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Menachem Elon

Menachem Elon
Former Deputy President Supreme Court of Israel
Native name מנחם אלון
Born (1923-11-01)November 1, 1923
Düsseldorf, Germany
Died February 6, 2013(2013-02-06) (aged 89)
Jerusalem, Israel
Nationality Israeli
Alma mater
Occupation Jurist
Religion Judaism
Spouse(s) Ruth Elon (Buchsbaum)

Menachem Elon (Hebrew   ) (November 1, 1923 – February 6, 2013) was an Israeli jurist and Professor of Law specializing in Mishpat Ivri, Orthodox rabbi, and a prolific author on traditional Jewish law (halakha). He was the head of the Jewish Law Institute of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Elon served as a justice on the Israeli Supreme Court from 1977–1993 and as its Deputy President from 1988–1993. In 1983 he was a candidate for the President of the State of Israel.

Candidates for President of Israel in 1983: Prof. Menachem Elon (coalition) and MK Chaim Herzog (opposition) in Beit HaNassi in Jerusalem
Menachem Elon (sitting third from left) With Supreme Court Justices on the roof of the old Israeli Supreme Court building in the Russian Compound in Jerusalem (1992)
Professor Menachem Elon, Lecturing in the New York University
Judge Elon and Judge Shamgar
"Jerusalem Covenant" written by Elon in 1992


  • Biography 1
  • Academic career 2
  • Supreme Court of Israel 3
  • Presidential nomination 4
  • Resumption of academic career 5
  • Awards and honors 6
  • Published works 7
    • Selected works in English 7.1
    • Original writings (Hebrew) 7.2
    • Edited books 7.3
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


Menachem Fetter (later Elon) was born in Düsseldorf, Germany[1] into a religious Jewish family from Hasidic backgrounds. Elon's family fled to the Netherlands a year before the Nazism rise in Germany. In 1935 Elon's family immigrated to Palestine. In 1938 he studied Halakha (traditional Jewish law) in the Hebron Yeshiva, ordained as a rabbi by chief rabbis Ben-Zion Meir Hai Uziel and Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog. He was among the founders of a yeshiva high school Midrashiat Noam in Pardes Hanna and served for two years as a teacher there, and became one of the founders of the religious Kibbutz Tirat Zvi in the Beit She'an Valley.[2]

The Elon family, a member of the religious Zionist elite, is entrenched in the world of law, politics, Literature and halakha (Jewish religious law). In 1949 Menachem Elon married Ruth Buchsbaum, the daughter of Dr. Mordechai Buchsbaum, an Orthodox Jewish attorney and a former deputy mayor of Jerusalem. Amongst Elon's five children are Rabbi Binyamin Elon (married writer Emuna Elon), a member of Knesset and former cabinet minister (Minister of Tourism, 2001–2004) and Rabbi Mordechai Elon, the former head of Yeshivat HaKotel, Joseph ("Sefi") Elon serving as district judge in Be'er Sheva and Temporary judge of the Supreme Court of Israel (2007–2009), Ari Elon is secular and a lecturer on the Bible.

Academic career

Elon earned his diploma from the Tel Aviv School of Law and Economics in 1948. In the early 1950s he worked as an attorney in private practice while at the same time learning he completed an MA in Talmud, Jewish history, and philosophy at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 1962 he received his doctorate. In 1955 he began a parallel career as a lecturer in Hebrew law at Hebrew University, and was subsequently appointed teaching associate, senior lecturer, associate professor, and, in 1972, Professor of Jewish Law. He also served been a guest lecturer on the Faculty of Law at Oxford University, University College of London, McGill University, University of Pennsylvania and a visiting professor at Harvard University School of Law and at New York University School of Law.

In 1963 Elon was appointed head of the Institute for Research in Jewish Law at the Hebrew University and edited 10 volumes of The Annual of the Institute for Research in Jewish Law and was also editing a digest of the response of the medieval authorities. From 1968 to 1971 he served as rditor of the Division of Jewish Law of the Encyclopedia Judaica and served as the editor of the Encyclopaedia Hebraica.

He played a pivotal role in the Mishpat Ivri (Hebrew Law) movement. Among his many works, he authored the foundation work, Jewish Law : History, Sources, Principles (four volume set[3]) – monumental, three-volume book on Hebrew law for academic use and the training of Israeli law students.[4] in 1955 appointment as senior assistant to the Attorney General of Israel Haim Cohn and From 1959 to 1966 Elon was adviser on Jewish Law to the Israel Ministry of Justice, a job which included writing legal opinions based on Jewish law regarding every law proposed in Knesset. He was a member of numerous Israeli Public Inquiry committees and he served on committees to prepare legal proposals in various fields of civil law.

In 1979, Elon was awarded the Israel Prize, for Hebrew law.[5]

Supreme Court of Israel

In 1977 he was appointed to the Israeli Supreme Court. Elon's rulings often draw upon the principles of Jewish law, he sought to incorporate traditional halakha into the corpus of Israeli civil law.[6] Between Elon and former president of the Supreme Court Aharon Barak was a great debate about judicial activism. Elon criticized Barak's judicial activism.

