Sunday, November 30, 2014

THIS WEEK'S MISHPACHA MAGAZINE: "Catch up with Baruch C. Cohen, trial attorney in Los Angeles

I was privileged to appear in three Mishpacha articles, two of which were cover stories.

I received a lot of positive feedback in response to Binyamin Rose’s Bitachon Hollywood Style article (issue #169), which was about a shiur I gave to a small group of Jewish men whose jobs were in Hollywood in memory of my daughter Hindy, based on material I learned to give me chizuk during her illness. I heard from a lot of bereaved parents struggling to survive and hoping to transcend. A prominent rosh yeshivah who read the article asked me for guidance in helping a family in his kehilla cope with multiple tragedies. I probably received 50 phone calls after it was published from people across the country seeking validation and chizuk for their painful nisayon. I responded to all feedback and was able to help those who reached out to connect with me—it was very gratifying. As a result of the article, my book Reb Yochanan's Bone: Chizuk to the Bereaved Parent was given out to about 250 bereaved parents. However, I have since retreated somewhat from the public spotlight of being connected and identified with grief, because as we say on Friday night in Lecha Dodi, “Rav lach sheves be’emek habachah”—Too long have I dwelled in the Valley of Tears. It was time for me to move on, and the law of diminishing returns started to kick in. I have since written: Grieving & Healing Through the Prism of the Torah: A Bereaved Parent's Journey Beyond Pain in honor of my daughter Hindy’s tenth yahrzeit.

Mishpacha also published Trying Times for Beis Din by Binyamin Rose (#286), which was an investigative report of the beis din system and the root causes of Orthodox Jews going to secular courts to challenge beis din decisions. Seder in the Court by Eytan Kobre (#495) was about the role of Jewish law in the secular courtroom. Both of these articles generated a lot of healthy inquiries about Beis Din. Of the twenty-plus people who contacted me (all from the East Coast / Tri-State area) after those articles, eight actually retained me for their litigation needs in state court and in Beis Din in Los Angeles and New York. 

I was a bit taken aback by the fair amount of harsh criticisms about people’s negative experiences with batei din, and I was surprised that some went through the effort to contact me from across the country just to vent their outrage and contempt about rabbis in general (which is a serious problem in and of itself). I made it clear that I do not share the negative perception of rabbis. On the contrary, my natural gravitational pull is towards our rabbanim and the wealth of Torah knowledge they have accumulated. I explained that (1) I believed strongly in the institution of Beis Din; (2) the serious prohibitions of suing a fellow Jew in arkous (secular courts); (3) the economic and strategic benefits to Beis Din; and (4) my personal and positive impressions of rabbanim, all of which made an enormous differences in their attitudes. Mind you, I’m not oblivious to the problems that exist, but those problems are technical and are not what feeds the public’s distrust. I also don’t advocate the notion that a rav is infallible and cannot make a mistake. They are human just like me and you, just like the judge in court, but the rabbis that I know try their best and dedicate their lives to following a Torah path—and we must support them. I would like to think I have influenced these callers, who reached out because of what they read in Mishpacha, to alter their perceptions and litigate according to halacha, and that I was mekadesh Shem Shamayim in doing so.