Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, appearing at a Jewish day school in Brooklyn, spoke about her Jewish background and how her family jumped from synagogue to synagogue.
“I had a very strange Jewish upbringing actually,” Kagan, 58, told journalist Dahlia Lithwick, who moderated the Wednesday evening conversation. “You would think Lincoln Square Synagogue, she comes from a Modern Orthodox family. Actually my family didn’t really know what it was.”
Though Kagan had her bat mitzvah at that Modern Orthodox synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, she did not grow up in a strictly observant household, the associate justice told an audience of about 280 at the Hannah Senesh Community Day School.
Kagan said her mother grew up in “an extremely, extremely religious family,” but had abandoned many aspects of Jewish observance by the time she had children. “[We] kept a kosher home so that my grandparents would eat there, but otherwise we were the kind of Jews who kept a kosher home and then went out and ordered shrimp at the Chinese restaurant,” the jurist recalled.
Before Lincoln Square, the family were members of B’nai Jeshurun, which belonged to the Conservative movement (today the congregation is unaffiliated) and Congregation Rodeph Sholom, a Reform synagogue.
“My mother’s view was that everything depended on how good the rabbi was, and she would go from synagogue to synagogue to synagogue to find a rabbi she liked,” Kagan said.
Kagan said she “loved” attending Hebrew school at Lincoln Square, but hit a snag
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