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My Mother, the Jew Judge

By Lauren R. Taylor

For the first few hours after the shooting at the Holocaust Museum, my reaction was like that of almost everyone else: horrified, sad, angry. I followed the news on the web and read white supremacist James von Brunn’s screed about his 1983 trial, where he said he was “convicted by a Negro jury, Jew/Negro attorneys, and sentenced to prison for eleven years by a Jew judge. A Jew/Negro/White Court of Appeals denied his appeal.”

Then I found out that the “Jew judge” was my mother. Suddenly, it was more personal. This guy is a hater, and he is mentally ill. He represented himself during the trial. What had my mother gone through? I would like to ask her what it was like, being in that room with a man who hated her, who had guns and who was clear about his goal of ridding the country of Jews and “Negros.” She couldn’t flee, and she was compelled by her job and her values to treat this man respectfully and fairly.

But my mother died more than a decade ago, so instead I talked about it with my friends, including those on Facebook. Some people seemed worried. Should I be telling the world about this? Would I be “inviting” some other right-wing -- possibly mentally ill -- person to target me?

During the Holocaust, U.S. slavery and other persecutions throughout history, some people survived by hiding. Others survived by standing up. In general, I try to be one of the latter group. Whether you’re dealing with a relatively isolated individual, like von Brunn, an organized movement, like the Ku Klux Klan, or a pervasive social practice, like street harassment, I may save my skin by hiding, but the emotional, spiritual and physical violence will go on. And my life will be smaller.

So, yeah, my mom was the “Jew judge.” And I think of her in that courtroom, listening to the hate directed at her and those around her, and how she tried to be a conduit for justice.

By Lauren R. Taylor  | June 12, 2009; 8:48 PM ET
Categories:  Taylor  | Tags:  Lauren R. Taylor  
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Comments

Ms Taylor. Hooray for your Mother. She did her job. We need more like her.
Mark E. Carswell, Pembroke Pines, Fl.

Posted by: Mecarswell | June 15, 2009 5:49 AM | Report abuse

Yea, Hamlet dilemma. It is hard to REALLY stand still. Harder. There is a russian film, named "12". Relatively new. I have see it recently. Was shaked to the core. If you can find it with translation - do it - it worth time. There is an answer about how easy to feel right and how hard to do right.

Posted by: IWH_rus | June 15, 2009 5:50 AM | Report abuse

The words displayed for both discourse and introspection at the Holocaust Museum echo Mr. Taylor's and her mom's tenet(forgive if it's not exactly correct, but it's darned close): "Thou shalt not be a victim. Thou shalt not be a perpetrator. Above all, thou shalt not be a bystander."

Posted by: charlievanchocstraw | June 15, 2009 7:42 AM | Report abuse

Here's a tough question: When do we decide that someone such as this nutbar should be institutionalized?

I am neither an attorney nor a psychiatrist, but my understanding of the law is a person can be insitutionalized against their will if it can be shown they are a risk to themselves or others.

This guy had an obvious history, but was it enough to commit him. I'm guessing it wasn't, but what should the standard for "risk" be?

Does someone have to take action -- actually do what this guy did? What about someone like him who spews hate publicly, suggesting the only answer to the problems they perceive -- usally "Jews" and "blacks" -- is violence?

Everytime we see such violence, including the attacks at Columbine, Virginia Tech and elsewhere, it doesn't take more than 24 hours for researchers to uncover threats made by these indiviuduals.

I understand the need to protect people's individual rights, but I also understand the need to protect the rights of the public. Just how far do we want to go to protect ourselves from the potential daily threat to our lives from such people?

Isn't it time to have that discussion and debate?

Posted by: jsc173 | June 15, 2009 8:49 AM | Report abuse

Much as I am in sympathy with the writer, I must take exception to her use of the term
"mentally ill" to describe von Brunn's condition. Do not confuse medically determined mental illness with sickness of the soul. Just as you, a Jewish person, do not wish to be tarred with the crimes or misdeeds of another Jewish individual, the mentally ill are individuals, too. Few commit violent crimes. So please do not say, "Oh, that is so like the mentally ill, that must be what it is." Most of the mentally ill have nothing in common with this man.

Posted by: martymar123 | June 15, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Your mother's courage should be celebrated, and you are right: we all need to stand up to the bullies and bigots. This genuinely evil man was tolerated for generations until he ended the life of a good man. Tolerance is a limited virtue, it must not be extended to the point where it enables violence. Debate is warranted.

Posted by: eroot | June 15, 2009 10:41 AM | Report abuse

To me this shows how wrong it was to not allow DC to ban guns despite HELLER.It amuses me(maybe not)at Scalia's picture of the elderly lady holding a gun in one hand and calling the police with the other.

Posted by: jimsbier | June 15, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Happily, it looks like this racist psychopath is going to survive. Let him spend his remaining years in a concrete box wondering when he's going to get shanked.

Posted by: EnemyOfTheState | June 15, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Taylor,

Thanks for sharing reflections about your" JewMother," who must have been a jeweled of a mom and judge. There is nothing more powerful than humanizing the people whom others would dehumanize.

Posted by: natirvin | June 15, 2009 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Kudos to your Mom. Sad to say today's conservatives i.e. O'Reilly, Dobson (Remember Justice Sunday!)have built entire careers around attacking judges. An impartial judiciary is all we have to prevent anachary.

Posted by: MerrillFrank | June 15, 2009 5:14 PM | Report abuse

"Do not confuse medically determined mental illness with sickness of the soul."

I'd like to draw attention to the comments of martymar123, because they point out a critical distinction that is often overlooked in our society.

"Mental illness" is a catch-all term just like "physical illness." Both of these terms comprise an extensive list of individual illnesses. Physical illnesses, with which most people are more familiar, include heart disease, diabetes, cancer, multiple sclerosis, etc. Mental illnesses include depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety-related disorders, schizophrenia, etc.

