Teaching Religious Law Research as Part of Comparative Law: Focus on Jewish Law

By Marylin Raisch

Why bother to learn about legal research and methodologies in the niche area of religious law? From the perspective of training lawyers in law schools, this pursuit appears to be completely and literally academic (read: useless for the practice of law). In order to move from “what?” to “so what?” and beyond that to “ok, how?” one has to move into a mind-set that opens up to comparative legal systems generally and wants to find out if learning about the unfamiliar, even obscure, legal cultures helps one better understand one’s own. Practical inquiries made through comparative law may illuminate the impact of legal systems on economic development in their respective jurisdictions.[1] This topic can be a good way into comparing our common and many civil law systems with a system which permits conflicting opinions and is ultimately not driven by precedent at all.[2]

What follows below is an outline of selected sources that have been presented in a 40 minute research talk to a Jewish Law seminar at Georgetown. Some editions of texts we use are not necessarily definitive, but I list what we reference for the students. Unless otherwise indicated, web sites listed are free sources.

Jewish Law in General; together with issues relating to American law

  • Hollander, David. Resources to Begin the Study of Jewish Law in Conservative Judaism, 105 Law Libr. J. 305 (2013) available via HeinOnline (fee-based).
  • ______________. Jewish Law for the Law Librarian, 98 Law Libr. J. 219 (2006) available via HeinOnline (hereafter Hollander, Jewish Law)
  • Elon, Menachem. Jewish Law: History, Sources, Principles = Ha-mishpat ha-Ivri; translated from the Hebrew by Bernard Auerbach and Melvin J. Sykes. 4 vols. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1994.
  • University of Miami Law Library, Jewish Law Research Guide
  • WashLaw: Legal Research on the Web (Washburn University Law School), Jewish Law portal.
  • Cardozo Law-Yeshiva University Center for Jewish Law and Contemporary Civilization, blog Ancient Traditions, New Conversations (highlights legal questions within Jewish law along with book reviews useful for new title acquisitions.

Talmudic Law and Primary Texts

The Halakha (transliterated variously) is defined broadly at the Jewish Virtual Library’s Encyclopedia Judaica as the totality of oral and written law from the Bible (Torah/Pentateuch) down from Moses through sages, codification, and rabbinic literature, with some of the latter in the form of specific decisions answering thorny legal questions, called responsa.

From a library collections point of view, primary texts would include:

  • The Mishnah, and edited collection from the late Second century CE attributed to Rabbi Judah the Prince that collected oral law or the oral Torah to transmit teachings after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70.
  • The Mishnah = [Shishah sidre Mishnah] [Jerusalem : Eliner Library, Dept. for Torah Education and Culture in the Diaspora, 1994-1996].
  • The Babylonian Talmud (TB) is a commentary on the Mishnah (and its commentary, the Gemara), and this version predominates in general study over a version produced at another Talmudic academy in Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Talmud, dating from 350–400 CE.
  • The [Babylonian] Talmud: the Steinsaltz edition, translated and edited by Adin Steinsaltz. New York: Random House, 1989- .  Digital copies are emerging, such as the one at the Jewish Virtual Library.
  • The Mishneh Torah (MT) of Maimonides, dating from 1170-1180 CE has been described as “the most comprehensive and significant code of Jewish Law ever compiled.” (see Eliav Shochetman, “Jewish Law in Spain and the Halakhic Activity of its Scholars before 1300” in work cited at footnote 2, above).
  • Maimonides, Moses, 1135-1204.The Code of Maimonides. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1949- .
  • The Shulchan Aruch of Rabbi. Joseph Ḳaro, in the sixteenth century, used the ṣefer halakhot and Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah to create an authoritative statement of halakha.
  • Karo, Joseph ben Ephraim. The Concise code of Jewish law: compiled from Kitzur Shulhan aruch and traditional sources: a new translation with introduction and halakhic annotations based on contemporary response. 2 vols. New York : Ktav Pub. House, 1977- .

(See Hollander, Jewish Law cited above at 228-233 for citation guides to these complex works).

Judaica Electronic Texts: This site at the University of Pennsylvania, contains texts in several languages, notably Hebrew-English parallel Bible from the Masoretic text, and “Internet Resources for the Study of Judaism and Christianity.”

Internet Sacred Text Archive, Judaism (older texts no longer in copyright)

Dafyomi Advancement Forum, at which provides hyperlinks to free online resources. Can be used as an easily accessible English summary of the Talmud, for basic orientation through daily study, from The Ministry of Religion and Culture of the State of Israel, Estate Distribution Fund of the State of Israel, Dr. Lindsay and Rivki Rosenwald, Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture.

