Attorney Jim Rudolph has been deeply involved with Jewish organizations and public service for decades. A Beverly native, he has worked as an attorney for 44 years and is the managing partner of Rudolph Friedmann LLP, which has offices in Boston and Marblehead. A former Swampscott selectman and chair of the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals, Rudolph also has been the chair of the New England Regional Board of the Anti-Defamation League and president of the Jewish Rehabilitation Center for the Aged of the North Shore. Rudolph lives with his wife, Susan, in Marblehead. Their son Billy, an attorney, and his wife, Sari, live in Salem with their children, Jackson and Hadley. Another son, Bobby, is also an attorney, and works at Rudolph Friedmann LLP. Their daughter, Katie, is studying to become a physician’s assistant at the University of New England in Maine.
Could you tell us about your family, and how it was to grow up in Beverly?
I have two sisters, one older and one younger than me. Beverly had a small-town atmosphere for me growing up. My mother was born and raised in Beverly and her family lived in Beverly for many years. I attended Beverly public schools through the ninth grade, after which I boarded at Governor Dummer Academy [now The Governor’s Academy] in Byfield.
When did you first become interested in Judaism?
I learned at a young age to be proud of my Jewish heritage in a community that had relatively few Jews. My great-great-grandfather, Rabbi Jacob Askowith, designed the flag of Israel. My grandfather from Beverly was the president of the Beverly synagogue for 14 years and a founder of Camp Bauercrest [as well as other nonprofits]. My uncle was one of the founders of the Jewish Rehabilitation Center for the Aged of the North Shore. My parents were involved in the temple and on other boards, too. I had great role models who taught me the importance of giving back and of being involved in the Jewish community. After I graduated Boston College Law School, I got active with CJP in Boston after a trip to Israel. Later I became involved with the Anti-Defamation League and the JRC.
What made you want to practice law?
I was always interested in civil rights and social justice. I still like reading history books related to those interests, especially relative to the founding of our country. Like many law students, I wanted to be a civil rights lawyer. It didn’t turn out that way, but because of my involvement with ADL, I certainly have been exposed to, and involved in, many of the civil rights issues of my generation.
What do you like most about the legal profession?
I have a very diverse practice. Every day is different for me, and often challenging. I am a business lawyer and I represent a lot of people starting or buying and selling businesses. I also handle many business disputes between partners, often resulting in business divorces. Additionally, I have expertise in real estate law, employment law, and construction law. Practicing law has given me an opportunity to do well, but more importantly, to do some good. I realize I am fortunate to have founded and now manage a law firm with 18 lawyers. One of the benefits and responsibilities of that is getting to decide what organizations we support and what pro bono work we do. Some of my friends have retired or are planning to do so. I’m fortunate that I like what I do – practicing law and working with organizations that I think matter.
You have been deeply involved in town and area government – you served as a Swampscott selectman, chairman of the Swampscott Zoning Board of Appeals, and now you are on the Marblehead Zoning Board of Appeals. Why have you been so involved in local government?
As a student, I was always interested in government and politics. I considered running for state representative at one point, but it was too much of a time commitment for me. The boards of appeals and board of selectmen were ways for me to be involved in the towns where I lived and concentrate my time where I thought I could help. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to give some of my time to both the towns of Swampscott and Marblehead. I have really enjoyed those involvements.
You are a longtime trustee and now vice president of The Governor’s Academy, past president and board member of Associated Builders and Contractors of Massachusetts, board member of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, and a member of the Advisory Board of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, a trustee of Eastern Bank and on the board of the North Shore Chamber of Commerce. Why are you so active?
All of the boards I am on are for really good causes. I have tried to be involved in organizations that I think make a significant difference in the lives of other people. At Eastern Bank, for example, I am on the Bank’s Charitable Foundation Committee which manages a fund having over $100 million and last year gave over $7 million to more than 1,500 Massachusetts and New Hampshire nonprofits. At ABC, I recently led an effort to establish a new scholarship foundation. We are in the midst of a $75 million capital campaign at Governor’s Academy [from which two of my children also graduated], the major emphasis of which is to provide even more need-based financial aid. I usually end up chairing the nominating and/or board governance committees of boards I am on. I really enjoy mentoring young leaders and getting new, and especially younger, people involved in organizations I support.
You’ve served as chair of the New England Regional Board of the Anti-Defamation League, on the National Executive Committee for ADL, and now you are chairman of ADL’s New England Board of Overseers. You also served as president of the Jewish Rehabilitation Center for the Aged and its charitable foundation. You were president of Camp Kingswood and a member of the board of Camp Bauercrest, too. Why are you so committed to Jewish organizations?
It is part of my identity. I have deep roots in the Jewish community and want our children and grandchildren to share that identity in the future. I have been active with ADL for over 30 years. It is an organization I have related to both personally and professionally. Its mission has never changed – to protect the Jewish people, and to secure justice and fair treatment for all. If people like me, who have the passion and the Jewish identity, don’t get involved with organizations like ADL, who should?
America has seen an uptick in anti-Semitism, and across Massachusetts and the North Shore more and more incidents are being reported. What’s the best way to combat anti-Semitism?
My wife and I have always taught our children that we must stand up for what’s right, not what’s popular. In this day and age, it’s easy to be silent. Every person who stands up to anti-Semitism, whether around a dinner table or in the spotlight, makes a difference. Nobody is born prejudiced; prejudice is learned and can be unlearned. It’s important that parents teach their children at an early age about prejudice, hate, and bigotry. Parents have that responsibility. We must continue to support organizations like ADL that educate the next generation of youth in America and give a voice to people who cannot stand up for themselves.
What’s the biggest challenge [or challenges] facing the Greater Boston Jewish community?
Our challenges are similar to what many other large Jewish communities have in the United States:
Anti-Semitism is rising, and we need to recognize that anti-Semitism exists here and deal with it. Just because we have a large Jewish population doesn’t mean it’s not here. We need to be vigilant.
The priorities of the next generation are very different from those of my generation. There are significant conflicts relative to Israel and its policies; what happens in Israel is not as important to the next generation.
Boston has over 250,000 college students. It has become a target of choice for the dissemination of flyers and other propaganda that are anti-Semitic and anti-Israel. The [Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions] campaigns on college campuses are more than just anti-Israel; rather, they are totally anti-Semitic. We need to acknowledge that and deal with it accordingly.
The Jewish community must work together. That means temples, schools, all other Jewish organizations, and individuals, must be unified and consistent. Our Jewish community is not immune to divisiveness.
What advice would you give to Jews who want to get involved with town government or a Jewish organization?
My advice is the same, whether or not it is a Jewish organization. Join a board or committee whose purpose you are passionate about. Don’t join a board or a committee unless you are willing to commit the time necessary to become involved and to eventually assume a leadership position. Many organizations have express [or implied] term limits for officers, which means that leadership should change every few years. I have never gotten involved with an organization unless I could envision that someday I would be board chair or president.