Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella was born in a Displaced Persons Camp in Stuttgart, Germany in 1946. She came to Canada as a refugee in 1950.

Justice Abella’s legal career has been marked by a series of firsts: she was the first Jewish woman appointed to Canada’s top court; the first pregnant woman appointed to the judiciary in Canada; and the first refugee appointed to the bench in Canada. She graduated from University College in 1967, earned her law degree at U of T in 1970 and received an honorary degree from U of T in 1990.

Among her many accolades, Abella was presented with the Rose Wolfe Distinguished Alumni Award in 2019 in recognition of her outstanding contributions to U of T, Canada and the world. In 2020, she was honoured with Germany’s Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit, one of the country’s top national decorations for non-civilians, in recognition of the lessons she has from drawn from the Holocaust about the need to protect minority rights and democracy.

Since her retirement from the Court in 2021, she has been the Samuel and Judith Pisar Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. She is also a Senior Research Scholar at Yale Law School and Distinguished Visiting Jurist at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law. In the spring of 2022, she was the William Hughes Mulligan Distinguished Visiting Professor in International Studies at Fordham Law School.