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Broyde named one of America's top 50 rabbis
By April L. Bogle | Emory Law | Mar 20, 2013 12:03:00 AM

Michael J. Broyde, a professor of law at Emory University and a senior fellow of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion (CSLR), has been named one of America’s top 50 rabbis by Newsweek magazine. Broyde ranked 37th on the list, which was released today. 

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Ordained (yoreh yoreh ve-yadin yadin) as a rabbi by Yeshiva University in 1988 and 1991, respectively, Broyde is a preeminent scholar of Jewish law who was a finalist in the recent search to replace Jonathan Sacks as chief rabbi of the United Kingdom. He is a widely sought international lecturer and the author of eight books and more than 100 book chapters and articles on how Jewish law and the Jewish community function in modern times. 

This is the seventh year Newsweek has issued the top 50 list, which was originated by Gary Ginsberg, executive vice president of Time Warner Inc., and Michael Lynton, CEO of Sony Corp. America, who both continue to play a major role in weighing the roster and rankings. Others on the selection panel included author/journalist Abigail Pogrebin and writer Gabrielle Birkner.

Birkner says the committee made its selection primarily on the “magnitude with which their [the rabbis'] ideas are shaping the Jewish landscape.”

Emory Law Dean Robert Schapiro says Broyde is a major player in this regard. “Michael is an outstanding scholar, teacher, and colleague. The range of his accomplishments, both inside and outside of the academy, is breathtaking.  His pathbreaking work illuminates some of today’s most pressing issues by engaging the intersection of tradition and contemporary society.”

CSLR Director John Witte, Jr., Jonas Robitscher Professor of Law and Alonzo L. McDonald Distinguished Professor, describes Broyde as “a brilliant bridge builder across the disciplines of law, theology, and ethics, and a skillful navigator of the complex and sometimes dangerous interactions among Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.” 

International, National and Local Influence

On the lecture circuit, Broyde travels to Beijing, Hong Kong, Israel, London, and several U.S. cities each year. Next month, he speaks at the University of Illinois at Chicago about the challenges of integrating religious law into the American legal system, and at Hendrix College in Arkansas about the Jewish tradition and American civil rights.

In addition to his teaching duties at Emory Law, Broyde serves the academic community as a CSLR senior fellow and a professor at Emory’s Tam Institute for Jewish Studies, and the legal community as a member (dayan) of the Beth Din of America, the largest Jewish law court in America.

Broyde helped revitalize the Beth Din of America in 1995 and has served either as director or as a dayan ever since. In that role, he is responsible for writing legal decisions for the cases on which he sits, supervising conversions in 10 U.S. southern states, and serving as an appellate dayan.  In 1994, Broyde founded the Young Israel of Toco Hills Atlanta, a Modern Orthodox synagogue, and served as the first Rabbi until 2008.

Broyde was born in New York City in 1964 and received both rabbinic and secular education. He studied biology and biochemistry at Yeshiva University, and earned initial ordination (yoreh yoreh) and second ordination (yadin yadin), and became a member of the Gruss post-semicha advanced kollel before entering law school at New York University. While at NYU, he served as editor of the NYU Law Review, and as a research assistant for John Sexton (now NYU president) and David Leebron (now Rice University president). He clerked for Judge Leonard Garth of the U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit, before joining Emory.