You wouldn't refer to people with diabetes as "the physically ill." Why refer to people with depression as "the mentally ill"?

These illnesses are all organic; their origins are in the body, even though environmental factors may trigger onset. In no case, however, should any of these illnesses be used to define the people who suffer from them.

And, since all of them can be managed to some degree if not cured (which many can be), they should not be used to encapsulate a person's entire lifetime of experience.

Illnesses are illnesses, whether physical or mental. Let's not give them the power to define or describe others who we don't understand or are afraid of.

Posted by: kjohnson3 | June 16, 2009 12:15 AM | Report abuse

Your mom sounds wonderful.
Thank you for sharing this with us here.
It matters.

Posted by: FifthandLexington | June 16, 2009 1:06 AM | Report abuse

My daughter is a State's Attorney in the state where she lives.

When she graduated from law school I gave her a brief case with a note inside - "Seek justice" - not notches on your belt.

She has turned out to be a better person than I ever could have imagined.

:-)

Posted by: toritto | June 16, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

There are, thanks heavens!, many people like that. So my respect to your mother. I think that " The Jew mother " is a name that should be repeated with pride. Nothing demeaned in to use our race, nationality or religion in a phrase. But by the same token I feel irritated when so much noise has been made about a guy shooting in a museum when those shootings, or likes, occur everyday in many parts of America. I do not hear people complaining about the massacre of Gaza residents by Israelites (or Jews) in American newspaper. We should try to put things in perspective and not to let our sanity be clouded by isolated incidents without repercussion in the real world.

Posted by: zayxln | June 16, 2009 8:06 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Taylor: I was admitted to the DC Bar in 1979 and was in the D.C. Superior Court almost every day. I had the pleasure of appearing before your Mom many times and was sad to hear of her passing (I moved to California in the mid-90s so have been out of the loop). She was always very respectful from the bench -- and if I recall correctly, just a little bit quirky in her mannerisms -- quirky but kind. I can just see her struggling to maintain decorum and fairness in the face of such a detestable defendant. The irony here is that this guy should have thanked his lucky stars to be in front of your Mom as opposed to some of the judges he could have drawn. Thanks for letting me express the little "ah ha" moment I felt when I read of his attacks on her, and an outlet for my personal witness of her goodness, and fairness, in doing her job.

Posted by: Omyobama | June 17, 2009 12:20 AM | Report abuse

What a Joke!

Posted by: AuntHeidi | June 17, 2009 4:50 AM | Report abuse

Jewish judges for the most part are excellent jurists and legal minds, my favorite being Cardozo. Jewish politicians push the envelope too much whether Lieberman backing Dubya's Iran threat or Noach Dear gaining pork for people out of his district. Israel does have the right to defend herself, but has also committed sins against others, whether cluster bombs, starving out Gaza and the current West Bank settling. Roads to these enclaves are paved and secure while Palestinians as usual don't get equal allocation of resources in the same area. A safer Israel will happen when Palestine becomes reality and the Dome of the Rock belongs to them. Jerusalem will never be given up, but the grounds of the Dome could be Palestinian if a connecting mutually monitored tunnel from a newly built with arab oil money "New Jerusalem".

Posted by: jameschirico | June 17, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA'S APPEASEMENT FOREIGN POLICIES WEAKEN THE U.S.!!!

Coward liar Barack HUSSEIN Obama "Apologist in chief", how can he keep his nonsense promise during his campaign, that is, negotiating with U.S. enemies such as North Korea and Iran, which have never respected any treaty with U.S., especially when North Korea just launched many missile and nuclear tests and planned to fire missile toward Hawaii, not mentioning illegally arrested and sentenced two American journalists Laura Ling and Eunu Lee to twelve years of labor, while Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, an extremist who called for Israel to be wiped off the map and denied the holocaust, was just re-elected by fraud. Is Obama going to bow to Kim Jong Il and Ahmadinejas as he did to King Abdulla of Saudi Arabia to gain his peace deals? Is he willing to convert to Islam, his Kenyan father and Indonesian step father's religion, to meet Osama Bin Laden's requirement that in order to end the Iraq war, U.S. troop withdrawal is not enough, Americans must reject their democratic system and embrace Islam? Just recently, Obama said that he would support Iran's right to peaceful nuclear energy with rigorous inspections, giving a green light to Teheran's ambituous uranium enrichment program, which can be used for its discreet nuclear bomb development program as well, without suffering sanctions and economic isolation as it currently endures. Does Obama want Iran to become another North Korea using its nuclear power to terrorize the U.S and its allies? Worst still, Obama refused to show support for pro-democracy protesters and denounce the brutal regime for the deaths of seven demontrators, fearing to be seen as interfering in Iran's internal affairs so that he could not pursue a nuclear deal with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country's supreme leader. In fact, Obama sided with the regime, citing that there was not a bit of difference between the two candidates, a moderate Mir Hossein Mousavi and hardcore extremist Ahmadinejad. Is he going to turn a blind eye to another Tianamen Square massacre committed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard? As for a Palestinian state demanded by Obama, it will undoubtedly soon become a TERRORIST state under control of terrorist militant group Hamas, which is the most powerful and popular force with its goal to destroy Israel and which won a majority seats in the current Palestinian National Authority in 2006 election and ousted Fatah militant group of Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas of Gaza in 2007. Last but not least, Obama ordered to stop waterboarding tactic used by CIA, even it worked well on terrorist suspects like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-describer planner of 9-11 attacks who provided CIA with valuable information, preventing more 9-11 attacks and saving thousands of American lives.

Posted by: TIMNGUYEN1 | June 18, 2009 7:11 AM | Report abuse

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