Elisheva Barak-Ussoskin

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Elisheva Barak-Ussoskin
אלישבע ברק-אוסוסקין
Elisheva Barak.jpg
Barak-Ussoskin in 2006
Vice President of the National Labor Court
In office
Appointed by Aharon Barak
Personal details
Born Elika Josephina Ussoskin
(1936-10-13) 13 October 1936 (age 81)
Bucharest, Romania
Spouse(s) Aharon Barak
Children 4
Education M.Sc., zoology, genetics, and chemistry, Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1963)
LL.B., Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1977)

Elisheva Barak-Ussoskin (Hebrew: אלישבע ברק-אוסוסקין‬‎; born 13 October 1936)[1] is an Israeli retired judge. She sat on the Regional Labor Courts in Jerusalem and Beersheba from 1990 to 1995, and served as judge on the National Labor Court from 1995 to 2006. She also served as Vice President of the National Labor Court. Her rulings on labor law and labor relations were said to further the rights of workers more than any other Israeli judge. She is the wife of Aharon Barak, former President of the Supreme Court of Israel.

Early life, education, and family[edit]

Elika Josephina Ussoskin was born in Bucharest, Romania, to Moissei Moshe Ussoskin, an accountant, and Marrusia Miriam Griner, also an accountant and department store manager. She was an only child. Her father served as director of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in the Balkans and was later director-general of Keren Hayesod—United Israel Appeal. He was arrested in 1940 and the family fled to Palestine after his release, arriving in February 1941.[1]

The family settled in Jerusalem, where she studied at Gymnasia Rehavia from 1942 to 1950.[2] She attended the Beit Ha-kerem High School in Jerusalem, graduating in 1954.[1] She completed her compulsory service in the Israel Defense Forces from 1954 to 1956, attaining the rank of sergeant.[2][3]

She married Aharon Barak, whom she had met while both were attending Beit Ha-kerem High School, in September 1957.[1][4] Barak went on to serve as Attorney General of Israel (1975–78), Justice on the Supreme Court of Israel (1978–95), and President of the Supreme Court of Israel (1995–2006).[5] The couple has three daughters and one son, all of whom graduated from law school.[1][6]

Barak-Ussoskin undertook graduate studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem from 1956 to 1963, graduating with an M.Sc. in zoology, genetics, and chemistry.[1] During her university career, she took two years of psychology and additional coursework in education. She also worked as a human genetics research assistant and as a teaching assistant in genetics.[1]

From 1973 to 1977 she studied law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, receiving her LL.B. in 1977.[1]

Legal career[edit]

Barak-Ussoskin clerked for the office of the president of the Supreme Court of Israel, Yoel Sussman, and for the office of the Attorney General of Israel, Aharon Barak, between 1976 and 1978. She passed the Israeli bar in 1978, and worked as a legal assistant to three different presidents of the Supreme Court from 1978 to 1987. She became Registrar of the Regional Labor Court in Jerusalem in 1987, and in 1990 was appointed as Judge in the Regional Labor Courts in Jerusalem and in Beersheba. In 1995 she advanced to a judgeship in the National Labor Court, and in November 2000 became vice president of that court as well.[1] She retired in October 2006.[3][7]

Notable decisions[edit]

Barak-Ussoskin came to the National Labor Court at a time when workers' rights and the bargaining power of unions were weakening.[1] She was remembered for "going farther than any other Israeli judge to advance and strengthen the rights of workers".[7] Among her decisions:

  • Injuries sustained by employees who work at home are to be classified as work accidents. This ruling was later extended to injuries sustained by employees engaged in unofficial company events, such as "staff-consolidation days" and "happy-days".[1]
  • A manpower agency is considered the employer of its temporary workers, and must ensure continuity in the workplace and the workers' social rights.[7]
  • Pension payments are designed to help pensioners maintain the same standard of living that they had when they were working, not just protect them from penury.[7]
  • An employer cannot act in bad faith either toward a prospective hire or a hired worker.[7]
  • Employees and workforces are not the property of the employer, so an employer is not allowed to transfer his employees to another employer.[7]

