National groups representing US Jewish women decried the Senate’s confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court Saturday, calling it a “devastating blow” to women and survivors of sexual assault.
Kavanaugh was swiftly sworn in Saturday after a deeply polarized Senate narrowly voted to add him to the bench of the highest court in the land.
The day’s events capped a fight that seized the national conversation after claims emerged that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted women three decades ago — which he emphatically denied. Those allegations magnified the clash from a routine Supreme Court struggle over judicial ideology into an angrier, more complex jumble of questions about victims’ rights, the presumption of innocence and personal attacks on nominees.
Kavanaugh, a father of two, has strenuously denied the allegations of Christine Blasey Ford, who says he sexually assaulted her when they were teens. An appellate court judge on the District of Columbia circuit for the past 12 years, he pushed for the Senate vote as hard as Republican leaders — not just to reach this capstone of his legal career, but in fighting to clear his name. The battle crested with a judiciary panel hearing in which he wavered between sobs and angry outbursts at Democratic senators.
Even before the sexual accusations grabbed the Senate’s and the nation’s attention, Democrats had argued that Kavanaugh’s rulings and writings as an appeals court judge had raised serious concerns about his views on abortion rights and a president’s right to bat away legal probes.
Citing both Kavanaugh’s response to the allegations against him and his conservative judicial bent, the National Council of Jewish Women said it was “outraged that the highest court in our nation will no longer be a place where balance and respect is given to all parties in a dispute.”
“We will now face a highly conservative court where women, survivors, and many other vulnerable people in our society can no longer look to the Supreme Court as their last hope for justice to prevail,” NCJW head Nancy Kaufman said in a statement.
Rabbi Marla J. Feldman, executive director of Women of Reform Judaism, said Kavanaugh’s confirmation was “a shameful example of the dysfunction of our leadership and the need for women to stand in solidarity behind the victims of sexual assault.”
Senators on both sides of the aisle have acknowledged that they have work to do to put the chamber back together again after a ferocious debate that saw them arguing over the sordid details of high school drinking games, sexual allegations and cryptic yearbook entries.
Feldman said her group’s outrage was directed not at Kavanaugh but “at the US Senators who allowed the hearings to devolve into partisanship and obfuscation.”
“The American people deserve better,” she said.
Rabbi Jonah Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, had denounced Kavanaugh last month, as the Senate Judiciary Committee sent Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate for a vote,
“The Reform Jewish Movement continues to believe that Judge Kavanaugh’s elevation to the Supreme Court would significantly jeopardize the most fundamental rights, rooted in our enduring Jewish values, that we have long supported,” Pesner said.
The Associated Press and JTA contributed to this report.