The Delaware judge and contemplations on Jewish identity


Delaware is a little state with a funny little Jewish history. 

On the one hand, the Klan persists in the state, and not too long ago, a school board in its conservative south settled a suit brought by Jewish families who said their kids were subject to pressure to convert.

On the other, the state’s most famous son, Vice President Joe Biden, has not one, but two machatainisters. And it is the only state I know of that has had simultaneously a Jewish governor and lieutenant governor

So maybe that confusion explains the obsession one of it better-known judges, Leo Strine Jr., has with Jewish identity.

Strine, on the state’s Chancery Court — an important bench, because so many major corporations are headquartered in Delaware — recently received a rare rebuke from the state’s Supreme Court for a digression in one of his legal opinions.

The digression that prompted the rebuke has, as far as I can tell, nothing to do with Jews — but other in-court digressions do, and these have earned Strine some baffled attention.

At one recent session, the New York Times reports, he described Burch vs. Burch — a battle royale between two formerly married designers  — as a "drunken WASP fest":


“We’ll be all geared up and in the mood for this sort of drunken WASP fest,” Judge Strine said, and then proceeded to ask about the litigants’ religion. “Are the Burches WASPs?” he asked.

Robert Isen, the chief legal officer at Tory Burch, hesitated before responding, “Tory Burch is Jewish and Chris is not Jewish.”

The answer did not entirely satisfy Judge Strine. “But not Jewish doesn’t make you a WASP, because it could make you an equally excluded faith like Catholic, right?” he asked. “I mean, that’s not a WASP. You know, a WASP is a WASP.”

I found this piece he wrote for The Deal magazine, describing his off-bench passions:

If you became a deal lawyer or banker because white Jewish kids can’t make it as soul artists, do not listen to Mayer Hawthorne’s song "The Walk," as it will obliterate your rationalization.

I mean, please. Amy Winehouse obliterated those rationalizations eons ago.

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