Photo Credit: Marc Gronich
Brandeis Association banner.

More than 300 Jewish judges and attorneys came together last month to install a new group of officers of the Brandeis Association, a Queens County Bar Association of Jewish legal professionals. Although the organization is based in Queens, the event was held at Temple Israel of Great Neck in Nassau County. Sources tell The Jewish Press the reason to go to a neighboring county was to get the best price in order to keep ticket prices at a reasonable $140 per person.

Oyster Bay Chabad Rabbi Shalom Lipszyc gave the opening prayer at the installation dinner.

Oyster Bay Chabad Rabbi Shalom Lipszyc gave the opening prayer.


The incoming group of officers includes attorney Brad Siegel as president replacing Michael Kohan, who has been president of the organization for two years and is moving on to become president of the Network of Bar Leaders and founder/officer of the Jewish Bar Alliance of New York, an umbrella organization of Jewish Bar Associations. Based in Garden City, Nassau County, with offices in Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan, Siegel is in private practice at the Siegel Law Firm.

Among the dignitaries at the installation was newly-minted Assemblyman Sam Berger (D – Kew Gardens Hills, Queens). The 25-year-old Berger sat next to recently-elected State Supreme Court Judge David Kirschner.

Each speaker had choice words on topics including antisemitism, the Israel-Hamas war and the difficulties people are facing in Iran.

“Here in New York, we’ve been supporters of the fight against hate and have stood up for other minorities and groups time and time again,” Siegel said to a noisy crowd. “These are scary times for the Jewish people. The amount of antisemitism we are seeing in our cities is unprecedented. Now more than ever, we the Jewish people and non-Jewish people need to come together to defeat antisemitism and all hate. The bigots and haters are after Jews today but that’s not where it ends. If we let them win, we all lose. We must stand together. We at Brandeis will do everything we can do in New York City to fight hate against all so that we can get back to the main principle known as Tikkun Olam, helping to repair the imperfect world with good deeds, charity and helping others. I pray that all the hostages will be released and we will have peace. Am Yisrael Chai.”

The Hon. Mojgan [pronounced Morgan] Cohanim Lancman, an Iranian refugee, is being replaced as chairwoman of the Brandeis Association by the Hon. Gia Morris, an Acting Justice of the Supreme Court, Criminal Term at New York State Unified Court System. Cohanim Lancman is a State Supreme Court Justice in the 11th Judicial District, Queens, Civil Term, Part 20. There are 35 judges in the State Supreme Court, Queens. Six are Jewish.

“I will not let my freedom as a Jew or my steep and immutable connection to the land and the state of Israel to be taken from me again and you mustn’t either. I fight for this freedom in many ways,” Cohanim Lancman said. “Brandeis is a tremendous vehicle to stand up for the Jewish people. We bring Jewish lawyers and judges and other legal professionals together for education, camaraderie, collective action and collaboration with other communities. We do it within our sphere of engagement, the justice system. Perhaps the most important contribution to the fight for Jewish freedom is my role as a judge. The impartial and honest application of the law is the surest safeguard against antisemitism and every other -ism. That is why we judges give every litigant before us their fair day in court.”

Cohanim Lancman is married to former Assemblyman and former New York City Councilman Rory Lancman. Cohanim Lancman gave her recollection of the strife Jews suffer in Iran.

“Daily, in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the jails are filled with young people for the crime of listening to music, for refusing to wear a hijab, for dancing at a party, for expressing themselves or simply being gay. They never get a fair trial. They never get their day in court. They simply get executed,” said Cohanim Lancman.

Queens County Clerk Audrey Pheffer, 82, was another of the dignitaries attending the installation. The ever-popular former assemblywoman received several shout-outs from her friends who are prominent members of the Brandeis Association.

“I implore every institution in this great country of ours. Every school, every college, every employer, every newspaper and every court to combat antisemitism anti-Zionism with every lawful tool at their disposal. To allow antisemitism to flourish is to deny the rule of law and vice-versa. I’ve seen that movie before. It doesn’t end well for the Jews and it doesn’t end well for anyone. This is our mandate as a Brandeis Association. We must be the beacon of light that leads the way for justice and the humanities and the respect for the law and legal institutions. We must strengthen the spirit of camaraderie and identity among all members of the human race. I am proud to be Jewish. I am proud to be a Zionist. I am proud to be a member of the Brandeis Association because I am proud to play a part in protecting and advancing the Jewish community.”

Cohanim Lancman’s successor as chairwoman of the Brandeis Association, Morris, stuck to the present-day war between Israel and Hamas.

