Elena Kagan 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
WASHINGTON - President Obama's US Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan cracked a Jewish joke Tuesday after receiving some pointed questions during her confirmation hearing from Republican senators.
When Kagan was asked where she was on Christmas, the day of an aborted airline bomb attempt, she replied to an explosion of laughter: "Like all Jews, I was probably at a Chinese restaurant."
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Kagan also told US senators of the significance of the State of Israel to her during her confirmation testimony Tuesday.
"I don't think it's a secret I am Jewish. The state of Israel has meant a lot to me and my family," she said.
Her comments came in response to criticism of her praise of former Israeli supreme court president Aharon Barak, whom Republicans have criticized as
being activist and raising doubts about how strictly Kagan would interpret the US Constitution if confirmed.
"I admire Justice Barak for what he's done for the state of Israel and ensuring an independent judiciary," she said.
"He was central in creating an independent judiciary for Israel and in ensuring that Israel - a young nation, a nation threatened from its very beginning in existential ways and a nation without a written constitution - he was central in ensuring that Israel, with all those kinds of liabilities, would become a very strong rule of law nation," she continued.
But she stressed that she would not look to his judicial method as a model, saying her admiration didn't stem from his judicial philosophy or specific decisions.
Kagan called Barak "my judicial hero" and said he was the judge "in my
lifetime whom I think best represents and has best advanced the values
of democracy and human rights, of the rule of law and of justice" when
introducing him before an awards ceremony in 2006. The comments, which
she delivered while dean of Harvard Law School, have been widely cited
at the hearings, which began Monday, by Republicans.
At another point, she noted, "I gave introductions to many, many people.
If any of you came to Harvard Law School, I would have given you a
great introduction too."