Rosalie Silberman Abella (b. 1946) was born to Jewish-Polish Holocaust survivors in a displaced persons camp in Germany. When she was a child, the family moved to Halifax, and then settled in Toronto. Abella followed in her father’s footsteps and became a lawyer, graduating from the University of Toronto. She was a civil and family lawyer for five years before being appointed to the Ontario Family Court, aged just 29. This made her the youngest judge in Canada’s history – and the first pregnant one! Sixteen years later, she moved up to the Ontario Court of Appeal. Abella also sat on Ontario’s Human Rights Commission, and became a renowned expert on human rights law. Abella coined the term “employment equity” while overseeing the Royal Commission on Equality in Employment in 1983. She pioneered a number of strategies to improve employment for women, minorities, and aboriginals, which have been implemented in countries around the world. In 2004, she was appointed to Canada’s Supreme Court, making her the first Jewish woman to sit on the nation’s highest judiciary. Recently, Abella was named the Global Jurist of the Year for her work with human rights and international criminal law. Among her many other awards, she has received 37 honourary degrees, including one from Yale University – the first Canadian woman to do so. One politician said of her: “I’ve never met any judge in my life, and I know a lot of them – I used to be a lawyer – who understands people better than Rosie, and the importance of people in the judicial process. I think the human quality she brings to the bench is unsurpassed in my experience.”
Words of the Week
My life started in a country where there had been no democracy, no rights, no justice and all because we were Jewish. No one with this history does not feel lucky to be alive and free. No one with this history takes anything for granted, and no one with this history does not feel that we have a particular duty to wear our identities with pride and to promise our children that we will do everything humanly possible to keep the world safer for them than it was for their grandparents, a world where all children – regardless of race, colour, religion, or gender – can wear their identities with dignity, with pride and in peace. – Rosalie Abella
Sarah Hughes, with former president George W. Bush
Sarah Hughes (b. 1985) was born in New York to an Irish-Canadian father and a Jewish mother. She began ice skating when she was just three years old. By 1988 she won the US Junior Championships in figure skating, and the following year took silver at the World Junior Championships. After strong performances at a number of other events, Hughes qualified for the 2002 Winter Olympics, and graced the cover of TIME Magazine. Despite being just 16 years old, and the underdog, she won the gold medal at the Olympics in Salt Lake City. Away from the rink, Hughes is an active breast cancer awareness spokesperson, inspired by her mother, who is a breast cancer survivor. For over a decade, Hughes has also worked with Figure Skating in Harlem, a program providing free skating lessons to disadvantaged girls, as well as Skate for Hope, and the Women’s Sports Foundation. She graduated from Yale University in 2009.
Dylan David Moscovitch
Dylan David Moscovitch (b. 1984) is a Canadian figure skater with Romanian, Russian, and South African Jewish roots. He began skating at 13 months, and went on to compete in pairs figure skating competitions. He won gold and a couple of silvers at Canadian Championships, as well as a silver at the Four Continents Championships in Japan. Moscovitch competed at the Sochi Olympics earlier this year and won silver there, too. When not on the ice, he teaches the Israeli martial art Krav Maga.
Words of the Week
Where is God found? Wherever you let Him in. – Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, the Kotzker Rebbe
Joseph Isadore Lieberman (b. 1942) was born in Connecticut, the grandson of Jewish immigrants from Poland and Austria-Hungary. He was the first in his family to graduate from college, and earned degrees in political science, economics, and law from Yale. After working at a successful law firm, Lieberman was elected to the Connecticut Senate and served as a state senator for 10 years. Following this, he served as Connecticut’s Attorney General. He then ran for the U.S. Senate and won a seat, serving for three full terms as a Democrat, and another term as an independent, for a total of 24 years of service on the U.S. Senate. Over those years, Lieberman chaired and was a member of a wide range of committees, including Homeland Security, Environment and Public Works, as well as Armed Services. Despite being a Democrat for so long, Lieberman has a reputation for being quite conservative. He supports a strike on Iran, and has criticized Obama for avoiding terms like “Islamic extremism”. He has always been fervently pro-Israel, and it has been said that “there is nobody who does more on behalf of Israel than Joe Lieberman”. This is most likely because Lieberman is actually a practicing Orthodox Jew. In 1967, after his grandmother’s death, Lieberman returned to his Jewish roots, and has kept kosher and Shabbat ever since. When Al Gore ran for president in 2000, Lieberman was selected as his running mate, making him the first Jew to run for vice-president of the U.S. Although Gore and Lieberman actually won the election in terms of popular vote, Bush and Cheney were awarded the presidency after a long legal battle. In 2008, Lieberman received an award for Greatest Public Service by an Elected Official. He has been called a “national treasure” and “one of the greatest Senators we’ve ever had…” Lieberman has also written 7 books, one of which is The Gift of Rest: Rediscovering the Beauty of the Sabbath.
Words of the Week
Whoever saves a single life, is as though he saved an entire world. – Talmud, Sanhedrin 37a