It was a father-son hiking trip gone terribly wrong. When they reached the mountain peak, the father tied up his son, placed him on a pile of firewood and prepared to slash the boy’s throat—until he heard a voice telling him to stop.
This week, the father—also known as the biblical patriarch Abraham —will be brought up on charges of attempted murder and endangering the welfare of his son, Isaac, in a high-profile mock trial at Temple Emanu-El synagogue in New York .
Presiding over the Old Testament-inspired case will be U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan. Representing Abraham will be high-profile defense attorney Alan Dershowitz. Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer will lead the prosecution.
“Let’s be honest here—if I put an ad asking people to come study Bible on a Sunday morning, not many people will come,” said Gady Levy, the new executive director of the synagogue’s Skirball Center, which is hosting the event.
With this program, he said, “people are going to come and study Torah. But they’re going to do it in a creative way—and in a way that makes religion relevant to their lives.”
The temple has sold more than 1,000 tickets at $36 each for the event.
“For me this is the ideal program,” Dr. Levy said. “It’s educational, it’s fun. We’re talking about a culture that is obsessed with celebrity trials. Who’s a bigger celebrity than Abraham?”
And few are in more dire need of a good lawyer, Mr. Dershowitz said, calling Abraham “one of my toughest clients. [He] ranks up there with Claus von Bulow and O.J. Simpson . ”
There is one difference from those other cases, Mr. Spitzer noted: “Abraham has a longer criminal record.”
He declined to elaborate, citing trial strategy.
In the biblical story, God commands Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham prepares to kill his son, but in most versions he is stopped at the last minute by an angel, who says Abraham has passed God’s test.