CCAR (Central Conference of American Rabbis) Digital Responsa Collection (fee-based),

Bar-Ilan University Responsa Project

Article Indexes ISpecific to Jewish Law and available free on the Internet

RAMBI – the Index of Articles on Jewish Studies: A multi-lingual bibliography of selected articles on Jewish Studies, from the Jewish National and University Library, also via The Library of the Faculty of Law at Bar Ilan University, maintains its own Index to Legal Periodicals in Israel. This platform is the same Aleph platform as RAMBI. It contains articles, written in Hebrew and in English that address matters of Jewish Law. This index can be found by going to, choosing the hyperlink at the top left for English, and then the Index to Articles. The difference? This additional resource also searches for books.

Article Indexes II: General & Legal Periodicals Indexes; search within them for Jewish Law

Law reviews: via Index to Legal Periodicals and Books and the Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals; Lexis and Westlaw with easy search strings that add in the narrower topic, for example this search string: arbitrat! w/s divorce AND “Jewish law”

Google Scholar (with library links to your institution’s catalog)

Digitization, Notable Journals and Collections: Specific to Jewish Law

HeinOnline Religion and the Law collection, section on Jewish Law. Many valuable titles, some older or discontinued journals.

Hebrew digital library Otzar HaHochma: (fee based). May be cataloged as Otzar Online, containing “over 90,200” electronic texts, though not all are on Jewish law.

Treasures of the Library, Jewish National and University Library, Writings of Maimonides, Manuscripts and Early Print Editions

Jewish Theological Seminary, archives and links to other e-content and holdings,

HebrewBooks.org– digitization and free download, all in Hebrew, not all specific to law.

Touro College, Jewish Law Institute, Lillian Goldstein Traveling Judaica Collection – Upon request, they will loan your law school a teaching collection!

Finally, do not overlook the often-cited In Custodia Legis blog of the Law Library of Congress. Search this comparative law blog in the box at the upper left with phrase in quotations “Jewish law” for posts such as this one from 2011, highlighting their Jewish Law collection and rare materials within it.

[1] See Chapters 9 and 10 on legal systems and legal change in Milhaupt, Curtis J., and Pistor, Katharina. Law & Capitalism: What Corporate Crises Reveal about Legal Systems and Economic Development around the World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014. Accessed February 28, 2018.
[2] “Stemming from the original prophetic concept of divine revelation, the concept persisted that rival, apparently (to humans) contradictory traditions, could subsist simultaneously, each claiming the validity of divine law. No ‘rule of recognition’ … could deprive such revelation of its validity. From this stems the understanding here propounded of both the ‘either-or’ phenomenon of the Talmud…” in Ben-Menahem, Hanina. “Postscript: The Judicial Process and the Nature of Jewish Law” in An Introduction to the History and Sources of Jewish Law, N. S. Hecht, B. S. Jackson, S. M. Passamaneck, Daniela Piattelli, and Alfredo Rabello, eds. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996 at p. 434-435. Oxford Scholarship Online, 2012. doi: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198262626.003.0016.

A Snapshot of Indonesian Law (and Indonesia) & the FCIL-SIS Throws a Party

By Julienne Grant

Rheny3Dr. Rheny Pulungan, recipient of the 2016 FCIL-SIS Schaffer Grant, gave a fascinating presentation on July 18 entitled “The Legal Landscape in Indonesia:  Limitations and Possibilities.”  This was actually Dr. Pulungan’s first time in the United States, and she admitted to being a little overwhelmed.  She was headed to NYC after her Chicago visit.

Dr Pulungan began her presentation with a quiz for audience members, “Fun Facts About Indonesia,” which tested us on our basic knowledge of the country, such as the number of islands (around 18,000);  population (about 250 million); and official religions (Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Protestantism, Catholicism, and Confucianism). Needless to say, the attendees were a bit stumped and surprised at the answers. The speaker also showed a slide of Indonesia embedded on a map of the United States, and many of us were astonished to see what a large geographic area the country spans.

Indonesia’s legal system is complex, with civil law attributes resulting from the archipelago’s time under Dutch rule.  One region, Aceh, applies Shariah law. Since 1945, Dr. Pulungan explained, Indonesia has been creating its own laws. Starting in the 1970s, efforts began to create a national legal information center that would make Indonesian laws more accessible, and beginning in 2004, laws and court opinions have been regularly posted on Indonesian government websites.

