United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary
224 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Chairman Graham, Ranking Member Feinstein, and Committee Members:
We write to you as seven national Jewish organizations deeply concerned about the nomination of Steven Menashi to the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Fair and independent courts are a cornerstone of our democracy, instrumental to upholding constitutional values such as equality and justice for all — values that are central to our beliefs.
Judaism teaches v’ahavta l’reacha kamocha — love your neighbor as yourself — and that all human beings are created b’tzelem Elohim — in the image of G-d — regardless of race, ethnicity, or religion. We believe that to acknowledge the dignity of each human being is to honor G-d’s presence in the world. As American Jews, we are proud of our country’s legacy as a place that welcomes people seeking freedom and acceptance.
To that end, we are alarmed by Menashi’s writings on what he calls “ethnonationalism,” in which he makes the case against “ethnic heterogeneity.” According to Menashi, societies with greater ethnic diversity are less politically and civilly engaged and generally have weaker-functioning democracies. Menashi goes on to say that a functioning democracy requires a “national community.” In these words, we hear haunting echoes of cries for a master race and racial purity. At a time when white supremacy and domestic terrorism are rising, it is more important than ever to disavow any proponent of intolerance, let alone reward that person with a lifetime seat on a federal court of appeals.
Unfortunately, Menashi’s writings on ethnonationalism are not the only evidence of his stunningly disparaging, prejudiced views. In a 2001 editorial, Menashi wrote, “[s]ixty years after the promulgation of the Nuremberg laws, universities persist in cataloging students according to race on college applications and official documents.” Even as a college student, Menashi should have known better than to compare affirmative action in higher education to anti-Semitic and racist laws in Nazi Germany.
Likewise, Menashi has demonstrated complete and utter disdain for women and LGBTQ individuals. Referring to efforts to end sexual and domestic violence, Menashi wrote in 2000 that “‘Take Back the Night’ marches charge the majority of male students with complicity in rape and sexual violence (every man’s a potential rapist, they say; it’s part of the patriarchal culture)—not to mention the ‘Frats Rape’ accusation that’s chalked on the sidewalks from time to time.” He went on to complain that “…and while campus gynocentrists can throw around these accusations, there’s no similar leeway for men.” Menashi also claimed that the Human Rights Campaign “incessantly exploited the slaying of Matthew Shepard for both financial and political benefit.” Menashi’s comments are tasteless and cruel and reveal deeply-held biases.
We believe that justice and democracy are best served by a diverse group of judges with a proven record of fairness, independence, nonpartisanship, and respect for constitutional values. Menashi’s record indicates that he does not meet these basic criteria. We urge the Senate Judiciary Committee to very carefully review Menashi’s writings and record prior to advancing his nomination.
Bend the Arc: Jewish Action
Jewish World Watch
National Council of Jewish Women
New Israel Fund
Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association