February 28, 2020

Merrick Garland’s Jewish family: Matzah, prayer shawls and Democratic Party politics

Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the sudden death last month of Justice Antonin Scalia, is a renowned jurist on the U.S. Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C., Circuit, a Harvard Law graduate and a Jew.

Garland’s family fled anti-Semitism in Russia at the beginning of the twentieth century and he was raised in Chicago in a Conservative Jewish community. His mother, born Shirley Horowitz, was director of volunteer services at Chicago’s Council for Jewish Elderly, according to “>Samuel Rosenman — Lynn’s grandfather — was born in 1896. Samuel Rosenman was a leading Democratic Party figure in the early 20th century and was one of America’s most prominent Jews at the time.

He fought for the U.S. Army in World War I, graduated from Columbia Law School in 1919, became a Democratic representative in the New York State Assembly in the 1920s, served as a justice for the New York Supreme Court from 1936 to 1943, and was a leading advisor and speechwriter for Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. He also edited “The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt,” an invaluable source for historians studying Roosevelt’s New Deal.

A Jewish Telegraphic Agency article from October 1933 portrayed Rosenman’s close relationship with Roosevelt, and described Rosenman as somewhat of a champion for liberal causes in the 1920s while in New York’s legislature for things like renter protection, minimum wage laws and New York’s state park system.

In March 1932, when Roosevelt was New York’s governor, he successfully appointed Rosenman to the state’s Supreme Court and described the act as “cutting off my right arm.”

“During the past three years Mr. Rosenman has been of very intimate and essential help to me personally in the conduct of the administration,” Roosevelt said. “His wide knowledge of the law is combined with a liberal social viewpoint on all problems of modern government.”

Lynn, 55, married Garland at New York’s Harvard Club on Sept. 20, 1987, according to a wedding announcement from The New York Times. She is a graduate of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and at the time worked for a defense contractor in a Virginia suburb outside Washington, D.C.

While Garland has climbed even higher on the judicial ladder than his wife’s grandfather, his odds of reaching the Supreme Court during Obama’s term appear slim. Following Scalia’s death last month at a ranch in Texas, Senate Republicans have vowed they will not hold hearings on any Obama nominee, arguing that the fate of the Supreme Court should be left up to voters in November.