NCJF Remembers
Beverly Weinger Boorstein (1941-2016)

Attorney, Massachusetts Family & Probate Court Judge, and pioneering advocate for gender equality and children’s rights. Beverly was a founding board member of NCJF: a central figure in the Center’s creation and a stalwart supporter and advisor for more than 40 years, speaking daily with her friend Sharon Pucker Rivo. We are devastated by her passing, but celebrate her extraordinary life.

Boston Globe: Beverly W. Boorstein, 74, former Middlesex court judge
by Bryan Marquard

Beverly Weinger Boorstein
by Michelle Boorstein

Beverly Weinger Boorstein, who oversaw dramatic changes in family life and family law in her half-century as a probate attorney, judge and mediator -- including as first justice of the busy Middlesex County Probate Court -- passed away Sunday after a year fighting lung cancer. She would have turned 75 Monday.

Boorstein was one of two women in her graduating class from Boston University law school in 1964, a fact which drove her to work in her law career and through a voracious volunteer life on gender equity and children's rights issues.

She was treasurer in the 1980s of the lieutenant governor and governor campaigns for her close friend Evelyn Murphy, who became the first woman in Massachusetts history to hold a constitutional office when she was elected lieutenant governor.

Boorstein was involved as a lawyer and as a judge in various impactful cases. Among them was a 1978 case in which she represented a woman with Alzheimer's that established the right of a physician and family to decide not to resuscitate someone with an "unremitting, incurable mortal illness" without getting a judge's permission. It was an early decision in the national right-to-die discussion. Boorstein also sat in the 1980s on Gov. Michael Dukakis's Commission on the Unmet Legal Needs of Children, which proposed a then-groundbreaking proposal to give judges permission to require children to get support through age 23 so that they could finish college. The proposal became law.

Boorstein was rare in the late 1960s when she opened her own practice, which she did because she knew the male-dominated firms wouldn't respect or accommodate the needs of a working mother, she said. That was the era when the Harvard Law School Dean Erwin Griswold was widely reported to have asked the few women then in Harvard's class why they were there, "taking the place of a man?" news outlets reported.

She and her partner, Suzanne DelVecchio -- who went on to become the chief justice of the state Superior Court -- were known characters in the city's family court scene, and at Boorstein's swearing in 1992 cracked up the Statehouse crowd by saying the pair would "celebrate the law" by shopping when they won big cases as young lawyers.

While Boorstein advanced the cause of women, she didn't see herself as unconventional or a trailblazer or a feminist; she was a conservative, proper Midwesterner who just happened to take off in big city law and wound up in the rough-and-tumble world of politics. That was in part because of her husband, Sid Boorstein, who was active with many Massachusetts campaigns over the years, including as a delegate to the 1976 national convention for Democratic presidential candidate Henry Jackson and finance chairman for David Mofenson for Congress in 1981.

Boorstein drew attention to the challenged resources of the court system she revered. In an era of deep cynicism about the law, Boorstein considered it the most noble of professions because it meant judgment and decisions about -- in the case of family law in particular -- the intimate day-to-day lives of people, in particular the most vulnerable who couldn't afford outside support in cases of conflict.

Once she became a judge, she tried to improve conditions in the decrepit building. She corresponded with the famous architect Frank Gehry, who she tried to get to design a new court building. Boorstein appeared on the front page of The Boston Globe in the mid-1990s vacuuming her own office in her black robe, a result of her campaign to bring attention to the broken and dirty space.

She and her husband were active in Jewish causes. He and his daughter, Robin Boorstein, for many years ran several McDonald's restaurants in the region, and Beverly may have been one of the rare observant, kosher Jews who used McDonald's boxes to store Judaica books in her basement. She was a longtime board member of the National Center for Jewish Film, which owns the world's largest collection of Jewish film in the world outside Israel.

Born in Chicago, Boorstein grew up in Oak Park, Il., one of three children of the late Morris and Bess Weinger. She graduated from Brandeis University in 1961 and from Boston University in 1964. She lived in West Newton for many years before relocating to Sharon in 2006. After leaving Middlesex, she worked for several years at the Norfolk County Probate Court before retiring in 2007. She opened a private mediation practice where she practiced until recently.

She is survived by her husband of 53 years; two daughters: Michelle Boorstein (Brad Foss) of Washington D.C., and Robin Boorstein; a brother, Dr. Ronald Weinger, of Needham; a sister, Susan Weinger of Kalamazoo, Mich., and three grandsons: Coby and Ari Mayhew and Gabriel Boorstein-Foss.

 

 

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