Disproportional Representation and the Myth of the Shyster

For the Public
Tuesday, February 7, 2023
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM EST

Zoom link to be provided
Password required

It is often claimed that Jews have occupied a unique place in the American legal profession because they have comprised a disproportionately high percentage of its practitioners. But a closer look reveals that this claim had its origins in nineteenth-century anti-Jewish depictions of a stereotypical Jewish lawyer as ubiquitous. The idea of Jewish lawyers’ disproportional representation in the U.S. legal profession was deployed by some as a response to major institutional and demographic changes.

About the “Jewish Law and the Constitution” Series

The familiar talmudic statement dina de-malkhuta dina (“the law of the kingdom is the law”) doesn’t even begin to cover the complex relationship between Judaism and state law—especially when the state itself takes account of Jewish law and religion. This series of lectures will draw out some signal characteristics of that relationship as it has evolved and unfolded in the orbit of American constitutional law. Each speaker will highlight one arena in which the American legal system has been drawn into conversation with American Jewish life and vice versa. Case by case, they tell stories of religion and politics, democracy and minorities, theory and practice: law entangled with law.


About the image above: Catalogue, Belcher Mosaic Glass Company (New York, 1886), Winterthur Museum Library, via publicdomainreview.org.


Britt Tevis

Britt Tevis is a historian with special interests in law and Jewish studies. Her current research challenges the myth of American Jewish exceptionalism by examining the ways in which local, state, and federal authorities condoned and/or incited anti-Jewish discrimination, resulting in the curtailment of Jews’ civil rights.

Tevis received her PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She was previously a lecturer of law at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia.

Read more


We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Klatt Family and the Harry Stern Family Foundation.