Investment executive and private investor Mitchell R. Julis has made a gift to Harvard Law School to establish the Julis-Rabinowitz Program in Jewish and Israeli Law. Julis received a joint JD/MBA degree from Harvard Law School, magna cum laude, in 1981. The program is named in honor of his father and mother, Maurice Ralph Julis and Thelma Rabinowitz Julis, and their families.
Noah Feldman, the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at HLS and one of the nation’s leading public intellectuals, will serve as the program’s inaugural director.
Martha Minow, Morgan and Helen Chu Dean and Professor at Harvard Law School, said: “Throughout history, Jewish law has made profound contributions to legal thought and practice, and it remains vibrant and relevant around the world. Through their extraordinary generosity, the Julis Family has created significant new opportunities for our community to explore this living legal tradition as well as the laws and legal discourse of a nation, which shares the same roots and many new branches. This program will model the standards of excellence, vibrant intellectual debate, and rigorous analysis that are the hallmark of the Law School while affording terrific new opportunities for our community and beyond. We are tremendously grateful.”
In explaining the family gift, Julis said: “My parents, grandparents and relatives made sure that the rich heritage of Judaism, including its values and history, and the importance of Israel, both to the Jewish People and the world, were consistent parts of our spiritual and intellectual growth. This gift to Harvard Law School is in deep gratitude and love for the gift of heritage our families gave us and which we have strived to give to our children. In addition, my career as an investment professional benefitted greatly from my time at Harvard Law School and the wisdom and mentorship of the late Professor Vern Countryman (a specialist in commercial law, bankruptcy law and reform, secured transactions law, and civil liberties). Finally, under Dean Minow’s inspiring leadership, Joleen and I know that Harvard Law School is an ideal place for a full and open and civil discussion of the multiple views and issues in Jewish and Israeli law, and our family is privileged to support the scholars and students who will build on this knowledge going forward.”
The mission of this interdisciplinary research program will be to explore the structure and real-world effects of Jewish and Israeli law. The program will appoint visiting scholars and post-doctoral fellows; conduct courses and reading groups for students with advanced knowledge of traditional Jewish legal texts; develop opportunities to enhance communications, gatherings and information sharing on the Law School campus and beyond; host an annual conference; and organize lectures at Harvard and in the broader Boston and Cambridge communities on topics related to the impact and study of Jewish law in Israel, in the United States, and across the world.
Feldman, a scholar specializing in constitutional studies, has extensively studied and written about the relationship between law and religion in Islam, Judaism, and U.S. law. He speaks Hebrew and Arabic and earned his undergraduate and doctoral degrees in Near Eastern studies. Feldman joined the Harvard Law School faculty in 2006, is the author of seven books on law and policy, and writes a column for Bloomberg View. Over the past several years, he has joined other members of the Law School and University faculty and visiting scholars in offering courses on advanced Jewish legal topics, including “Custom and Legal Authority” and “The Other and the Enemy in Jewish Law.” These courses bring together students from the Law School and many other Harvard graduate programs to deepen the academic study of Jewish law.
“Jewish law and Israeli law are distinct and different, yet they also interact and make claims on each other. It makes sense to study them both in the same program, even as we study them independently,” said Feldman. “The support of Mitch and Joleen Julis and their family for this important work is a marker of foresight in encouraging deeper scholarly understanding of crucial topics in the Jewish past and present. With the resources of the program, we hope over time to make Harvard Law School into a national and international leader in the study and analysis of Jewish and Israeli law from a broad array of scholarly perspectives. The generous gift gives us a broad ambit to bring in a wide range of voices to explore these fascinating and rich topics from all sides.”