Sunday, May 06, 2007

Boro-Park Chasidishe female lawyer, Ruchie Freier, lives in two worlds

Article of her passing the bar

When Rachel Freier opened her office above a deli and a real estate office in a strip mall on Route 17M two years ago, she was no ordinary law school graduate hanging her shingle while studying for the bar exam.

She was a 40-year-old mother of six and a Hasidic Jew. Her budding career was unique: Few people in her intensely religious culture go into law. Too many inducements to assimilate into the secular world are strewn along the path to a law degree, starting with co-ed classrooms and a full schedule of nonreligious courses.

Besides, she was a woman, raised in a culture that teaches girls to become mothers and homemakers, not briefcase-toting professionals.

Becoming an attorney forced Freier to stray outside the usual lines of culture and gender. But don't call her a rebel or the Rosa Parks of Hasidic women, seeking emancipation from the home. Raising a family is her primary purpose, she insists. And immersion in secular life, she says, is rightly discouraged.

Only by praying for divine guidance, she says, does she straddle two worlds.

"I'm the last one out there holding up the banner and saying to Hasidic women, 'Go out there and get a degree,'" she says in her Monroe office. "It's not for most people. They shouldn't do it. I have a very supportive family, and I have a passion for the law."

She grew up in the Orthodox Jewish world of Borough Park, Brooklyn, the oldest of five children. She never planned on a career, and the religious, all-girls high school she attended discouraged her and her classmates from going to college out of fear that some might be tempted to leave the fold.

At 17, she graduated and landed a secretarial job in a Manhattan law office.

It took a while, though, for her ambitions to develop. At 19, she married David Freier, and then came children. She continued working as a legal secretary and paralegal, eventually making her way to the firm of Wilkie Farr & Gallagher in 1994.

She was working there when her husband earned his accounting degree at Touro College in Brooklyn. Rachel, who by then had turned 30, remembers sitting at David's graduation, thinking: "Now it's my turn. Now it's my turn."

She enrolled at Touro, which had separate-gender classrooms, and graduated in six years with a political science degree. Then she went to Brooklyn Law School. In June 2005, her family watched her cross the stage to accept her parchment.

Getting through law school while raising three boys and three girls — including two infants — took a lot of juggling. But the most grueling ordeal came when Freier failed the bar exam and realized she would have to retreat from her family and immerse herself in her studies the second time around.

"It was heartbreaking for me," she recalls. "I had to be like every other law student. I didn't even answer the phone for three months."

Her sacrifice paid off. She took the bar exam again in February 2006; the following month, she learned that she had passed.

Within her own circles, Freier's pursuit of a law career drew mixed reactions. Some were enthusiastic; others asked David why he was letting his wife do what she was doing.

Those who were dismayed might have thought she was turning away from her community and its traditions. But on the contrary, she says, spending her days working and studying in the secular world only heightened her appreciation of Hasidim.

"I would take the train back to 18th Avenue; I was so happy to be home," she says.

At least three days a week, Freier crosses the Brooklyn Bridge in her minivan and heads to Monroe, where she caters largely to the Satmar Hasidic residents of nearby Kiryas Joel. She says she opened her office there because she relished working with such a fervently religious population.

And in a larger sense, she sees herself as an unofficial public advocate for the Hasidim — a group whose insularity has fed misunderstanding and caused it a public-relations problem, in her view.

She desperately wants to lower the hostility sometimes directed at her community — which is why she agreed to be featured in an article. The publicity might strike other Hasidim as immodest, but she says she wanted to lend a human face to her community and thereby chip away at the stereotypes.

One perception she'd like to counter is that Hasidic women — most of whom don't drive or take up careers as she has done — are treated as second-class citizens. Mothers may work if they choose, but being the anchor of the home is the most important job of all, she argues.

"In the Hasidic world," she says, "the girl is really the premium, because you know she's going to be setting the tone of the household."


Chaptzem should do an expose on how many families in Boro Park are being ruined because the wives go to counseling at Ohel Family services on 16th avenue. The Rabanim in Boro Park must get involved in this. Lets hear it from the men and woman that were affected and their family messed up.


