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Great Jewish Heroes | Unpacked

The first Jewish U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Louis Brandeis, was born in 1865 in Louisville, Kentucky to Jewish German immigrants. Brandeis grew up assimilated into American life and knew more about his German roots than his Jewish ones.

Graduating first in his class from Harvard Law at the age of 20, Brandeis worked as a lawyer and was a leading reformer, fighting against poverty and injustice and defending equality and workers’ rights.

While defending Jewish workers, Brandeis connected with his own Jewish heritage. Upon learning about Theodor Herzl’s call for a Jewish state in response to antisemitism and assimilation, Brandeis began to rally Jewish Americans around Zionism and support for Israel.

Though asked to lead the American Zionist Movement, Brandeis instead chose to be an advocate for Zionism and American Jews by becoming a supreme court justice and remained a vocal supporter of Jewish dual loyalty.