Chabad Lawyer Mediates Between Inuit Tribes in Alaska – and Keeps Kosher

Nice article on David Voluck, tribal court judge in Alaska, and what inspires him to do the work he does.

Full article here.

Some excerpts from the article:

“So, there are two ‘weird’ things about David Voluck,” he continued, laughing impishly, as is his habit. “Well, probably more than two, but two really weird things. First, I’m an observant Jew, which is not commonplace in Alaska. I’m also a tribal judge, the state’s only non-Native tribal judge — at least that I know of.

Indeed, Voluck stands as one of the country’s foremost authorities on the subject of Alaska Native tribal law — an author of “Alaska Natives and American Laws 2nd and 3rd Edition,” he literally wrote the book on it (well, co-wrote). In addition to maintaining a small legal practice and an adjunct faculty position at Northwestern School of Law at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, Voluck currently presides over the Tlingit (pronounced “Clink-get”) & Haida tribal court in southeast Alaska and the Aleut community tribal court of St. Paul in the Pribilof Islands. He has also worked with the Athabasca, Inupiat, Alutiiq and Yupik tribes and is currently helping to establish a tribal court on Kodiak Island. . . .

Raised in a Conservative “but not terribly religious” household, Voluck graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1992, with a B.A. in sociology of religion, before studying environmental law at Lewis and Clark Law School. He soon threw himself headlong into environmentalism.

“There I was, demonstrating, hugging trees, chaining myself to bulldozers. But I could see I didn’t have the same fire as everyone else. In other words, this wasn’t the song I was looking for.”

Then, a friend recruited him for a legal internship representing the Tlingit & Haida in Sitka. As the tribe’s legal counsel, Voluck found he’d stumbled upon the human, cultural and spiritual side of environmentalism.

“Now, I started hearing the song,” he said. “From then on, Indian law became my obsession.”

Through his burgeoning relationship with Alaska Native populations, Voluck also began sensing parallels between their culture and his own. Every day, he told me, one tribal elder in particular would visit him, “and every day, he’d say the same thing: ‘David, our culture, our language, our heritage is very important; you must help us.’” . . .

And while practicing Judaism as a traveling circuit judge in one of the least inhabited regions on earth remains challenging, Voluck seems determined to continue what he considers his singular contribution to tikkun olam.

“Everywhere on earth, indigenous peoples are sustaining a massive assault on their survival,” he said. “And if there’s one group that’s figured out how to weather massive assaults on their survival, it’s the Jews.”




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