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Justice Jules Spodek honored at Lawyers for Israel Luncheon

January 31, 2020 Rob Abruzzese
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Supreme Court Justice Jules Spodek, who died this past October, was honored by the Jewish National Fund at a luncheon co-sponsored by the Brooklyn Brandeis Society on Wednesday, Jan. 22.

The event, which took place at the Brooklyn Bar Association on Remsen Street, was dubbed the Lawyers for Israel Luncheon, is the first of what the two groups hope will become a regular collaboration.

The luncheon drew about 40 lawyers and judges who were on hand to celebrate the life of their late colleague as well as to hear from keynote speaker Deborah Riegel, who works closely with the Jewish National Fund.

Justice Ellen Spodek with her father Justice Jules Spodek at a Brooklyn Bar Association dinner where he was honored.
Eagle file photo by Mario Belluomo

“Today, we’re also taking a moment to remember and honor Justice Jules Spodek,” Rabbi Hanniel Levenson said. “The last time I saw him was when I got to visit him. We sang songs together. It was a very powerful moment for me, so I want to take a step back and just remember him.”

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The late Justice Spodek was a Brooklyn College and New York University School of Law graduate who eventually rose up to become the administrative judge of the Supreme Court, Second Department.

“When I was reading about him, it reminded me of a line in the Torah where they are talking about setting up courts of justice,” Levenson said. “It said that we are commanded to set up judges who lead with righteous judgment. To my mind, there is no one who can emulate that idea more than Justice Jules Spodek.”

Pictured from left: Rabbi Hanniel Levenson, Hon. Ellen Spodek, Deborah Riegel and Todd Sandler, the Brooklyn director of the Jewish National Fund.

Justice Ellen Spodek also talked about her father, who was the grandson of a rabbi who once ate a ham sandwich in front of a shul as a form of protest. She said that her family has always valued the work that the Jewish National Fund does and was proud that her father was being honored by them.

“We had a JNF blue box in the kitchen,” said Justice Ellen Spodek, the president of the Brooklyn Brandeis Society. “We had to bring it to Hebrew School every Thursday, donate it and bring the box back. JNF has been in my life since I was six or seven.”

Justice Spodek also introduced the keynote speaker and noted that they were practically classmates at Brooklyn Law School as the two of them had graduated only a few years apart.

A group of judges came for the luncheon to show their support for the Brandeis Society. Pictured from left: Hon. Ellen Spodek, Hon. Michael Gerstein, Hon. Esther Morgenstern, Hon. Lawrence Knipel, Hon. Mark Partnow and Hon. Kathy Levine.

Riegel, who is a professor of law at Brooklyn Law School, and a member of the litigation department at Rosenberg & Estis, talked about the mission of the Jewish National Fund and recalled her own experience with it in her youth.

“I knew JNF when I was a kid, from the tree certificates and blue boxes,” Reigel said. “That’s all I knew about it until I went to Israel at 14. I remember being horrified that I couldn’t find my trees that I donated and that’s where I learned that in a very real way, they are all our trees.”

Riegel, who co-chaired the JNF’s first Law and Justice Tour, which brought lawyers and law enforcement personnel to Israel, explained that JNF does a lot more than just planting trees in the desert.

Attorney Deborah Riegel was the keynote speaker for the Lawyers for Israel Luncheon.

“The work is critical in making sure that ‘never again’ is real,” she said. “Never again will we as Jewish people not have someplace to go. God forbid, that eventually happens. It’s also about making sure that the people who live in Israel, who do the hard work of building that land, that they get the support from us.”

Riegel explained that the group is currently putting an emphasis not just on building infrastructure in Israel, but also stretching the country. She said that approximately 70 percent of the population is living in the central portion and that to be a more sustainable country, it needs to be stretched into the north and south as well.

“If there is no housing and no jobs and no entertainment, then young people will not move out of Tel Aviv,” she said.

Hon. Ellen Spodek, president of the Brooklyn Brandeis Society.

Riegel challenged the lawyers and judges in the room to do their part by donating money, but also time. She explained that recently the JNF has been focused on working locally and engaging college students, even non-Jews, to bring them on trips to Israel.

The Brooklyn Brandeis Society’s next event will be a Purim celebration. There is no date set for that event yet, but Justice Spodek said that it will be announced soon, and it will be sometime in March.

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