Though American Jews have always been drawn to the legal profession, until the mid-20th century, factors like quotas placed on the number of Jewish students admitted to law schools or antisemitic hiring practices from prestigious (or “white shoe”) law firms, made this difficult. It was not until 1916 that the first Jewish justice—Louis D. Brandeis—was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Since then, seven other Jewish Americans—Benjamin Cardozo, Felix Frankfurter, Arthur Goldberg, Abe Fortas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and Elena Kagan—have served as justices. Outside of the Supreme Court, many Jewish American attorneys have reached prominence—including defense attorney for the Scottsboro Boys Samuel Leibowitz, women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred, and celebrity judge Judith Sheindlin (Judge Judy).
Below are the JHC’s archival collections related to Jewish lawyers and judges. Click on a title to see an overview of the collection, view the collection’s finding aid (guide to the collection and its contents), and, if applicable, view the digitized collection on our Digital Library & Archives.
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Jennie Loitman Barron was a judge and suffragist. She earned her law degree and master of law at Boston University. As the first president of the Boston University Equal Suffrage League, JLB advocated for equal rights for women. In 1934 she was appointed by the Governor of Massachusetts as a special Justice of the Western Norfolk District. JLB was the first mother on the Boston School Committee, and the first female United States delegate to the United Nations Congress on Crime and Juvenile Delinquency. In 1957, JLB became the first woman who was an Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court. This collection contains notes for her judicial cases, “Guest of Honor” award and photograph of the event, campaign flyer supporting JLB as the first mother of the Boston School Committee, and award letter for Mr. and Mrs. Ezra Andelman.
Israel Bernstein was born in Portland, Maine. He graduated from Harvard College in 1912 and Harvard Law School in 1915. After graduating, he served as a Regimental-Sergeant-Major in the 12th division U.S. Army during World War I. Bernstein co-established the Casco Bank and Trust Co. He played a prominent role in the Jewish Federation of Portland, Maine. In 1948, he was elected President of the Jewish Federation of Portland, Maine and was President and founder of the Jewish Historical Society of Portland, Maine in 1953.
This collection relates primarily to the political and social activities of Edward J. Bromberg (a lawyer and politician) and some members of his family. A scrapbook contains items regarding Edward’s sons, Justine and Bertram, and his daughter, Pauline. Other Bromberg family members in the collection are Lev, Henrietta Livingston, Anna Insoft, and Alice Goldstein. The collection includes clippings, programs, and photographs.
The Isaacs and the Davis families were both active members of the Jewish community in Cincinnati, Ohio dating back to the mid 19th century. The Davis family includes Charles K., who along with Leo Wise helped to found the Beersheba immigrant colony in Kansas in 1882. The Isaacs family included many well-known, religious, legal, and medical scholars. The two families were joined together on March 21, 1912 when Ella Davis, daughter of Charles K. Davis and Ida (Fletcher) Davis, married Nathan T. Isaacs, the eldest child of Abraham Isaacs and Rachel Rose (Friedman) Isaacs. Nathan went on to become a prominent legal scholar, and was a Professor of Business Law at the Harvard Business School from 1924 until his death in 1941.
Contains correspondence, addresses and speeches, newspaper clippings, and published material relating primarily to Ehrmann's activity in the national and Boston chapter of the American Jewish Committee (1935-1970). Of special interest is material on the relation of the Committee to the American Jewish Conference (1943-1948), the relationship of American Jewry to the State of Israel, and the attitude of the Committee to the establishment of Israel. Also contains genealogical material, in German and in English, between Ehrmann and his relatives in Poland immediately prior World War II, and in Italy immediately after the war. Also contains letters and reports sent by Mrs. Sara Rosenfeld Ehrmann (b. 1895) by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the United Jewish Appeal, dealing primarily with fund-raising matters. Also included are Speakers bulletins used by the Women's Division of the Greater Boston United Jewish Campaign, of which Mrs. Ehrmann was chairman. Of special interest are reports sent to Mr. Ehrmann by the JDC regarding the ship "St. Louis." The collection includes photographs.
