Three Northern Virginia attorneys are trying to put together an alternative trip to Israel following the Virginia State Bar’s controversial decision in March to cancel its Midyear Legal Seminar in the country that was to have taken place this November.
Reston lawyer Jay B. Myerson confirmed that he is attempting to organize the trip with fellow Bar members William Schmidt of Fairfax City and Sharon Lieblich of Alexandria. They are in the early stages of planning what they hope will be a November visit to Israel with about 30 to 40 participants.
“We need to get the critical mass of 30. We’ve just started recruiting individuals to go, attorneys to go, and we are currently I guess at about 14,” Myerson said.
Myerson, also a member of the Virginia Israel Advisory Board, said they have reached out to Ralph Robbins, executive director of VIAB, a state agency that promotes business ties between the Commonwealth and Israel.
The itinerary could include meetings with past and present members of the Knesset and Israeli Supreme Court, and a visit with the Israel Bar Association.
The Jewish National Fund was already planning its first Lawyers for Israel Tour, set to take place this November, when its leaders heard about the Virginia State Bar situation.
New York-based attorney and trip co-chair Deborah Reigel sent a letter in April on behalf of JNF inviting former Virginia State Bar President Kevin E. Martingayle on the JNF trip (Fairfax Attorney Edward L. Weiner was sworn in June 19 as Virginia State Bar president for the 2015-2016 term). She did not receive a reply from Martingayle.
“I think the fact that he couldn’t even be bothered to respond to my email speaks volumes as to the real underpinning of that decision, which was essentially the Virginia State Bar taking a BDS position,” Reigel said, adding that she thought it should have been a membership decision, not a leadership decision.
So far, no Virginia lawyers have committed to the JNF trip out of 18 people signed up. However, JNF trip organizers hope that some Virginia lawyers will sign up, according to JNF National Affinity Groups Manager Jessica Schwartz Shapiro.
Shapiro has been in talks with Robin Mancoll, director of the Community Relations Council at the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater in Virginia Beach, about possibly incorporating Continuing Legal Education (CLE) courses into the mission for Virginia State Bar members.
The JNF trip will include a meeting with Israel Supreme Court Justice Yoram Danziger and a visit to the Jaffa Port studios of i24news, where participants will meet with the chief legal analyst and anchors at Israel’s first 24-hour TV news network.