Living Law in Jewish Studies

2023 Spring Colloquium

For the Academic Community
Wednesday, April 26, 2023 -
Thursday, April 27, 2023
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM EDT

Ben Franklin Room, Houston Hall
3417 Spruce St, Room 307
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Dajana Denes Walters
Email Dajana ( by Friday, April 21 to register.

This two-day, in person conference is dedicated to exploring the many ways that Jews live and have lived law in the modern era, asking how Jewish actors have experienced legal pluralism, actively shaped different legal regimes, and understood the role of law in constructing state and non-state forms of sovereignty. It will also discuss living law as a component of evolving practices of Jewish law and a bone of contention in American judicial politics. Side by side with various forms of living law, this conference also addresses, from a number of disciplinary perspectives, “lived law” and attempts to replace it with other forms of Jewish or secular self-expression and self-regulation.


Wednesday, April 26

10:45 am   Welcome

Steven Weitzman, Ella Darivoff Director, Katz Center

11:00 am–12:30 pm   Pluralism

Chair: Nan Goodman, University of Colorado Boulder

Arbitrating Pluralism

            Chaim Saiman, Villanova University School of Law

Rethinking Legal Pluralism: The Case of Halakhah

            Jessica Marglin, University of Southern California

The Amazing Adventures of Group Rights and Socialist Pluralism on the Lower East Side: Radical Jewish Lawyers and Legal Imagination in the Early Twentieth Century

            William Forbath , University of Texas at Austin School of Law

Respondent: Julie Cooper, Tel Aviv University

12:30 Lunch

1:45–3:15 pm   Legal Consciousness & Lived Religion

Chair: Itamar Ben Ami, Humboldt University of Berlin

Religious Israeli Surrogate Mothers: Between Jewish Law and Israeli Surrogacy Law

            Elly Teman, Ruppin Academic Center, Israel ♦

The Children of Noah (Bnei Noah): From Jewish Legal Theory to a Global Religious Movement

            Rachel Feldman, Franklin & Marshall College

Rabbis for Women: The Importance of Lived Experience for Legal Authority

            Michal Raucher, Rutgers University

Respondent: Susan Kahn, Harvard Law School

3:15 pm   Break

3:30–5:00 pm   Theology of Living Constitutionalism & Its Critics

Moderator: Nomi Stolzenberg, University of Southern California Gould School of Law


            Haider Ala Hamoudi, University of Pittsburgh School of Law

            Micah Schwartzman, University of Virginia School of Law

            Jessie Allen, University of Pittsburgh School of Law

            Kevin Walsh, Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law

Thursday, April 27

8:30 am   Breakfast

9:00–10:30 am   Writing Legal Judaisms

Chair: Tafat Hacohen-Bick, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Agnon, International Law, and Jewish Theology

            Shai Ginsburg, Duke University

Memoir and Narrative as a Resource for Feminist Jewish Legal Thought

            Sarah Zager, St. Olaf College

What to Do with Written Law? Krochmal and Mendelssohn on Exegesis, Language, and Politics

            Elias Sacks, Jewish Publication Society

Respondent: Mira Wasserman, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

10:30 am   Break

10:45 am–12:15 pm   Sovereignty

Chair: Roxanne Euben, University of Pennsylvania

Sovereignty as a Knowledge Problem: Hans Kelsen and Legal Thought in the Late Habsburg Empire

            Natasha Wheatley, Princeton University

Sovereignty and Jurisdiction: The Case of Israeli Rabbinical Courts

           Avishalom Westreich, College of Law and Business, Israel 

South African Jewish Social Anthropologists and Imperial Federalism, 1935–1965

            Thomas Prendergast, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Respondent: Leora Bilsky, Tel Aviv University

12:15 pm   Lunch

1:30–3:00 pm   Activism

Chair: Sigal Ben-Porath, University of Pennsylvania

Julius Grey and the Orthodox of Outremont: Religious Freedom and the Struggle over Public Space in Quebec

            Simon Rabinovitch, Northeastern University

The Turn to International Law: Romanian Jews’ Forgotten Contribution to Jewish Internationalism?

            Noëmie Duhaut, Leibniz Institute of European History, Mainz

Emancipationist Lawyers (1820–1900): A Neglected Chapter in the History of Dina De-Malkhuta Dina

            David Sorkin, Yale University

Respondent: Carolyn J. Dean, Yale University


♦ Katz Center fellow