“For me, personally, living in the New York metropolitan area my whole life, I was devastated by how an attack by a terrorist group quickly became a cause for celebration for many. The rise in antisemitism and people cheering for my family’s destruction simply because we are Jewish was something I personally never believed possible,” said Morris.

“This attack on Israel and Jews all over the world made me realize the strength of our community. There is a saying in the Torah, ‘Let there be light.’ The meaning behind this statement is often considered to be referring to the choosing of light or good over evil. A little bit of light will bring truth and goodness and dispel evil. Today, with our allies, friends and supporters, we choose light over darkness, good over evil. With truth and goodness, we will prevail over evil.”

Recently-elected State Supreme Court Judge David Kirschner was chosen to be the first vice president of the Brandeis Association.

Other board members include Hon. David Kirschner, Justice of the New York Supreme Court, Queens, 11th Judicial District, who will serve as first vice president; Bernard Vishnick, senior partner of Vishnick McGovern Milizio, will serve as vice president; Hon. Jeremy Weinstein, retired Justice of the New York Supreme Court, Queens, 11th Judicial District, will serve as vice president; Elizabeth Forspan, partner at the elder law firm ForspanKlear, will serve as vice president; Heidi Muckler, owner of Cedarhurst-based accounting firm HFM Valuation, will serve as treasurer; Etam Hakimi, licensed associate real estate broker as well as a licensed attorney, will serve as corresponding secretary; Gregory Newman, partner of Newman and Newman, will serve as recording secretary; and Avrohom Gefen, an attorney with the law firm Vishnick McGovern Milizio, will serve as financial secretary.

Absent from the installation was Assemblyman David Weprin, who serves as the Sergeant-at-Arms for the organization. No reason was given for his absence by event organizers. Text messages went unanswered. After the article appeared in The Jewish Press, Weprin called back to say he was at a conference in Ohio at the time of the event and organizers knew he would be absent. His staff attended and a Legislative Proclamation was presented on his behalf at the event.

A recent change in the court system is that Judge Laurence Love, who is Jewish, was elevated to the Appellate Division, Second Department in the State Supreme Court. Before being appointed to his new position by Governor Kathy Hochul in August, Love served as the New York citywide co-coordinator judge for Child Victims Act cases.

Chief Administrative Judge of the Unified Court System Joseph Zayas speaks about antisemitism and anti-hate to the crowd of Jewish attendees. Zayas is the first Latino-American male to serve in this capacity.

Judge Joseph Zayas conducted the swearing-in ceremony. Zayas was recently tapped by Rowan Wilson, New York’s Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, to be the chief administrative judge of the Unified Court System. He was previously appointed by the governor as an associate justice in the appellate division’s second department. He served as administrative judge in the Queens County Supreme Court. Zayas, of Dominican descent, is the first Latino-American male to serve as the chief administrative law judge in New York and has received accolades from the Hispanic and Latino legal communities over the past decade. In his current position, Zayas oversees a tab of $3.3 billion for running the court system, which includes 3,300 state and local judges as well as 15,000 non-judicial employees in more than 300 locations across the state.

“[In] October, reports of hate crimes against members of the Jewish community in New York City alone rose over 200 percent. It’s unconscionable and difficult for me to comprehend. I can only imagine what it is like to be a member of the Jewish community right now,” Zayas said. “I know that you are traumatized, you are grieving, you are scared, you are suffering, you are painstakingly mourning those who were brutally killed and you are desperately praying for the safe return of those taken hostage. I want you to know that I feel all of those things too. Please know that my heart and my soul aches for you and with you.

“As the governor recently said, all New Yorkers have the right to feel safe when they are worshipping, celebrating, and socializing with their friends and families, dropping their children off at school, and doing the everyday things that make up our lives. The court system is trying to do our part. Our office of diversity and inclusion and in collaboration with judges Morris and Kaplan are in the process of creating critical new training in bias and antisemitism,” Zayas concluded. [Kaplan is Deborah Kaplan, deputy administrative judge for the courts within the City of New York.]

Henry “Hank” Greenberg, 62, speaks to the audience of mainly Jewish judges and attorneys about the mayhem and destruction he saw first-hand during his recent trip to Israel.

The keynote speaker for the more than two-hour installation event was Henry “Hank” Greenberg, who has been traveling to various locations to talk about the devastation he saw on the ground when he visited Israel just days after the war broke out. Greenberg hearkened back to some of the major wars Israel has faced from the day after its inception as the Jewish homeland: In 1948 versus the Arab states; in 1967 known as the Six-Day War; in 1973 known as the Yom Kippur War; and in 2023 the war against Hamas.

