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Want to see Ruchie Freier, a chassidish mother of six, a lawyer, and director of B’derech and Ezras Nashim, get really angry? Just tell her there’s something a frum woman can’t do.

Although she is soft-spoken and petite, Ruchie is a powerhouse. She had a typical upbringing for a girl growing up in Boro Park, attending the local Bais Yaakov high school. When she graduated in 1982, there were no options for an all-girls college, so she took the legal stenography course offered to the high school seniors. “With my position as a legal secretary, I was able to support my family while my husband was in kollel for ten years, but I wanted to do more. I enjoyed law, and didn’t want to see myself as an elderly woman, telling my grandchildren that I should have been a lawyer,” she says.


So she took the plunge at age 30, after having her first three children. In a move that seemed quite unusual in her chassidish community, she started attending Touro College with the goal of eventually going to law school. “I did it very slowly,” she says. “It took me six years just to get my B.A.” During that time, she had another three children, including a set of twins, and still worked at her legal secretary job. “I then started law school, but I didn’t fast-track it in any way, because I needed to be there for my family.

Ruchie and her mother during training.

“Although I loved law school, I doubted myself: Who would come to me, a chassidish woman lawyer? But I pushed forward.” Then, a chance conversation with a neighbor in her bungalow colony in Monroe led to the beginning of her law practice. “My friend suggested that I go to the local courthouse in Monroe to observe the cases there, instead of shlepping into the city, as I had been doing up until then. I took her advice, and while observing there, I met many wonderful members of the Satmar community who offered me work before I even graduated law school! It was incredible hashgacha pratis, and that’s how my office in Monroe started.”

So how did she balance becoming a lawyer and being there for her family? “I was only able to do this with the strong support of my family. My husband cheered me on, and my mother was always there for me,” she says. “My family always came first; that’s not to say I never missed a school play, but my kids always knew where I was, and got to share my life with me. Each of my children got a chance to sit with me in a law school class, and they each spent a day in my office with me.”

She advises other working moms, “It’s so important to prioritize. Challos for Shabbos and homemade meals, albeit simple, were important to me, and so I made sure they happened. On the other hand, there were many law review competitions, committees and clubs that I would have loved to join while in law school, but it would have taken up too much time away from my kids.”



In 2008, on her annual Lag B’omer trip to Israel, Ruchie got to know a chassidish woman who had come to pray in Meron for her 15-year old son who had gone off the derech. “Listening to her story, I knew I had to do something. I resolved that when I returned to Boro Park, I would help her out. She introduced me to some friends who also had teens at risk. Before I knew it, these boys were coming over for Shabbos meals, and for a listening ear.


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