Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



The Accidental Lawyer

Barbara Bensoussan

He always wanted to help his brothers, so he became a rabbi and then a military chaplain. Today, Jeff Ifrah advocates in a more complex arena, defending Orthodox Jews accused of federal crimes.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Jeff Ifrah never set out to be a lawyer — he regards the chain of events that led him to a legal office overlooking the White House with bemused satisfaction, as if to shake his head and wonder at the strange and marvelous Hand of Hashem. On the other hand, when he took an aptitude test in high school and his results indicated “rabbi or lawyer” as the most appropriate choices, he couldn’t figure out the juxtaposition. “Well, they’re both positions of helping people,” the counselor offered, and that has always been his driving motivation. These days, after stints as a rebbi and army chaplain, Ifrah is still in the helping professions, representing clients (many of them Orthodox Jews) who have been accused of federal crimes. But more than just providing legal counsel, Ifrah is doing his utmost to educate the frum public on how to avoid breaking the law in the first place and thus prevent anguish and chillul Hashem. Born to Moroccan immigrants who settled in Buffalo, New York, Ifrah was an only son amid five sisters. He attended day school there before being sent to mesivta in Toronto. Applying to Yeshiva University via early admission, he skipped out on the last years of high school. “I’m the only lawyer I know who never got a high school diploma,” he says. With all the drive of a first-generation American, Ifrah tore through his studies at YU, earning a bachelor’s degree in political science along with a master’s degree in medieval Jewish history (specializing in Spain, where his family has their roots). But he also enrolled in the semichah program, studying Chullin for two years under Rav Michel Katz as well as learning Sephardic halachos in parallel under Chacham Solomon Gaon; meanwhile, he did a stint as a rebbi in the Talmud Torah of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue. During the summers — his free time, as it were — he attended Cardozo law school. It was in law school that he met his wife Barbara, the daughter of a Hungarian Vizhnitz Holocaust survivor and a Canadian mother. “We got married one week after the bar exam,” he says. “We took the bar at the Javits Center and ran straight to Boro Park to pick up the bentshers.”  

 

To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.
CAPTCHA
Message


MM217
 
What’s in a Name?
Shoshana Friedman “What does Writer X have to say this week?”
Atonement — Fake and Real
Yonoson Rosenblum White confessionals and faux rituals
Four Walls Coming Full Circle
Eytan Kobre All the while, there’s been a relationship in the offing...
And Yet We Smile
Yisroel Besser We are the nation that toils to be happy at all costs
Out of This World
Rabbi Henoch Plotnick Dirshu Hashem b’himatzo — we are in Hashem’s company now...
Steven and Jonathan Litton
Rachel Bachrach The co-owners of Litton Sukkah, based in Lawrence, NY
Tali Messing
Moe Mernick Tali Messing, engineering manager at Facebook Tel Aviv
Sick Note
Jacob L. Freedman “Of course, Dr. Freedman. Machul, machul, machul”
Avoiding Health Columns Can Be Good for You
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman Only one reliable guide for good health: our Torah
Endnote: Side Notes
Riki Goldstein Most Jewish music industry entertainers have side profes...
Me, Myself, and Why
Faigy Peritzman Where there’s no heart and no love, there’s no point
Can’t Do It Without You
Sarah Chana Radcliffe When you step up to the plate, you build your home team
Eternal Joy
Mrs. Elana Moskowitz The joy of Succos is the fruit of spiritual victory
The Appraiser: Part III
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer Make sure your child knows his strengths
Hidden Special Needs
Rena Shechter You won’t see his special needs, but don’t deny them
Dear Wealthy Friend
Anonymous There’s no need for guilt. I am truly happy for you