“Hamas’s objective was not to hit military targets. Their objective was to kill as many innocent children, women and men as quickly as they could, and they succeeded. By land, sea and air, Hamas attacked population centers on multiple fronts. Amid the 3,000 rockets fired at Israel, terrorists infiltrated 22 villages indiscriminately, killing everyone they could see. Firefights broke out all along the southern border of Israel, Ashdod, Be’eri and Sderot. Remember those names. They became killing fields for Jews. The butcher’s toll was unbearable. In one day, 1,200 Jews were murdered, the largest number of Jews whose lives were taken since the Holocaust, and more Jews than were killed on Kristallnacht during the Nazi regime. On October 7, 2023, 5,000 Jews were wounded and 240 men, women, children and the elderly were taken hostage,” Greenberg said.

Pictured from left to right: retired Justice of the New York Supreme Court, Queens, 11th Judicial District Jeremy Weinstein; Albany attorney Henry “Hank” Greenberg; Gia Morris, acting justice of the Supreme Court, Criminal Term at New York State Unified Court System; and newly-appointed President of the Brandeis Association Bradley Siegel, an attorney in private practice at the Garden City-based Siegel Law Firm.

“We all, the world all, have been shocked to the core by the videos pushed out into the world by Hamas, bragging. Those videos show terrorists roaming the streets displaying unconscious and dead Israelis as if they were trophies in the street. The videos show streets littered with bodies bleeding profusely, and the desecration of the dead. This is fact, not hyperbole. Children were beheaded. A baby was thrown into an oven. Women were raped. People were lined up and incinerated in pits. Parents were killed in front of children. Children were killed in front of their parents. The border around southern Israel now is a wasteland. You wouldn’t want to live there. There are more than 150,000 Israelis who have been evacuated. What does that mean? They are refugees in their own country. What does that mean as Americans who survived and lived through 9/11? Well, that would be the equivalent of 5.3 million residents of the City of New York going to the Adirondacks. The economy is devastated. October 7 is the day that will live in infamy. The Jewish people have experienced such barbarism countless times over our 4,000-year history. That is why the Passover Haggadah teaches that in every generation our enemies will rise up and try to destroy us. The Pharaoh, the Inquisition, the Pogrom under the Russian Empire, and the Holocaust have taught us well. Never again is not a mere slogan, it is a mantra borne of two millennia of suffering.”

Greenberg described the harrowing time he experienced while he was in the Holy Land.

“We saw the debris of rockets that had been shot down by the Iron Dome. Keep in mind, I was not in the wrong place at the wrong time. There is no place in Israel where you can shield yourself,” Greenberg said. “Though as bad and unthinkable that is, we are now seeing a concerted effort to equate Zionism with all evil. We now hear in New York college students saying in words and substance, they’re saying it out loud: the Jews had it coming. We know it in our bones. As it goes with Israel, so it goes with World Jewry. If Israel falls, a Holocaust will be upon us. October 7, 2023, was Israel’s Pearl Harbor and September 11 wrapped into one. Rest assured; Israel will win. The strongest might, the strongest military in the Middle East most fundamentally because they are fighting for their lives, they’re fighting for their freedom and they’re fighting for the Jewish state. The civilized world needs Israel to win. If the civilized world is to remain civilized it must defend democracy against terrorism.”

A crowd of 300 attendees at the installation dinner of the Brandeis Association.

Greenberg, an attorney with the Albany-based global white-shoe law firm Greenberg Traurig, concluded his remarks with a fundraising pitch.

“For my parents’ moment, for many of you it was your parents’ moment. They gave and they gave and they gave. Now Israel is at war again. What will you do? What will all of us do? I know what you will do. You will honor the legacy of your mothers and fathers and their mothers and fathers and you will stand with Israel. That is what you will do. You will tell your elected officials you must support Israel and you will give and you will give until it hurts and know this. What you give will make a difference. I speak of first-hand knowledge. Those 150,000 Israelis who are refugees in their own country, their needs are so vast you cannot imagine it. They had to leave their kibbutzim with only the clothes on their back. They have psychosocial needs, psychological needs, medical needs, and they will never be the same. They need food. They need shelter. Most of all they need your love. Please do your part. I beg you to do your part. I know you will. Am Yisrael Chai.”

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Marc Gronich is the owner and news director of Statewide News Service. He has been covering government and politics for 44 years, since the administration of Hugh Carey. He is an award-winning journalist. His Albany Beat column appears monthly in The Jewish Press and his coverage about how Jewish life intersects with the happenings at the state Capitol appear weekly in the newspaper. You can reach Mr. Gronich at [email protected].