If you can elaborate more on what you're talking about,(i.e. counseling for themselves of for other ppl, what goes on there at Ohel, etc.), that would be helpful.


Commenter #1: #2 is correct.

Please elaborate.


chaptzem where is the reporting on the lubabitcher indoctrination parade on 18th avenue?


"She enrolled at Touro, which had separate-gender classrooms, and graduated in six years with a political science degree. Then she went to Brooklyn Law School."

In other words, by the time she slowly allowed the timeh of Touro to change her hashkufeh, she then enrolled in Brooklyn law with mixed classes. a prosteh zoineh!


she didn't beleive the REBONEH SHEL OLAM could support her husband as an acct. ???????????????
if her husband sat and learned in kollel I would think different but why discuss a women that doesn't have BITACHON....


you go girl!
muy bueno.
me impresionan.


Excuse me, all you narrow minded men....a woman with a brain is a threat to you, obviously, but your name calling doesnt change the fact that she is out there, raising a family, helping her husband with his stress, so he is not alone in supporting their kids, and she probably has more sholom Bayis than all the rest of you..I wish I had done what she did..Im sure she is a very happy person, more than I can say for most married Jewish frum women doing the 'right' thing...shame on you...


all the vibelech in Lakewood who are therapists and shlep to the city to support their husbands who quech the bank is ok but a woman who becomes a lawyer is a zoina????????
to all of you who have nothing better what to say then to critisize her go back to eating your wives kukush cake.atleast something in life makes you happy


I can't wait for my daughter to get home from Bais Yaakov High School so I can show her this article. What an inspiration. My daughter has said she wanted to be a lawyer since she was 5 years old.


Yup, that's why her kids are growing up as live orphans, raised by jewsih and non-jewish goytes for the last ten years ! The woman is full of it ! She wanted a career, fine, but don't try to convince anyone that you can be both career oriented and a mother and wife at the same time ! Maybe it's possible, but she failed miserabely at the mother part !


O.Gevald said...
No one's children are guaranteed to turn-out any which way regardless of whether the mother is a "stay at home Mom" or she works full time. I know plenty of parents who are disappointed how their children turned out, yet the mother was home all day. Vice versa is common too.

May 6, 2007 4:46 PM

Anonymous said...
All that is true, kids can turn out either way. However, when you have a mother who is away from the house for years-while the father is making loads of money-I know that personally as a fact-Why is she doing it, to be Marbeh K'void Shomayim !? Come on, let's cut to the chase. Everyone can do what they want, but don't rub it in others faces as a symbol of what a woman can be. She wanted a career, fine, but I tell you for a FACT, knowing them well, that the children did, are, and will continue to suffer from not having their mother around. On the other hand, like many who know them say, probably the kids would have turned out worse had she been home, knowing her and her husband..........


About eight years ago there was an article in the NY Post about how two boys were being continiously raped at Ohel's Children Home. The guy who did the raping was a counselor named Ackerman. The Post described how Ohel did their best in getting the rapist off the hook. Are you surprised? Check out who their "rabbi" is. Well, he's the mamzer ben Gerusha v'zona Dovid Cohen of Gvul Yaavetz on Coney Island Avenue in Flatbush, that was cited in the NY Times when that judge from Brooklyn Supreme Court, named Garson got indicted for taking bribes. A Jewish woman who was caught paying the bribes disclosed that Dovis Cohen suggested that she bribe the judge.
With a low life pork pig like Dovid Cohen as the clergyman for Ohel are you surprised to hear that little boys are being raped?


Why would the chassidim in Monroe who are known to be very smart, want to hire an inexperienced lawyer who keeps a sloppy office?


Supporting Ohel is supporting the destruction of frum children and innocent families.


Shame on all of you - lashon hara - sinas chinam - al tadin es chaveircha -

what's with you - where is your ahavas yisroel!


