Jeffrey Toobin of CNN talks about Supreme Court for first of Temple Israel lectures, sponsored by Hilary and Edan King.

By Jessie Cohen

When Hilary King became the congregation president of Temple Israel in West Bloomfield, she had big ideas for the future of the congregation. She and her husband, Edan, wanted to use their influence to make Temple Israel a thought leader in the community.

“We wanted to make Temple Israel more than just a synagogue, also a place of learning for the community,” she said.

Toward this goal, the Kings are sponsoring a speaker series at Temple Israel called “The Many Shades of Politics: An American Journey.” The series will bring speakers from all different backgrounds and political affiliations to Temple Israel to engage the community in discourse about relevant topics.

The series kicked off May 21 with Jeffrey Toobin, CNN’s senior legal analyst and writer for the New Yorker. It also happened to be Toobin’s birthday.

Toobin is the author of multiple books including The Nine: Inside the World of the Supreme Court and The Oath: The Obama White House and Supreme Court. His main interest, or “obsession” as he calls it, is the Supreme Court and how it is impacted by and impacts the politics of its day.

He began his presentation by discussing current presiding Supreme Court justices. He reminded the audience that the current court is comprised of five conservatives and four liberals.

“The court is narrowly but clearly divided along the same lines as the American people,” Toobin said.

He also spoke of the historical precedent for the Supreme Court being heavily influenced by public opinion. In the 1960s, for example, Toobin said the courts, despite being evenly split, supported a very liberal agenda. He also cited how the Nixon and Reagan presidencies in the 1970s and 1980s correlated with a conservative shift in the courts and in public opinion, a shift he credits largely to former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese in 1981.

Bringing it back to a more modern discussion, Toobin said we are experiencing a similar conservative shift today.

After his presentation, he took questions from the audience and signed his books in the lobby.

Shelly Segall, a Temple Israel member, said, “I thought he was great. “It was very enlightening and relevant; it was everything we expected and more.”

While most in the audience seemed to like Toobin’s presentation, some weren’t so sure about it.

“I thought it was an outdated topic,” said Michael Ginsburg of Southfield. “I thought it was irrelevant to what’s happening today, especially considering he works for CNN. I felt like he was just trying to be non-controversial the whole time.”

Despite some mixed feedback, Hilary King was pleased with the outcome of the kickoff event.

“I think it went really well,” she said. “We are reviewing names for upcoming events and are excited to do it again.”

 

Read More: Generation to generation, Temple Israel has stayed true to its ideals

 

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