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Michael (Avi)


Senior Research Fellow

Dr. Michael (Avi) Helfand is a Senior Fellow of the Kogod Research Center at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America. He is currently the Brenden Mann Foundation Chair in Law and Religion and Co-Director of the Nootbaar Institute for Law, Religion and Ethics at Pepperdine Caruso School of Law as well as Florence Rogatz Visiting Professor at Yale Law School.

Avi received his J.D. from Yale Law School and his Ph.D. in Political Science from Yale University. A frequent author and lecturer, his work considers how the state treats religious law, custom and practice.

Avi’s academic articles have appeared in numerous law journals, including the Yale Law Journal and the New York University Law Review. He also often provides commentary on clashes between law and religion, writing for various general audience publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and the Forward, and has provided legal commentary for various news outlets, including the New York Times, PBS, and Huffington Post.

In addition to his academic work, Avi is Senior Legal Advisor to the Orthodox Union’s Teach Coalition and an executive board member of the Beth Din of America, where he also serves as a consultant on the enforceability of rabbinical arbitration agreements and awards in U.S. courts.

Jul 22, 2024

Exploring what it means for Jews to be American and investigating the nature of our civic obligations to others.

Michael (Avi) Helfand


Apr 12, 2024

Senior fellow Michael Avi Helfand explains why this ruling matters.

Sep 15, 2023

Social media is a powerful tool to lobby for Jewish divorce. A court nearly took it away.

Jul 12, 2023

A decision that significantly expanding the federal protections afforded religious employees in the workplace.

May 25, 2023

A group of Jewish parents and schools are fighting California for equal access to government money

Apr 26, 2023

How far must employers go to accommodate religious employees in the workplace? 

Apr 14, 2023

A New York State court ruling vindicates the principle of parental authority in education.

Apr 6, 2023

Dec 7, 2022

SCOTUS hears the case of a web designer refusing to work with same-sex couples, only 4 years after the Colorado “baker case.”

Sep 21, 2022

What are the constitutional limits on government regulation of religious private schools?

Sep 2, 2022

YU’s constitutional claims in its case against the undergraduate LGBTQ club are strong, but it’s not clear that SCOTUS will choose to intervene.

Jun 30, 2022

The ruling walks the line between ensuring all citizens are both free to exercise their faith and free from religious coercion.

Jun 22, 2022

Supreme Court issued a landmark decision prohibiting government from excluding religion and religious institutions from government funding programs.

May 23, 2022

Disputes over the business of kashrut have become a regular feature on the dockets of U.S. courts.

Feb 28, 2022

When it comes to matters of church and state, Judge Jackson’s record is sparse — she has not issued a significant number of opinions on hot-button topics.

Dec 5, 2021

Michael (Avi) Helfand, Nathan J. Diament

Organizations that get state money shouldn’t have to disavow their faith.

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The End of Policy Substance in Israel Politics