(February 15, 2016) My Memories of Nino Scalia, the Most Jewish Gentile on the Supreme Court
(JTA) — “When there was no Jewish justice on the Supreme Court,” Antonin “Nino” Scalia told me, “I considered myself the Jewish justice.”
After Abe Fortas resigned in May 1969, there would be no Jewish justice on the court for nearly a quarter of a century, until President Bill Clinton named Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the court in 1993.
Scalia had been on the Supreme Court since Ronald Reagan appointed him in 1986, so there were seven years during which Scalia saw himself as the court’s guardian of Jewish heritage. The New York-raised judge was shocked that he had to teach his colleagues how to pronounce “yeshiva” (Chief Justice Rehnquist William called it “ye-shy-va”) and, Scalia added proudly to me, “I even told them what a yeshiva is.”
Scalia’s admiration for Jews and Jewish learning explains the frequent references in his opinions to the Talmud and other Jewish sources, and the significant number of Orthodox Jewish law clerks he hired.