THE BENCH IS GEBENCHED*
It was more than with a modicum of interest that I read about Rachel “Ruchi” Freier winning the race for civil court judge in New York City’s 5th Civil Court District, serving Borough Park as well as other sections of Brooklyn. What makes Ruchi’s victory so very remarkable is that she was born, raised and continues to live a Hassidic lifestyle. A picture of her standing together with her hassidic clad husband, son and nephew all sporting long beards and peyos (side locks) says it all. Personally speaking, I see Ruchi’s victory as a threefold blessing.
Ruchi’s victory dispels our stereotype that Hassidic women were put on this earth for the sole purpose of having babies, cooking, cleaning and keeping house and being subservient to their husbands. Aside from her law career (she graduated Brooklyn Law School), Ruchi founded B’Derech, a program that enables yeshivah educated men to obtain high school equivalency diplomas and even associate degrees, so that they have improved chances when entering the job market. Ruchi also founded Chasdei Devorah, a nonprofit relief organization and Ezras Nashim an all-female EMT organization so that Hassidic women are tended to by female EMT’s rather than male EMT’s en route to the hospital. Ruchi accomplished these feats with the help and participation of other women from virtually the same background as hers.
Ruchi’s victory being elected civil court judge should be viewed as more than yet another step in her career; it should be viewed as a giant leap for the Hassidic world of Borough Park. Hopefully it will help teach other Borough Park Hassidim, that contrary to how some of them have been raised, the outside world is not filled with evil and should be therefore avoided and shunned at all costs. Hopefully, it will convince other Borough Park Hassidim, that their career choice is not limited to either being teachers in yeshivahs or dealers in precious stones. If the outside world has neither harmed nor destroyed the neshomeh or soul of Ruchi Freier, then there is every reason to be hopeful that the outside world will neither harm nor destroy their neshomas or souls as well. Hopefully, Ruchi’s latest accomplishment will serve as a lesson to the Hassidic world of Borough Park that they can safely venture out into the world and remain Glatt Kosher.
Like all others in society, judges carry baggage to their profession. No different than Supreme Court judges, other judges tend to bring their political, philosophical as well as their religious and social upbringing with them to the bench where they serve. Ruchi’s background and education could very well serve as a major advantage. Long before entering Law School, Ruchi was raised to think analytically. At the risk of sounding chauvinistic, in all likelihood Ruchi brings a “Yiddishe kop” to court. It is a “kop” or head (actually a mind) that is not only filled with knowledge, but wisdom as well. If that Yiddishe “kop” is complemented with a “Yiddishe Hartz or heart, then any case that Ruchi decides, benefits from judicial qualities that are held in the highest esteem.
Hopefully, Ruchi will serve as a role model to be emulated by others from the same religious background. I have every reason to believe that our legal system will only benefit from Ruchi as well as from those who pattern themselves after Judge Rachel “Ruchi” Freier.
*Gebenched is Yiddish for blessed