Rabinowitz, Victor

Alternative names

Hide Profile

Victor Rabinowitz was the son of Jewish immigrants, born into a family where radical politics was common. His maternal grandfather was an anarchist and Yiddish-language author under the pseudonym Joseph Netter. Rabinowitz’s father was a successful manufacturer in the clothing industry who in 1944 established the Louis M. Rabinowitz foundation, and which supported projects in Jewish scholarship and culture and a variety of progressive causes. The Foundation was administered by Victor after his father’s death in 1957.

After receiving his law degree from the University of Michigan in 1934 and joining a law firm, Rabinowitz became involved in the work of the International Labor Defense, a Popular Front organization. He joined the National Lawyers Guild, a politically left professional organization, upon its founding in 1938, and the same year joined the progressive law firm of Louis Boudin. There he met Leonard Boudin, Louis’ nephew, who would become his law partner and close friend for the next fifty years. The firm’s practice centered upon labor law, which was to become a focal point of Victor’s legal work for the next two decades. His political views coincided with those of the Communist Party, of which he was to be a member from 1942-1960. In 1947, the law firm that eventually came to be known as Rabinowitz, Boudin (Leonard), Standard and Krinsky was formed. With the coming of the Cold War and its attendant anti-Communist legislation and government investigations, Rabinowitz’s practice increasingly involved defending unions accused of being led by Communists, notably the American Communications Association; individual Communists, including Steve Nelson; New York City public school teachers dismissed for refusing to answer questions about their political affiliations; and the Communist Party itself, as well as progressive union dissidents in such formerly radical unions as the National Maritime Union. He was active in the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee, a left-wing offshoot of the American Civil Liberties Union. Rabinowitz was an activist in the American Labor Party in the 1940s; he was a candidate on the ALP ticket for County Court Judge of Kings County, NY (1942) and for Congress (1947).

Victor Rabinowitz’s post-1960 clients included the government of Cuba and the socialist government of Chile (1970-73) pursuing cases in U.S. courts, alleged Soviet spy Alger Hiss during the 1970s in an unsuccessful attempt to obtain documents relating to his case from the FBI, various labor unions and union rank-and-file activists, civil rights activists and individuals arrested while protesting the Vietnam War. He also defended his daughter Joni Rabinowitz on perjury charges connected with her work for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and his son Peter J. Rabinowitz, a college professor allegedly transferred from Southwest College, a public junior college in Chicago, for his political activities. Rabinowitz also served two terms as president of the National Lawyers Guild, beginning in 1967, and was active in the Bill of Rights Foundation and the Fund for Education and Legal Defense. Other clients included the Freedom Socialist Party, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and Otto Nathan, executor of the estate of Albert Einstein. In 1996, Rabinowitz published an autobiography, Unrepentant Leftist: A Lawyer’s Memoir . He died at his home in New York City, at the age of 96, in November 2007.


Rabinowitz, Victor. Unrepentant Leftist: A Lawyer’s Memoir. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996.

From the guide to the Victor Rabinowitz Papers, Bulk, 1955-1980, 1918-2003, (Bulk 1955-1980), (Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Steve Nelson Papers, Bulk, 1950-1985, 1937-1991, (Bulk 1950-1985) Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
referencedIn Charles Humboldt papers, 1935-1963 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn National Lawyers Guild Records, Bulk, 1937-1990, 1921-2007, (Bulk 1937-1990) Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
referencedIn Mary Metlay Kaufman Papers MS 300., 1917 - 1994, 1946-1986 Sophia Smith Collection
referencedIn J. B. Matthews Papers, 1862-1986 and undated David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
referencedIn John Lowenthal Papers, 1934-2004 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
referencedIn William A. Reuben Papers, 1923-2003 Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
referencedIn Albert Prago Audio Collection, 1981-1982 Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
creatorOf Victor Rabinowitz Papers, Bulk, 1955-1980, 1918-2003, (Bulk 1955-1980) Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
referencedIn Alger Hiss Family Papers, 1892-2004 Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
referencedIn Rabinowitz, Boudin, Standard, Krinsky and Lieberman: Legal Files, Bulk, 1940-1985, 1915-1992, (Bulk 1940-1985) Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
referencedIn John Lowenthal Papers, 1934-2004 Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
referencedIn Agnese Nelms Haury Papers, 1925-2004 Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith American Communications Association. corporateBody
associatedWith American Labor Party. corporateBody
associatedWith Belfrage, Cedric, 1904-1990 person
associatedWith Belfrage, Sally, 1936- person
associatedWith Bill of Rights Foundation. corporateBody
associatedWith Boudin, Kathy person
associatedWith Boudin, Leonard, 1912- person
associatedWith Braden, Anne, 1924-2006 person
associatedWith Braden, Carl, 1914-1975 person
associatedWith Corey, Lewis person
associatedWith Ellsberg, Daniel. person
associatedWith Emergency Civil Liberties Committee. corporateBody
associatedWith Feinstein, Minerva. person
associatedWith Field, Frederick V. (Frederick Vanderbilt), 1905-2000 person
associatedWith Freedom Socialist Party (U.S.). corporateBody
associatedWith Fund for Education and Legal Defense. corporateBody
associatedWith Haury, A. N. (Agnese Nelms) person
associatedWith Hiss, Alger person
associatedWith Hoffa, James R., (James Riddle), 1913- person
associatedWith Humboldt, Charles, 1910-1964 person
associatedWith Kaufman, Mary Metlay, 1912-1995 person
associatedWith Louis M. Rabinowitz Foundation. corporateBody
associatedWith Lowenthal, John person
associatedWith Lowenthal, John person
associatedWith Matthews, J. B. (Joseph Brown), 1894-1966 person
associatedWith Nathan, Otto, 1893-1987 person
associatedWith National Lawyers Guild. corporateBody
associatedWith National Maritime Union of America. corporateBody
associatedWith Nelson, Steve, 1903- person
associatedWith Potash, Irving. person
associatedWith Prago, Albert person
associatedWith Rabinowitz, Boudin, Standard, Krinsky and Lieberman. corporateBody
associatedWith Rabinowitz, Louis M. person
associatedWith Rabinowitz, Peter J., 1944- person
associatedWith Reuben, William A. person
associatedWith Strong, Anna Louise, 1885-1970 person
associatedWith Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (U.S.). corporateBody
associatedWith Teachers' Union of the City of New York. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
New York (N.Y.)
Communism--United States
Communist trials--United States
Lawyers--Political activity--United States
Labor unions and communism--United States
Labor union democracy--United States
Communists--United States
College teachers--Legal status, laws, etc--United States--Cases


Birth 1911-07-02

Death 2007-11-16


Permalink: http://n2t.net/ark:/99166/w6cd3q6w

Ark ID: w6cd3q6w

SNAC ID: 73975718