A Jewish Case For ‘No’ On Kavanaugh


Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court is the most strongly opposed in modern history, and progressive Jewish Americans are firmly united as part of that opposition. Time and again, Kavanaugh has demonstrated behavior that is in contrast to what we would expect from a Supreme Court justice, and he has also expressed positions that are completely at odds with our core Jewish values. Making this nomination even more fraught from our perspective, as two of the very few female CEOs of major Jewish organizations, is the eerie similarity to the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearings, when allegations of sexual misconduct became the focus of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Back in 1991, Anita Hill was vilified and put on trial in the Senate when it was in fact Clarence Thomas who should have been under cross-examination. And what’s more, the narrative that infected our culture was that Anita Hill was a lying woman trying to ruin a man and his prominent career. We know that too many women grew up with that narrative—which has only recently begun to shift. Ms. Hill had the courage to come forward, and Senators and the media excoriated her as she shared her stories of harassment and abuse of power at the hands of Clarence Thomas. She — not Thomas — became the focus of the hearing. The committee refused to call other women with allegations as witnesses. And Thomas, of course, was subsequently confirmed to the highest Court in our land while Hill became a cautionary tale. The Senate Judiciary Committee—both then and now—failed to do its job.

The greatest controversy surrounding Kavanaugh’s nomination is the credible accusations of sexual assault made against him by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and Julie Swetnick. Kavanaugh’s alleged conduct toward these women demonstrates a basic lack of regard for human dignity and autonomy that is fundamentally incompatible with Judaism, not to mention basic human decency. Cruel, traumatizing acts of sexual violence, like the accusations against Kavanaugh, are breaches of the commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself” so central to our faith.

Kavanaugh compounded the disqualifying nature of the accusations against him during his performance at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Dr. Ford’s allegations last week. As more information emerges, it has become ever clearer that Kavanaugh was not truthful on a wide range of issues, from his derogatory comments about a female classmate to his high school drinking habits. This behavior was not surprising; during his initial confirmation hearing, Kavanaugh was not truthful about his time serving in the Bush administration, including his awareness of information about emails stolen from Democrats, his role in selecting and vetting Bush’s judicial nominees, or his knowledge and involvement in setting torture policy. How can Americans possibly trust a Supreme Court justice who demonstrates so little regard for the truth on these important matters?

Kavanaugh’s angry, conspiratorial statements against Senate Democrats during the hearing were truly shocking. They seriously call into question his ability to judge cases fairly and impartially. The crucial role that Biblical judges like Deborah and Samson play in our history shows that Judaism highly values individuals who are able to serve as neutral arbiters of the law and disputes between individuals of different backgrounds. If Kavanaugh is confirmed, cases will inevitably come before the Court that relate to issues that should not be as sharply partisan as they unfortunately are; voting rights, gerrymandering, reproductive justice, and gun violence prevention are just a few examples. With his background as a Republican political operative emerging during the hearing through his deeply partisan statements, it is clear that Kavanaugh cannot be trusted to serve as an impartial judge on these matters of crucial national importance. Kavanaugh will see the issues before him as a choice between “R” and “D,” rather than between right and wrong, fair or unfair, lawful or unlawful. He made this very clear with his “What goes around comes around” comment to the Democrats at the most recent hearing.

In addition to all the disqualifications listed above, Kavanaugh’s judicial record and positions on important issues are also crucial reasons to oppose him. From his clear record opposing a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body, to his calling into question the equality of LGBTQ Americans, to his rulings supporting the ability of the rich and powerful to exploit the less fortunate, Kavanaugh’s worldview is one that Jewish Americans cannot accept. His extreme views on presidential power also open the door to allowing further expansions of President Trump’s authoritarian behavior, something Jews recognize from our history as a threat to far too many vulnerable communities in our nation. Even before these allegations and Kavanaugh’s subsequent lies about them, he revealed himself as a partisan ideologue who would impose repressive, harmful judgments upon our nation.

Any one of these failings would make Kavanaugh a completely unacceptable choice for the Supreme Court. Taken together, they mean that any Senator voting to confirm him to this lifetime position will be committing a fundamentally immoral act. Twenty-seven years ago, Clarence Thomas was nominated in July and confirmed in October. Our country has been down this road before, but the outcome does not have to be the same. This is our opportunity to get it right. Jewish Americans will continue to speak out forcefully against this nomination, call on the Senate to reject it, and be prepared to hold accountable those Senators who make the wrong choice.

Nancy K. Kaufman is CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women.

Stosh Cotler is CEO of Bend the Arc: Jewish Action.

is immediate past CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women and served as executive director of the JCRC of Greater Boston for 20 years. She is currently an independent consultant and serves on the board of the New York Jewish Agenda.