The Israeli Supreme Court Project at Cardozo Law

Introducing VERSA, a New Website Providing English Translations of Important Decisions of the Israeli Supreme Court

 

Since 2013, the Center for Jewish Law and Contemporary Civilization, in partnership with the Floersheimer Center for Constitutional Democracy at Cardozo, has overseen the Israeli Supreme Court Project at Cardozo School of Law (ISCP), through generous funding from the David Berg Foundation.

In December 2014, Cardozo Law announced the launch of Versa, a unique website offering English translations of important Israeli Supreme Court decisions.

At a time when issues such as the place of religion in a democracy and the tradeoffs between liberty and security are of global concern, the decisions of the Israeli Supreme Court are an invaluable resource. Yet for several reasons – most obviously, the fact that they are written in a language relatively few people read – the Court’s decisions are too often overlooked. For more than two decades, the Friends of the Library of the Supreme Court of Israel (“FLSCI”) has arranged for the translation into English, publication, and dissemination of some of the Court’s most significant decisions. In a new partnership with FLSCI, the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law of Yeshiva University launched the Israeli Supreme Court Project at Cardozo Law School (ISCP) to continue and expand these efforts, increasing the visibility of and international engagement with the jurisprudence of the Israeli Supreme Court. 

Intended to both inform and engage constitutional scholars, lawyers and judges in democracies around the world, the ISCP is a center of study and discussion of the decisions of the Israeli Supreme Court, one of the great judicial bodies of the world and a court at the forefront of dealing with issues at the core of what it means to be a democratic society. The Israeli Supreme Court routinely deals with the complex and challenging questions facing open and multi-cultural societies everywhere, such as:

  • issues of religious pluralism
  • judicial review of government actions
  • gender equality
  • reconciling civil liberties with national security in an era of terrorism and
  • questions of personal and religious identity.

The ISCP provides a service to lawyers, judges and scholars around the world who are grappling with many issues that the Israeli Supreme Court has addressed and serve as a useful model for other fledgling democracies of the importance of an accessible and independent judiciary, especially when religion plays a role in those democracies.

The following are the primary components of the ISCP:

  • Translations. The ISCP will increase dramatically the number of opinions translated on an annual basis. In addition, the translations are now accessible via the ISCP website, which maximizes their availability and enables easy access by judges, scholars, and laypeople.
  • Events. The ISCP will host several public events each year on contemporary legal issues that are especially salient in, but by no means peculiar to, Israel. These would include a major conference bringing together Israeli, United States, and European High Court judges, academics, and practitioners, book panels, “continuing legal education” type events on recent Israeli cases, and individual lectures. 
  • Website. The ISCP’s robust website contains hundreds of translated cases, media from ISCP events, and links to items of interest pertaining to the Court. In addition, the project’s blog is an interactive platform for online discussion and debate. By engaging broader participation in response to the work of the Court, the website is an important resource for those interested in the Court’s jurisprudence or in comparative constitutionalism more generally.
  • Intellectual community. The ISCP will host judges and academics with interests in international law, comparative constitutionalism, or Israeli law for visits to Cardozo. The ISCP also includes an academic advisory board whose members play an integral role in expanding the scope of the project.

Cardozo Law, which boasts a faculty with deep interests and expertise in comparative constitutionalism, law and national security, and law and religion, is the ideal venue for this project. The project is a joint venture between the Floersheimer Center for Constitutional Democracy, whose goal is to better understand, and assist in improving, the functioning of constitutional democracies, both at home and abroad, and the Center for Jewish Law and Contemporary Civilization, which aims to contribute a distinctively Jewish legal perspective on political, moral, and social issues facing the world at large. Cardozo Law and these two centers routinely host Israeli Supreme Court justices and law professors, as well as a wide range of scholars, from Israel, the United States, and Europe, with interests at the heart of the project.

The ISCP is directed by Cardozo professors Michael Herz, co-director of the Floersheimer Center, and Suzanne Last Stone, director of the Center for Jewish Law and Contemporary Civilization, Affiliated Faculty, Tel Aviv Law School, and academic consultant for several Israeli think tanks. Professor Herz is an expert on constitutional and administrative law, and Professor Stone has written extensively on Jewish law, religion and democracy in Israel, and globalization and legal theory. Ari Mermelstein, Assistant Professor of Hebrew Bible at Yeshiva University and assistant director of the Center for Jewish Law, serves as Assistant Director.