How Felix Frankfurter Traded Judaism for Democracy

Elena Kagan is the eighth Jew to be appointed to the Supreme Court. The third Jew to sit on the nation’s highest court—preceded by Louis Brandeis and Benjamin Cardozo—was Felix Frankfurter. Born in Vienna in 1882 and the descendent of numerous rabbis, Frankfurter became a leading advocate of judicial restraint. Andrew Porwancher and Taylor Jipp examine his life:

Despite his upbringing in an observant Jewish household, he withdrew from religious practices in a singular moment of clarity. Frankfurter was attending a Yom Kippur service as an undergraduate when he abruptly sensed his indifference to its rituals. “I looked around as pious Jews were beating their breasts with intensity of feeling and anguishing sincerity”—he was referring here to the Jewish practice of tapping one’s chest in repentance—“and I remember with the greatest vividness thinking that it was unfair of me, a kind of desecration for me to be in the room with these people, . . . adhering to a creed that meant something to my parents but ceased to have meaning for me.”

Frankfurter suddenly exited the synagogue and never again resurfaced at a Jewish service. For the remainder of his life, he still identified as a Jew—and understandably so, as Jewish identity entails more than theological commitments—but his relationship with Judaism as a faith had met a swift demise. Frankfurter came instead to embrace a new religion: American democracy.

He became an apostle of the “true democratic faith” and routinely described the American legal system in decidedly religious terms. “Society has breathed into law the breath of life and made it a living, serving soul,” Frankfurter wrote in language mirroring the book of Genesis’s description of how God animated Adam with breath.

Read more at Tablet

More about: American Jewish History, Supreme Court

Hamas’s Hostage Diplomacy

Ron Ben-Yishai explains Hamas’s current calculations:

Strategically speaking, Hamas is hoping to add more and more days to the pause currently in effect, setting a new reality in stone, one which will convince the United States to get Israel to end the war. At the same time, they still have most of the hostages hidden in every underground crevice they could find, and hope to exchange those with as many Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners currently in Israeli prisons, planning on “revitalizing” their terrorist inclinations to even the odds against the seemingly unstoppable Israeli war machine.

Chances are that if pressured to do so by Qatar and Egypt, they will release men over 60 with the same “three-for-one” deal they’ve had in place so far, but when Israeli soldiers are all they have left to exchange, they are unlikely to extend the arrangement, instead insisting that for every IDF soldier released, thousands of their people would be set free.

In one of his last speeches prior to October 7, the Gaza-based Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar said, “remember the number one, one, one, one.” While he did not elaborate, it is believed he meant he wants 1,111 Hamas terrorists held in Israel released for every Israeli soldier, and those words came out of his mouth before he could even believe he would be able to abduct Israelis in the hundreds. This added leverage is likely to get him to aim for the release for all prisoners from Israeli facilities, not just some or even most.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security