Judge Robin M. Giarrusso was installed as the 48th president of Congregation Temple Sinai in public ceremonies on May 19. Giarrusso, who takes over from Bob Brinkman, begins the first of what is expected to be several one-year terms
Giarrusso, a native of Denver, came to New Orleans as a Newcomb College freshman and began attending services at Temple Sinai as a student. “It felt comfortable and similar to my temple in Denver,” she said. But it was her marriage to Joe Giarrusso, a member of a highly visible Catholic family that led to her becoming a full-fledged member.
“New Orleanians don’t leave, so I stayed,” said Giarrusso. Rabbi Julian Feibelman of Temple Sinai was the only New Orleans rabbi who would officiate at an interfaith wedding at that time. Giarrusso has been a member ever since.
After Hurricane Katrina, Giarrusso joined the board of trustees and eventually became an officer, holding every post but secretary. To Giarrusso, the “most exciting part of being on the board, and the most challenging,” was serving on the 2015 – 2016 Rabbi Selection Committee.
“The challenge of serving on the Rabbi Selection Committee was determining what expectations and desires our congregants had, and then finding the candidate who could best fulfill those,” said Giarrusso.
As president, Giarrusso has three main goals. “Our bylaws and constitution are very outdated. I would like to appoint a committee to help modernize those,” she said. She also wants to organize and catalog the temple library so people can easily find and borrow books. And she wants to create an inclusion committee to ensure that the LGBTQ community and people with disabilities feel fully at home at Temple Sinai. Committee tasks would include expanding handicap parking, making the chapel bimah handicap accessible, and increasing the amount of LGBTQ events and programming.
Giarrusso earned her juris doctor from Tulane, and recently celebrated her 29th anniversary of judgeship, presiding over Division “G” for the Orleans Parish Civil District Court.
In addition to her presidency at Temple Sinai, Giarrusso is the membership vice president of the New Orleans Bar Association Inn of Court, the chair of the New Orleans Bar Association Professionalism Committee, a board member of the Tulane University Alumni Association, and a board member of the New Orleans chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women, where she is leading the reboot of the Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) program.
Giarrusso has also served as an assistant bar examiner, class agent for her Newcomb College class, and board member of the Anti-Defamation League, the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program, the Jewish Children’s Regional Service, the Pro Bono Project, and the Newcomb Alumnae Association.
She is a frequent lecturer at continuing legal education seminars, speaking on such topics as ethics, professionalism, civil procedure, and women in the judiciary. She received the Association of Women Attorney’s first Michaelle Pitard Wynne Professionalism Award, as well as the 2015 Distinguished Jurist Award from the Pro Bono Project and an award from the National Urban League for distinguished public service.
In addition to her work with Jewish agencies and achievements in the legal field, Giarrusso has also lectured on and is a passionate advocate for people with physical disabilities. She is a former board member of Resources for Independent Living, Easter Seals, and the Education and Support Program of Children’s Hospital. Giarrusso was also appointed by former Louisiana Chief Justice Pascal Calogero, Jr. to attend a national conference on the court-related needs of people with disabilities.