By ALAN SMASON
Madeleine Landrieu, the dean of the Loyola University College of Law, was presented with the National Council of Jewish Women’s (NCJW) Hannah G. Solomon Award in ceremonies at the New Orleans Sheraton on October 17.
Landrieu became the first member of her celebrated political family to be so honored, a family that includes her father, Maurice “Moon” Landrieu and her brother Mitch Landrieu – both former mayors of New Orleans – and her sister Mary Landrieu, a former long-serving U.S. Senator.
While Madeleine has never served political office herself, she was selected by the Greater New Orleans Section of NCJW for her advocacy work on behalf of children and young people at risk from abuse or neglect. She was a founding member of the non-profit Louisiana Institute for Children in Families, whose mission is to raise awareness for children without permanent families. Landrieu is a major supporter of foster families with her involvement in the statewide Louisiana Fosters campaign and, in addition, serves as the chairwoman of Covenant House, another non-profit organization that seeks to protect and shelter homeless, at-risk and trafficked youth.
Since 1965, the Greater New Orleans Section of the NCJW has selected individuals who have made a difference in social action and been inspired by the same values established by its founder, Hannah G. Solomon, with an award that honors her memory.
In accepting her award, Landrieu acknowledged the groundwork of Solomon in helping to establish a juvenile justice system in the U.S. more than 100 years ago. “Hannah Solomon taught us how to do this,” she said. “Before we treated juveniles as adults and put them into adult prisons and treated them in the way we treat adults in court.”
Landrieu continued: “She said that’s not really the greatest way. There’s a way to do better by our children and that work is still before us.”
Landrieu knows the judiciary well. Until two years ago, she served as a judge on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal for the State of Louisiana and was an Orleans Parish Civil District Court judge. She has served as the chair for New Judge Training in the state since 2008 and has been the president of both the Louisiana District Judges Association and the Louisiana Judicial College.
“In my work, for my judicial work and my work on behalf of children, we are not only being the voice for these children, we’re stepping out of the way and letting them be the voice for themselves,” she added.
Landrieu was lauded recently for advocating that the Louisiana Legislature raise the maximum age for foster children to receive aid from the state from 18 to 21 years.
Landrieu spoke about a similarity she shared with Solomon, who always invited guests to discuss issues and enjoy hospitality at her family dining room table. It was the same way, she said, in the Landrieu home. “We are rooted around our dining room table,” she mused. “That dining room table is euphemistic for belonging somewhere and being anchored somewhere, because it’s really important. It’s really important for kids to feel connected to something, to belong to something and when family all belong to one another, then things really get a lot easier.”
Landrieu called out for her mother Verna to stand and be recognized as not only her family’s matriarch, but also as a First Lady of the City of New Orleans, who instilled in her children a desire also shared by Solomon of tikun olam (“repairing the world”).
Landrieu was cited by New Orleans City Councilmen Joseph Giarusso III and Jason Williams, who jointly presented a proclamation from the city recognizing her for work and on her selection as the 2019 Hannah G. Solomon Award recipient. A similar proclamation from the state was also given to her.
Distinguished Hannah G. Solomon Award honorees are selected by a committee that nominates individuals both from within the New Orleans Jewish community and also from the much larger outside community. This year the committee was chaired by Ana Gerhanik, herself a 2016 co-honoree with her husband Juan. Susan Hess, the 2018 honoree currently serves as NCJW president, while Sarah Covert is vice president.
Both Hess and Covert assisted Ana Gerhanik with the task of selecting a nominee. Other committee members were Carol Asher, Jessica Frankel, Lis Kahn, Barbara Kaplinsky, Joyce Pulitzer, 2002 honoree Madalyn Schenk, 1978 honoree Flo Schorenstein, Kathy Shepard, Sue Singer and Eileen Wallen.
To see additional photos from the event, click on the galleries below: