Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, applauded the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court finding – in Zivotofsky v. Clinton – that it is appropriate for the federal courts to determine whether Jerusalem-born American citizens can list Israel as their birthplace on their U.S. passport. Until now, lower federal courts have ruled that the judicial branch cannot rule on this controversy, arguing that it is a political struggle – over Middle East politics – between the Congress and the president. However as Chief Justice Roberts clarified today, it is in fact simply an issue of statutory interpretation, rather than politics or foreign policy, and the courts are suited to that task.
The case involves Menachem Zivotofsky, the son of two American citizens residing in Jerusalem, who was born in Jerusalem and thus entitled to a U.S. passport. In 1995, Congress passed legislation saying the U.S. should recognize a united Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Shortly before Menachem’s birth in 2002, lawmakers passed new provisions urging the president to take steps to move the embassy to Jerusalem and allowing Americans born in Jerusalem to have their place of birth listed as Israel. Zivotofsky sued the State Department to implement this law.
This case was heard before the Supreme Court in November 2011. The Orthodox Union joined in an amicus brief together with the Anti-Defamation League, the newly formed “Association of Proud American Citizens Born in Jerusalem” and others is support of the petitioners. The Zivotofskys were represented by the eminent Nathan Lewin and Alyza Lewin.
Nathan Diament, OU Executive Director for Public Policy stated:
“The Orthodox Union is very pleased with this resounding 8-1 ruling by the Supreme Court. The Jewish connection to Jerusalem and Jerusalem’s place within in Israel are both historic and holy. The Congress has recognized this through several duly enacted statutes, including the one involved in today’s court case. With the ruling by the high court, Congressional policy on Jerusalem, ignored by successive Administrations, will get its day in court.”