The American Association of Jewish Lawyers & Jurists (AAJLJ) is a nonprofit association representing the American Jewish legal community.

We bring our community together to defend Jewish interests and human rights in the United States and abroad.

Recent events

In late June several AAJLJ Board members traveled to Israel for meetings with legal experts, judges, past and present government officials , and policy think tanks, to learn more about current issues and controversies in the legal sphere; issues that have generated disagreements and dissension within the American Jewish community and between some American Jews and Israel.

Harold Halpern (pictured on top row, second from right), retired Sarasota attorney and long-time AAJLJ Board Member, wrote a series of articles for the Sarasota Herald Tribune chronicling the trip and several important issues that were raised during discussions, all of which can be found on www.heraldtribune.com.

Sarasota attorney off to Israel to hold diverse dialogues (June 20, 2019)


Questions about democracy in Israel, the basis and status (June 27, 2019)

On July 19, 2018, the Knesset adopted a Basic Law entitled “Israel — The Nation State of the Jewish People,” which declares that Israel is the state of the Jewish people and sets forth the state’s symbols and capital as the undivided Jerusalem, Hebrew as its official language with Arabic having special status, and affirms its connection with the Jewish people and encourages settlement as a national value.

The new law incorporates that portion of the Declaration of Independence that iterates Israel is a Jewish nation, but raises the question whether it impinges on the portion of the Declaration that declares in powerful words that Israel shall be a democratic state and shall extend equal rights to all citizens including Arabs and minorities (click link below to continue reading)


Sarasota attorney on visit’s discussion of BDS and religious pluralism (July 1, 2019)

I turn now to BDS, a serious effort in the U.S., Europe and the world to damage the status and economy of Israel and in the U.S. to turn students, universities and others away from support and business dealings with Israel. On college campuses, BDS presses to boycott and divest and sometimes intimidates Jewish students. On the economic front, no significant damage has been done, but the stress on Jewish students can be severe.

(click link below to continue reading)


Sarasota attorney: Tackling issues of the West Bank, Golan Heights (July 5, 2019)

I begin writing this column from the lounge at Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport awaiting our flight to return home. We have had a rich experience engaging with leaders of diverse backgrounds and opinions on vital topics. Now I am finishing this column on my flight home. There is recent speculation that Israel may annex a portion or all of West Bank and the Golan Heights. Each presents a different legal analysis. We explored the legal issues in our dialogues. There is a divide between right and left.

(click link below to continue reading).


Sarasota attorney: Are American and Israeli Jews Drifting Apart? (July 10, 2019)

In this column, I am writing about the relations of American Jews and Israeli Jews. Before doing so, I have a minor correction to my last article. Area B of the West Bank is controlled by the Palestinians except for Israeli control over security. Area C is controlled completely by Israel.

American Jews and Israeli Jews today come from two different backgrounds. Jews in America grew up in a society giving the greatest opportunity they ever enjoyed — despite shortcomings on the way. Jewish prosperity stems in part from the liberal democratic order that permitted this freedom. Jews as a minority are protected by this liberal order. So many Jews want to protect this order.

Israeli Jews in contrast are a majority. Many are preoccupied with majority rights and view liberal democracy protection of minorities impinging on majority rights.

And of course Israel’s very existence for its 72-year current history still is threatened by its surrounding neighbors, which tests the tenets of democracy as those in the United States have been tested in times of stress during our wars.

These differences lead to some stress in the relationships, particularly from younger generations. Many American Jews of the liberal order are skeptical of Israeli commitment to peace with Palestinians. However, many Israelis have negative feelings about criticism from U.S. Jews who are not living in threatened conditions. They also are upset that most American Jews supported the Iran agreement, which they felt endangered their survival (click link below to continue reading).


Sarasota attorney: Israeli court protects democracy (July 18, 2019)

The Israel Supreme Court consists of 15 judges who serve until age 70 and are selected by a professional, nonpolitical-controlled committee. Early on, after the establishment of the state of Israel, the Supreme Court decided, following the precedent of the U.S. Supreme Court, that it had the power, authority and duty to determine whether actions of government and or laws of Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) were constitutional. This power, this authority, is the basic fundamental check to ensure democracy is not threatened (click link below to continue reading).


Sarasota attorney: Is a two-state solution in Israel possible (August 1, 2019)

Many have suggested that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians could be resolved only by the “two-state solution.” However, all efforts to reach this solution have failed during the last 70 years. Nahum Barnea, an Israeli prize-winning journalist, told a group of us during a recent visit to the Middle East that “there is now no solution to the West Bank.”

(click link below to continue reading).


Sarasota attorney: Is Netanyahu’s time coming to a close? (August 15, 2019)

Israel’s next Knesset, its parliament, will be elected on Sept. 17, 2019.

