No joke: Jewish lawyers start their own bar association

How many Jewish lawyers can fit into a bar? Sounds like a lawyer joke, but it was a serious question for Ben Feuer, the attorney behind the newly formed Jewish Bar Association of San Francisco.

Feuer wanted to know if other Bay Area Jewish lawyers were as keen as he was on fellowship and networking, so he planned a couple of gatherings at popular S.F. watering holes. After two well-attended association mixers, the verdict is in.

“Both events went better than we had hoped,” says Feuer, 35. “The last one [at Taverna Aventine on Sept. 30] drew more than 60 attendees from all levels of legal practice. Folks spent hours mingling, networking and making new friends and business contacts.”

Incredibly, this is the first Jewish organization of its kind in the Bay Area, according to Feuer. “There are 27 minority bar associations in San Francisco — gender, ethnic, sexual orientation, all kinds of groups. But there was no Jewish bar association. That was crazy.”

Ben Feuer

So crazy, that last June Feuer launched the association with a mission to promote educational, social and professional advancement for members, and to serve as an educational resource on issues relating to the practice of law.

That, and throw the occasional Hanukkah party.

Feuer so far has amassed an email list of more than 100 interested lawyers and judges. Membership is free for now and open to anyone, including non-Jews. But just because it’s called a bar association, that doesn’t mean they always gather in bars.

In addition to social events, the association will host continuing education forums, guest lecturers and dialogues to discuss legal issues important to members. For example, one idea floating about is get-togethers with similar groups, such as the Iranian-American Bar Association.

Attorney Tracey Berger Cowan, who sits on the Jewish Bar Association’s 11-member board of directors, likes the idea of a networking group in which members share a personal connection — in this case, Jewish roots — that doesn’t have to do with their legal focus.

“Even though it’s a Jewish group, our organization in its own way is a melting pot because there are so many people who have different connections to Judaism,” Cowan notes.  “Some have strong religious connections, others on the other end of the spectrum. It’s cool.”

Feuer says the Jewish Bar Association will eventually include a tzedakah component that may take the shape of scholarships or some other charitable role. However, given the diversity of views members may hold, he insists the organization remain apolitical.

“We take no positions,” he says, “and we certainly don’t take any with regard to Israel. There may be some legal issues we will take a position on, but haven’t done so formally yet.”

A native of Philadelphia, Feuer grew up in a Reform household. He attended Northwestern University’s law school, later deciding Chicago and East Coast winters were not for him. He relocated to San Francisco, launching his career clerking for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. He has worked as an appellate attorney ever since.

Cowan grew up in Baltimore, befriending Feuer when both attended Northwestern. Today a civil litigator specializing in civil rights law, she thinks the Jewish Bar Association may make its members better lawyers in at least one sense.

“It broadens your horizons and understanding of what it means to be a lawyer,” she says of the group. “Even generalists like me can get tunnel vision with the kind of law you do and the kind of cases you see. It’s easy to forget there’s a wide spectrum of things you can do in the law. [The association] gets me more excited about the profession.”

Busy as they are, the lawyers on the association board missed the window to organize a Hanukkah party this year. It’s on the agenda for next year, as is a Purim party.

Feuer has high hopes for his fledgling group. “We have a lot of ideas and goals,” he says. “We’re trying to balance that with our many commitments as lawyers in San Francisco.”

But there’s one social event Feuer will certainly make happen.

“A federal judge in Los Angeles puts on movie nights,” he notes. “We’ll have him come up and host a Jewish movie night and play my favorite movie: ‘The Hebrew Hammer.’ ”

For more information about the Jewish Bar Association of San Francisco, visit

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.