December 7, 2018
President’s Message By Bryan Neft
A little more than a month has passed since the tragic terrorist attack that took the lives of 11 Jews attending synagogue at the Tree of Life Or L’Simcha congregation building in Squirrel Hill, and our lives are slowly getting back to normal. In response to the event, the Allegheny County Bar Association offered the legal assistance of its members to help the families of the victims deal with any legal issues they were facing. The ACBA Board of Governors also approved a donation of $11,000 to the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) in memory of the victims of the shooting. The gift makes a strong statement of support for an agency that provides needed legal services to refugees and immigrants and which was also a target of the shooter’s wrath. Pursuant to Board directive, the funds will be restricted to assist those in the service area of Jewish Family & Children’s Services of Pittsburgh, which provides legal services to refugees and immigrants locally and which has been a trusted partner of the Allegheny County Bar Foundation for many years.
On Nov. 1, Mary McGinley and I served as guest bartenders at the Rivers Club to kick off the 26th annual campaign for Attorneys Against Hunger. Mary is a co-chair for the annual campaign. Because of the shooting, the chairs of the campaign decided to direct all of the proceeds from the evening to the Squirrel Hill Food Pantry to give back to the community that suffered so horribly and needlessly. And if that were not enough, following the statement that I made to our members about the shooting, the Homer S. Brown Division, Women in the Law Division and the LGBT Rights Committee issued strong statements of their own to denounce anti-Semitism and all forms of hate and discrimination. The bar association’s response to the incident has been nothing short of exceptional; but frankly, nothing less than I expected.
In my Oct. 31 statement to the members, I talked about generating ideas for how we, as members of the ACBA, can counter hate and discrimination. Our association has a critical role to play in educating the public about civics, and First Amendment rights and discourse. To that end, I intend to convene a task force of our sections, committees and divisions for that purpose. But that’s not really where I am going with this message.
It’s somewhat poignant that the holiday season has begun. I write this just a few days after the Asian Attorneys Committee celebrated Diwali, a Hindu festival of lights. By the time you read it, we will have celebrated Thanksgiving and in the midst of Chanukah. Christmas and Kwanzaa are just a scant couple of weeks away. It’s time to refocus on our families and what we can do to give back to the communities in which we live.
Fortunately, the ACBA has a number of ways to give back. I mentioned Attorneys Against Hunger. Many of our members are too young to remember that I chaired that campaign, which is always close to my heart. The members of the bar traditionally rally around the campaign as a way to give back to our greater community. If you’ve never given to the campaign, consider giving $10 or $20. If you have given to the campaign before, consider increasing your gift by $10 or $20. The proceeds are distributed to a variety of hunger relief agencies throughout Allegheny County – you can find the complete list at www.acbf.org/Supported_Agencies. All of the proceeds are donated to these agencies because of the generous underwriting of the campaign’s sponsors – The Law Offices of Steidl & Steinberg, Gleason & Associates and the Hon. Raymond Novak.
Attorneys Against Hunger also has many volunteer outreach events, some of which are kid-friendly. For many years, I took my children to Thanksgiving food-packing sessions at Hunger Service Network and produce distributions sponsored by the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. They also loved the idea of waiting on the customers who attended holiday lunches at the Rainbow Kitchen. And let’s not forget the effort required from the Young Lawyers Division and its volunteers to pull off its annual Children’s Gift Drive and Holiday Party for children living in Allegheny County shelters. This year’s successful drive took place last Saturday.
Many of our divisions and sections will be holding holiday parties as a way to spend some time with old friends before the holidays. (See list above.) We offer so many ways to give back during the holidays, as well as ways to connect. Take this time to be with family and friends – the most important people we have – and, if you can, take time to volunteer to help others. The practice of law will always be there.
Happy Chanukah! Merry Christmas! Happy Kwanzaa!
For everyone else, a Festivus for the rest of us. May your aluminum pole be without tinsel, and the airing of grievances meaningful.
And to all, a happy and healthy 2019.
Upcoming holiday parties:
Although the ACBA holiday season kicked off last week with the Women in the Law’s 30th anniversary celebration/holiday party, there are still several holiday gatherings on the calendar. Here’s a list of upcoming holiday parties that were on the calendar by mid-November. Members of these committees, sections and divisions should check the ACBA calendar or contact their liaison for registration details.
• Dec. 7 — Collaborative Law Committee
• Dec. 11 — Family Law Section
• Dec. 12 — Construction Law Section; Labor and Employment Law Section
• Dec. 13 — Young Lawyers Division
• Dec. 17 — Sole and Small Firm Practitioners Section
• Jan. 10 — Real Property Section; Corporate Banking and Business Law Section