Teach Coalition names Michael (Avi) Helfand, prominent legal scholar and religious liberty advocate, as senior legal advisor

Helfand will serve as a critical guide, providing legal expertise on matters related to education, religious freedom and civil rights.

Michael (Avi) Helfand
Michael (Avi) Helfand

Teach Coalition, a project of the Orthodox Union that advocates for equitable funding for nonpublic schools, announced today that Michael (Avi) Helfand will serve as its Senior Legal Advisor. Helfand is a distinguished legal scholar and advocate for religious freedom.

In his role with Teach Coalition, Helfand will serve as a critical guide, providing legal expertise on matters related to education, religious freedom and civil rights. He will also help lead the organization’s efforts to advance legislation and policies that support nonpublic schools.

Helfand is the Brenden Mann Foundation Chair in Law and Religion and Co-Director of the Nootbaar Institute on Law, Religion and Ethicsat Pepperdine Caruso School of Law, as well as Visiting Professor and Oscar M. Ruebhausen Distinguished Fellow at Yale Law School. He has published extensively on issues related to constitutional law, government funding and religious liberty. His work has been featured in a variety of academic journals, such as the Yale Law Journal and NYU Law Review, and media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and The Forward. In his academic roles, Helfand has helped launch and supervise two religious liberty clinics–Pepperdine Law’s Hugh and Hazel Darling Religious Liberty Clinic and Yale Law School’s Free Exercise Clinic–where students work alongside law school faculty and accomplished attorneys to represent clients in active religious liberty disputes.

Helfand has a long-standing relationship with the Orthodox Union and OU Advocacy, and has previously served as legal counsel to Teach Coalition. As such, Helfand has advised on several of Teach Coalition’s legislative initiatives, has worked in partnership with the OU Advocacy Center’s Executive Director Nathan Diament, and has authored Supreme Court amicus briefs on behalf of the Orthodox Union. The amicus briefs advocated for important legal and policy positions before the Supreme Court, most notably the inclusion of religious institutions in government funding programs.

“We’re happy to welcome Professor Helfand to his new role, where he will join a team of talented individuals advocating through legislation and the courts for nonpublic school students to receive the best possible education,” said Rabbi Moshe Hauer, Executive Vice President of the Orthodox Union. “Avi has the background, experience, abilities, and the passion to help drive these efforts.”

“Avi is a brilliant legal mind and a tireless advocate for religious liberty,” said Maury Litwack, Managing Director of the Orthodox Union and Founder of Teach Coalition. “His deep understanding of the legal issues facing nonpublic schools and his commitment to ensuring that all students have access to a high-quality education make him an invaluable addition to the team.”

“Avi joins Teach Coalition at a critical juncture – government support of nonpublic schools has proliferated greatly in many states in recent years,” said Dan Mitzner, Teach Coalition’s Director of Government Affairs. “With Avi’s tremendous experience, we will be able to expand funding opportunities, to keep our students safe, and to give our schools the tools to continue to provide a top-notch Jewish education to all of our students.”

“I’m thrilled to join Teach Coalition in its important mission to ensure that all students have access to the education they deserve,” said Helfand. “I look forward to advancing policies that support the rights of all students to a high-quality education and to ensure that no Jewish institutions are unconstitutionally excluded from government funding programs.”

Teach Coalition is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advocating for government funding and support for nonpublic day schools. Since its founding in 2013, the organization has worked to secure millions of dollars in funding and resources for nonpublic schools across the United States.

For more information on Teach Coalition, visit teachcoalition.org.


Daniel Mitzner

COO and Director of Government Affairs at Teach Coalition Mitznerd@teachcoalition.org

About Teach Coalition

Teach Coalition advocates for equitable government funding for nonpublic schools. Through direct application assistance, political advocacy, and grassroots activism, Teach Coalition is committed to making nonpublic schools better, safer and more affordable.

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Founded in 1898, the Orthodox Union (OU), or Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, serves as the voice of American Orthodox Jewry, with over 400 congregations in its synagogue network. As the umbrella organization for American Orthodox Jewry, the OU is at the forefront of advocacy work on both state and federal levels, outreach to Jewish teens and young professionals through NCSY, Israel Free Spirit Birthright, Yachad and OU Press, among many other divisions and programs.
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