First Amendment Advocate Nathan Lewin to Receive JCPA Albert D. Chernin Award

by Haya Luftig

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) will be awarding the prestigious Albert D. Chernin Award to Nathan Lewin, renowned First Amendment rights advocate. The Award will be presented on February 9 at JCPA’s conference at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. Lewin is currently a partner in Lewin & Lewin, LLP, and has engaged in trial and appellate litigation in federal and state courts for 55 years.

Before forming his current law firm with his daughter Alyza D. Lewin, who is also president of the Brandeis Center, he was a name partner at Miller Cassidy Larroca & Lewin, a leading national litigation boutique for more than 30 years. Nathan Lewin is widely recognized for championing Jewish causes such as protection for Shabbat-observers in government and in private employment who are discriminated against because of religious observance, the right of military personnel and police officers to wear yarmulkes and beards with their uniforms, and the right of Jewish prisoners to receive kosher food.

The Award, named after JCPA’s Executive Vice Chair Emeritus Albert D. Chernin, is given to Jewish leaders whose life work best exemplifies a commitment to freedom and the protection of the U.S. Bill of Rights. Past recipients include Nancy Kaufman, Senator Ronald Wyden, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Floyd Abrams Esq, Rabbi David Saperstein, Professor Lawrence Tribe, and Alan Dershowitz.

“It is hard to imagine a more stellar choice to receive JCPA’s Chernin Award than Nathan Lewin,” says David Bernstein, JCPA President and CEO. “Not only is he a lifelong champion of First Amendment rights and civil liberties, but he has successfully argued many cases defending the constitutional right to freedom of religion for Jews in America.”

As an Assistant to the Solicitor General in the Department of Justice under Archibald Cox and Thurgood Marshall, Lewin argued 12 cases before the Supreme Court. He also served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights and as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State. In private practice he has argued in the Supreme Court another 16 times. His most recent Supreme Court case concerned the right of American citizens born in Jerusalem to designate “Israel” as their place of birth in their passports.

Lewin’s individual clients have included former President Richard Nixon, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Attorney General Edwin Meese, actress Jodie Foster, and musician John Lennon. He won in the Supreme Court and in many lower federal courts the right of Chabad to display a Chanukah menorah on public property, and was the principal counsel for Chabad in successful litigation establishing its ownership of the libraries of the Fifth and Sixth Lubavitcher Rebbes.

Lewin has taught Constitutional Law and Supreme Court Practice at Harvard, Columbia, University of Chicago, and Georgetown Law Schools. He was President of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington in 1982-1984. He was a Contributing Editor to The New Republic between 1970 and 1991.

Hundreds of community relations leaders and advocates as well as policy makers and media are expected to attend the JCPA2020 National Conference, convening to tackle pressing issues including Antisemitism, criminal justice reform, and more in high level plenaries and workshops. You can view schedule and register for JCPA2020 here.

Information regarding the conference can be found at jewishpublicaffairs.org/JCPA2020.

Click here for a list of past JCPA Albert D. Chernin Award recipients.


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Haya Luftig