LOS ANGELES– LAWFUEL –Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP, the national law and consulting firm, has announced that one of its senior attorneys, Stanley W. Levy, will serve as the volunteer national director for Bet Tzedek Legal Services – The House of Justice’s pro bono initiative to assist Holocaust survivors seeking German “Ghetto Work” Reparations through the establishment of legal clinics in major cities across the United States.
Founded in 1974, Bet Tzedek’s mission is to ensure “equal justice for all.” One of the nation’s premier public interest law firms, Bet Tzedek, “The House of Justice” in Hebrew, provides free legal services in matters involving consumer rights, elder law, housing, public benefits and workers’ rights to more than 10,000 low-income, disabled and elderly residents of all racial and religious backgrounds in Los Angeles County. Bet Tzedek is also renowned as one of a handful of agencies in the world to offer free legal help to Holocaust survivors who are applying for reparations, pensions, and benefits offered by Germany and other European countries.
Bet Tzedek established the first pro bono “Ghetto Work” Reparations legal clinic in Los Angeles, in response to the German government’s creation of a new reparations program in October 2007. The program provides a one-time €2,000 Euro (nearly $3,000 US) payment to Holocaust survivors who worked while living in a German-controlled Ghetto.
The German government estimates that there are at least 50,000 Holocaust survivors alive today who may qualify for these new reparations funds, with approximately 20,000 of those survivors living in the United States.
Working with volunteer attorneys from Manatt, as well as other law firms, corporate law departments and solo practitioners, Bet Tzedek has provided legal assistance to more than 200 Los Angeles-area survivors in just 10 weeks and expects to serve hundreds more over the next several months. Bet Tzedek staff and the pro bono law firm volunteers help the survivors to complete the applications and declarations required by the German authorities. To date, a significant number of the applications submitted through the program have been approved by Germany and reparations payments made. Bet Tzedek intends to capitalize on the successes of the Los Angeles clinic by expanding the program nationwide.
Under Levy’s direction, Bet Tzedek will offer training and support to scores of social service agencies and hundreds of pro bono lawyers throughout the country who, in turn, will provide legal assistance to survivors in filling out the German Ghetto application forms. Manatt has agreed to spearhead this pro bono effort in all eight locations where it maintains offices, including New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and San Francisco.
“Making a meaningful contribution to our communities is a responsibility we take seriously at Manatt,” said William T. Quicksilver, the firm’s Chief Executive Officer and Managing Partner. “Bet Tzedek’s work, assisting Holocaust survivors as they traverse the reparations process from half a world away, is both inspiring and engaging. The time that I have spent volunteering in Bet Tzedek’s legal clinic in Los Angeles has been particularly rewarding, and I know that our attorneys are anxious to participate in the clinics. We are proud to be a partner in this important effort and of Stan’s leadership.”
Levy, whose practice focuses on business litigation and labor and employment law at Manatt, has been named a “super lawyer” in his field by Super Lawyer magazine. He is the past chair of Manatt’s National Pro Bono Committee. In addition, Levy is the co-founder of Bet Tzedek Legal Services; the founding Executive Director of Public Counsel, the county’s largest pro bono legal services program and a former Executive of Director of the Western Center on Law & Poverty. Levy, an ordained Rabbi, is the spiritual leader of Congregation B’nai Horin – Children of Freedom in Los Angeles, and co-founder of the Academy for Jewish Religion California, a trans-denominational Rabbinical, Cantorial and Chaplaincy School located at the Yitzhak Rabin Hillel Center for Jewish Life at UCLA.
“As a lawyer I have been privileged to practice and teach law on many important commercial, public service, civil rights and public interest legal issues,” Levy said. “However, this Holocaust Ghetto Work Reparations Program is clearly one of the most important things I have ever done, and I am very grateful to be able to do it. As Muhammad Ali once said, ‘Service to others is the rent I pay for my place here on earth.’”
Reflecting on the commitments made by Levy and Manatt, Mitch Kamin, Bet Tzedek’s President and Chief Executive Officer, stated, “We are tremendously grateful to the law firm of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips for enabling Stan to serve in this vital role. Manatt’s Managing Partner, Bill Quicksilver, and Pro Bono Director, Cristin Zeisler have been particularly supportive of both Bet Tzedek and Stan, who has worked tirelessly to expand this pro bono effort nationally.” Levy concurred, thanking the firm for “allowing me to take on this effort on behalf of elderly Holocaust survivors who suffered unimaginable horrors under the Nazis and who, for many, are now living out their last years in abject poverty. I am also deeply appreciative to Bet Tzedek Legal Services for undertaking this grueling but morally imperative national effort and asking me to lead it. It is my tremendous honor to do so.”
Working through legal services and public interest law firms throughout the country, each year Manatt provides tens of thousands of hours of pro bono legal services to qualified low-income individuals and small-community nonprofit organizations, and is ranked among the top pro bono programs in the nation.
For further information about the Holocaust Ghetto Work Reparations Program or to serve as a pro bono lawyer volunteer, contact Bet Tzedek Legal Services at [email protected] or Stan Levy at [email protected] For further information about Bet Tzedek Legal Services – The House of Justice, contact [email protected]
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