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Myrella Cohen


Myrella Cohen was born in Manchester in 1927, and went on to study law at Manchester University, graduating in 1948.  She was called to the Bar in 1950 and in 1953 - after her marriage to Mordaunt (who shared the surname Cohen) - she became the first female barrister in Newcastle.  In 1970 she became only the second Jewish woman (after Rose Heilbron) and the first woman in the North East to become a QC.  Myrella entered judicial office in 1972 as a North East circuit judge and Deputy Judge in the High Court family division, becoming the country’s third woman judge. In that role she presided over hearings arising out of the Cleveland child abuse scandal.  Myrella was active in the Jewish Community and was Chair of the UK Branch of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists; she was also instrumental in driving reform to English law so that civil divorce was tied to agreement on religious (Jewish) divorce, helping to secure equality in marriage (and divorce) for Jewish women.  Myrella died in 2002.  She was described by Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi, as ‘one of the most remarkable figures with whom I had the privilege to work.  Highly respected as a judge and a proud observant Jew, she brought both identities together in her lifelong pursuit of justice’.

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