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Bringing Honor to the Court

Binyamin Rose, Bangor, Maine

When attorney Louis Kornreich’s name came up for appointment as a federal bankruptcy judge, one colleague praised him for a rare combination of “ethical sensitivity” and “moral tenderness.” Judge Kornreich distinguished himself with his yarmulke while presiding on the bench, and for keeping a historic Orthodox community viable in Bangor, Maine

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

November 1992 It wasn’t the best of times for the Striars, a fourth-generation family from Bangor, Maine, whose name has long been associated with Jewish philanthropy. The family had founded an outerwear and winter coat company, Eastland Woolen Mill, a major employer in the area for almost a century. Foreign competition had eaten into Eastland’s profits like swarms of hungry moths. A local banker got jumpy and foreclosed on the company’s loans. To add to the sorrow, the family matriarch,SophieStriar, passed away Thanksgiving Eve. Because of the holiday, the burial was delayed to Friday — the same day Eastland filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, throwing almost 700 workers onto the unemployment lines. Amid the pain and hardship, the Striars’ son-in-law,JeromeKirstein, turned to the one man who possessed both the legal skills and the compassion to help — bankruptcy attorneyLouisKornreich. “I can’t tell you how many nights I leftLou’s office at midnight or 1 a.m. while all this was going on,” Kirstein says. Burning the midnight oil paid dividends. Within three months, Eastland emerged from bankruptcy, rehired most of their workers, and within the year returned to profitability. Today, Kirstein is a pension and insurance consultant in sunny Hollywood, Florida, but he remembers that frigid Maine winter — andLouisKornreich’s intervention — as if it were yesterday. “I don’t know how old you are,” Kirstein says during a telephone interview, “but do you remember a performer from an old show who would spin a bunch of plates in the air on sticks at the same time and none of them broke? That’s whatLou did. And he didn’t just do it for us. With his ability to manage all the balls that were juggling in midair, he got the family, the creditors, the banks, and new investors to see the benefits of keeping this business going.”

 

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