“‘When there was no Jewish justice on the Supreme Court,’ Antonin Scalia told me, ‘I considered myself the Jewish justice.’” Thus opens Nathan Lewin’s remembrance of his lifelong friend and sometime legal sparring partner, who died this past Saturday. Not the least striking quality of the great Catholic jurist, Lewin remarks, was his “admiration for Jews and Jewish learning”—a fact that “explains the frequent references in his opinions to the Talmud and other Jewish sources, and the significant number of Orthodox Jewish law clerks he hired.” Lewin concludes:
There is universal agreement that Nino Scalia was brilliant, amazingly articulate, and a real mensch. There is strong disagreement, however, over the side he chose in ideological battles. Scalia is, of course, an Italian name. If one writes it with Hebrew letters, there are two possible—albeit squarely contradictory—ways of writing Scalia. One is to use the letters sin, kaf, lamed, which are also the root of sekhel: Hebrew for “wisdom.” The other is to use the Hebrew letters samekh, kuf, lamed, which are the root sakol, meaning “to stone.”
Some praised Nino’s wisdom; others were ready to stone him. But all must concur that he was a great man, that the United States he loved is greatly diminished by his loss, and that he greatly revered Jews and Jewish tradition.