By Morris Singer, PresenTense Boston Fellow and Founder, Boston Haifa Legal Partners

created at: 2011-02-22Nearly two years have passed since my return from Israel.

In the summer of 2009, I had the good fortune of studying law at the University of Haifa as part of my pursuit of a law degree from Suffolk University Law School.

Not only did the experience enhance my own career, but the exchange of which I was a part sparked a discussion on how then-existing practices in the Massachusetts juvenile justice system caused lasting harm to disadvantaged children appearing in the court room.

 A law student from Haifa, who had come to Boston on the exchange in which I participated, inspired the state judiciary to overturn the practice of shackling children in minor criminal and non-criminal cases.  This student arrived in Boston to discover a legal system that routinely chained a child’s arms and legs together for even the most minor offenses, such as skipping school or running away from home.

Through her work in Boston, the student was able to initiate a process that led to the eventual cessation of the shackling practice.  The exchange of ideas between Bostonians and Haifaim evolved our legal system and inspired improvements in social and juvenile justice.

This is why I started Boston Haifa Legal Partners, a program of the Boston Haifa Connection at Combined Jewish Philanthropies.  I am working to develop a community that fosters continual cross-cultural exchanges of legal ideas in the interest of social justice and professional enrichment.

The genesis of this venture was in a telephone conversation I had with my good friend, Nanny Balas, who is an attorney practicing securities law in Israel.  We have shared a common vision of becoming a prominent community of well-connected legal professionals in Boston and in Israel; a community that engages its members in cross-cultural legal intellectual exchanges and positively impacts the communities that lawyers in both cultures serve.

We have worked together for over a year, developing this program.  However, the speed of our growth has accelerated since I became a PresenTense fellow.

Over the last several weeks, CJP’s PresenTense Boston Fellowship has taught me to focus our vision, and to develop the venture by remembering the needs of those who stand to benefit from its existence.  I have clearly articulated our core ideology and purpose and begun to develop a plan, using this articulation as a starting point.

PresenTense has also connected me with my coach, who, among other things, is providing technological support.  Because this venture spans two cities that are thousands of kilometers apart, it depends on a robust Internet-based platform to facilitate exchange and collaboration.  My coach is an expert in this space, and I am confident that, looking back at launch night, his advice will have been crucial to our success.

Looking forward from this point, these next few weeks are a very exciting time.  Early next month, I depart for Israel to meet with members of Haifa’s legal community.  I intend to meet with law students, young attorneys, legal academics, and judges who are eager to share their insights and learn from Boston’s legal talent.

They have been working from their end to realize the Boston Haifa Legal Partners vision.  I am eager to see first-hand how well they are doing.