Balancing Pulpit & Public Service

Prominent New York Judicial Officer and Government Attorney Receives Rabbinical Ordination, Balances Pulpit & Public Service

Longtime government attorney David Evan Markus is accustomed to competing demands in New York’s judicial and legislative branches of government.  After six years of study, on January 11, 2015, Markus was ordained as a rabbi byALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal.  With his ordination, Markus joins Rabbi Shohama Harris Wiener (ALEPH Head of Spiritual Direction) as co-rabbis of Temple Beth-El of City Island (Bronx, New York), a synagogue where Markus has served as associate spiritual leader since 2012.

With his ordination, Markus becomes one of the few public officers in the United States to simultaneously perform public duties and serve as an active congregational rabbi.

Markus said, “I feel a profound mix of humility and gratitude.  In the Judiciary, I’ve had outstanding mentors in Chief Judges Judith S. Kaye and Jonathan Lippman, and Court of Appeals Judge Albert M. Rosenblatt.  In their example, I’ve dedicated my career to the people of New York and her aspiration of ethical public service.  My years as legislative counsel, policy manager, judicial officer and now clergy all reflect my commitment to civic pluralism.  Each of these is another form oftikkun olam – the ancient Jewish value of helping to repair the world.”

Markus continued, “My ordination confirms two parallel and separate commitments – one to our justice system, and the other to the realm of emotional and spiritual community.  Our Constitution and enduring values require that these commitments be parallel yet separate.  My various forms of public service will help fulfill that intention.”

As a dual-track professional, Markus has taken great care to uphold the separation of church and state, and to honor in each realm the ethical and practical restraints of the other, under the guidance of the Advisory Committee on Judicial Ethics.  For instance, due to ethical rules governing judicial conduct, Markus can’t take public positions on most policy issues from the pulpit or fundraise for any sectarian cause.  Likewise, Markus must comport his judicial service in a manner that avoids any appearance of conflating his pulpit role with his judicial role.  For instance, to avoid conflicts of interest in cases coming before him in his judicial capacity, Markus obtained his chaplaincy experience at a hospital outside the State of New York.

Markus earned his rabbinical ordination in Jewish Renewal’s ALEPH seminary, a 180-credit program combining live semester courses, tutorials and intensives, while working full-time for the State of New York.  His six years of rabbinical study began while he served as senior counsel to the New York Senate (2009-10), continued when he served as Special Counsel under the Chief Judge of New York (2011-13), and concluded during his present service as Court Attorney-Referee presiding in New York Supreme Court, Ninth Judicial District (2011-present).

In his government roles, Markus was a lead litigator in the 2009 historic battle for control of the New York Senate.  In Albany, Markus has focused on constitutional reform, judicial and legal affairs, expanding State commitment to civil legal services and enhancing Family Court.  In the Judiciary, Markus was counsel for the New York Commission on the Future of Indigent Defense Services and helped lead the Judiciary’s legislative program.  Markus previously served as lead voting rights staff for a major presidential campaign, and as professor at Fordham and Pace Universities teaching administrative law, public policy and political science.

In clergy service, Markus is co-rabbi of Temple Beth El of City Island Temple Beth-El of City Island, an independent synagogue dedicated to inclusive and joyful Judaism through spiritual music and liturgical innovation.  Markus also serves as Vice Chair and General Counsel of ALEPH: the Alliance for Jewish Renewal, as syndicated blogger for My Jewish Learning, and as faculty for ALEPH.  Markus also is an ordained mashpia (spiritual director) and maintains a private practice in that field.

Markus earned his Juris Doctor magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, and his Masters in Public Policy from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, which bestowed on him the alumni designation of global Innovator in Public Service.  Markus earned his Bachelor of Arts summa cum laude from Williams College.