Posted by Rachel Pemstein

Our community has lost a true leader in the passing last week of Judge Sumner Z. Kaplan. Among his many accomplishments in his professional and volunteer life, Judge Kaplan was also the founder of JF&CS Bet Tzedek Legal Services.

Almost twenty years ago, Judge Kaplan saw an unmet legal need in the Russian community. Recruiting friends and colleagues, he spearheaded the efforts to establish Bet Tzedek of Boston, an independent community legal services organization that responded to gaps in civil legal services to Russian immigrants, elderly, and other low-income residents of Boston.

In 1997, JF&CS assumed the management of the program. This merger provided a unique opportunity to provide legal services within the context of the agency's highly regarded health and human services. Bet Tzedek Legal Services continues to this day to provide creative and holistic approaches to serving the unmet civil legal needs of low-income clients.

Judge Kaplan continued to serve on the Board of Advisors for Bet Tzedek Legal Services until just a few years ago when, in his words, he decided that it was time to leave it in the hands of the next generation. Judge Kaplan's guidance, creativity, and passion for justice will be missed.

Rachel Pemstein is the director of JF&CS Bet Tzedek Legal Services. A graduate of University of Chicago Law School and Barnard College, Rachel has been practicing law for more than sixteen years. She lives in Newton with her family.