A word about the process. There are 120 members in the Knesset. Each political party, or parties if they decide to run jointly, selects a slate of candidates. The voters vote for their preferred slate and not for any individual candidate.

(click link below to continue reading).


Sarasota attorney: Impact of Israel election on policies (August 26, 2019)

Over the past several weeks, I wrote about issues of concern not only to Israelis but to Americans. Now I write about the potential impact of the Sept. 17 election on many of those issues dependent on which group forms the government, the right led by Likud or the center-left led by the Blue and White.

Democracy: The election between the right and center-left is expected to be close. If the right wins, the government will include Ayele Shaked, the head of the United Right, who was the Minister of Justice in the last government. She severely criticized the Supreme Court of Israel as too liberal and too willing to invalidate the will of the people by declaring government actions unconstitutional. She proposed to politicize judicial appointments, to limit the areas in which the court could act and to permit the Knesset to override the court’s decisions. If the proposals were to become law, they would weaken the court’s independence and ability serve as a check on actions of the government ⁠— a weakened democracy.

(Click link below to continue reading)


Sarasota attorney: Strategies shaping Israeli election (September 4, 2019)

In my last column I wrote about the impact of the new government on Israeli policies.

The latest is that 56 Knesset seats for the Right coalition headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and 55 seats for the Blue White coalition headed by Benny Gantz and nine Knesset seats to Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party. Sixty-one votes are required to select a prime minister to form the government.

(Click link below to continue reading)


At issue in Israel’s election battle (September 10, 2019)

As the Sept. 17 elections to fill seats in Israel’s Knesset, or parliament, approach, multiple parties are seeking to maximize their vote to secure their share of in the proportional allocation.

The major contestants are Likud led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in coalition with other right parties and the Blue White party, led by Benny Gantz in coalition with other center left parties. Despite coalitions, each party wants to maximize votes to enhance its bargaining position in negotiations to form a government that requires at least 61 votes of the 120-member Knesset.

(Click link below to continue reading)


Sarasota attorney: Three possible scenarios in Israeli election (September 16, 2019)

This is my last column before the election of the 120 members of the Israeli Knesset. It’s the second try to elect a new government. The first effort failed. No one could gather a coalition of the needed 61 votes.

The two leading parties are Likud led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue-White headed by the retired general Benny Gandt. Each has supporters in smaller parties with two critically important independent parties, Yisrael Beiteinu led by Avigdor Lieberman, and the United Arab slate led by Ayman Odeh. The votes of either of both of these independent parties may block Likud.

(Click link below to continue reading)


Sarasota attorney: Netanyahu’s gambit to remain Israeli PM (September 23, 2019)

My recent columns indicated that the Israeli elections were too close to call.

Now the official Israeli Knesset election reports are just about complete. The contest is between Likud lead by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a coalition of parties of the right and the Blue White party lead by Benny Gandt and coalition of center- left parties.

Likud won 31 seats and its coalition 55-56 seats. Blue-White won 33 seats and its coalition 43 seats. The uncommitted Israel Beiteinu party, led by Avigdor Lieberman 8-9 seats and the Joint Arab List party, led by Ayman Odeh 12-13 seats.

Sixty-one seats are required to form a government and select the prime minister. Netanyahu is short five to six seats and Gantz is short 18.

(Click link below to continue reading)


Sarasota attorney: Ray of light hard to see, but it’s there in Israel election (October 8, 2019)

The newly elected Knesset met in its first session on Sept. 3. On the face of it, no solution to the deadlock in forming a government was on the horizon. Neither the meetings, held before the opening of the Knesset, between Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of Likud, and Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue-White, nor the meeting of Netanyahu with Avigdor Liberman, leader of Yisrael Beiteinu, produced any results.

President Reuben Rivlin, as is the custom, opened the first session with presidential greetings. He pleaded with the parties to compromise and to form a broad national unity coalition.

“This is a time of emergency for Israel security, Israel society and Israel democracy. Only a unity government would allow us to breathe a little bit and heal” our divisions, Rivlin said.

(Click link below to continue reading)


 POJ 2018

On Monday, December 10, 2018, the AAJLJ presented its Annual Pursuit of Justice Award to two distinguished legal figures; Robert Abrams (left), former Attorney General of New York, and Gabe Groisman (right), Mayor of Bal Harbour who wrote and passed the nation’s first municipal anti-BDS ordinance.

Past POJ Honorees

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (the first recipient)
Justice Elena Kagan
Justice Stephen Breyer
Judge Judith Kaye
Judge Aharon Barak of the Israel Supreme Court
Nathan Lewin
Seth Waxman
Robert Weinberg
Jack Olender
Martin Mendelsohn
Ben Brafman
Hon. Guido Calabresi
Hon. Michael Mukasey