Pam Wexler, Career Volunteer
In the two years Pam Wexler has been working with NYLAG as a pro bono attorney she has logged over 2,000 hours of service and is such a familiar face at NYLAG’s office in lower Manhattan that many people assume she is an employee. That is certainly the way she thinks of herself.
“I had been a volunteer for many years before I got to NYLAG, so for me volunteering is my career. Anything I take on I do 100 percent – I don’t know any other way. I need to be fully part of a team to reach my full potential, for myself and the women and children I serve. And NYLAG has given me the chance to do that,” said Wexler.
Wexler works with the Matrimonial and Family Law Unit (FLU) representing domestic violence survivors in divorce proceedings and helps her clients secure child and spousal support. The work of addressing the complex and diverse legal needs of survivors is intense and demanding. As a former corporate and securities attorney she did not have a background in family law, so the learning curve was steep. But she got up to speed quickly thanks to what Wexler calls the “teaching hospital” culture at NYLAG, with a number of FLU attorneys mentoring and encouraging her along the way.
Wexler’s path to NYLAG is inextricably linked to her commitment to UJA-Federation of New York, where she has been volunteering for more than 25 years. As a member of the Nedivot Fund, a UJA Westchester Women’s Impact Philanthropy Group, she became aware of NYLAG’s work in support of Orthodox Jewish women, who are traditionally under-served and isolated and face significant religious and cultural pressures to remain silent in the face of abuse. The Nedivot Fund provided grants to support this project for five years.
Wexler remembers a beautiful spring day when FLU attorneys had come to the UJA office in Westchester for a grant renewal presentation to Nedivot. She shared her dream of combining her years of experience as a volunteer with UJA-Federation and its network with her goal of returning to the law as a public interest attorney helping domestic violence survivors. A couple of years later, Wexler got her dream job, and NYLAG got an extraordinary new asset.
“What strikes me about Pam is the compassion she exhibits when she’s working with clients and her ability to connect; her deep desire to help as many as she can. She is thorough and hard-working, doing whatever it takes to help a client,” said Kim Susser, Director of the Matrimonial and Family Law Unit. “In addition to the legal support she provides is the emotional support she gives to all of us in FLU – she is always at the ready for our celebrations with flowers and candy and our sorrows with a hug. The respect and admiration she gives us helps sustain us through this challenging work.”
Wexler has been working longer hours than usual over the last several months with FLU staff attorney Lana Kleiman on a complicated and contentious divorce against a very challenging, pro se litigant.
“Pam devoted endless hours helping me prep for trial and she was second chair at the trial. There were some weeks when she came in on weekends to help me prepare. Every task, big or small she handled carefully and efficiently,” said Kleiman. “She is one of the most amazing women I have ever met. She is compassionate, devoted and goes above and beyond for our clients. Pam has an incredible ability to get information from people, whether it’s a clerk at the court or a custodian of records at a bank. She is truly an invaluable part of our team.”
On November 9 at the Pierre Hotel, Wexler’s twin passions for UJA-Federation and NYLAG came together at the UJA Annual New York Lions Lunch, hosted by UJA-Federation of New York. There, she was recognized for her dedication to helping women and children in need. The “Lion” refers to the Lion of Judah, an international philanthropic Jewish women’s group within the Federation system of which Wexler is a long time leader. She is a recipient of the prestigious Lion of Judah Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland award, which is given to women who have demonstrated the highest ideals of leadership and philanthropic involvement.
“It’s been gratifying to have my work recognized by organizations I so greatly admire and support. But even more important to me has been the opportunities I have been given. UJA gave me the opportunity to have a very strong voice as a woman, and now though my work with NYLAG I have the opportunity to give voice to and empower the women I help,” said Wexler. “And I don’t only mean helping them through the legal work that I do on their behalf. I want to encourage them to better their situations by taking advantage of training and employment programs that can help them move on to better, more rewarding lives for themselves and their children.”