The speaker next turned to Indonesia’s judicial system. At the trial level are 250 district courts, appellate level high courts number 30, and the Indonesian Supreme Court is a court of cassation. There are also specialized courts, including religious courts and military courts, as well as a constitutional court.  The Supreme Court has a website where its decisions are posted, although none are translated into English. Dr. Pulungan described the search functionality of the site as being mediocre and indicated that the Supreme Court does publish a small number of its decisions in print.  In 2012, as part of USAID’s Changes for Justice Project, an electronic case tracking system (SIPP) was established that was designed to promote judicial transparency.  According to the speaker, it is possible to search by case number or party name to locate information.  Dr. Pulungan also noted that court decisions at all levels must be uploaded within three days of rendering.

Decisions of the Constitutional Court (established in 2001) are translated into English and available on the Court’s website.  The Constitutional Court is not an appellate court and its authority is vested in the third amendment to Indonesia’s Constitution.  The Court’s database can be searched by multiple variables, including case number, case name, applicant names, and keywords.  The Constitutional Court’s role is “The Guardian of the Constitution.”

According to Dr. Pulungan, Indonesian legislation is relatively easy to find online, but locating official English translations can be difficult. There are several databases of note that contain Indonesian legislation: the State Secretariat Database (updated daily); Lexadin; some UN agency websites (such as UNODC); and Hukum.  Hukum is the only commercial database available for Indonesian law in both English and Indonesian.

The speaker next turned to secondary sources.  She recommended Cornell University’s “Southeast Asia Program” website and a quarterly publication called Inside Indonesia. She also mentioned the English-language law journal, Indonesia Law Review , which is open access, and the Australian Journal of Asian Law that is hosted on SSRN. The Jakarta Post covers legal news and developments, and Dr. Pulungan also noted the “Indonesia at Melbourne” blog and the website of the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society.

The speaker closed her talk by emphasizing that translating Indonesian legal materials into English is inherently difficult.  She provided an example of a phrase in Indonesian translated into English by Google Translate as “hiking education,” while a UNESCO document translated it as “educational streaming.” She advised attendees to search for more than one English translation. Dr. Pulungan has created a LibGuide on Indonesian law and told audience members that she was available via email for assistance.

A question from the audience was raised about religious courts, which she explained are unique and preside over family law matters. As an aside, the speaker mentioned that Indonesian couples who marry must be of the same faith; Dr. Pulungan’s husband is Australian, and he had to convert to Islam for a day in order for the marriage to be legal in Indonesia.  Another attendee asked whether any Indonesian court decisions are precedential. There is no precedent, she said, but Supreme Court decisions include practice notes that can influence lower courts.

ReceptionAfter Dr. Pulungan’s excellent talk,[1] audience members headed to the FCIL-SIS reception for foreign visitors.  The reception was well attended, and I enjoyed chatting with FCIL colleagues there. Keith Ann Stiverson, 2015-2016 AALL President, welcomed the guests and announced the numbers of foreign attendees:  27 from Canada, 17 from the UK, 2 from Australia, 1 from Hong Kong, 1 from Ireland, 2 from South Korea, and 1 from Switzerland.  Ms. Stiverson’s remarks were followed by a few words from IALL President Jeroen Vervliet (Peace Palace Library). Mr. Vervliet related his adventures in Hyde Park at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House. He also announced that the International Journal of Legal Information has a new publisher (Cambridge) and a new look. Mr. Vervliet presented a copy of the new issue to editor Mark Engsberg (Emory U) who had not yet seen it. Overall, it was a great party, although I admit I could have used a few more coconut shrimp.

 

[1] I will also add that Dr. Pulungan made a fashion statement with her dress constructed with fabric covered with images of books. Loved it.

 

AALL 2015 Recap: Customary and Religious Law Interest Group Meeting

By Susan Gualtier

Front page of CARLIG flyer distributed at FCIL-SIS Exhibit Hall table.

Front page of informational flyer distributed at the FCIL-SIS Exhibit Hall table.

The Customary and Religious Law Interest Group (CARLIG) met on July 19 at 11:30 as part of the FCIL-SIS Jurisdictions Interest Groups Joint Meeting. The group briefly discussed the year’s progress, which included acquiring approximately 35 members in My Communities, developing several programming proposals for the 2015 conference, and publishing an article in AALL Spectrum describing the group’s formation, purpose, and goals. The majority of the discussion then focused on 1) improving communication with the group’s membership in order to generate better response to the My Communities posts; 2) increasing the number of blogging and book review opportunities on customary and religious law topics and soliciting participation by the group’s members; and 3) developing and prioritizing additional projects for the coming year.

