When Ben Shechtman headed to Temple University Beasley School of Law, he did so hoping the decision would lead him to a career of fighting for social and economic justice.
He dreamed of maybe becoming a public defender or winding up in politics, “to fight the system,” Shechtman said. At the time, he thought he needed a law degree and a legal education to enter either field.
“Naively, at first, I had a desire to make the world a better place and particularly to serve the interests of those groups who historically have been less privileged and underrepresented,” he said. “You could say it was really just a sense of social and economic justice that my parents helped instill in me from a very young age that really motivated me, especially as I got a little bit older into high school and college and was able to better understand the world. That motivated me to want to represent those groups and to affect change that I thought could only be done from inside of the political arena.”
Shechtman works as an associate at Cozen O’Connor, where he practices labor and employment law, advising clients on employment practices and representing them in litigation. He has been named a Pennsylvania Super Lawyers “Rising Star” for Employment Litigation Defense several times.
He’s not sure if politics is still the goal — it’s certainly not the goal in the near future. Practicing law gives him comfort and satisfaction, he said.
“In a way that might seem counterintuitive at first, because I’m not representing individual employees or groups of individual employees, I still think that I am able to have impact on fair and equitable employment practices that comply with the law because I’m able to advise employers on how to do that,” Shechtman said.
Shechtman grew up in Cheltenham Township. He attended Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel and went to Cheltenham High School. He comes from a long line of lawyers, he noted, and both his parents had strongly held political beliefs and often discussed politics. He saw his dad involved in various civic organizations. Even as a child, politics interested him.
In 2004, he enrolled at Haverford College, where he studied political science and Spanish. Afterward, he went directly to law school. He practiced law at a few different firms. Six months ago, he started at Cozen O’Connor.
Shechtman is also involved with the Jewish community, volunteering with the Jewish Relief Agency (JRA), serving as a board member of NextGen and donating to the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.
At NextGen, he facilitates mitzvah projects. These projects include distributing food through JRA, assisting Habitat for Humanity with home repairs and participating in food and clothing drives. These projects also connect young Jewish professionals with other Jewish demographics and organizations in the area.
“It’s just a driving desire that I have to help people in need,” Shechtman said. “People may not realize that there are tens of thousands of Jews in the Greater Philadelphia region that have various forms of needs that are served by the groups that are affiliated with Jewish Federation and by JRA and other really important organizations in the area that are doing really good work. [They] may or may not be served as well as they should be by non-Jewish groups. By working with Jewish organizations, we’re able to serve those populations much more effectively.”
This article is part of an occasional series of profiles of Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia supporters.