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Justine Wise Polier and Libby Schaaf

Governing with Valor

by Molly Weiner

As the first woman Justice of New York, Polier valiantly worked to improve the family court, fought for the rights of children and poor families, and tirelessly lobbied to ease quotas on Jewish refugees. Libby Schaaf, the 52-year-old mayor of Oakland, California, also fights for the inclusion of all people.

Justine Wise Polier

Women Who Fight for Us

by Abigail Fisher

In the late forties and early fifties, a time when many refused to listen to female voices, Polier made her voice heard. She was published in various legal journals and other opinion pieces, and never filtered her views so that others could digest them more easily. She didn’t mince words or walk on eggshells to sound more feminine. Her writing was unadulterated social criticism. 

Immigration and Generations: Anzia Yezierska's Children of Loneliness

Children of Loneliness, a short story by immigrant writer Anzia Yezierska, illustrates how one young woman's struggle to find her own place in American society tears her from her parents and their way of life.

Justine Wise Polier gives passionate speech on justice at Christ Church.

October 14, 1952
"I saw the vast chasms between our rhetoric of freedom, equality and charity, and what we were doing to, or not doing for poor people, especially children.” - Justine Wise Polier

Justine Wise Polier

As the first woman judge appointed in New York State, Justine Wise Polier focused on helping the most vulnerable population: children.

Unit 2, Lesson 2 - De facto segregation in the North: Skipwith vs. NYC Board of Education

Investigate the dynamics of segregation in northern schools through a New York City court case ruled on by Judge and Jewish activist Justine Wise Polier.

Unit 1, Lesson 3 - Jews and the Civil Rights Movement: the Whys and Why Nots

Assume the roles of Southern Jews participating in a Temple board meeting on whether or not to support Northern Jewish activists staging a protest in town.

Justine Wise Polier

An outspoken activist and a "fighting judge," Justine Wise Polier was the first woman Justice in New York. For 38 years she used her position on the Family Court bench to fight for the rights of the poor and disempowered. She strove to implement juvenile justice law as treatment, not punishment, making her court the center of a community network that encompassed psychiatric services, economic aid, teachers, placement agencies, and families.

Judge Justine Wise Polier retires

February 3, 1973

Building on the legacy of her parents, labor activist and rabbi Stephen Wise and social reformer Louise Waterman Wise, Justine Wise Polier spent four decades on the New York City Family Court working for the rights of children before retiring on February 3, 1973.

Justine Wise Polier

Justine Wise Polier espoused an activist concept of the law and a rehabilitative rather than a punitive model of judicial process, she pioneered the establishment of mental health, educational, and other rehabilitative services for troubled children. She also took a leading role in opposing racial and religious discrimination in public and private facilities.

Law in the United States

The situation of the Jewish community in the United States is shaped fundamentally by the condition of political equality. This legal status is shared with all other citizens and is assumed as an essential baseline. Where there are violations of that status—when an individual otherwise of full legal capacity is treated as a member of a subordinated racial or religious group, and when group membership defines rights and duties—we discuss the problem under the heading “discrimination.”

American Jewish Congress

Women have played an important part in the American Jewish Congress (AJCongress) since the organization was first established after World War I.

Collaborators for Justice

by KG

Our usual practice at the Jewish Women’s Archive is to study the obituary page to learn about Jewish women lives. But last week, I was riveted by the life of Jane Bolin, the first black woman to become a judge in the United States. It was daunting just to contemplate her courage and determination in qualifying herself for this role.

Topics: Law

Labor Day

by  Judith Rosenbaum

It’s Labor Day Weekend, which for some reason in this country is a time to barbeque, shop, and maybe spend one last weekend at the beach. Labor Day has come to mean the end of summer, rather than a day to consider and celebrate the role of workers in building and sustaining this country.

Topics: Labor Rights, Unions, Law
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