Graduate Profile: Sara Levine, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
A common spirit runs throughout Yeshiva University: the mandate to matter.
Students of all ages and backgrounds come here to pursue a range of professional and personal dreams, from scientific research and medicine to law, Jewish education or public policy. Our students seek to harness their unique talents and YU education to make a lasting impact on the world around them. This spring, when they graduate from YU, these new alumni will hit the ground running.
In the weeks leading up to Commencement, YU News will feature one remarkable graduate from each school, reflecting, in their own words, on their time here, their passions and their dreams for the future.
Meet the Class of 2013.
Name: Sara Levine
Hometown: Westchester, NY
Passion: Asylum law
You began your career as a journalist for Israeli television. Why did you decide to pursue law?
Before law school, I worked as a journalist for the English nightly news. Because our news bureau was relatively small compared to the Hebrew and Arabic news departments, I was able to cover a large range of issues, from domestic politics to foreign affairs to civil rights and the law. It was this latter group that fascinated me the most. In particular, covering stories relating to marginalized groups and their struggle for the most basic, fundamental rights, both frustrated and motivated me. While I loved my job as a journalist and the challenges every day brought—the rigors of fact-finding, learning people’s stories, extracting the salient facts and effectively conveying stories to our audiences—I felt that something was missing. I knew that law was the key to making real change in society and fighting against the same injustices I covered as a reporter. The journalist is meant to educate, draw awareness and illuminate issues of the marginalized, the struggling and the voiceless. The lawyer, I realized, can give them a voice.
Why did you choose Cardozo?
I wanted to hit the ground running and get involved in direct-client work as soon as possible. With its internships and various field clinics, as well as course offerings in my precise areas of interest, Cardozo offered exactly what I was looking for. At Cardozo, I participated in the Immigration Law Field Clinic, working at the Immigrant Protection Unit at the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG); the LGBT Leadership Practicum, working at the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT Rights Project in their national office; and the Human Rights and Genocide Clinic, where I co-represented a Syrian man fleeing persecution.
I spent my two law school summers further exploring the passions that were shaped by my reporting background and law school experiences. After my 1L summer, I worked at an Israeli NGO in asylum law and refugee rights with newly-arrived African refugees and survivors of torture. After my 2L summer, I worked in NYLAG’s LegalHealth Unit, where I helped provide direct client services to low-income New Yorkers with serious health issues, in legal clinics inside city hospitals.
What kind of impact did these experiences have on you?
I met Mary and her 2-year old son Valentine in a tiny, humid interview room. Over the course of several hours, Mary described their journey from ethnic-based persecution in Nigeria to surviving months of torture at a Bedouin-run smuggling and torture camp in the Sinai Desert and finally making their way, by foot, to Israel—a country they had never even heard of. I watched Valentine drawing mismatched shapes and patterns on a piece of paper I’d given him and it became real to me that it was now largely my responsibility to help them apply for legal protection and to keep them safe. The ability to use the law to drastically change people’s condition—and the sense of tremendous responsibility that came with it—was exhilarating, and confirmed the reasons why I chose law school. Although Mary and Valentine’s case is still pending, I was able to help them apply for asylum, obtain temporary protected status and receive work authorization.
Winning political asylum for my client in the human rights clinic was another unforgettable and powerful experience.
What will you be doing after graduation?
I am thrilled to have been selected as an Equal Justice Works Fellow, sponsored by Pfizer, Inc. and DLA Piper. Equal Justice is an organization that provides an incredible opportunity for graduating law students and new attorneys to design a fellowship project—essentially creating your dream job—that focuses on serving a specific, unmet legal need in the community.
My fellowship project is rooted in my work as a reporter and shaped by my work experiences throughout my time at Cardozo. Equal Justice provided the perfect vehicle through which to integrate my passions—immigration and asylum law, human rights and civil rights—and NYLAG, where I worked the summer after my second year of law school, provided the perfect venue. I designed the Legal Health Immigrant Access to Healthcare Project, in which I will provide direct immigration representation to humanitarian-based immigrants with medical needs. I will also work with these clients to obtain the state Medicaid that they become eligible for upon the filing of their federal immigration claims. The goal of the project is to use a medical-legal partnership model to improve the overall well-being of low-income humanitarian-based immigrants with medical issues. I will work within existing Legal Health clinics in hospitals around New York City and set up my own clinics where necessary.