Elon was involved in a number of important verdicts, including the acquittal of Nazi crime John Demjanjuk.

His judicial decisions include the prohibition to register the character of non-Orthodox conversions on Israeli identity cards and the return of a girl who had been transferred for adoption without her parent's consent and a decision to allow Leah Shakdiel to serve as the first woman on a local religious service committee.[7] In 1988 he ruled that active euthanasia ('mercy killing') was illegal, because it negated the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish state (Yael Shefer v. The State of Israel).

In 1988 he was promoted to the position of deputy president of the Supreme Court, under Meir Shamgar and in 1993 retired after 16 years as a justice (succeeded by Aharon Barak)

Presidential nomination

Supported by Menachem Begin and the coalition (Likud party), Elon was nearly selected as President of the State of Israel, losing in a close vote (61–57) to his childhood friend Chaim Herzog in 1983.

Resumption of academic career

After retiring from the Supreme Court in 1993, he was elected President of the World Union of Jewish Studies and served in that capacity until 2005.[8] In 1995 he founded and became first dean of Jerusalem Day the 25.

Menachem Elon died in Jerusalem in February 6, 2013 and was buried in Har HaMenuchot (Jerusalem). He was 89.

Awards and honors

Published works

Selected works in English

  • Jewish Law : History, Sources, Principles, The Jewish Publication Society, 1994. ISBN 0-8276-0389-4.
  • Decision of the Supreme Court of Israel in the Shefer Case (Yael Shefer v. The State of Israel), Falk Schlesinger Institute, 1996.
  • The Tears of the Oppressed: An Examination Of The Agunah Problem: Background And Halakhic Sources, Ktav Pub Inc, 2004.
  • The Ethiopian Jews (Bene Israel: a case study in the functioning of the Jewish legal system, New York, 1987.
  • Talmudic civil law, New York, 1984.
  • Jewish Law (Mishpat Ivri): Cases and Materials, Published by LexisNexi, New York, 1999.

Original writings (Hebrew)

  • The Freedom of the Person of the Debtor in Jewish Law, Magnes, Jerusalem, 1964.
  • Legislation in the Laws of the State of Israel and Within the Jurisdiction of the Civil and Rabbinical Courts, Published by Religious Kibbutz Movement, 1968.
  • Mishpat Ivri – The sources and nature of Jewish law and its application in the state of Israel, Magnes, Jerusalem, 1973.
  • Human Dignity and Freedom in the Methods of Enforcement of Judgments – The Values of a Jewish and Democratic State, Magnes, Jerusalem, 1999.
  • The Status of Women – Law and Jurisdict, Tradition and transition, Press The Kibbutz Consolidated, Tel Aviv, 2005.

Edited books

  • Digest of Responsa Literature of Spain and North Africa, Publisher The Hebrew University Magnes Press Ltd, Jerusalem, 1981.
  • Indices to the Responsa of Jewish Law: The Responsa of R. Asher ben Jehiel, Publisher The Hebrew University Magnes Press Ltd, Jerusalem, 1965.
  • Indices to the Responsa of Jewish Law: The Responsa of R. Yom Tov Asevilli, Publisher The Hebrew University Magnes Press Ltd, Jerusalem, 1973.
  • Indices to the Responsa of Jewish Law: The Responsa of R. Judah ben Asher, Publisher The Hebrew University Magnes Press Ltd, 1973.
  • The Principles of Jewish Law, Keter Publishing House, Jerusalem, 1975.

See also


  1. ^ 'The Kennedys of the religious Zionist camp', Haaretz, 17 February 2010
  2. ^ Retired Justice Menachem Elon Dies at 90
  3. ^ Translated from the Hebrew by Bernard Auerbach and Melvin Sykes
  4. ^ 'Elon's Contributions to Israeli Jurisprudence Immeasurable'
  5. ^ "Israel Prize Official Site – Recipients in 1979 (in Hebrew)". 
  6. ^ ‘Our teacher’ Menachem Elon By BERNARD AUERBACH
  7. ^ ‘Our teacher’ Menachem Elon
  8. ^ Justice Menachem Elon, Israel Prize laureate and world renowned Jewish Law professor passes away at 89
  9. ^ 'The Master of Jewish Jurisprudence'
  10. ^ Book awards: National Jewish Book Award
  11. ^ Zeltner Prize
  12. ^ Prize acceptance speech (in Hebrew)
  13. ^ received Honorary Degrees from Bar-Ilan University
  14. ^ Knight of Quality Government
  15. ^ award Recipients of Yakir Yerushalayim award (in Hebrew)

External links

  • Articles By Menachem Elon ) My Jewish Learning
  • Medicine, Halacha, and Law The Values of a Jewish and Democratic State By Prof. Menachem Elon ) The Schlesinger Institute
  • ‘Our teacher’ Menachem Elon- By Bernard Auerbach] ) The Jerusalem Post
  • thank you to Rabbi David Hartman, Dr. Menachem Elon- By Avi Weiss ) The Jerusalem Post
  • PM Netanyahu Sends Condolence Letter to the Family of Prof. Menachem Elon ) Israeli Prime Minister's Office
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