The World's First (But Certainly Not Last) Jewish Lawyer

  • Overview
  • News and Reviews


As Alan Dershowitz sees it, the Hebrew Bible's two great examples of advocacy on behalf of problematic defendants -- Abraham trying to convince God not to destroy the people of Sodom, and Moses trying to convince God not to destroy the golden-calf-worshipping Children of Israel -- established the template for Jewish lawyers for the next four thousand years. Whether because throughout history Jews have found themselves unjustly accused of crimes ranging from deicide to ritual child murder to treason, or because the biblical exhortations regarding "justice, justice, shall you pursue" have been implanted in the Jewish psyche, Jewish lawyers have been at the forefront in the battles against tyranny, in advocating for those denied due process, in negotiating for just and equitable solutions to complex legal problems, and in the efforts to ensure a fair trial for anyone accused of a crime.

In this survey of Jewish lawyers throughout history, Dershowitz profiles Jewish lawyers both well-known and unheralded, admired and excoriated, victorious and defeated -- and, of course, gives us some glimpses into the gung-ho practice of law Dershowitz-style. Louis Brandeis, Theodor Herzl, Judah Benjamin, Max Hirschberg, Rene Cassin, Bruno Kreisky, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and Elena Kagan are just a few of the "idol-smashers, advocates, collaborators, rescuers, and deal-makers" whose advocacy helped to change history. Dershowitz's concluding thoughts on the future of the Jewish lawyer -- given today's rates of intermarriage and assimilation -- are presented with the same thought-provoking insight, shrewdness, and candor that are the hallmarks of more than four decades of his writings on the law and how it is (and should be!) practiced.

News and Reviews

About the Author

Alan M. Dershowitz

Alan M. Dershowitz

ALAN M. DERSHOWITZ is the New York Times best-selling author of more than thirty books, including Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law, Chutzpah, The Best Defense, Reversal of Fortune, and The Case for Israel. His articles and essays … Continue reading