Judge Ruchy Freier Speaks about Leadership and Community Service at Beth Jacob Congregation
On November 1st, as part of its Modern Minds on Jewish Matters series, Beth Jacob Congregation hosted Judge Ruchy Freier, the first Chassidic woman elected as Civil Court Judge in New York state. Judge Freier spoke about community service and her journey towards her current position.
“Community service challenged me as a person and as a mother,” said Judge Freier. “You get out so much more than you put in.”
Judge Freier was a regular Bais Yaakov girl from Boro Park who married a Bobover chassid. Her mother used to tell her that she “could do anything, as long as it’s not illegal, immoral, or against the Torah.” In high school, she took a legal stenography course, and after her marriage, she got her first job as a legal secretary in order to support her husband, who was learning in kollel. She continued working in the field while raising her six children.
At age 30, after her husband graduated from college, Judge Freier decided to pursue a law degree. After completing her Bachelor’s degree at Touro College, she attended Brooklyn Law School. Before she ventured into the secular world, she made a decision not to compromise her standards. “I knew I was going to be different,” she said. “I made a deal with Hashem – help me, and when Your children need help, I will help them.”
Judge Freier shared several anecdotes which demonstrated that her unswerving commitment to her values, including praying three times a day, only led to more respect on the part of her gentile colleagues. “We all have different standards,” she said. “Whatever they are, hang on to them, don’t compromise on them in order to succeed. That’s what propelled me to success.”
After graduation, Judge Freier got involved in helping kids-at-risk in her community. She also helped found Ezras Nashim, a female paramedic volunteer organization intended to serve women in emergencies involving childbirth. She trained as a paramedic and worked in an ambulance.
After ten years of private law practice, Judge Freier ran for Civil Court Judge, with the support of her family and community. She won the election and was inaugurated in December 2016. “Being on a bench is easier than raising six children,” she said.
“We all have challenges,” said Judge Freier. “I still have lots of challenges.” She explained that whenever she’d feel conflicted about her public role, she’d think of Sarah Schenirer, the founder of the Bais Yaakov movement. At the time, her revolutionary ideas about women’s education created much controversy, but “she went and did what had to be done… We become leaders when Torah is trampled.”
Throughout the years, said Judge Freier, she’d always put her family first. “I am a professional; I don’t have a career. My children were always included… They came with me to classes and to work. I bring my home with me to the courtroom – that’s how I survive.”
Judge Freier shared that she made mistakes along the way. “The road to success is full of failures,” she said, advising her audience not to get stuck on mistakes, but “pick yourself up and move on.”
“My advice to everybody,” she said in conclusion, “is to be proud of who you are and make G-d proud… Don’t be afraid to do something – you never know what you can accomplish.” She urged her listeners not to get discouraged, but simply do the best we can.