Louis Begley denies that anti-Semitism played any part in the hiring of law school graduates in the 1950s and ’60s. When asked to respond to the fact that I was turned down by every white-shoe law firm, despite being first in my class at Yale and editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal, his response was the following: “I think you are beating a dead horse here. I was not an object of anti-Semitism. … I don’t know about Alan Dershowitz. Maybe it had to do with Alan Dershowitz.” (The American Lawyer, The Careerist: Louis Begley on Law, Anti-Semitism and Sex, By Vivia Chen, Nov. 28, 2016.)
This snide comment doesn’t take into account the fact that only one of the 32 law firms to which I applied even interviewed me. Yes, “it had to do with Alan Dershowitz”—my obviously Jewish last name. Maybe Begley didn’t experience anti-Semitism because his family changed their name from Betleiter to the very Waspy name he now has. Perhaps if his family had retained their Jewish-sounding last name, he would have experienced anti-Semitism. The question I have for him is: “If there was no anti-Semitism back then, why did his family feel it necessary to change their beautiful Jewish name?”
In an age of growing anti-Semitism around the world and on university campuses, it is insensitive to regard accusations of anti-Semitism as beating a dead horse.
Alan M. Dershowitz
Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus
Harvard Law School