SOL GOTHARD, a retired judge for the State of Louisiana, Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal , and the longtime New Orleans post commander of the Jewish War Veterans (JWV), died after a lengthy illness, on Sunday, July 5, at his home. He was 89.
At the time of his retirement in 2005, Gothard held the designation as Senior Judge for the court after having been elected for almost two decades on the bench. Prior to that, he served as Chief Judge of the Jefferson Parish Juvenile Court.
Before entering public life in 1972, Gothard maintained a private law practice for more than a decade. He had previously been engaged as a social worker in the New Orleans area for 16 years before that. He earned his juris doctor degree in Law from Loyola University.
Gothard originally hailed from the Bronx in New York City and earned his undergraduate degree from City College of New York before enlisting in the U.S. Army and was honorably discharged as a private first class. Following his stint in the Army, he began to pursue a master’s degree in Social Work at Case Western Reserve University, where he met fellow student and New Orleanian Jacqueline “Jackie” Pressner, the woman who would become his wife of 60 years. After moving from Cleveland to New Orleans, the Gothards were married at Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on Carondelet Street and began raising a family.
The Gothard family was very involved in the administration of Beth Israel throughout the years with the judge taking an active role. Although Gothard himself was not elected as a congregation president, he held a unique ranking as the only person to be both married to and the father of a Beth Israel congregation president, as both his wife Jackie and son Edward were elected to lead the congregation at various times.
Professionally, Gothard’s work in law and as a person who hailed from a background with noted social work experience made him a worthy lecturer and keynote speaker for a number of international conferences and workshops. He was published in the Louisiana Bar Journal, the Practicing Law Institute, the journals of the National Organization of Forensic Social Work, The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and the American Medical Association.
He was a past president of the Louisiana Council of Juvenile Court Judges and taught as a full professor at the Tulane University Graduate School of Social Work. Gothard delivered commencement addresses to the graduates there one year as well as to the graduates at his alma mater at the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences of Case Western Reserve University. Gothard was also selected as that school’s Alumnus of the Year.
Selected as a recipient of the “Citizen of the Year” Award by the Louisiana State Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, Gothard was additionally awarded the Alfred E. Clay award for his work with children.
An award in his name for lifetime achievement was created by the national Organization of Forensic Social Work and Gothard was named it first recipient.
But if any one organization galvanized Gothard as a figure, it was the JWV Post #580. Originally named in honor of Jules Lazard, the post was renamed to honor longtime commander Ben Katz under Gothard’s administration as post commander. Gothard engaged the public inviting friends to join the organization and its ranks grew exponentially. Oftentimes, Gothard would make presentations on behalf of the JWV at the National World War II Museum and at synagogues on the occasion of public holiday observances such as those for Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
At one point, the JWV post was named the fastest growing in the country. As a result, the Peoples Health Insurance Company chose to honor Gothard in 2013 as a “People’s Health Champion” and he was acknowledged nationally by the JWV.
Judge Gothard volunteered as a member of the board of directors for several professional and volunteer organizations. These include the Louisiana SPCA and the Louisiana Animal Welfare Commission as well as the National Alliance for Abuse Awareness, the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC), the Children’s Division of the American Humane Association and the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans.
Gothard was predeceased by his wife Jackie in 2018. He is survived by his five children Yaacov (Jody) Noah Gothard, Edward P. Gothard (Blayne), Andrew Marc Gothard (Julie), Shayna G. Kaufmann (Eric), Sander Jay Gothard (Julie), 11 grandchildren and a great grandson. In addition, he is survived by his sister-in-law Freida Posnock.
A private memorial service at Lake Lawn Metairie Funeral Home was held at noon today, Tuesday, July 7. At the service, all five of Gothard’s children spoke as well as his son-in-law Dr. Eric Kaufmann and nine of his 11 grandchildren. In addition former Congregation Beth Israel Rabbi Uri Topolosky spoke. He was joined by current Beth Israel Rabbi Josh Pernick, who officiated at the memorial as well as at the graveside service, which followed immediately.
A shiva Zoom memorial service will be held tomorrow, July 8. Memorial donations are suggested to the Sol and Jackie Gothard Memorial Fund at Congregation Beth Israel.
Funeral arrangements are by Lake Lawn Metairie Funeral Home.