Noy Naaman ’17 LL.M.
2016–2017 Human Rights Fellow
Last year, a 16-year-old Israeli teenager marching in the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade was fatally stabbed by an antigay protester. For Noy Naaman ’17 LL.M., the incident meant that his home country, despite its reputation as the most progressive country in the Middle East, still has a ways to go regarding rights for the LGBT community, especially for its youth.
“Most of the legal battles of the LGBT movement in Israel have been for the benefit of adults,” he says. “This invisibility of LGBT youth raises questions I want to explore.”
Naaman is doing just that, and more, as a Human Rights Fellow at Columbia Law School. He hopes to use the year in Morningside Heights to develop his research and contribute to the legal discourse on LGBT rights for youth. Having also advocated for victims of poverty and domestic violence, he also wants to engage in seminars on a variety of human rights issues. “When I explored the law schools in the U.S., I discovered that Columbia has a great Human Rights Institute, and many professors whose articles I’d read,” he says. “I was inspired by that and wanted to come work with them.”
Prior to earning his law degree at Tel Aviv University, Naaman did his mandatory military service, serving in the Israeli Air Force. He worked as an air force traffic controller and an intelligence researcher. “Serving in the army is a huge responsibility, and was an integral part of my life,” he says.
In law school, Naaman balanced his academic research with clinical work. In one such experience, he helped file a petition in Israel’s highest court against the state’s demand that transgender individuals undergo sex reassignment surgery as a condition for altering the stated gender on their identity cards. Following the petition, the state attorney’s office announced that the state would drop its insistence on the surgery. “This was very meaningful,” says Naaman, “because it showed how the legal system in Israel has reinforced the perception that identities such as transgender are unacceptable.”
Naaman honed his litigation skills at a law firm in Tel Aviv prior to moving to New York City. But he’d like to keep his career options open. He hopes to stay in New York after graduation to work at a human rights organization, and may consider academia long-term.