Judge Judy Airs
Judith Sheindlin, more famously known as Judge Judy, has become one of the most recognizable women on television since her show aired on September 16, 1996. Judge Judy was born to a Jewish family of German, Russian, and Ukrainian heritage. She described her father as “the greatest thing since sliced bread” and her mother as “a meat and potatoes kind of gal,” demonstrating her close relationship with her immigrant parents.
Sheindlin was the only woman in a class of 126 students at American University’s Washington College of Law, finishing her law degree at New York Law School in 1965. She began her career as a corporate lawyer for a cosmetics firm and shifted to prosecutorial work for the family court system in New York City in 1972. In 1982, she was appointed a judge in New York City, presiding over family court until she became supervising judge in the Manhattan division of the family court in 1986.
In February of 1992, she was profiled in the LA Times as a “kind of hard-hitting legal super-heroine, determined to make the courts work for the common good,” perhaps giving us insight into the passion behind her work as a judge. The LA Times article then led to a profile on 60 Minutes, which ultimately launched her into the television world. She was approached by the president of Big Ticket Television about shooting a show, and in September 1996, Judge Judy first appeared. It only took three years for the show to win the number one slot for syndicated shows, and by August, 1999, Judge Judy averaged 7 million viewers per week.
After 22 seasons of her show and 3 daytime Emmy wins, Judge Judy Sheindlin is known for being a “sharp, no-nonsense attorney.” According to Forbes, she is one of the highest paid stars on television and the 48th richest Jewish woman in the United States. She received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2006 and in 2016 earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for longest running court show.
This entry was created for This Week in History as part of a course on the history of American Jewish women taught by Karla Goldman at the University of Michigan, Winter 2019.
Sources: “Judge Judy Biography,” Biography.com, June 10, 2014; “Life, Love, and the Proverbs of Judge Judy,” The Forward, December 13, 2014; “24 Facts and Things You Never Knew About Judge Judy,” Lawfuel.com, January 20, 2016; “Judy, Madly, Deeply,” The Guardian, October 9, 2008.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Judge Judy Airs." (Viewed on June 6, 2020) <https://jwa.org/thisweek/sep/16/1996/judge-judy-airs>.