Howard Lesnick

LesnickHoward Lesnick, 88, on April 19, 2020, at Foulkeways in Gwynedd, Pa. Howard was born April 22, 1931, to George and Sadie Lesnick, a Jewish family in New York City. He was raised during the Great Depression primarily in the Bronx. Reflecting on his father, a small businessman, Howard would say, “Relations among workers and management were always a question of justice.”

Howard was proudly “a Bronx guy.” He graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School; New York University with a bachelor’s (history); and Columbia University with a master’s (history) and a law degree, serving as editor of the Columbia Law Review. He clerked for Supreme Court Justice John M. Harlan II.

In 1960, at the University of Pennsylvania, Howard began his 55-year career teaching law. He inspired generations of students to fight against oppression and economic dispossession, teaching and writing in the fields of labor law, income security, immigration law, professional responsibility, prisoners’ rights, and religion in legal thought and practice.

In the 1970s, Howard became familiar with Quaker values while his daughter, Alice, from his first marriage attended Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia, Pa. Howard met Carolyn Shodt, a graduate student at Penn, and they were married in 1976. Their son, Caleb, was born a year later and daughter, Abigail, in 1983.

In 1978, Howard, Carolyn, and toddler Caleb attended their first meeting for worship at Central Philadelphia (Pa.) Meeting. Howard was struck by the James Nayler quotation displayed on a banner: “Turn inward! Turn inward, I beseech you, and there you will find him.” Howard would later write of “Quakers’ stunningly different notions . . . they weren’t hung up on doctrine . . . religion meant being open to the practice of discernment.” Howard credited his time with Quakers for reconnecting him with Jewish faith, and for later becoming a founding member of the Journal of Law and Religion.

In 1982, the Lesnick-Shodt family left Philadelphia for Howard to serve as the founding dean of the City University of New York Law School at Queen’s College. There he established an innovative course of study to prepare lawyers for careers in public interest law. CUNY Law has trained more than 1,000 lawyers and remains a flagship for the practice of serving the underserved. During this period, the family attended Brooklyn (N.Y.) Meeting.

In 1988, Howard returned to Penn Law and became the major force behind its Public Service Program. Under his guidance, every student was required to complete 70 hours of public service. As a result, more than 6,500 Penn Law students have provided 500,000 hours of pro bono service.

In 1989, Howard and Carolyn began attending Chestnut Hill Meeting in Philadelphia. Friends there testify that Howard served as a grounding presence, gave valued vocal ministry, and offered creative ways to solve conflicts and restore dignity when troubles arose. He served on clearness and spiritual care committees and led Quakerism 101 courses, though never formally became a member. Friends were impressed by his intense devotion to Carolyn and their extended family.

Howard’s final days in hospice care were complicated by the COVID-19 shutdown. Family kept vigil outside of the window of his room, using cell phones to communicate. Howard was buried in a traditional Jewish wicker casket under the care of Chestnut Hill Meeting at their cemetery located at Plymouth Meeting.

Carolyn stated, “Traveling with Howard has been an amazing journey.” He is survived by his wife of 44 years, Carolyn Schodt; three children, Alice Lesnick (Robert Goldberg), Caleb Schodt (Carolyn Ingram), and Abigail Lesnick (Jonathan Marvinny); four grandchildren; and two brothers, Irving Lesnick (Sheila) and Allan Lesnick (Molly).

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