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First strict-Orthodox Jewish woman wins public office

New municipal judge is a real estate attorney and mother of six


Civil court Judge Rachel Freier Associated Press/Photo by Seth Wenig

First strict-Orthodox Jewish woman wins public office

Last week a haredi female became a municipal judge—the first time a strictly observant Jewish woman has won election to an American public office. Brooklynites in November overwhelmingly chose Rachel Freier to be a New York City civil court judge.

Freier, a real estate attorney and community activist, handily beat two opponents vying for Brooklyn’s 5th Judicial District seat, with 74 percent of voters casting ballots for the first-time candidate and mother of six. She had three children when she started law school (all boys), and she graduated in 2005––at the age of 40––with three more (all girls).

Freier previously worked as a legal secretary to support her husband’s Torah studies. She completed her undergraduate degree at Touro College, which offered separate classes to Orthodox Jewish male and female students, and finished her law degree at Brooklyn Law School.

Fellow students in a constitutional law class said her opposition to abortion made her insensitive toward women. Freier later recalled her response to classmates in an interview with Forward.com: “Having children is a blessing, and each day that I gave birth was the most memorable day of my life. … Being a mother and grandmother is who I am—raising my family and watching it grow is what makes my life worth living.”

Freier’s maternal instincts extend to mothers throughout and beyond Borough Park: She helped birth Ezras Nashim (Hebrew for “helping women”), the “first all female volunteer first response agency” in the United States, according to Freier. The group draws inspiration from Shifrah and Puah, the famous midwives of Exodus who refused to kill babies.


Ron Friedman Ron Friedman is a graduate of the WJI Mid-Career Course.

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