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Have You Been Called?

Posted on 06/14/2013 @ 12:00 PM

I had an opportunity this week to go back 3,000 years in history: I served my first time at jury duty.

While not quite a direct parallel, I could not help but draw conclusions to the ancient legal systems, particularly the Sanhedrin – the Jewish court in Biblical times. Similar to the modern jury, a panel of people from that city would be called to make decisions on religious, political, and sometimes criminal cases. With different numbers of jurors needed for different cases – some civil matters needed only 3 local judges, while cases with national impact could call for the “grand sanhedrin” of 71 elders!

In both our modern and the ancient jury systems, a common attribute is that of multiple, equal voices. No one person is decides the fate of another, no one person’s voice is held up as more powerful than the rest. A difference, however, is that most of the panels in Biblical times were not representative of the community. They were the elders, the judges, the learned men. In the modern United States system, jurors are “everyman” - - representatives of all ages, colors, genders, physical and mental abilities, careers… The idea that every voice is not only valued but required resonated strongly with me, personally and professionally.

In BBYO we aim to give our teens a taste of this equality, while balancing the needs of the majority with hearing everyone’s voice. We aim to include each voice, regardless of experience level or board position. There are different ways that things are planned in BBYO – sometimes by co-chairs, sometimes by committee, sometimes with staff/advisor leadership… We know each experience won’t meet every need, but we try to have every need met over a range of experiences. Each participant is valuable, each voice required to make up the combined experience.

While I wasn’t assigned to a case this week, I am happy to have had the opportunity to be a part of this important component of US government and modern society. I am honored to both live, and work, in a place that values the voice of the individual as much as it does that of the group.

Reporting for (Jury) duty was Rachel Meytin, Director of Panim & Jewish Enrichment

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