the so-called “Jewish issue” cut in two directions. Some senators used anti-Semitic language and code words to oppose him; others supported him because he was Jewish. Some senators with ties to the Ku Klux Klan voted for the Jew from Massachusetts, while some Jews, including the owners of The New York Times, opposed the appointment. As the 100th anniversary of his nomination approaches, this lecture will prompt thought about Brandeis and perhaps about the role of the Supreme Court in modern society.

                  A B’nai Sholom congregant, Finkelman is the Ariel F. Sallows Visiting Professor of Human Rights Law at the University of Saskatchewan College of Law in Canada and senior fellow in the Program on Democracy, Citizenship and Constitutionalism at the University of Pennsylvania. Finkelman is an expert in constitutional history and constitutional law, freedom of religion, the law of slavery, civil liberties and the American Civil War, and legal issues surrounding baseball. He provided the chief expert testimony in the Alabama Ten Commandments monument case. The author or editor of more than 40 books and 200 scholarly articles, his op-eds and shorter pieces have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today and Huffington Post, and he has been named among the nation’s most cited legal historians. The U.S. Supreme Court has cited his work in four cases. He has appeared on CBS, NBC, C-SPAN, PBS and the History Channel. Finkelman holds a doctorate in U.S. history from the University of Chicago and was a fellow in law and humanities at Harvard Law School.




Begun in 2004, the “Synagogue Scholars” lecture series spotlights B’nai Sholom congregants who are recognized scholars in their fields. Remaining scheduled lectures are:

• Friday, January 29 – University at Albany professor Martha Rozett will discuss the novel Days of Awe by Achy Obejas;

• Friday, March 11 – A presentation by David Liebschutz on “What We Can Learn About Leadership from our Jewish Tradition.”

For more information about the “Synagogue Scholars” series, contact the B’nai Sholom office at or phone 518-482-5283.


Founded in 1971, B’nai Sholom Reform Congregation in Albany is a home for contemporary Reform Judaism in the Capital Region. Nearly 130 diverse households from eight counties seek religious, educational and social fulfillment at B’nai Sholom. For information about B’nai Sholom and the benefits of belonging, visit or contact the B’nai Sholom office at 518-482-5283 or


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