Jewish Identity's Impact in a Nutshell

Document Type


Publication Date

May 2015


A person's self-perception of his or her Jewish identity can have a profound impact on one's personal and professional life. The DePaul University College of Law's Center for Jewish Law & Judaic Studies (JLJS) hosted a conference in which many of the most illustrious Jewish constitutional law professors in the United States shared their own stories. This short essay, written by the Director of JLJS, describes the purpose of the conference. In addition, it identifies three Jewish teachings that have deeply affected his professional life. The first is the fact that each person possesses free will. Rejecting the Greek doctrine of predetermination, the Jewish concept of free will both inspires great optimism while implying awesome accountability. Second, Judaism offers invaluable advice as to how to approach disagreements, emphasizing the need to honestly and carefully evaluate the arguments of others and to focus on finding the truth.Finally, it underscores the fact that there are precious few absolutes. Instead, most decisions require a nuanced, "fact-sensitive" balancing of multiple, ostensibly competing interests. The decision-making process thus constitutes a continuously fresh, intellectually challenging experience.