Philip D. Epstein was a trial attorney from 1941 to 1999 and a veteran of World War II. He was active in the Jewish community of Marblehead, Massachusetts and worked with a number of veterans support organizations, such as the National Jewish Welfare Board and Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America. He served two terms as Commander of JWV Post 656 Marblehead-Swampscott. The material in the collection includes correspondence, announcements, meeting minutes, membership rosters, and publications primarily concerning his tenure as JMV commander.
This collection contains correspondence, writings, articles, meeting minutes, newspaper clippings, photographs, and cassette tapes documenting Ron Fox’s longtime activism and criticism of Israel, as well as his involvement in the Jewish community.
Meyer H. Goldman was a Boston-based lawyer and Zionist. This collection contains meeting minutes, pamphlets on Zionism, correspondence—including letters between Goldman and the American Council for Judaism, regarding their opposing views on Zionism—drafts of plays and skits, and three books.
This collection contains correspondence, photographs, news clippings, ephemera and a scrapbook compiled by Bernard L. Gorfinkle, a Boston area lawyer and civic leader who served in the United States Army during both World Wars and was a participant in the negoriations leading to the Treaty of Versailled and the Paris Peace Conference in 1919.
Adolph Hubbard was a Boston area lawyer and co-founder of the Zionist Organization of America. In 1918, he was appointed as Administrator of the American Zionist Medical Unit by Louis D. Brandeis, and traveled to Palestine to aid in the provision of medical services and establish the American Jewish Hospital. From the 1930s to 1950s, Hubbard was an active and leading member of Zionist organizations. Following his death in 1971, $10,000 was given in his name to establish a Nahala through the Jewish National Fund. The tract of land is located in the Judean Hills, and is leased to Jewish settlers of Mevo Beitar for cultivation.
Abraham Kamberg was a Springfield attorney and art collector. The bulk of this collection contains art catalogs, newsletters and prints of artwork donated by Kamberg to museums as well as for local exhibits. Two scrapbooks of news clippings highlighting events in Kamberg’s personal and professional life are also included, as well as some correspondence, photographs, and organizational material.
Judge Jacob J. Kaplan, born March 12 1889, was a prominent and well-respected judge in Boston, Massachusetts. After graduating from Harvard Law School, Kaplan spent seven years under the tutelage of Louis Brandeis, and gained skills that led to employment at the distinguished law firm of Nutter, McClennen and Fish. As a senior partner at Nutter, McClennen and Fish, Kaplan earned great respect from his colleagues and soon began his career as a judge with a seat as the Justice of the Dorchester Municipal Court. Among his many interests was the financial welfare of the city of Boston. This is reflected in the choice to serve on the board of the Boston Finance Commission. This collection contains a eulogy, photographs, a patent, and scrapbooks of articles regarding his work while a member of the Boston Finance Commission.
Max and Anna Kaplan immigrated to the United States from Russia between 1899 and 1902, settling in the Boston area. The bulk of the collection focuses on the activities of their sons Richard S. Kaplan, an attorney, judge, and author in Gary, Indiana, and Louis Kaplan (known professionally as Lou Carter), a jazz drummer and band leader. The collection contains official documents, including Max and Anna’s naturalization papers, news clippings concerning the two brothers, and photographs, primarily of the Carter orchestra.
This collection contains awards and honors, business records, meeting minutes, financial documents, correspondence, manuscripts, interview transcripts, and speeches documenting the work and personal lives of lawyer and philanthropist David R. Pokross and his wife Muriel K. Pokross.
Henry Wise was a Boston-area lawyer whose practice focused mainly on housing, fishing, and labor, three areas in which he crafted important local legislation. In 1942 he wrote to the Institute of Jewish Affairs, a research branch created by the American and World Jewish Congresses, inquiring after membership. The Institute of Jewish Affairs was made up primarily of scholars, who took a scientific approach towards researching Jewish life from the previous 25 years. They hoped to better understand the current situation for Jews by looking at how the events in Nazi Europe were able to occur, as well as create policies that would protect Jews in a post-war environment. When Wise became a member of the Board of Trustees for the Institute he received a number of materials pertaining to its activities.
This collection contains photographs, correspondence, genealogies, and other documents pertaining to the lives and family history of the Wyzanski family, particularly Henry Wyzanski, Henry N. Wyzanski, Charles E. Wyzanksi, Jr., Maurice Wyzanski, and Elsie Wyzanski.