Friday, November 30, 2007
Services Today for Retired Attorney Pauline W. Ledeen
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Services will be held this afternoon for Pauline Weinstein Ledeen, the first life member of the Criminal Courts Bar Association, who died Tuesday night at the age of 97.
Ledeen, who retired from practice more than 30 years ago, then began a second career doing social work with jail and prison inmates, passed away after a brief illness.
Former CCBA President Michael Shannon, who often drove Ledeen to and from the association’s functions after she quit driving, recalled her yesterday as “very intelligent, full of compassion.” Their conversations in the car, he said, usually consisted of Ledeen trying to enlist him in some form of social activism.
“Sometimes she succeeded, sometimes she didn’t,” he said, but she never stopped trying.
Ledeen was a Boston native, but lived in Northeast Los Angeles and Pasadena for the past 85 years. Her parents were among the original members of Temple Beth Israel of Highland Park and Eagle Rock, one of the city’s oldest Jewish congregations, where Ledeen remained a board member until her death.
A 1933 graduate of Southwestern University School of Law, Ledeen—who used her maiden name during her years of law practice—worked as a legal secretary at a time when the number of women lawyers was small and the number of jobs available to them even smaller.
She eventually opened her own office in El Monte, practicing mostly civil law for 39 years before beginning her second career, an outgrowth of her involvement with the Jewish Committee for Personal Service. She joined JCPS, which counsels Jews who are incarcerated or mentally ill, in 1947 and served on its board for 20 years.
She also retained close ties to her alma mater, becoming a major donor to Southwestern and attending numerous alumni events. She was honored with an honorary degree in 2003.
Although she was not a criminal defense lawyer, CCBA honored her, Shannon once wrote for the association’s newsletter, because “[n]o other lawyer has even come close to doing as much good for our clients as she has.”
Working out of the chaplain’s office at the Men’s Central Jail, Ledeen gained the nickname “Bubbe Teresa”—-Bubbe is Yiddish for grandmother—-as she spoke to inmates, contacted their families, and occasionally interceded with judges on their behalf.
While Ledeen and her late husband had no children, she was very close to her extended family, grandniece Sue Rosoff said.
Some of her earliest memories of Ledeen, she said, are of her taking Passover meals to the jail. The children in the family questioned why she was so concerned with helping people who had done bad things, Rosoff said.
“They’re just people who made mistakes,” she recalls being told.
Ledeen’s social activism, Rosoff said, was an outgrowth of a childhood in which the Jewish Sabbath was observed by passing around a “giving box,” in which each of the children was expected to put whatever loose change they’d collected, which would then go to charity.
That “carried over into how she could give to other people’s lives,” she said.
“She made each and ever one of us feel so special and she did that with the prisoners too,” Rosoff said. “That was her goal so that they would make them feel like somebody cared about them.”
In addition to her work at the county jail, she helped out at two other JCPS facilities, Gateways Hospital, which provides mental health services, and Beit T’Shuvah, a residential recovery center for Jews with substance abuse problems or similar addictions.
She also had a strong interest in Esperanto, constructed in the 19th Century as a potential international language, and traveled to a number of countries to attend the annual World Congress of Esperanto and to see friends she met through her interest in that language.
She won a number of awards for her work, including the CCBA’s Morton Herbert Service Award in 1985 and a Lifetime Achievement Award from Gateways in 2003.
Today’s services will be held at Beth Olam, the Jewish section of Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 6000 Santa Monica Blvd. in Los Angeles. The family requested that any memorial donations be made to Temple Beth Israel of Highland Park and Eagle Rock, P.O. Box 421186, Los Angeles, CA 90042, or to Gateways Hospital and Mental Health Center, 1891 Effie Street, Los Angeles, CA 90026.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company