Brooklyn Boro

First-ever Russian-born judge sworn in at Brooklyn Borough Hall

December 28, 2017 By Rob Abruzzese, Legal Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Lori Luis (left) presented Hon. Elena Baron with a proclamation on behalf of the Office of the Borough President during her installation at Borough Hall just before Christmas. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese
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The first Russian-born judge ever democratically elected in the U.S., Hon. Elena Baron, was officially sworn in as a Brooklyn Civil Court judge during a ceremony at Borough Hall on Wednesday, Dec. 20.

Baron, who immigrated to the U.S. from the Soviet Union 24 years ago, was sworn-in by Judge Rachel Freier, the first elected Hasidic Jewish judge, and was officially robed by Judge Odessa Kennedy, the first elected Iranian-born judge.

“Elena Baron’s victory is about America’s acceptance of immigrants,” said Gary Tilzer, who served as the master of ceremonies for the event. “Elena Baron is the first Russian-born and speaking immigrant to become an elected judge in America. America gave Elena Baron the ladder to become all that she should be, and she used the top step.”

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“Today is a historic day for Russian-speaking communities, for Brooklyn, for NYS and for America. First of all, it’s a victory for Democracy,” said District Leader Ari Kagan. “It’s a victory for all Brooklynites, because Elena Baron will be a great judge. She has great knowledge, great experience [and] has worked for good judges.”

The installation took place in the ceremonial courtroom at Borough Hall. Lori Luis presented Baron with a proclamation on behalf of the Borough President’s Office. Rabbi Shimon Hecht gave the benediction; Diana Marchuk sang the national anthem; and Shea Rubenstein, founder of the Jewish Community Council of Marine Park, sang “America the Beautiful.”

The speakers included Kagan; Boris Feldman (Kagan translated this name from Russian), vice president of the Association of WWII Veterans and Invalids; Melanie Dolgonos; Marty Bernstein; Councilmember Chaim M. Deutsch; Justice Martin Schneier; Silvia Hiott; her son Daniel Baron; Shahid Khan; Chidi Edi; Josh Mehlman; Jonathan Roller; Rabbi Eli Cohen; Evan C. Stewart; Jane Nixon Willis; Sam Backner and David Delaney.

“In my view, tonight, god has humbled us to serve as the face of diversity and to prove to the world why the United States of America is so precious and why for centuries millions of people have risked their lives to come here and start all over again,” said Kennedy.

“It is Democracy, it’s the fact that people have the opportunity to go directly to the voters and convince them of their merits despite their gender, despite their religion and despite their ethnicity,” Kennedy continued. “It gives us the ability to choose our own destiny, and that’s unique in the world.”

After the swearing in and robing ceremony was conducted, Baron took to the podium, donned for the first time in her black robe, and pronounced, “This is what democracy looks like.”

After thanking many of the people who helped her campaign, the newly minted judge then spoke about growing up in the Soviet Union, and being forced to leave when her family was threatened. She explained that it was her experiences there as a child that spurred her to take on a career in the law.

“In my adopted homeland, America, everyday regular people come to court seeking justice to right a wrong in their daily lives. In the Soviet Union, nothing like our court system existed. Being surrounded by the horrors and injustice in the former Soviet Union drove me practice of law in the pursuit of justice as my chosen career.”


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