CARLIG intends to continue proposing conference programming, and brainstormed a few ideas for the 2016 conference. The group discussed the possibility of putting together a panel of librarians and researchers who are currently working on comprehensive online portals or printed bibliographies of religious law resources. Kelly Buchanan, of the Library of Congress, also shared some preliminary information relating to an Islamic law program to be held at the Library of Congress in December. The group discussed potential opportunities for collaboration between CARLIG and the Library of Congress staff, which has been working on increasing the number of available customary law and religious law resources.

In addition to planning substantive programming, the group decided that CARLIG’s primary focus over the upcoming year should be to create teaching/research toolkits for customary law and for each of the major religious law systems. The purpose of these toolkits will be to encourage more librarians to incorporate customary and religious law research into their FCIL research classes or their presentations in substantive law classes. CARLIG will also work on some of the ideas proposed at the 2014 conference, including creating bibliographies of core resources for use in collection development, and identifying the major library collections in customary law and in each of the major religious law systems.

CARLIG Holds Inaugural Meeting in San Antonio

By Susan GualtierIMG_3427

The new Customary and Religious Law Interest Group held its very first meeting this weekend in San Antonio! We are very excited to report on the meeting and to encourage all of you to join us in this new endeavor.

As a preliminary matter, the members who attended the meeting decided to keep the current name and the acronym “CARLIG.” We also decided that all group communications should take place through the My Communities group to whatever extent possible.

The group then spent the remainder of the meeting discussing potential projects on which to work in the coming year, as well as ideas for programming proposals for next year’s Annual Meeting in Philadelphia. The group decided to work on developing bibliographies or collection guides containing “critical resources” that every library should have in building a minimum core collection. Collection guides will be created for the different religious law and canon law systems, and for customary legal systems and customary law in general. The second project on which the group would like to work in the coming year is to identify the major collections in each area of interest.

With regard to programming, it was suggested that because the group’s interests are somewhat esoteric, we may want to focus on ideas for informal programming, such as coffee talks and book discussions, in the event that our formal proposals are not accepted. The group agreed that this was an excellent idea and will watch for interesting books and discussion topics around which to build informal programming in Philadelphia. The group also discussed ideas for formal programming, including topics that may lend themselves to collaboration with other AALL groups, such as the Legal History and Rare Books SIS. Because of next year’s location in Philadelphia, which is close to Amish and Mennonite communities in Pennsylvania, the group intends to develop a proposal addressing the accommodation of religious minorities in larger communities. Other ideas included programs on teaching customary law research in FCIL research classes, family law and/or women’s rights issues in mixed legal systems, the resurgence in witchcraft accusations in a number of customary law communities in different parts of the world (as well as a potential tie-in with similar accusations occurring in Louisiana and Florida Haitian voodoo communities), and medieval customary laws in Europe and their influence on modern laws and legal systems.

After meeting on Sunday, the group reported its activities at the FCIL-SIS business meeting on Monday morning, which seemed to generate even more interest in the new IG. We hope that more AALL members will join our roster and share their ideas for projects and programming. As chair of the new group, I will be contacting everyone who has expressed interest over the next few days so that we can get the ball rolling on developing our projects and programming proposals. I will also be creating a forum in which we can all share our ideas and work to develop our programming proposals. In the meantime, if you wish to participate or to follow the group’s activities, please join our My Communities group to receive notifications as they post. We look forward to sharing our interests with the AALL community.

Introducing the FCIL-SIS Customary and Religious Law Interest Group!

The FCIL-SIS is excited to announce the formation of a brand new Interest Group just in time for the Annual Meeting in San Antonio. Currently going by the name of “CARLIG” – an acronym for “Customary and Religious Law Interest Group” – this new IG will provide a forum for AALL members interested in the research and study of all types of customary, tribal, religious, and canon law systems.

CARLIG will hold its inaugural meeting on Sunday, July 13, 2014 at 7:00 AM in Marriott Rivercenter-Salon C, as part of the FCIL-SIS Subject Groups meetings. We will discuss leadership and group structure, future projects, potential programming proposals for the 2015 Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, and much more. Given the many FCIL-SIS members who have already expressed interest, the new IG is sure to gain traction and provide us with a forum to discuss and work on projects relating to these often overlooked areas of foreign law.

Whether you already specialize in religious or customary legal systems, have a work-related or “extracurricular” interest, or simply want to learn more about what they are, we encourage you to join us for our meeting in San Antonio!  For additional information, or to be added to our membership list, please contact Susan Gualtier at susan.gualtier@law.lsu.edu and join our My Communities group to receive notifications relating to future projects and events.

 

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