In this talk, Dr. David Dalin will discuss Louis D. Brandeis’s Jewish identity, views on Zionism, and leadership of the American Zionist movement. Brandeis’s distinction of having been the first Jewish Supreme Court Justice is in some ways ironic, because his upbringing was the least Jewish of any of the Jewish Justices of the Supreme Court. His parents, well-educated German speaking Jewish from Prague, did not belong to a synagogue and never celebrated any Jewish holidays or the Jewish Sabbath. Nor did Brandeis when raising his own family. Although for the first half-century of his life Brandeis was a highly assimilated Jew who cared little about the religious observance of Judaism, by 1914 Brandeis had assumed the leadership of the American Zionist movement, becoming president of what today is the Zionist Organization of America. His mid-life “conversion” to Zionism, and his meteoric emergence as the preeminent Zionist leader in America, comprise an important chapter of Brandeis’s life and an enduring part of his Jewish legacy.
David G. Dalin is the author of Jewish Justices of the Supreme Court from Brandeis to Kagan: Their Lives and Legacies. Co-sponsored by the Center for Small Town Jewish Life and the Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine.