References available from:
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The Times of Israel, February 22, 2016
After 30 years, this New York Yiddish translator still has her days in court
Ruth Kohn has learned a lot about language and people over three decades of interpreting for Hasidic Jews and other speakers of mammeloshen
By: Renee Ghert-Zand
Today, Kohn is the only Yiddish interpreter and translator registered with the federal courts in New York, the region with the majority of the United States’ 159,000 Yiddish speakers.
Kohn’s job involves translation of written documents and transcription of recordings (such as wiretaps), in addition to real-time interpretation during legal proceedings. She is registered to do all of these functions, not only in federal courts, but also in the New York and New Jersey state courts.
She also does occasional Hebrew translation work for the US Department of State, and as an experienced and respected professional in her field, she has also been hired to rate court-administered tests for new interpreters.
President of Israel Address to U.N., January, 2015
I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the outstanding work you’ve done interpreting the President of Israel, Mr. Reuven Rivlin’s, speech. I was impressed by the professional and sensitive manner in which you have done the job. Thanks to these qualities, you succeeded to convey the speech to the audience in a way that terrifically reflected the president’s message.
Israel’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN David Roet will personally call you to thank you for your service.
The Wall Street Journal, June 22, 2014
Speaking of Yiddish, U.S. District Court in New York Needs Translators;
Mistrial in New York State Sen. Malcolm Smith’s Bribery Case Highlights Shortage
By: Hilary Potkewitz
The buildup to the mistrial in New York State Sen. Malcolm Smith’s bribery case wasn’t just courtroom drama. It became a whole megillah…. After the judge’s order, prosecutors scrambled to assemble a full team of Yiddish translators over the June 15-16 weekend to create transcripts of the calls for defense attorneys.
Usually, there isn’t much day-to-day demand in the federal courts for Yiddish speakers, said Ruth Kohn, who is the Southern District’s sole on-call speaker of the language. The Southern District hasn’t used a Yiddish interpreter in more than three years, according to court records. “You cannot devote yourself only to Yiddish hoping you’ll get a call,” said Ms. Kohn, who also interprets for Hebrew and Polish.
This month those calls started coming. Ms. Kohn was contacted by Mr. Smith’s defense attorney, Gerald Shargel, as well as the U.S. attorney’s office, the State Department Office of Language Services and several private agencies, all seeking her services in the case. Mr. Shargel reached her first, so she is doing the work for him, she said.
In Mr. Smith’s case, “a number of translators we reached out to said the speech wasn’t comprehensible to them,” said Agata Baczyk, founder of Legal Interpreters LLC. The recordings involve members of the ultra-Orthodox Satmar sect, a group that tends to speak a form of Yiddish often referred to as “Hasidic Yiddish.”
Federal Court, N.Y. Southern District Commendation
I am writing on behalf of Ruth Kohn, a Hebrew, Polish, and Yiddish contract interpreter who has been providing services to this court for approximately 30 years. Ms. Kohn has covered many hundreds of court-related events including hearings and trials in this federal district. She is a highly skilled and competent professional, and I would recommend her without reservation for the most difficult of assignments.
Israeli Plaintiffs Awarded $1M In Medical Malpractice Action;
Expert Translator Cited as Key to Victory
“Kohn made all the difference,” Guttman said when asked how important the translator was to his client’s case. Kohn, like any good translator, seamlessly presented the witness testimony to the jury, Guttman said. His goal in working with a translator was to have the jury hear the testimony presented in a fluent manner – as if the translator wasn’t there at all.
To ensure that Kohn provided a clear translation of the in-court testimony of the Halevis, Guttman said he brought her in early to work with the couple. “We brought her in well in advance of the trial so that she could hear their voices and learn their intonations,” he said. “We wanted her to get to know them and the way they spoke.” Kohn’s skills gave Guttman and his clients a comfort level in the courtroom which he believes they would not have had with someone who was less skilled.
Guttman said he has seen first-hand how an ill-prepared translator can bog down a proceeding when he or she must thumb through a dictionary.”Someone without an intuitive grasp of how a word is used is less likely to use it properly, even with a dictionary. Merely being bilingual is not enough.”
President of Globe Language Services
Federal Court, N.Y. Eastern District Commendation