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Forward 50 2018

Ruchie Freier

Judge, Ambulance Group Founder And Community Leader For Hasidic Women

When Ruchie Freier announced her candidacy for civil court judge in Boro Park, she enlisted the most loyal staff she could find: Her six children.

Her girls, in long pleated skirts, ran around Brooklyn holding petition forms, seeking signatures: “Could you sign for my mother? She wants to be a judge.” Palm cards were distributed, screaming in Yiddish: “Boro Park’s Richter!” No picture of Freier was shown — for modesty reasons.

On primary day, her sons — wearing long black coats, long peyos and black felt hats — stood on Boro Park’s streets singing their campaign jingle: “Vote for Freier! S’iz mein mameh!” (Yiddish for “She’s my mother!”)The boys plastered the doors of the shuls of Boro Park, from Satmar to Vizhnitz, Bobov to Pupa to Belz. And not just the shuls — “Mommy,” they told their campaign manager, “We’re going to put them where the men read — in the bathrooms!”

And so, the petite Hasidic mother of six, in her bluntly cut wig and tailored suits, was nominated to serve on New York City’s Criminal Court in Brooklyn.

When running her campaign, Freier approached her rebbetzin for spiritual counseling. “If we can have Deborah the Judge,” the rabbi’s wife told her, “So, too, we can have Ruchie the Judge.”

Freier, 53, has pushed boundaries in her Hasidic community — not only is she the first Hasidic female judge in the United States, but she has also poured her leadership and expertise into building community institutions, namely, B’Derech, a GED program for Haredi youth at-risk, and a much-lauded Ezras Nashim, a female ambulance team, recently profiled by Paula Eiselt in her her film “Queen93”.

“My communal work has prepared me for this job, more than I ever imagined,” she said. “B’Derech taught me about sensitivity in working with troubled youth and juvenile delinquents. And after becoming a paramedic, I don’t shy away from blood, I tell the prosecutors, ‘Bring over the pictures, let me look at all the evidence.’”

What’s next for this powerhouse?

“I hear Supreme Court is a nice place,” she says coolly.

— Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt

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