Robert H. Friebert Social Justice Award

Bob Friebert

Robert H. Friebert

The JCRC’s Robert H. Friebert Social Justice Award recognizes individuals who demonstrate courage, passion, dedication and leadership while working to eliminate discrimination and injustice in the greater Milwaukee area. Recipients need not be Jewish.

A prominent Milwaukee attorney and activist, Robert H. Friebert was driven to pursue social justice through the law and public service. He believed deeply that everyone deserves equal social, economic and political rights.

Friebert served as the president of the Milwaukee Jewish Council for Community Relations, now the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation. Watch a video about Bob’s commitment to social justice.

This award was created by Bob’s family and friends as a way to continue his legacy as a fierce advocate for justice.

To learn more, contact Elana Kahn, JCRC Director, at 414-390-5736.


Each year, the Jewish Community Relations Council seeks nominees for its annual Robert H. Friebert Social Justice Award. The award is given to an individual who has demonstrated leadership, courage and compassion as a social justice advocate, while working to eliminate discrimination and injustice in the greater Milwaukee area. Nominees’ professional and personal contributions to social justice will be considered. The honoree will be recognized at the Jewish Community Relations Council’s Annual Meeting on June 20, 2019. Deadline for nominations is March 12, 2019.

Download the nomination form.


Donations to the fund can be made online or sent to:

Caren Goldberg, Executive Director
Jewish Community Foundation
1360 N. Prospect Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53202.

Checks should be made payable to the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, Inc. Please write “Friebert Social Justice Award Fund” in the memo line. If you have questions about contributions to the fund, please contact Caren Goldberg at 414-390-5737.

2019 Award Winners: Pardeep Singh Kaleka and Arno Michaelis

Pardeep Singh Kaleka, who lost his father Satwant Singh Kaleka in the August 5th, 2012 Sikh Temple of Wisconsin shooting, and Arno Michaelis, a former white supremacist who helped to start a gang back in the late 1980s that produced the August 5th shooter, lead Serve 2 Unite, an organization that is a proven means of establishing a healthy sense of identity, purpose, and belonging that diverts young people from violent extremist ideologies, gun violence, school shootings, bullying, substance abuse, and other forms of self-harm. Learn more about Serve 2 Unite.

2018 Award Winners: Reggie Jackson and Fran Kaplan

Special recognition of Debbie Carter Berkson z”l

Reggie Jackson and Dr. Fran Kaplan have worked to raise consciousness about the legacy of slavery, race and racism through the work of America’s Black Holocaust Museum. Learn more about Reggie Jackson and Fran Kaplan.

2017 Award Winner: José A. Olivieri

José A. Olivieri is a attorney with Michael Best & Friedrich who has devoted countless volunteer hours by providing pro bono legal services to immigrants and people living in poverty. Learn more about José A. Olivieri.

2016 Award Winner: Danae Davis

Danae Davis is CEO at Pearls For Teen Girls, Inc. Learn more about Danae Davis.

2015 Award Winner: James H. Hall, Jr.

James H. Hall, Jr. is a prominent Milwaukee civil rights attorney. Learn more about James H. Hall, Jr.

About Robert H. Friebert

Friebert addresses the media after a court appearance in Dane County in 2002. Photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Friebert addresses the media after a court appearance in Dane County in 2002. Photo from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Bob Friebert (1938-2013) dedicated himself to the pursuit of social justice and the Jewish value of tikkun olam (repairing the world). A graduate of the University of Wisconsin Law School, Friebert was a founding partner of the law firm Friebert, Finerty and St. John S.C.

He argued four cases in the United States Supreme Court, addressing the rights of teachers to organize, due process for federal youthful offenders, reproductive rights of women and the rights of people to vote in primary elections. He served as the first public defender for the State of Wisconsin from 1966-1968.

Friebert became active in local, state and national Democratic politics in his pursuit of social justice. He served several terms on the Democratic National Committee, as an advisor and consultant to numerous Democratic presidential candidates and was the lead counsel on the election recount that awarded the First District Congressional seat to the late Congressman and Secretary of Defense Les Aspin. Friebert enjoyed political debate and was respected for his strongly held views by Republicans and Democrats alike.

In addition to his legal and political work, Friebert was active in organizations that held special meaning for him. He served as president of Congregation Emanu-El B’ne Jeshurun, founding chair of the Wisconsin Jewish Conference, president of the Milwaukee Jewish Council for Community Relations, state chairman of the Wisconsin Civil Liberties Union, special counsel to the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents, trustee to the Medical College of Wisconsin and in various capacities on numerous other boards and commissions.

Friebert’s greatest commitment was to his family including his wife, Susan, his children and his grandchildren.

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