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Star Tribune: Newspaper of the Twin Cities (Minneapolis, MN) - March 16, 2001
Deceased Name: Judith Rivkin, 63, advocate for special-needs children
Judith Rivkin, a longtime advocate for children with disabilities, died of breast cancer Wednesday at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park. She was 63.
Her husband, Sheldon, of Minneapolis, said she was led to her work partly by frustration over lack of services in the 1960s for their daughter Jackie, who had a learning disability. Determined to improve Minnesota's services for children with special needs, Rivkin became involved in the Minnesota Association for Children with Learning Disabilities (MACLD), working on social and legal issues with families and legislators.
Marge Goldberg, who helped found the PACER Center, now the preeminent state advocacy coalition for disabled kids, met Rivkin in 1973 while working with MACLD. "This was the era before special education," Goldberg said. "There was darn little to help families . . . so we had our work cut out for us."
1975 brought passage of the federal law granting equal educational opportunities for children with special needs. Minnesota followed with a pioneering state law, and Rivkin was instrumental in helping implement it as a lobbyist and negotiator, Goldberg said.
In 1977, Goldberg left MACLD to cofound PACER. Rivkin joined its board as its first president and began lobbying for the group.
Barb Sorum, a retired advocate with PACER, said Rivkin "was on the ground floor" in establishing and implementing laws on behalf of disabled children. "She's one of the reasons for Minnesota's success today," Sorum said.
Larry Ringer, an attorney with the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C., met Rivkin in 1982 while working for the Legal Aid Society of Minneapolis. "Judy was so gently courageous," he said. "She helped me understand how important parents are in this work, and how important it is that [special-needs] kids be part of the community."
Rivkin retired in about 1993, Goldberg said. "She continued to be a wonderful friend. She had a great, unusual laugh that you could hear all the way to Anoka. I'll never forget that laugh," she said.
Besides her husband, Rivkin is survived by children Jackie, Jill and Jeff, all of Minneapolis, and a sister, Marcee Kain of Apple Valley. A memorial service was held Thursday.
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Tribune: Newspaper of the Twin Cities (Minneapolis, MN)