In recent years, there has developed in the United States a substantial and growing interest in the role of religion in the public square. Within religious communities, the conversation has, at times, focused on the approach of specific religious traditions toward their own responsibilities to contribute to and influence the moral, ethical, and legal standards of American society. For Jewish communities living in the United States, these questions comprise yet another application of issues the Jewish people has confronted throughout its history. To the extent that the nature of American political and social structures differ significantly from those experienced by Jewish communities in the past, the questions themselves may need to be particularized and considered in the context of newly developed conceptual frameworks. Levine shows that the broader questions regarding the responsibilities of the Jewish people toward the public square, including obligations to influence law and public policy, represent concerns that date back to the very origins of the Jewish nation, and continues throughout the Bible. Toward that end, he provides a brief survey of several important stages in the biblical history of the Jewish nation. It begins with the figure of Abraham, founder and father of that nation, then turns to the nation's slavery in, and Exodus from, Egypt, continues with the Revelation at Sinai and the resulting establishment of a sovereign and independent government in the Land of Israel, and concludes with a look at the nation in exile in the Book of Esther. Levine suggests that in each of these settings, though in different ways, Jewish leaders and communities acknowledged and successfully confronted the challenges of maintaining their own unique identity while concomitantly engaging and involving themselves in the interests of the societies surrounding them. For Jewish communities in the United States, the biblical teachings continue to offer important lessons. Contemporary American law and society provide a degree of freedom and personal autonomy that is likely unprecedented among the seemingly countless nations and generations in which the Jewish people have lived in exile. On one level, increased freedom brings increased opportunities for engagement in and potential influence on public policy. Nevertheless, increased involvement in the political arena carries the potential for increased challenges to maintaining the Jewish people's distinct spiritual and ethical integrity. Levine concludes that participation in the public square, however necessary and noble, must always be coupled with careful adherence to abiding moral virtues and values.
56 Cath. U. L. Rev. 1203 (2006-2007)
56 Cath. U. L. Rev. 1203