Situated in the south of Jerusalem, the project benefits from one of the city’s most prestigious and desirable locales, nestled in a particularly attractive area between the Talpiot neighborhood and the green groves of Kibbutz Ramat Rachel.
Congress has never seen a better friend of the observant Jewish community than Stephen Solarz, who died of esophageal cancer on the 22nd of Kislev. Yonoson Rosenblum’s recently published biography of Rabbi Moshe Sherer describes Solarz as an “invaluable ally” for many Agudath Israel projects and there are 20 references to Solarz in the book’s index.
I repeatedly witnessed Solarz’s dedication to protecting religious observance for Orthodox Jews. In 1978 – when he was still a relatively junior congressman – he initiated a call to me to brainstorm over how observant Jewish postal workers in his district could avoid using up all their annual leave for early departures on winter Fridays and taking days off for the Yomim Tovim. We drafted a Religious Observance Compensatory Time law that Solarz introduced in Congress.
Jimmy Carter’s Department of Justice first objected to the bill, claiming it created an unconstitutional preference for religion because it did not authorize compensatory time for non-religious commitments. Solarz did not cave but demanded a meeting at which the merits of his bill could be aired and discussed before representatives of all interested federal agencies.
Solarz invited me to attend this huge meeting, held at what was then the Bureau of the Budget, with him. We managed, with a forceful presentation, to swing the administration into support for the Solarz bill. It is now federal law (5 U.S.C. 5550a) and enables hundreds, possibly thousands, of federal employees to enjoy some vacation time during the summer with their families.
In 1984, a federal court of appeals ruled that an Air Force psychologist had no constitutional right to wear his yarmulke while he was in uniform seeing patients. I filed an application to the Supreme Court for review of that bad decision but I honestly had little hope the court would agree to hear the case. Solarz leaped into the breach. He called me and suggested he would introduce a bill that, regardless of whether there was a constitutional right, would require the military – as a matter of Congressional statute – to permit the wearing of “unobtrusive” religiously-motivated articles of clothing.
The colloquy on the floor of the House in May 1984 between Solarz and Congressman Wilson of Texas is priceless. Wilson wanted to know whether Texas Indians who wear war bonnets would be covered by Solarz’s law. Solarz noted that bonnets, unlike yarmulkes, were pretty obtrusive. He agreed, however, that one unobtrusive feather might qualify if worn under a hat.
Much to our surprise, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the yarmulke case, and the Solarz legislation, which had run into much greater difficulty in the Senate than in the House, was put on the shelf while the Supreme Court was considering the issue.
The court ruled 5-to-4 against a constitutional right to wear a yarmulke. Solarz promptly revived his bill with some minor modifications. With Solarz’s encouragement a yarmulke of camouflage material was distributed to senators and congressmen to prove that a yarmulke would not reduce the will or ability to be a dedicated U.S. soldier. On September 25, 1987, the Senate voted 55-42 in favor of Solarz’s yarmulke bill. .
Justice William J. Brennan had ended his strong dissent to the Supreme Court’s ruling against the yarmulke with a powerful plea that Congress enact a law protecting the right, so when the bill became law Solarz sent a thank-you letter to Brennan. He enclosed a camouflage yarmulke with the letter, and Brennan acknowledged, in a letter to Solarz (and in conversation with me), that he had put the yarmulke on his head while working at his desk and had forgotten to remove it for the entire day – until he arrived home and his wife asked him what he had on his head.
Solarz’s yarmulke bill is current federal law (10 U.S.C. 774). Military personnel may not be denied the right to wear neat and conservative articles of clothing required by their religious faith while in uniform.
Solarz again led a legislative battle for religious liberty after the Supreme Court ruled in a 1990 case involving the ingestion of peyote by American Indians in a religious ceremony that the First Amendment did not protect religious observance that violated a neutral law. This decision effectively wiped away protection for religious practice that Supreme Court majorities had articulated in the preceding quarter century.
About the Author: Nathan Lewin is a Washington lawyer who was president of the Greater Washington Jewish Community Relations Council between 1982 and 1984 and has argued many Jewish-interest cases before the Supreme Court and lower federal courts.
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Bibi’s speech to Congress will bring respect and honor to the Jewish Nation from the US & the world
Obama & Putin have handwriting/signature clues indicating differences between public & private life
It’s time for a new Jewish policy regarding Ramallah, NOT just because of the yarmulke incident
If Jackson were alive he’d denounce Democratic party’s silence towards virulent anti-Semitism
Victim of Palestinian Arab terrorism, a victor in NY federal court, after years of being ignored by Justice Dept.
March 2013: Arabs hurled stones hitting the Biton’s car; Adele’s mother swerved the car-into a truck
I can tell you that Cablevision has been astonished at how high we rank.
The real issue is that in many respects the president has sought to recalibrate American values and our system of government.
Former Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman, writing in the Washington Post on Sunday, provided one of the clearest and most compelling analyses we’ve seen of the importance of the prime minister’s speech.
A central concept in any discussion about happiness is achieving clarity. “Ain simcha ela k’hataras hasefeikos” – there is no joy as that experienced with the removal of doubt.
“Je Suis..,” like its famous origin 400 years ago, implies the ability & freedom to think & question
Many anti-Israel demonstrations at universities have a not-so-latent anti-Semitic agenda as well
Roosevelt sneaked out of the White House through a rear exit rather than meet with the 400 Rabbis
Federal and local laws protect your right to workplace accommodations for your religious observance.
The inauguration of an American president has, since 1937, always begun with an invocation by a clergyman
The late Israeli Supreme Court judge Menachem Elon, was a pioneer of Jewish and Israeli law.
On Tuesday, February 28, it was widely reported that the basketball team of Houston’s Robert M. Beren Academy had “forfeited” its place in the semi-finals of the tournament conducted by the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) because it would not play on Friday night and Saturday. But a headline in Friday’s New York Times read: “In Reversal, a Jewish School Gets to Play.”
On August 9, 2001, Ahlam Tamimi, a member of Hamas, drove a suicide bomber to the Sbarro restaurant in the heart of Jerusalem, where the bomber blew himself up, killing 15 people including Judy Greenbaum, an American citizen from New Jersey.
Editor’s Note: On July 30, the firm of Lewin & Lewin, LLP, filed in the Supreme Court its brief in Zivotofsky v. Clinton, No. 10-699, on which the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in early November. The constitutional issue in the case is whether Congress had the authority to enact a law in 2002 that directs the Secretary of State to permit U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem to record their place of birth in their passports as “Israel.” Because the State Department has consistently refused to recognize any part of Jerusalem as being in Israel, the government has refused to implement the 2002 law, claiming it violates the President’s constitutional authority to “recognize foreign sovereigns.” This is the Introduction to the Zivotofsky brief written by Nathan Lewin, followed by a Summary of Argument.
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