Balancing American Law with Jewish Law- Baruch C. Cohen, Esq.

Honesty, respect, ethics, and integrity- four principles the Los Angeles civil litigation attorney, Baruch C. Cohen, spoke about on December 25th. Along with speaking about these four principles, Baruch C. Cohen, (BCC), spoke about his 13 Rules for the American Orthodox Jews and had a Q&A with the Valley Torah students.

Mr. Cohen started his presentation by speaking about the immense responsibility a Jew has wearing a yarmulke in public. A man who wears a yarmulke in public represents Judaism and will have either a positive or negative impression on the people around him. Mr. Cohen brought examples including Jewish slumlords, Jews convicted of forging tax returns, and Jewish money launderers as a few examples of those who negatively represent Judaism. By these Jews committing such crimes while wearing a yarmulke, they create a huge Chillul Hashem and badly hurt the Jewish name.

On the other side of the spectrum though, there are many Jews who have had a highly positive effect in America.

Of these men, Mr. Cohen specifically mentioned criminal defense attorney Benjamin Brafman who once answered a reporter, after being asked what he was going to do after his client was acquitted in the New York State Supreme Courthouse, that he will be going home for Shabbat to be with his family. His answer was broadcasted on live television and was a kiddush Hashem heard all around the world.

So how can one be sure to not only not have a negative impression on gentiles, but even have a positive effect on them? By following the four principles of Baruch C. Cohen—being honest, having respect, showing proper ethics, and a sense of personal integrity.

Mr. Cohen then followed up with his 13 Rules for American Orthodox Jews, which consisted of rules that an everyday orthodox Jew should follow to create a kiddush Hashem in addition to having material wealth.

1) Keep your word. It will help avoid future problems

2) Document everything.

3) Be a law-abiding citizen. Jewish people are put under a microscope and any slip-up will be highlighted.

4) Don’t cheat the law—you will get caught, it is only a matter of time.

5) Be honest—just because you’re an orthodox Jew does not mean you’re always right.

6) If something is too good to be true, it is.

7) Consult with a lawyer or a law-understanding friend before taking action.

8) Act with confidence and self-assurance but never with arrogance.

9) Do not concern yourself with other people’s business- stop being nosy. 

10) Do not expect favors in return. Likely, you won’t receive them.

11) Believe in the Torah and insert Bais Din arbitration clauses in your contracts.

12) Stand up for Judaism and Israel when they’re verbally attacked.

13) Pause before pushing “Send” on emails, texts, and posts. People’s careers and lives have been destroyed with one click of a button.

Mr. Cohen then answered questions posed by the Valley Torah students. These questions ranged from advice for a high school student to how Mr. Cohen copes with defending people that might be guilty, answering the latter by saying, “I have a clause in my contract that if you lie to me, I’ll walk your case. A condition to me representing you is complete and total candor and truth.”

After his speech, Mr. Cohen remarked that one particular question stood out to him.

The question, posed by a senior, asked that the rewards of a virtuous life can be seen in Olam Haba (the World to Come), but when it comes to this world, it may seem that a life of fraud and lies is a way to get rich quick. If this is the case what is a reward in this world of moral life.

To this, Mr. Cohen shared a story with a colleague who cheated on the LSATs (law school entrance exam) and felt as if his entire earnings were false. He then gave examples of people who built up their web of lies in regards to fraud over many years, only to have it come crashing down in a matter of days.

His lesson was simple. Behind all the wealth and glamour of a crime-driven life is the fear of being caught. Every knock on the door, every phone ring, even any parked police car can strike fear into the hearts of a criminal. A Torah and respectable life, on the other hand, not only avoid this but give someone a sense of purpose beyond material wealth. Living a proper life provides one with a sense of pride in that he has earned his rightful place, and in the end, there is no cheating your way to reward in the world to come.

In his hour and fifteen-minute presentation, Baruch C. Cohen packed in moral principles, his 13 most important laws, and answered all directed questions. Baruch Cohen not only inspired the Valley Torah students, but he gave us advice as to how we can all reach optimal success.

David Kerendian is a staff writer for The Valley Torah Scroll. He is currently a member of the Class of 2022.

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