Famed lawyer will be ‘Taking the Stand’ at JCCSFby matt robinson, jns.org
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“I think of it the way Abraham thought of it when he had to defend the sinners of Sodom. And he had a more powerful adversary,” says Dershowitz, referring to the Jewish forefather’s plea with God to spare the (ultimately destroyed) biblical city on behalf of any righteous people who may have been living there.
Dershowitz, who turned 75 last month, will be the speaker at a JCC of San Francisco Arts & Ideas event on Nov. 1. The title of the event — in which he will be in conversation with novelist and part-time San Francisco resident Richard North Patterson — is “My Life in the Law,” which is also the subtitle of his new book “Taking the Stand.”
The memoir, his 30th book, was released Oct. 15, and it encompasses the evolution of the attorney’s thinking on issues including censorship, the First Amendment, civil rights, abortion, homicide and the increasing role that science plays in a legal defense.
“I have been very fortunate to live in an exciting time in the law, and I have been able to be a part of it,” he says.
Dershowitz attended Yale University for undergraduate studies, served as a clerk for Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg and became the youngest full professor in the history of Harvard Law School by age 28.
“Being a contentious person made me a naturally good teacher, because I was able to engage the students and not be boring,” he says.
Raised Modern Orthodox, Dershowitz studied Torah, Talmud and other Jewish sources, all of which he says “had an impact” on him. His 2001 book, “The Genesis of Justice,” takes lessons from the first book of the Torah to illuminate ideas of contemporary law and ethics.
Author of “The Case for Israel” (2004), Dershowitz says growing up in a family of “strong religious Zionists” shaped his support of the Jewish state and his willingness to vocally defend the country when it comes under fire on the international stage.
The same could be said of his legal career.
“My parents — my father in particular — always said you always have to defend the underdog, and I always saw the law as a vehicle for me to do that,” he says.
Alan Dershowitz speaks on “My Life in the Law” at noon Nov. 1 at the JCCSF, 3200 California St., S.F. $25-$35. http://www.jccsf.org or (415) 292-1233
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