A widely-reported decision in April 1993 concerned a suit brought by a former editor of The Jerusalem Post. Thirty journalists walked out of the company when a new publisher took over and reportedly demanded that the journalists write articles with a certain political viewpoint. One of the walkouts, Joanna Yehiel, sued for severance pay even though she had not been fired. Barak-Ussoskin ruled in the plaintiff's favor, disallowing the publisher's right to dictate to his employees.[7][8][9] Afterward Barak-Ussoskin wrote an extensive analysis about the decision, "Whose Newspaper Is It: Journalist-Publisher Relations – Judgment in the Case of Joanna Yehiel vs. The Palestine Post Ltd.", published in November 1993 issue of Qesher, a publication of the journalism studies program at Tel Aviv University.[10]


Allegations of nepotism dogged Barak-Ussoskin's career. SOS Israel notes that she was given a clerkship in the office of the Attorney General of Israel at the same time that her husband, Aharon Barak, was the Attorney General. She moved up to a legal assistant position in the Supreme Court at the same time that her husband was a Supreme Court justice.[11] She was appointed judge of the National Labor Court by her husband, reportedly over the objections of the president of the labor court.[7][12] Israel Minister of Justice David Libai stated to a reporter that the latter appointment had been based solely on merit rather than "family favoritism". However, Libai advised "that to avoid claims of 'discrimination or preference', the situation of appointment of two spouses as judges should be avoided in the future".[13]

Barak-Ussoskin was cited for her slowness in completing her caseload. Some cases sat on her desk for many years without resolution.[7][14] With the announcement of her retirement, eleven cases on which she had prepared a draft ruling were sent to other judges for completion.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Bar Mor, Hadara (1 March 2009). "Elisheva Barak-Ussoskin". Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. Jewish Women's Archive. Retrieved 12 December 2016. 
  2. ^ a b "ברק-אוסוסקין אלישבע" [Barak-Ussoskin, Elisheva] (in Hebrew). News1. 12 October 2009. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  3. ^ a b "Elisheva Barak-Ussoskin" (in Hebrew). State of Israel−Judiciary. Retrieved 13 December 2016. 
  4. ^ Skolnik, Fred; Berenbaum, Michael, eds. (2007). Encyclopaedia Judaica. 3 (2nd ed.). Macmillan Reference. p. 130. ISBN 0028659317. 
  5. ^ "Aharon Barak – President of the Supreme Court". Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 2013. Retrieved 11 December 2016. 
  6. ^ Peretz, Sigal. "אקטיביזם שיפוטי" [Judicial Activism] (in Hebrew). court.org.il. Retrieved 14 December 2016. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Yoaz, Yuval (3 October 2006). "השופטת 'החברתית ביותר', אלישבע ברק, פורשת מביה"ד לעבודה" [The 'Most Social' Judge, Elisheva Barak, Retires from the Labor Court]. Haaretz (in Hebrew). Retrieved 14 December 2016. 
  8. ^ Haberman, Clyde (16 May 1993). "Israeli Court Limits Publisher's Power Over Staff". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 December 2016. 
  9. ^ Navot, Suzie (2014). The Constitution of Israel: A Contextual Analysis. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 187. ISBN 1849467544. 
  10. ^ "Whose Newspaper Is It: Journalist-Publisher Relations – Judgment in the Case of Joanna Yehiel vs. The Palestine Post Ltd" (PDF). Qesher (14): 6e–35e. November 1993. 
  11. ^ "All in the Family". SOS Israel. 20 December 2011. Retrieved 14 December 2016. 
  12. ^ Rosenblum, Jonathan (23 June 2004). "Welcome Meni Mazuz". Hamodia. Retrieved 14 December 2016. 
  13. ^ Bassok, Or (January 2014). "The Israeli Supreme Court's Mythical Image – A Death of a Thousand Sound Bites". Michigan State International Law Review. Michigan State University College of Law: 61. 
  14. ^ Levy, M. (11 July 2001). "Observations: Elisheva Barak to Spend Five Weeks in Germany Despite Backlog – She Just 'Happens' to be Barak's Wife". Dei'ah VeDibur. Retrieved 14 December 2016. 

Further reading[edit]