Attention to men in Boro Park. here is what Ohel is feeding your wives. Ohel convinces them that they are being abused so they can reap huge benfits from the gov in form of grants to pay their counslers. They instruct the woman of Boro Park to come in secret and then they feed them this until they wrechk the fanily and then can get even more money to deal with the children. There has to be an outrage about this. Men in Boro Park Please post your stories and get more rabanim involved



Excuse me, all you narrow minded men....a woman with a brain is a threat to you, obviously, but your name calling doesnt change the fact that she is out there, raising a family, helping her husband with his stress, so he is not alone in supporting their kids, and she probably has more sholom Bayis than all the rest of you..
Comment Credit ---This article posted by Anonymous : May 06, 2007 6:49 PM


How about if the man would stay home and help his dear wife with the stress by grabbing a wash cloth and helping with dishes and laundry so that she is not alone in running the home and so they can have more shalom bais .........


comment from May 06, 2007 12:50 PM
you tried to insert your sinas chinom but it didnt work? nobody responded huh?

well out of ahavas yisroel to you nebech, im responding:

get a life!


Ruchie Freier is a very ambitious, brave individual who went after her dream even though it clashed with the societal norm. While there is no doubt that her pursuit of a career came with a day-to-day cost to her children, her perseverence also set an excellent example for them that may lead them to achieve great things in their lifetime. Nobody can say for sure how her choice will affect them in the long run.


i too had a very disappointing experience with david cohen,he showed no signs of any rachmonis one of the mainmarkers of being a jew


I can't figure out for the life of me WHAT DOES OHEL HAVE TO DO WITH RACHEL FRIER?


listen up all you "lydig-gayer's" here who sit on the internet all day, and feel like they "have" to defend hashem and yidishkeit by poking these stupid comments. while you're all busy sitting on your whatever to defend your rabbi or chasidus being busy with lushon hora and machloikes all day, this woman went out and worked hard to do something good for her, her husband, and family, and also for the jewish chasidishe community.

I know a little of Ruchei's work, and those who know her, and have dealt with her will al agree that it's a pride for the chasidishe community to have a woman like her, working for the community not only with her skills, but more so with her devotion and yiddish heart.

keep on going Ruchie! hashem is with you!

and all you tzeit shtippers here: get of the lushon hora and machloykes train and get a life already!


`If the gemorah can openly discuss about Tanoim and Amoraim who had buisinessess , if the chofetz chaim set aside time to run his buisness why then can we not discuss others who are in buisiness. The Buchurim in The HOLY city of LAKEWOOD are encouraged to marry girls that are going to college so they can sit and KVECH the bank then why cant this lady from monroe do just the same. GET A LIFE and mind your own buisiness. Just because you are a LO MUTZLUCH does not mean everyone else has to be that way.


Is this really the prototype a bas yisroel should strive for???

Yes, I am sure Mrs Frier is doind an outstanding job and creating a kiddush Hashem in how she behaves and perform professionally, but is this where the masses of Bnos Yisroel look up to?

I agree on a personal level and upon hadrachah of a Rebbe or Tzaddik or Rosh Yeshiva that the path of entering the professions may be permitted (men or women for that matter) but to become a poster child of the "Frum Chassidic Professional" is contrary to for what we all want our daughters or sons to be!!!

Let us strive to be JEWS not Lawyers Accountants or Businessmen!!


To:Let us strive to be JEWS not Lawyers Accountants or Businessmen!!
Let us strive not to be on welfare(not a Kiddush Hashem) and fulfill our potentials and be honest and not have Machlokes due to scarcity of money.


yes that is true that one shouldnt be cheating stealing....but one shouldnt define themselves by their profession rather as jews we should define ourselves as avodim lahashem


We know of her and her work prior to going into law. She will be a great asset to any whom she represents. We wish you the best of luck.
The cref minyon.(vehamavin yovin)


I think that most of the critics are jelous women, common ladies give her a break I bet if you got into trouble you'll feel much more confortable talking to her.


I haven't gotten through most of the comments people said - but enough to know that many were negative. I think she's a lucky woman to be able to go after her dreams. I've always dreamed of going to law school but somehow felt that putting everything on hold - including making money - which I do - since I'm very successful at what I do in my full time career- would be impossible. Pushing everything off just to realize your very specific goals strikes me as selfish. Maybe I'm jealous!


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