My great-grandmother (and namesake) left her small Jewish community in Poland for a better life in Canada. Some of her siblings, however, decided to remain in the shtetl. When the Nazis showed up outside their ghetto in 1942, my relatives joined a Jewish resistance effort to set the ghetto aflame. In the end, along with most of their neighbors, my great-grandmother’s siblings burned alive in their homes.
I carry this story with me. I also carry the knowledge that what happened to my family was entirely legal under the Nazi regime. That’s why I will be starting law school next year — to learn how to nurture a legal system rooted in human rights, human dignity, and justice for all. I see this work as a highly personal, sacred obligation.
And that’s why I say "no" to Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court.
President Donald Trump has already brought the hallmark signs of fascism to our doorstep. For many American Jews, his actions have already raised alarm bells, reminding us of the rhetoric and policies that led so many of our family members to seek refuge in this country. Among Trump’s first actions in office, he targeted one religious group for persecution by closing the country's doors to Muslim immigrants and refugees fleeing war-torn countries.
He has also targeted immigrants more broadly, committing to build a wall along our border with Mexico and to cut-off federal funding to sanctuary cities. He has targeted women by reinstating and expanding the Global Gag Rule, restricting the use of foreign aid to support international health organizations that even so much as mention the word “abortion,” much less provide abortion care. And he has appointed unabashed white nationalist Steve Bannon to senior advisor to the president and given him a seat on the National Security Council. Amid the fear and panic among so many communities across the country, I find myself wondering if our democratic institutions will hold.
The Supreme Court, though, is meant to be a bastion against executive overreach. Our system of checks and balances works best when the highest court in the land is able to stand firm against elected officials who violate our constitutional rights. That’s why it is absolutely critical that we do everything in our power to block Judge Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court. I say this not only because of his extreme right-wing values, out-of-touch elitism, and lack of diversity, but I also say this because — as a lifetime appointee — he carries the potential for this terrifying moment in American history to haunt us for years to come.
A former private practice attorney with ties to big business, Gorsuch would be a devastating addition to the Supreme Court bench. His record demonstrates concern for the powerful and wealthy, rather than a belief that the Constitution should protect us all. Further, as a Jewish woman, I see him as a direct threat to my bodily autonomy and religious liberty. Gorsuch is known to be anti-choice, and has ruled against the right of every person to access birth control. No politician, employer, or healthcare provider should be able to deny me or any person access to basic healthcare, including abortion and contraception, just because they have a different religious viewpoint.
Shockingly, Gorsuch has also fought against advocates who have turned to the courts to fight for LGBTQ equality, calling their legal strategy “an addiction to the courtroom as the place to debate social policy.” He seems intent on minimizing the foundational role of the courts in ensuring equality and civil rights for all.
The Supreme Court might be asked to rule on Trump’s recent executive orders, including the dangerous and Islamophobic immigration order that has already begun to tear families apart. Now, more than ever, we need open-minded, fair, and independent judges who will stand up for our constitutional values and serve as a check on the politicians in other branches, including President Trump.
Neil Gorsuch is not that person.
But we can block Gorsuch. As a young Jewish feminist organizer, I am in the thick of political action every single day and have incredible faith in a broad, intersectional progressive movement. Those of us concerned about the safety and dignity of people of color, immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ people, and people with disabilities have power.
In just the first week of Trump’s already disastrous presidency, I have watched millions of people across the country show up at marches, attend community meetings, and call their lawmakers — many for the first time. The Senate, the body responsible for confirming Supreme Court nominees, is accountable to us. We must insist that our Senate reject Neil Gorsuch and demand a Supreme Court Justice that honors our Constitutional values of equality and justice for all. But in order to do that, we must show up and fight.
How? Call your senators. Encourage your friends and family to call their senators. If you know your senators are planning to vote no on Gorsuch, make sure to thank them. Then, pick up the phone and call each and every member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the first step in the Supreme Court confirmation process. Make sure to tag your senators on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram — all of the social media! And, make sure to organize or show up at protests in your community. Power concedes nothing without a demand, and we need to make sure our senators know we are watching.
Just the other night, I spoke with my grandmother on the phone about our long-perished relatives in Poland. She sounded terrified, utterly appalled by Trump’s targeting of refugees and Muslims. It is past time for us to learn the lessons of history, roll up our sleeves, and stand up for one another. Because, in the end, the real foundation of our democracy is us.