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My Boss July 19, 2008

Posted by admin in : Ira, Testimonials , trackback

Etta Beckerman
New York, NY

He was a short man but to me he was 10 feet tall. I first met Ira Gollobin about eight years ago when I came to work for him as a legal secretary. It was a Monday morning. I arrived early and sat down to wait. The door opened and in walked Ira carrying a small leather bag. After he introduced himself, I asked him if he had been away for the weekend. He said, “No, I was at the gym.” At that time he had just turned 89. I smiled, he smiled and said, “Get your book; we have a lot of work to do.” I only worked one or two days a week, which was enough for his purposes and mine. We clicked immediately.

I spent four pleasant and interesting years working for him. This was my first experience working for an immigration lawyer. He seemed to sense my understanding of the problems of immigrants. Sometimes he would dictate a legal paper and ask me what I thought. I was flattered that he asked for my opinion, as I knew nothing about immigration. When Christmas came, he was very generous. He also kept me supplied with nuts imported from Asia.

We had our differences. At times when I voiced a grievance, he would say, “You’re pretty frisky today.” When he told me he was retiring, I was surprised and dismayed. He explained that the reason was because his wife was ill and needed him, not because he wanted to.

After I left, I still kept in touch. Many times he would ask me to come to his house to do some work. Often we would talk about some of his cases. He told me about the time during World War II when he was stationed in the Philippines; how after the war was over, his unit was kept there without any sign of returning home; and how he engaged the military to help him persuade the commanding general and Washington to send his unit home. Through his efforts they were sent home within two weeks.

But the most heart-rending case he had was about a client who escaped with his family from Nazi Germany in 1944 and who was threatened by the Immigration Department to be sent back. After appealing to all the government agencies to get his client and his family to stay in the U.S., Ira went to the press. Immigration instructed him to bring his client and family to Ellis Island for deportation, but Ira decided he would not do it the usual way. Ira told them to pack their bags and walk from Washington Heights to Ellis Island and the press would walk with them and take pictures! This created such a stir that Ira won his case and the family was allowed to stay in the U.S.

I love this story. I’ve told it to many people and now to you.


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