Judge Rachel “Ruchie” Freier, the first Chasidic woman to hold public office in the United States, told 130 women on Sunday that she was able to maintain her observant way of life in a secular career.
“Whatever your standards are, you don’t have to compromise them to be successful in the outside world,” said Freier, a civil court judge in Kings County, N.Y.
Freier grew up in Borough Park in Brooklyn, the eldest of five children. After high school, she married and became a legal secretary. She didn’t begin studying law until she was 30 and realized all the lawyers she was working for were younger than she was.
It took her six years to complete her undergraduate degree at Touro College and four years to get her law degree at Brooklyn Law School.
“I like to say I have a profession not a career,” she said, speaking at the Chabad of Potomac’s Spa for the Soul event at Rollins Congressional Club in Rockville. “Because a career has a connotation that your job comes first and your kids are secondary. And for me, my kids were always most important. And that’s why my education took me so many years.”
She said she leaves work on Friday in time to prepare for Shabbat, won’t shake hands with men, and dresses modestly, covering her arms and wearing a wig.
Freier talked about her family — how during her election campaign for judge her sons helped by putting up flyers in the men’s bathroom at several synagogues. She also bought the wedding album of one of her sons to pass around. And she spoke with enthusiasm about how she assisted an all-female Orthodox emergency medical technician group.
It all brought her closer to God, she said. “As I was going through my journey, I realized that God is with me and I became, in a sense, closer to God, more religiously inclined, because I felt God’s presence every step of the way.
Her accomplishments left an impression on the Noemi Gerih, of Potomac.
“It was great to hear someone who grew up so frum [religious] to be able to navigate herself in a non-frum world without having to let go of any of her belief or any of her volitions. It was really great to hear.”