The more I research the more amazed I am at the kind of work being conducted in the field of humanitarian work. For this interview I was able to get a glimpse into the making of a person’s life; the sacrifice, the hard work, the love and words of wisdom, all instilled into Ira Sherman. His past, monumental to his life as a Lawyer within a prestigious law firm in DC; he takes us back to his childhood in the Bronx. Ira grew up in a one bedroom apartment with a hard working first generation immigrant family, specifically his father, who did not have the opportunity to further his education. He emphasized that at the age of eight or nine, where English wasn’t his first language, found that his family and those around him were not well represented but disenfranchised. Although his family and people in the community voted, they had a lack of economical power. They had no real influence and they needed to be empowered.
This was the first in Ira’s observations which propelled him into the field of law. The second deciding factor, which molded his decision to become a lawyer, was that he could become part of the solution. He would take on a leadership role. In an influential position, he could protect the rights of those who were disenfranchised. He could take on a position of “defense” to fight for those deprived of “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” and the best defense was in Education. His father used to tell him, “Any discrimination against any group of people was also a discrimination against Jews”. This pathway, through observations and his upbringing, are the basis and motivational factors in his desire to protect the rights of others.
Ira chose to attend State University of New York (located in Buffalo) where he studied Law. Upon graduation he was indecisive as to which of five potential states he would start his practice. It ended as a tie between Miami and Maryland/DC. He preferred the mid-size populace and client connection in the Maryland/DC area best. When asked about his future goals for the firm, Ira stated he wants to expand his efforts in making a difference, similar to the goals and standards he grew up with. He finds a lot of similarities between the school-age community he grew up in and the Ethiopian community he admires. He states, “They have a similar history of politically oppressed regime, similarities in former asylum seeking, recognition in the value of education, a good sense of work ethics, gentle and well meaning characters, religious values and pleasant attitudes”. Work related, he has found Ethiopian clients to be inquisitive and willing to listen to advice. He finds Ethiopians to be palpable and an exciting group to be around.
It was Ira’s suggestion to present to the firm, The Ethiopian Heritage College Scholarships. He himself has put two children through college and knows first hand how “every dollar counts”. So far two students have been awarded over their four year term. Applications are now being accepted for this years selection. Now even with the Scholarship Program, Ira believes he has not done enough. He stresses he would love to have a cultural event this year (so stay tuned) to increase partnerships within the community. By the way, this is one of the requirements for the Scholarship Program. The program encourage the families and children to stay in touch for mapping the progression of success as well as instilling unification. When asked what was one of the most memorable events for the Scholarship Program, Ira stated they were all memorable but the first year stands out because they received 70 to 80 applications and have three judges to which two of the judges are Ethiopian. The first judge is a lawyer associated with the firm. His name is Aseged Yimer. The second judge is Hermela Kebede. She is the Director of the Ethiopian Community Center in Silver Spring, Maryland. In that first year, there was a tie between two sisters who were twins! The three judges had to base their decision on best academic standing, their community service and essay submission.
I am really happy to hear the program is flourishing and has a solid foundation. Ira and his team are really doing incredible work. He also sends this important message out to everyone and anyone who needs legal advice. “We provide advice for anyone in the country. We are here to protect you. Call if someone has hurt you carelessly. We do not want you to worry or be afraid. The advice is once again free and if we are not able to help you, we have many connections to professionals who will be able to assist you.”
If you would like to know more about the Ethiopian Heritage College Scholarship or if you would like free legal advice, please do not hesitate to visit their site.
Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, PC
*Thank you Ira and your team for all you do.