During the past presidential election, we endorsed George W. Bush even though the opposing ticket featured a Vice-Presidential candidate who is a Sabbath-observer. Thus, in addition to strong support for Israel, we were confident that Mr. Bush, if elected President, would also demonstrate his support for religious observance and for the needs of the Orthodox Jewish community.
President Bush now has an opportunity to prove that he esteems Jewish religious observance with a judicial appointment. The seat reserved for Maryland on the United States Court of Appeals is now vacant. The country's foremost Jewish constitutional litigator, Nathan Lewin, has lived in Maryland for more than 20 years and deserves to be appointed to fill this vacancy.
Mr. Lewin has argued all the important Jewish constitutional cases in the Supreme Court during the past 30 years. He represented the Williamsburg Jewish community in fighting against a race-based legislative reapportionment in 1976, and his arguments were accepted by the Supreme Court 20 years later. He fought for the right to wear a yarmulke in the Air Force, and even though he lost narrowly in the Supreme Court, Congress enacted a law he drafted to protect that right. He won in the Supreme Court the right to display a Chanuka menora in front of Pittsburgh's City Hall, and then carried that victory through the rest of the country in dozens of cases. He defended the law creating a public-school district in the Satmar village of Kiryas Joel, and the school for handicapped children that was established by the law has continued in operation, without missing one day, since it was formed.
And Lewin has not only fought for Jewish rights in courtrooms. He drafted New York's 1982 Get Law and was also the draftsman of the 1972 amendment to the federal Civil Rights Act that protects Sabbath-observing and yarmulke-wearing employees in the private sector. Because of Mr. Lewin's initiative and constitutional defense, federal government employees are now entitled by law to take compensatory time and not lose vacation time for Jewish religious holidays.
What Thurgood Marshall did for African-American civil rights, and what Ruth Bader Ginsburg did for the rights of women, Nathan Lewin has done for Jewish religious rights. He, like these other legal luminaries, deserves a high judicial appointment.
There is no Jewish judge among the 12 current judges of the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The last time that court had a Jewish member was in the 1960's, when Simon Sobeloff was a judge. And there was no Jewish appointee among the 11 lawyers, law professors and judges whom President Bush recently nominated for Court of Appeals seats around the country.
There has never been an Orthodox Sabbath-observing Jew on a federal Court of Appeals. Mr. Lewin, who is the grandson of Rabbi Aaron Lewin, the famous ''Reisher Rav'' who was an elected member of Poland's parliament, and son of Dr. Isaac Lewin, the highly respected leader of Agudath Israel who represented Orthodox Jewish interests for many years at the United Nations, would be a fitting first occupant of such a post. He has all the professional qualifications one could possibly seek for this post because he has taught Constitutional Law at the leading law schools (Harvard, Columbia, University of Chicago, and Georgetown); has argued 27 cases in the Supreme Court of the United States; has written for leading newspapers and periodicals; and has served as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice John M. Harlan and Court of Appeals Judge J. Edward Lumbard.
President Bush can show the regard and support he has for the Orthodox Jewish community and, at the same time, appoint a judge who will be one of the great judicial figures in the history of America's courts by nominating Nathan Lewin to the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.