In memoriam: Michael Rothenberg, public interest lawyer

Michael Rothenberg

Michael Rothenberg, a remarkably accomplished public interest lawyer in New York City, a devoted father and husband, and a generous colleague and friend, died two weeks ago at the age of 47. Michael lost his battle with depression.

On this blog, I sometimes pose the question: What will be your body of work? In other words, in taking stock of our lives, what have we experienced, what have we given, what have we contributed to the world?

In his all-too-short life, Michael’s body of work was abundant, giving, and meaningful.

Michael’s signature professional success came in his work as Executive Director of New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, a pioneering public interest law firm that uses impact litigation and community organizing to better the lives of everyday residents of the city.

But this is only part of his story. For more, please check out this short podcast, free of charge, from the New Workplace Institute podcast series page.

8 responses

  1. I am truly sorry David for the loss of your colleague and friend, i listened to the blog and it is very touching to hear the good that Michael did in his life, sadly when we are depressed as you know that is often times not enough to stop the pain. I am certain Michael will be missed and remembered for the good he did and the love he gave his Family and friends. Sorry Dave

    • Mel, thank you for the comment. Michael touched so many lives in a life affirming way, and so many people miss him deeply.

  2. David: Having lost my beloved brother unexpectedly a couple of weeks ago, I am most sensitive to the pain of losing someone dear. It is heartbreaking that good hearted and generous people are sometimes called home much too early for us to understand. My brother was only 63 and your friend was only 47…we assumed we would have many more years with them in our every day lives. I am so sorry for your loss. And I hope your friend and my brother are resting in a place filled with light and love forever.

  3. So sorry to hear of this loss of your friend and colleague, David. Sounds like he spent his short time here tirelessly serving others. It has been my experience that so many of the people who suffer from depression are SO compassionate and such deep thinkers that they can easily feel the “weight of the world” on their minds and shoulders, and for people who truly care about those who need help and are denied justice, the pressure from all sides of life can be crushing. Their souls need to be free and no longer burdened by the ills of the world they want to see healed. Michael is now at peace and fully in the Light he shined so brightly here!

  4. Terry and Maeve, thank you, too, for adding your good words. (Terry, I sent a private message via Facebook, but I should add here, as well, my condolences on the sudden passing of your dear brother.)

  5. I was very sorry to hear of Michael Rothenberg’s passing, and will make a donation to New York Lawyers for the Public Interest in his name. I’ll also remember his family in my prayers. There was quite a tribute in the 2/26 NY Times notice, “NYLPI is a center where lawyers and community organizers came together to create lasting social change. He oversaw a talented team of attorneys and community activists who have fought to remove toxins from public schools, gain park space for communities overflowing with waste treatment plants, make sure families of union workers killed on 9/11 received necessary aid, give students with disabilities full educational access, and open emergency rooms to all without regard to language barriers that restricted the quality of medical care. … The New York Times Company recognized the genius of Michael’s approach in 2010 when it awarded NYLPI one of its top three Nonprofit Excellence Awards, which recognize management excellence in the city’s nonprofit community, the first legal organization to be so recognized. He was a wonderfully thoughtful man, generous to his friends, and extremely proud of his talented wife Zerline Goodman, and their three children, Brice, Garon and Zaya.” Wow.

  6. Thank you, David, for your beautiful words about my dear brother-in-law Michael. He truly was a remarkable person in so many ways. My whole family and the world have lost a very bright light with his passing. I so appreciate your sharing his story in such a thoughtful and heartfelt way.

    • Merryl, thank you so much for posting this note. Just as Michael brought so much to the lives of others, he was blessed with a wonderful family.

      Please take care,

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