Alyza Lewin: Defender of Liberty And Jewish Civil Rights
Defending religious liberty is backed into her DNA.
Attorney Alyza Lewin, president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, told Washington Jewish Week that she became involved in defending religious liberty and the right of Jews to freely live their lives, because “it was really baked into my DNA.”
As co-founder of the Lewin & Lewin law firm, she and her father, Nathan Lewin, she said that Jews are not just the inheritors of a religion, but also a people “with a shared history and shared heritage and a shared collective memory and shared ancestry,” who have right to life and fully celebrate their history.
Her work is meaningful to her because her father is a Holocaust survivor, who lost three of his grandparents during the onslaught of the 1930s and 1940s. Alyza Lewin recognized that it was a “bit of a miracle” that she was born in the United States and afforded its opportunities. “Together with gratitude, I’ve always felt a tremendous sense of responsibility. I have watched and learned from my parents. I was raised to feel that if I’m blessed with opportunity, with skills and talents, then I want to be able to use those in some way to help support the Jewish people.”
Reflecting on the 28 cases her father has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, and her own arguments there, she said that her experience of losing a case before the high court taught her valuable lessons. It taught her, she said, to 1) push herself outside of her comfort zone, 2) never give up, 3) always have faith. With these lessons, she said, she and her father persisted in pursuing cases that while there may have been initial defeat in court, they were ultimately crowned with significant changes in government policy.
The two examples she cited were: President Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, and U.S. Ambassador David Friedman’s issuance of a U.S. passport listing Israel as the birthplace of an American citizen born in Jerusalem.
Concerning the U.S. passport case, she said, “This case taught me that in our lifetime, we only see and witness a very small moment of time. If we are fortunate enough, we will live long enough to see the arc of history bend so that we’ll be able to understand that what in the moment may have appeared as defeat — is really the beginning of victory.”