Tahanie Aboushi L’09: Guardian of Justice
When Tahanie Aboushi L’09 was 14 years old, she and her nine siblings got a firsthand glimpse of the legal system as her father stood trial and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. “It was a very destabilizing experience,” recalls Aboushi, a civil rights attorney now running for Manhattan district attorney. “We underestimate how big of a footprint the legal system has on family and on the community.”
Aboushi’s parents immigrated to New York City from Palestine before she was born and started a grocery store in Brooklyn that became a community staple. “We often only think about the one person who is incarcerated, not realizing that it has an effect on the spouse and children, financial circumstances, educational opportunities and stability,” she says.
Aboushi describes the experience as “invasive”—the defense lawyers were part of their everyday life, but the family ultimately felt abandoned by the legal system. “The legal system disrupted everything—schoolwork, family dynamics, dinnertime, what the weekend looked like,” she says. “At the end, it was like, we got our sentencing and you’re all now on your own.”
After the trial was over, the family spoke frequently to their father on the phone and visited him in prison—no easy feat as he was incarcerated in Ohio (among other places over the years), an eight-hour drive from the family’s home in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
The experience left Aboushi wondering what she could do to change this.
Pursuing a Law Degree
Her parents prized and encouraged education. Two of her older siblings became attorneys. Aboushi followed suit, attending Syracuse University College of Law, after seeing what an incredible experience her older sister, Diane Aboushi Saleh L’06, had there.
Diane shared how she explored the law in ways that put a realistic tone to it. “She would tell me how she spoke to professors about current events beyond the classroom. There was an awareness of world events going on, and there were opportunities to express views and find ways to incorporate personality and your objectives in classroom and extracurricular activities. So, once I was accepted, I didn’t care about any other acceptance letters. I said Syracuse is it for me,” says Aboushi ...