Today marks the end of Summer for Justice 2010. After 11 weeks at Bet Tzedek, I’ll be returning to the classroom—copyright, entertainment law and digital wars, here I come—and starting an internship at NBC Universal, where I will be researching and writing memos outlining the company’s rights to exploit content from across it’s entertainment library.
I’m looking forward to the fall, but today brings an end to a great summer—and not just because Big Ben got married and I was again playing basketball three or four days a week. It was great because I got to give back to a community that has unknowingly given so much to me.
It really has been a rewarding journey through the Jewish community these past three years, and I’m sure it’s far from over. (Next up: Summer 2011 at a “Jewish” law firm? I have a few in mind.)
Assisting Holocaust survivors in their claim for ghetto pensions this summer wasn’t as challenging as feeling comfortable in Kevin MacDonald’s office nor as fanboy-fun as profiling Jordan Farmar. I spent much of my time speaking with survivors and worked primarily on cases that either required further information or that were being appealed. I also spent a few weeks on work related to the underlying network of pro bono attorneys participating in the Holocaust Survivors Justice Network, which has assisted thousands of survivors in applying for ghetto pensions.
Many of the survivors I spoke with (not the attorneys) suffer from dementia or the consequences of stroke or lingering trauma that impairs their memory, so pulling important details about their experience in the Holocaust was no small feat. It was also, at times, emotionally exhausting.
Without getting into specifics, let’s just say that most of the survivors I spoke with were among the only members of their family to make it out alive. Now well into their 80s, some their 90s, they may have outlived their spouse and are living in desperate poverty. More on that here.
There were of course survivors who didn’t appear to need our help—there was that survivor who claimed to be worth millions as she stormed out, apparently unaccustomed to the windowless offices involved with free legal services. But, in general, we served an essential bridge—both in terms of legal knowledge and the ability to decipher documents and correspondence in a foreign language—between indigent survivors and a German government trying to make right.
I’m glad I was able to do this when I did. While I certainly expect to be involved with public interest causes when I’m a practicing lawyer, the need for legal services directed at Holocaust survivors, part of Bet Tzedek’s core mission since its founding in 1974, is fading fast.
P.S. Mitch Kamin assured me I was not to be blamed.