It was during the fall of 1968 when a young Civil Court Judge left a meeting of the Queens County Bar Association with a unique thought. “There are highly respected ethnic-based lawyer organizations throughout. Why not a professional organization of Jewish lawyers in Queens?” he pondered. And so a wondrous idea was born out of an inspiration. The Judge? Leonard L. Finz. The organization? One made up of lawyers of the Jewish faith in Queens County.
The major challenge now presented itself: how do you transform a far-reaching dream and make it into a vibrant-living reality? Judge Finz knew he would have to begin with a select cadre of highly respected Jewish lawyers in the county, and begin he did, summoning each to an initial meeting that could historically be recorded as the first gathering of the “Board” of this new association.
Specially hand-picked, they included, Bernard Hirschhorn, a highly respected lawyer and very close friend; Albert Elegant, Judge Finz’s law secretary; Honorable Seymour Boyers, a law school-mate and dear friend for many years then serving in the New York State Assembly; Wallace L. Leinheardt, an active member of the Queens County Bar Association [QCBA] later becoming its youngest president; Jerome M. Ginsberg [a future president of the QCBA, later receiving a Fulbright Scholarship]; Michael Dikman [a matrimonial law expert, nationally-ranked champion handball player, several years later becoming the president of the QCBA]; Jack Hunter [a close friend, outstanding lawyer, and exceptional tennis player who later became the first Chair of The Brandeis Tennis Trophy Awards]; Burton J. Apat [a recognized expert in real estate law]; Joseph P. Axler [a highly reputed Jamaica trial attorney and bon vivant sportsman]; Morton Povman [a dynamic politcal leader and City Councilman]; Gary Darche [a gifted young attorney, later becoming QCBA president]; Ronald Lebovici [a daily and popular fixture in the courts]; and Oscar Katz, a universally admired and revered elder statesman within the Jewish legal community. But there was one more participant who had to be brought in–one who could offer strategic credibility and validity to the infant organization. And this is how it all came about…
Several weeks before the initial meeting, Judge Finz met with that special person, stressing the need for such an organization, and persuading him that the time had come for full recognition of Jewish lawyers in the county. His name? Donald R. Manes, the then Borough President of Queens and one of the most powerful and influential voices in the county, city and state. Ultimately receiving Borough President Manes’ enthusiastic endorsement was indeed a gargantuan step toward the goal of acceptance –an indispensable component if the ambitious dream was to ever come to life!