Benjamin Nathan Cardozo (1870-1938) was born in New York City to a traditional Sephardic Jewish family that immigrated to America before the Revolution. The family grew wealthy and influential over the decades, and Cardozo’s father was a New York Supreme Court judge while his uncle (who he was named after) had been vice president of the New York Stock Exchange. His cousin was (former Jew of the Week) Emma Lazarus. Cardozo went into law like his father, studying at Columbia and passing the bar in 1891. After more than two decades of practicing law, the widely beloved Cardozo got elected to the New York Supreme Court. He continued as judge in various positions and on different courts until being appointed to the US Supreme Court in 1932. The New York Times wrote of this that “seldom, if ever, in the history of the Court has an appointment been so universally commended.” It was one of the few cases in American history that a Democrat judge was appointed by a Republican president. (President Hoover originally did not want Cardozo since there was “already a Jew” on the court, Louis Brandeis.) Cardozo went on to be hugely influential in the development of American law. His collected lectures given at Yale University are still standard reading for judges today. He was also a cofounder of the American Law Institute, to “promote the clarification and simplification of the law and its better adaptation to social needs, to secure the better administration of justice, and to encourage and carry on scholarly and scientific legal work.” Totally absorbed in his work, Cardozo never married or had children. He is regarded as one of the greatest Supreme Court justices in American history. Yeshiva University’s Cardozo School of Law is named after him.
Words of the Week
… any talk of driving the Jews into the Mediterranean, as we have heard over the last few weeks or the last several years, is not only unrealistic talk, but it is suicidal talk for the whole world and I think also it is terribly immoral. We must see what Israel has done for the world. It is a marvelous demonstration of what people together in unity and with determination, rugged determination, can do in transforming almost a desert into an oasis. – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Franz Kafka (1883-1924) was born near Prague to Yiddish-speaking parents, the grandson of a shochet (kosher meat slaughterer). His Jewish education culminated with his bar mitzvah, after which he went to the prestigious Altstädter Deutsches Gymnasium. He enrolled to study chemistry in university, but quickly switched to law. After graduating, he worked for various insurance companies – a job that he despised, but which allowed him to make a living. The little time that he had off work he would spend writing. Kafka composed dozens of stories, novels (most of them unfinished), essays, letters and diaries. Ninety percent of these he burned. In his will, he instructed his friend Max Brod to destroy the remainder of his writings. Brod ignored the request, and published them instead. Thus, Kafka was virtually unknown in his own lifetime, but became hugely famous after his death. It is believed that there are still thousands of unpublished Kafka works. He is considered by many to be the greatest writer of the 20th century, and some of his writings have been ranked among the most influential of that century. He has inspired the adjective “kafkaesque”, and has an asteroid named after him. Besides writing, Kafka was an avid swimmer, hiker, and rower, studied alternative medicine, and was a vegetarian. After once seeing a Yiddish play, he immersed himself in Jewish study. In addition to Yiddish, Kafka spoke German, Czech, French, and studied both Hebrew and classical Greek. Towards the end of his life he intended to immigrate to Israel. This wish did not come to be, as Kafka succumbed to tuberculosis at a young age. His three sisters perished in the Holocaust. For what would be his 130th birthday today, he is honoured with a Google Doodle.
Words of the Week
Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old. – Franz Kafka