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Simon Hirsch Rifkind

RIFKIND, SIMON HIRSCH (1901–1995), U.S. attorney and jurist. Rifkind, who was born in Meretz, Russia, was taken to the United States in 1910. He graduated from the City College of New York in 1922 and received his LL.B. from Columbia Law School in 1925. He worked with Senator Robert F. Wagner as legislative secretary from 1927 to 1933, and from 1930 to 1941 practiced law as a partner in Wagner's law firm, Wagner, Quillinan & Rifkind. In 1941 Rifkind was appointed U.S. district judge of the Southern District of New York, holding this position until 1950, when he resigned to return to private practice with Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. In 1957 the firm opened a Chicago office with Adlai Stevenson as senior partner. Rifkind returned to judicial service as special master for the U.S. Supreme Court in the Colorado River case during 1955–61.

He served on administrative commissions and on quasi-judicial fact-finding bodies involving sociopolitical questions. He served New York City on the Board of Higher Education (1954–66); as a member of a state commission on city governmental operations (1959–61); in the 1963 teachers strike mediation; and on the commission that investigated the 1968 Columbia University turmoil. He served as chairman of John F. Kennedy's Presidential Railroad Commission in 1961–62. Rifkind represented New York State Democrats in reapportionment litigation in 1965–66, and was cochairman of the Presidential Commission on the Patent System in 1966–67. In the pamphlet Reflections on Civil Liberties (1954), Rifkind emphasized the constitution's circumscription of the status and function of congressional committees as lawmaking bodies.

Rifkind served as temporary special adviser on Jewish affairs in the European Theater to General Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1945–46, and in 1946 he testified before the Anglo-American Commission of Inquiry on Palestine that the only resolution of the plight of displaced persons was the opening of Palestine to settlement. He served as vice chairman of the board of directors of the Jewish Theological Seminary from 1947; as chairman of the "committee of five" on United Jewish Appeal allocations from 1949; and as chairman of the administrative board (1953–56) and of the executive board (1956–59) of the American Jewish Committee.

Some of his later landmark cases include the defense of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis against paparazzi, and Pennzoil Company in its successful fight against Texaco in 1986. His many awards include the Medal of Freedom, presented to him by President Harry S. Truman.

In 1986 the City College of New York established the Simon H. Rifkind Center for the Humanities and the Arts, whose primary goal is to promote cultural activities in the humanities.

Rifkind wrote The Basic Equities of the Palestine Problem (1972), One Man's Word: Selected Works of Simon H. Rifkind (3 vols., ed. A. Bellow and W. Keens, 1986, 1989), and At 90, on the 90s: The Journal of Simon H. Rifkind (1992).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.