Just A Dude In A Fancy Suit

Two weeks ago I attended the 13th Annual Cardozo Society Dinner, sponsored by the Twin Cities Jewish Federations. It was weird being at an event with so many amazing people; I felt a little guilty. It was a room full of Jewish lawyers, all smart, motivated people; and me, just some dude in a fancy suit.
Officially, the Twin Cities Cardozo Society is an affinity group for Jewish attorneys, judges and law students, affiliated through the Minneapolis Jewish Federation and Jewish Federation of Greater St. Paul. Its mission is to strengthen bonds among legal professionals through educational, social and philanthropic activities, as well as communal involvement and opportunities for leadership roles.
Unofficially, it’s a giant Jewish schmoozefest. Case in point: I walk up to the registration table to get my nametag and right away start chatting with the lady sitting beneath the M-R sign. I walk in, get my free glass of wine, and start talking to some guy about divorce law. Divorce law! Another guy hands me his business card. Another guy shakes my hand then gets distracted by someone else shaking his hand. A friend of my parents walks in; I talk to him about something—the Timberwolves maybe—at this point things are starting to blend together. Then my rabbi walks in! Maybe I talked to him about the Timberwolves and I talked to the divorce law guy about how teaching at Bet Shalom is going. I must’ve talked to business card guy about something, but I can’t remember. I get my free glass of wine (again). They flicker the lights and ask people to start heading into the ballroom for dinner.
Nobody moves.
Seriously. In a room of 600 people you’d think someone would’ve put food over talk, but apparently not. At this point I’m thinking about food, but I’m representing TC Jewfolk, I’m not gonna be the weirdo who walks into a gigantic ballroom by myself.
Finally though, they get everyone to sit down. They serve the salad. They take the salad away. And everyone’s on their feet again. But this time the free wine is in a bottle on the table, so I elect to chat up my fellow tablemates. Before I get to the wine someone comes over and hands me another business card, and here I am talking about this guy’s recent trip to Cozumel. (How does this happen?!)
Then the program starts, and a number of incredible people received formal recognition at the event. A couple old Jewish lawyers received lifetime achievement awards; inspiring, touching, but kind of boring. Just being honest.
The Arthur T. Pfefer Memorial Award recognizes a young attorney or law student who exemplifies outstanding leadership and commitment to the Jewish and general communities. This year it went to Robert Goldaris, a student training to be a Judge Advocate in the Marine Corps. These guys. (That’s a link to JAG, guys! JAG! Did anyone watch that show ever? How did it last for TEN YEARS?)
Talk about a guy that inspires humility. The Marine Corps is the only branch of the US Military that trains its Judge Advocates just like any other officer. So Bobby Goldaris (as the kids call him) goes through boot camp and basic training for a day job. Then, while his buddies are out drinking, or having push-up contests, or whatever the few and the proud do in their spare time, Bobby goes off to William Mitchell College of Law and learns how to be a lawyer. Forget the Navy SEALs, guys like Bobby are the real heroes. I mean it. (OK, they’re both heroes.)
Then Dennis Ross took the stage:

Ambassador Ross is counselor at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. For more than 12 years, he played the leading role in shaping U.S. involvement in the Middle East peace process and in dealing directly with the negotiations. A highly skilled diplomat, Ambassador Ross was a key strategist in both the Bush and Clinton administrations for exploring all avenues and approaches to settling this age-old conflict. As the architect of the peace process dating back to Oslo, he was instrumental in assisting the Israelis and Palestinians in reaching the 1995 Interim Agreement, and he successfully brokered the Hebron Accord in 1997. He facilitated the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty and intensively worked to bring Israel and Syria together.

Yeah, he didn’t talk about any of that. Not that his talk was boring, but in a room full of Jews he talked about two things: Egypt, and Iran. Relevant sure, but he didn’t discuss the Palestinians at all. This guy helped shaped the Oslo Accords! C’mon Ross, get your head in the game! Maybe he felt that what he had to say wouldn’t be appreciated by what was likely a largely staunch pro-Israel crowd. Who knows.
He still did have interesting things to say. He had a few nice things to say about the Muslim Brotherhood, but the Muslim Brotherhood, he said, definitely has an agenda. They advocate Jihad, they spew anti-Semitic remarks, they deny certain realities about Egypt’s standing in the world. However, he said, Egyptian President Morsi understands that in order to maintain power they have to do something about the economy, they have to help their people in a way that Mubarak didn’t. Ross laid out steps that must be taken by the Egyptian government, including respecting the peace treaty with Israel, and strong-arming Hamas (which, Ross says, is essentially a subsidiary of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood) into not attacking Israel.
On the topic of Iran, Ross mentioned very little in the context of what their actions mean for Israel. His main point was that sometime in 2013 things in Iran will come to a head. The leaders of the government are fighting with each other, the Ayatollah’s claims that this is all America’s fault aren’t sticking, and they’re close enough to a nuclear bomb that some action will need to be taken. This was before the election, and Ross made it clear that both candidates argued for a policy of prevention (i.e. preventing Iran from getting a bomb) over containment (keeping their nuclear program small and contained). Ross still believes that diplomacy can work; but, he says, if it doesn’t work by the end of 2013, he doesn’t see how the United States can’t use force against Iran to stop them from acquiring a nuclear bomb.
Finally, he said, “Israel is, and will remain, a pillar in our (the United States’) policy in the region; not just because of our values, but also our interests.” Israel is the United States’ only friend in the Middle East, they’re our only eyes and ears into the region; without Israel, this entire tense and hostile region is dark to us.
It was a nice evening, with friendly people and interesting speakers. Even though I never intend to be a lawyer, it was an event worth putting a suit on for.
*The FTC made me do it: Disclosure of Material Connection: TC Jewfolk received a free ticket to the Cardozo Annual Dinner in the hope that we would mention it on TC Jewfolk. But getting the ticket for free doesn’t mean that we were obligated to give a glowing review. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”