Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University and HIAS Pennsylvania Create Fellowship in Human Rights

HIAS Pennsylvania and the Cardozo School of Law have teamed up to create a year-long Cardozo Law Institute for Human Rights Fellow – CLIHR (pronounced CLEAR) Fellow for a Cardozo law graduate hosted at HIAS Pennsylvania. The named Fellow, Rona Gershon, will focus on providing immigration legal services to unaccompanied immigrant children and women who have survived interpersonal violence. The Fellowship was made possible through a donor concerned about human rights.

HIAS Pennsylvania has provided legal and support services to immigrants and refugees in the Philadelphia region for over 132 years. In the past few years the organization has focused its work on providing legal, resettlement and social services to vulnerable immigrants, particularly women and children.  “Our work today is rooted in our history,” explains Judith Bernstein-Baker, HIAS Pennsylvania’s Executive Director. “In the past we assisted Jewish children and young women traveling without families when they arrived by ship at the Washington Avenue Port. Today, we use our experience to assist individuals of all backgrounds who, like our ancestors, seek freedom and safety in the U.S." According to Philippe Weisz, the Managing Attorney at HIAS Pennsylvania, “the creation of the CLIHR Fellowship couldn’t come at a better time. Our caseload of unaccompanied immigrant children needing representation has increased 300% in the past year. We’ve also had increased requests for services from women and survivors of interpersonal violence, including those who were subjected to trafficking, persecution in the home country and abuse in the U.S.”

The Fellow, Rona Gershon, is a native of the Philadelphia area. A May 2014 graduate of Cardozo School of Law, she attended Rutgers University in New Brunswick and graduated summa cum laude. Prior to college, Gershon attended Perlman Day School and Gratz Hebrew High School. Gerson shared “my Jewish education and upbringing are key to my career interests. In my essay for law school I wrote about how helping immigrants feel welcome is a fundamental Jewish value.  Even my last name reflects this commitment because in Hebrew, “Ger” means “stranger.” Gershon speaks Hebrew, Spanish, and Portuguese and held several internships during law school representing immigrants which prepared her for the Fellowship. An avid participant in Israeli folk dancing, Gershon has also taught belly-dancing, including running a class for survivors of domestic violence.

The Dean of Cardozo School of Law, Matthew Diller, is very supportive of the fellowship. "I am delighted that Cardozo Law is working in partnership with HIAS Pennsylvania, which plays such a critical role in enabling refugees and immigrants to build new lives in our country. Our School's work in the areas of human rights and immigration are central to our mission. The Cardozo Law Institute for Human Rights (CLIHR) provides our students with both the substantive knowledge and practical skills necessary to make a difference.  The fellowship will enable Ms. Gershon to use the skills she has gained in law school to help women and children at a crisis point in their lives."

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