By David Brand
For Hon. Jodi Orlow, the Brandeis Association of Queens County runs in the family.
“My dad was a member of Brandeis since the beginning and when I was in law school, he dragged me to the meetings,” Orlow, a Supreme Court Justice, told the Eagle. “I grew up in it.”
Though Orlow had little choice but to join the bar association she now chairs, she quickly learned to value the organization and the opportunities it provides lawyers in and around Queens. It is a resource that the current generation of young attorneys also benefit from.
“I fell in love with what it did, the people involved and the importance of an organization like this in the community,” Orlow said, adding that membership fosters tremendous networking opportunities for local attorneys and judges.
Nearly fifty years after its founding, the Brandeis Association continues to grow by attracting more young people than ever, including individuals who, like Orlow, join during law school.
“Young people are joining more now than in the past,” she said. “People see the importance of networking more now [and] we need the younger generation.
In April, dozens of young attorneys attended the Brandeis Association Young Lawyers Group’s first annual Austin Social at the Austin Ale House in Kew Gardens. At the event, several new members joined the Brandeis Association.
The association gives scholarships to students each year, many of whom return to renew their membership, Orlow said.
“That’s part of what we try to establish,” she said. “We need the younger generation.”
The Brandeis Association was founded in 1969 by a group of Jewish attorneys and judges committed to encouraging community and preserving culture among members. Brandeis founders also aimed to “foster respect for law and legal institutions and to vigorously assert its interest in justice and fair play in the County of Queens and in the City and State of New York,” the association’s website states
The then-unnamed association first met at the famed Stratton’s restaurant, which was located on the corner of Queens Boulevard and Austin Street. The early members, led by Hon. Leonard Finz, set out to appeal to other attorneys and judges inside the Civil Court chambers and at other local bar associations.
But before they could begin recruiting, the association needed a name. Members brainstormed names like the the Jewish Lawyers Club Of Queens County, and the Queens County Council Of Jewish Lawyers until Finz recommended naming the association after Louis D. Brandeis, the first Jewish U.S. Supreme Court Justice.
The association’s first official meeting, held at the Hillcrest Jewish Center, attracted about 75 Jewish lawyers and judges, including Queens Borough President Leonard Manes, the association’s first president.
Back when Orlow’s father served on the board of directors, the organization’s voice was “predominantly male,” Orlow said. But as the legal profession evolved to include more women, so to did the Brandeis Association, a fact reflected by the association’s current leadership.
Hon. Mojgan C. Lancman, a Civil Court judge, serves as president and Hilary Gingold serves as one of four vice presidents. The other vice presidents include Warren Hecht, Bernard Vishnick and Michael Kohan.
The Brandeis Association also reflects the diversity of the Jewish community in and around Queens. The organization includes people who identify as Reform, Orthodox and Conservative as well as people who are culturally Jewish, but do not practice religion.
On Aug. 14, members will gather for the next general meeting, where they will discuss plans for the coming year and prepare for the Sept. 5 boat cruise aboard the Skyline Princess, which departs from Willets Point. The event will be held in partnership with other Queens bar associations, including the Queens County Women’s Bar Association the Catholic Lawyers Guild and the Latino Lawyers Association.
The organization will also host the upcoming installation dinner and various speaking engagements, events that demonstrate the association’s energy and importance.
“We reach out to everybody. We’re looking to the legal community,” Orlow said. “[Bar associations] should be part of every attorney or judge’s job.”