I am sitting in the jury pool chambers in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas awaiting the possibility of being interviewed and picked to serve on a jury. The response by people this week to my statement that “I have jury duty” was a smile and almost unanimous “couldn’t you get out of it?”
My father of blessed memory was a prosecutor and judge. I grew up surrounded by police officers and the criminal justice system. Police officers were not only friends, but part of our extended family. I knew them by name and they knew me. I felt safe and knew that whenever needed they would be there to protect us. I have always had confidence in the court system as a bedrock of our democratic society and felt compelled to reaffirm that by my presence today in the jury pool chambers and not seek some backdoor connection to excuse me.
Whether I am empaneled to sit on a jury doesn’t change my respect for the system. Equally important is my role as Rabbi of Tree of Life. If the spiritual leader of a faith community finds a way to escape fulfilling his civic responsibility, what example does that set for all of his congregants? We are demanded to vigorously pursue justice - Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof- in the Torah. How do we actively provide for justice if we only seek ways to avoid it? While I cannot know the outcome of my presence here today at this early hour, I hope that my father is smiling now, because the system still works.
Postscript: I was discharged from jury duty.