Obituary: Judi Kasdan / Teacher, volunteer and lawyer fought for those less fortunate

May 24, 1946 - June 6, 2013


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Judi Kasdan's passion for correcting social inequities was so great that after decades of volunteering to help victims of domestic violence and children involved in family court issues, the former teacher enrolled in law school in her mid-50s, passed the bar exam and went to work as a public defender in Allegheny County.

"She was an educator who believed in social justice and wanted to create opportunities and nice, safe places for people who didn't have them and for those not as privileged as she was," said her daughter, Alexa Kasdan of Brooklyn, N.Y.

Mrs. Kasdan of Point Breeze died at home Thursday following sudden complications from a long-standing battle with lymphoma, said another daughter, Lanie Kasdan Francis of Shadyside.

Mrs. Kasdan was 67.

"Many people go to law school because they want to be rich. She went because she wanted to further her thoughts about life," said her husband, Richard Kasdan, a Pittsburgh neurologist.

Mrs. Kasdan grew up in Squirrel Hill, graduated from Taylor Allderdice High School and earned a bachelor's degree in liberal arts from Penn State University in 1968. After college, she married her high school sweetheart, Dr. Kasdan, then earned a master's degree in education from the University of Pittsburgh.

She taught at two Pittsburgh Public Schools -- Fort Pitt Elementary and Arsenal Middle -- before staying home to raise her three daughters.

During those years, she became active as a volunteer and officer for the National Council of Jewish Women Pittsburgh Section and took over the group's efforts to raise funds to improve the children's waiting room at the county's Family Court Division.

"She revitalized a lot of projects but this was one she cared deeply about," said Alexa Kasdan.

Before Mrs. Kasdan led the remake of the facility, "Kids would just be lying on the floor when their parents were charged" with offenses, said her husband.

Another project she launched for the council was a traveling exhibit called "Silent Witness" that featured life-size sculptures of female victims of domestic abuse.

She also taught ballet classes at the Shuman Juvenile Detention Center and in the mid-1980s, owned and operated Funky Feet, a shop in Squirrel Hill that sold European children's shoes.

After her children were grown, she applied and was accepted to the Duquesne University School of Law, from which she graduated in 2003.

"It was a very inspiring thing for her to do," said her daughter Mallory Kasdan of Brooklyn, N.Y. "While she got a lot of gratification from her volunteer advocacy, she wanted to know more about the law and more about how to protect people. That was her motivation."

Survivors, in addition to her husband and daughters, include a brother, David Hoffman of Squirrel Hill; and five grandchildren.

Visitation will be held at 9:30 a.m. until an 11 a.m. service today at Tree of Life Synagogue, 5898 Wilkins Ave., Squirrel Hill. Interment will be at Homewood Cemetery.

Memorial contributions may be made to Hillman Cancer Center, 5115 Centre Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15232; Community Voices Heard, 115 E. 106th St., New York, NY 10029; or the Make-a-Wish Foundation, 707 Grant St., 37th Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15219.

obituaries

Joyce Gannon: jgannon@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1580.


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