Professor Bernard Wolfman was so influential in the fields of legal ethics and tax law that a Google search of his name unleashes 40 pages of references to the man. He worked for justice and civil liberties, believing that we could best achieve these ends through an open, civil discourse that allows for mutual learning and understanding.
At both the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard law schools, Professor Wolfman raised his voice in support of civil rights demonstrators in the South and peaceful student protestors on university campuses. He lent support to organizations and individuals who championed the principles of the Bill of Rights.
For example, as a volunteer with the ACLU, Professor Wolfman worked on the landmark school-prayer case, Abington School Dist. v. Schempp (1963), one of the cases that led to the prohibition of state-sponsored school prayer by the Supreme Court. He also co-authored a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court opposing the grant of tax exemptions to racially segregated schools. Throughout his life, Professor Wolfman criticized our tax system as being riddled with loopholes, favoring the rich.
Professor Wolfman died in 2011 at the age of 87. Through The Civil Discourse Project created in his memory by his daughter Dina Wolfman Baker, Professor Wolfman's legacy of education and social activism will continue. She chose to establish this through a fund at Beth Sholom Congregation in Elkins Park, PA, the synagogue with which Professor Wolfman was most deeply connected in his adult life. Professor Wolfman was greatly inspired by Judaism's focus on the pursuit of justice, known as Tzedakah.
Professor Wolfman began his career at the Philadelphia law firm of Wolf, Block, Schorr & Solis-Cohen, where he rose to managing partner by his early 30s. But his passion for education won out and he moved to academia. He began his teaching career at his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where he was named Dean in 1970. In 1976, Professor Wolfman moved his family to Cambridge, MA to teach at Harvard Law School, where he assumed emeritus status in 2007.
Professor Wolfman lived in the perfect time for his intellect and passion. The unrest of the 1960s and 70s served as the ideal backdrop for a man inspired by equity and inquiry. A former student called Wolfman "a master of the Socratic method," a form of inquiry and debate that encourages civil discourse and critical thinking.
In addition to his teaching, writing and involvement in matters of civil rights and civil liberties, Professor Wolfman found time to engage in a range of public policy matters, including serving as senior adviser to the U.S. Departments of Justice and Treasury, and as a special consultant to Iran/Contra independent counsel Lawrence Walsh.
Professor Wolfman is survived by his wife Toni G. Wolfman; daughter and son-in-law Dina and Brad Baker; sons and daughters-in-law Jonathan Wolfman and Tamar Weiss, Brian Wolfman and Shereen Arent, Jeffrey Braemer and Kristin Ace, David and Timiny Braemer; sister Lila Booth; 10 grandchildren; and nieces, nephews and cousins.