The Illinois Supreme Court has upheld the so-called “Jewish Clause” in a will of a deceased Chicago dentist who wanted to disinherit any children or grandchildren who failed to marry a Jew. Max Feinberg’s will will result in four grandchildren being disinherited.
Feinberg allowed grandchild to marry a non-Jew so long as the person converted within a year. His wife Erla could have gotten around the restriction but decided to enforce it against the grandchildren.
To make matters worse for the family, two of the grandchildren accused the Feinbergs’ daughter, Leila Taylor, of misusing $1.6 million in funds for her own benefit. Taylor then sought to dismiss the complaint by noting that the grandchildren had no standing because they married non-Jews.
The Illinois Supreme Court ruled “[b]ecause a testator or the settlor of a trust is not a state actor, there are no constitutional dimensions to his choice of beneficiaries. Equal protection does not require that all children be treated equally; due process does not require notice of conditions precedent to potential beneficiaries; and the free exercise clause does not require a grandparent to treat grandchildren who reject his religious beliefs and customs in the same manner as he treats those who conform to his traditions.”
I agree with the decision, even though I find the views of Feinberg and his wife to be offensive and filled with prejudice. While I grew up in a devout Catholic family, I (and one of my brothers) married Jewish women and there was never anything but joy that we found the “right girl.” Our parents were more concerned about our happiness and felt that God would want the same thing.
The family insists (here) that the objection to the will is simply a case of “political correctness.” I would call it something a bit more than that. Most parents and grandparents are more concerned about their children finding someone who they love and allowing them to find their own path to a fulfilling faith. However, these parents have a right to impose their own idiosyncratic demands on their children, so long as it complies with the criminal law and such property doctrines as the Rules Against Perpetuities. It was Max’s money and he should be allowed to control its distribution.
Max Feinberg, therefore, succeeds on a posthumous basis to show that he had every right to be prejudicial and cruel to his descendants.
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