Rachel "Ruchie" Freier (born April 2, 1965) is a United States real estate attorney and community activist. She also serves as a volunteer court lawyer in the New York City Family Court.
In 2016 she was elected Civil Court judge for the Kings County 5th judicial district in New York State, thereby becoming the first Hasidic Jewish woman to be elected as a civil court judge in New York State and the first Hasidic woman to serve in public office in United States history.
Early life and education
Freier was born in Borough Park, a Brooklyn native, the eldest of five children in a Hasidic Jewish family. While attending the Bais Yaakov high school in Borough Park, she took a course in legal stenography, she graduated high school in 1982. At age 19 she married David Freier, with whom she has three sons and three daughters.
Freier worked first as a legal secretary and in 1994 as a paralegal at Law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher in order to support her husband in kollel. Her husband went on to complete an accounting degree at Touro College, and in 1996 she also decided to pursue a college education.
She enrolled at Touro College, where she became director of the women's pre-law society and graduated six years later with a bachelor of science degree in political science.
She then entered Brooklyn Law School, completing her degree in four years, graduating in June 2005.
Freier passed the New York State Bar exam in 2006 becoming the first Hasidic female lawyer. She is also licensed to practice law in New Jersey and the District of Columbia.
|Brooklyn Civil CourtDistrict 5||Sept|
|√ Rachel Freier 40.9%|
Jill Epstein 34.5%
Morton Avigdor 24.5%
|Brooklyn Civil CourtDistrict 5||Dec|
|√ Rachel Freier (D) 74.4%|
Morton Avigdor (R) 25.6%
Freier and her husband shared an office in Borough Park, where she practiced commercial and residential estate law and he did commercial financing.
Freier has a law office in Monroe, New York, where she does business with Hasidic residents of nearby Kiryas Joel. She advocated for the Satmar Hasidic Community by speaking to residents of Orange, Sullivan, and Rockland counties, to help correct misconceptions people might have about Hasidic life in Kiryas Joel, to better understand the Hasidic neighbors in their midst.
Freier started her political career in 2001 as an intern for then-New York State Senator Hillary Clinton at her office in Manhattan, she also interned for other elected officials.
Civil Court Judge
In April 2016, Freier announced her candidacy for Civil Court Judge, running for the spot on the bench vacated by Judge Noach Dear.
In the September 2016 Democratic primary election for Civil Court Judge of the Kings County 5th judicial district, Freier garnered 4,730 votes (40.9 percent), followed by Jill Epstein with 3,993 votes (34.5 percent) and Morton Avigdor with 2,835 votes (24.5 percent). She entered the November general election with Avigdor as a Conservative Party challenger and received 68,088 votes (74 percent) to his 23,393 votes (26 percent).
Freier was endorsed in the three-way race during the elections by The Jewish Press the largest Jewish newspaper in the United States, and also by New York Daily News the fourth-largest Daily newspaper in the United States.
On December 22, 2016, she was sworn in at Brooklyn Borough Hall. She delivered a speech that included Hebrew and Yiddish phrases and concepts which she translated into English. Her inauguration ceremony was carried live on WABC-TV and News 12.
On hand for her swearing-in was Hasidic singer Lipa Schmeltzer, who sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" with bits of Yiddish & "God Bless America" in full Yiddish version.
In December 2017 Megyn Kelly welcomed Freier to The Today Show as the woman The New York Times has called “the Hasidic superwoman of night court”; she was featured in the series “She’s Got Faith,” marking her one-year anniversary on the bench.
In 2005, Freier established Chasdei Devorah Inc. a nonprofit charity organization to help poor Jewish families in the memory of a young friend.
In 2008, Freier was one of the founders of B'Derech, a GED program for Haredi youth-at-risk. The organization also helps troubled teens with therapy and hypnosis. The program launched in partnership with the New York branch of Bramson ORT College adding a Men's Division and Women’s Division.
In 2010 Freier advocated to save Breslov Yeshiva in Williamsburg, in spite of opposition from some who harassed the students and maligned the Rabbi, Yoeli Roth. Freier received threats for defending the yeshiva, but she won the court case and the yeshiva continued to strive.
In 2011 she became involved with Ezras Nashim Org., an all-female Orthodox Jewish volunteer EMT ambulance service established with the goal of preserving women’s modesty in emergency medical situations, especially childbirth. The group was formed after its request to add a female corps of EMT volunteers to the all-male Hatzalah organization, the long-standing Orthodox Jewish EMT service in New York City, was rejected. Hatzalah was the subject of controversy as articles in the New York Post and JEMS Magazine criticize the organization for its discriminatory practice of not allowing women to join. The group of Orthodox women cited the need for modesty and sensitivity to the needs of fellow Orthodox women. Freier initially provided advocacy services for the group and took over the directorship of the organization in 2012. Ezras Nashim was licensed by the New York State Department of Health in February 2013.
- Freier is a licensed EMT and has completed advanced training to qualify as a New York State paramedic. She has served on Borough Park's Community Board 12 and performed pro bono legal services for the New York City Family Court.
- Freier was chosen by Makor Rishon an Israeli newspaper as one of the “15 Most Influential Jews” in the world of the year in 2016.
- Freier was selected by Kings County Politics among the political events in New York City from the “Top 10 Stories” of the year 2016.
- Freier was listed by City & State Magazine as the “Winners” among politicians of New York State in the year 2016.
- Freier was nominated by Jew in the City as one of the ten “Orthodox Jewish All Stars” of the year 2016.
She married David Freier, a Bobover Hasid, with whom she has three sons and three daughters. They reside in Borough Park.