$2M Gift to Law School Will Fund Initiatives in Family and Public Service Law
Dean Matthew Diller has announced that alumna Susan Halpern ’84C has donated $2 million to Yeshiva University’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. In keeping with Halpern’s wishes, the funds will endow initiatives in family law and public service law, two areas in which Cardozo has a distinguished history.
The generous gift underscores Halpern’s commitment to advancing access to first-rate legal representation for underrepresented New Yorkers, as well as her desire to encourage more lawyers to choose these fields of practice.
“Susan’s gift speaks to her overwhelming desire to use the law to strengthen families and help provide access to justice for those who need support,” said Diller. “We are very grateful that she has chosen Cardozo Law to partner with in expanding and improving the practice of family law and public service law in New York City.”
The programs will be named in honor of two individuals with long-standing ties to Cardozo. The Program in Family Law, Policy and Bioethics will be renamed the Gertrud Mainzer Program in Family Law, Policy and Bioethics, in honor of the late Judge Gertrud Mainzer.
Judge Mainzer was a distinguished family court judge and beloved Cardozo professor, who played a major role in strengthening the family law program. Her life story was tragic, but ultimately uplifting. In the winter of 1944 during the Holocaust, Mainzer’s two children were taken from their hiding place in the Netherlands by the Nazis, and placed in a concentration camp. Mainzer smuggled herself into the camp and she and her children survived. This experience ultimately informed both her legal and teaching careers.
“Judge Mainzer was a pioneer in teaching,” said Professor Toby Golick, director of Clinical Education at Cardozo. “She believed passionately in the importance of strengthening families and doing everything possible to keep them intact. Thousands of children and their families have benefitted from her efforts. Her influence on Cardozo students was enormous.”
The donation will also fund the David Rudenstine Fellowship Program which will provide financial support to students and graduates working in public service law. Professor Rudenstine has been teaching at the school since 1979 and served as Cardozo’s dean from 2001 to 2009. He is currently the Sheldon H. Solow Professor of Law. Prior to becoming a professor at Cardozo, he was acting executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, the executive director of the Citizens’ Inquiry on Parolee and Criminal Justice, and an attorney in the New York City Legal Services Program. The fellowship will support summer internships for current Cardozo students, as well as post-graduate fellowships for alumni in public service.
“David launched Cardozo’s Public Service Program, which has propelled so many of our graduates into careers pursuing social justice,” said Diller. “It is wonderful to be able to acknowledge his contributions in this way.”
Susan Halpern worked for the City of New York as an attorney in the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and then the Department of Consumer Affairs. She served as general counsel at the Citizens’ Committee for Children, an advocacy group, before becoming an adoption lawyer in private practice in 1991, working primarily with the city foster care system. She was on the Cardozo Board of Overseers in the 1990s, and has been an advocate for Cardozo’s family law program over the years.
“Susan decided to become a lawyer not only because she was interested in law but also because she understood how law could be used for the public good,” said Golick. “Her career after law school showed her commitment to helping others, and now this magnificent gift will help new generations of students and graduates pursue careers in family law and public interest law generally.”