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Visiting Fellow Profile

Judge Stephen Adler, ILR '62

President, Israeli National Labor Court

Judge Stephen Adler

Judge Adler once again joins ILR as a Distinguished Visiting Fellow in 2011 after retiring in the fall of 2010 from the Israeli National Labor Court.

ILR is delighted to welcome back Steve Adler, BS '62, returned as Distinguished Visiting Fellow a presentation about how he helped settle a recent general strike in Israel on April 24, 2005.

"Adler seemed bent last night on mediating a compromise...he stunned the country early Monday morning by prohibiting the Histadrut from launching an open-ended general strike scheduled to begin an hour later," wrote the Jerusalem Post.

Referring of course to Judge Stephen Adler, ILR '62 and president of the Israeli National Labor Court, the Jerusalem Post describes a moment in time when an individual, committed to fairness and social peace, averted a national strike. What's the trick to making opposites attract in the courtroom? "It's important to treat the parties involved with the respect due them, and to try to keep people calm and focused on the issues, and not get sidetracked on personal matters which are not really under dispute. It's a very difficult thing to do," says Adler. Still-as the father of five boys and a seasoned arbiter at home-he admits to having lots of on-the-job training.

The soft-spoken, affable Judge Adler grew up in Flatbush, New York. After high school he headed to ILR where Prof. Alice Cook arranged for him to work two summers with District 65 of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Workers. After graduating from ILR he went on to Columbia Law School. While he was at Columbia he served as a legal assistant to Jack Sheinkman '49, then general counsel for the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union. Steve later worked as an attorney with the National Labor Relations Board in Washington and Los Angeles. In 1968 he, together with his wife Ruth and young son Jay, made aliya. In Israel, the family found a place to live; Steve got a job with the State Comptroller's Office, and then got busy learning the language.

It wasn't long before he had three simultaneous jobs: a law clerk with the Israeli Labor Ministry, the director of research and development with the newly formed Labor Court and a teaching assistant at Tel Aviv University's Labor Studies Department. After being admitted to the Israeli Bar, Steve worked for several years as a private attorney, and then, was appointed a judge of the Labor Court in 1976. He began as a judge in the trial court, then was appointed the Chief Judge of the largest trial court, in Tel Aviv, and afterwards was appointed to the appeals court, The National Labor Court, where he now serves as president. Today, Steve is one of the leading figures in Israeli labor law and labor relations, his judgments are well thought of and he has a significant role in shaping Israeli social policy. He is also among the top two highest ranking former Americans in the Israeli government.

Stephen Adler has made a couple of brief pilgrimages back to Cornell-one or two day visits between settling strikes and raising five boys-but in Spring '05 we were delighted and honored when Steve accepted an invitation from Prof. Harry Katz to spend a month at ILR as a Distinguished Visiting Fellow.

During a leisurely walk across campus for lunch at the student dining hall recently, he talked sparingly about his role with the Israeli court and more about his days at Cornell and about how much has changed since then. Most notable, the building and the impressive computerized library. When Steve was an ILRie classes were held in the now legendary Quonset huts where students studied to the sound of the Ithaca rains hitting steel. Ives Hall belonged to the dogs then-and the veterinary students. Returning to the new Ives Hall today, Steve expressed a heightened appreciation for the newly renovated classrooms, library, and study areas. When asked what other remarkable changes he noticed, Steve observed the diversity of the student population-so many students representing so many cultures and backgrounds, involved in such myriad activities. However, Steve was firm about one thing, that the ILR faculty and courses remain outstanding-"the best I have encountered in my many visits and lectures around the world."

Steve is listed among Israel's 100 most influential people.

Faculty Sponsor at ILR: Dean Harry Katz

  • Curriculum Vitae (pdf)
  • Visiting Dates: April 17-May 17, 2007 and January-May, 2011

- Judge Stephen Adler, ILR '62