From The Other Side Of The Bench

By David J. Seidemann, Esq.

It was over as soon as it began. Yes, both the game itself, this year’s Super Bowl, and the interview of the president by Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly. At least with the game you were witnessing the truth. If Denver quarterback and all-around good guy Peyton Manning had been able to dodge Seattle’s defense as well as Mr. Obama evaded Mr. O’Reilly’s questions, the game itself might have been competitive.

I for one was a bit conflicted, with my father having grown up in Seattle and my brother marrying a girl from Denver. In the end, however, all I really wanted was to watch a competitive game, and this year’s installment of the title game was anything but.

If memory serves me correctly, Seattle scored in every possible way that a team can score except for a two-point conversion. They scored on a two-point safety, a few three-point field goals, a few offensive touchdowns, a defensive touchdown off an interception, and a kickoff return for a touchdown, not to mention recovering fumbles and otherwise making Denver’s trip to the Meadowlands miserable. You had to wonder if after a while the Broncos were wishing someone had ordered lane closures on the roadways into New Jersey that would have prevented them from reaching the stadium in the first place.

The Super Bowl is hosted each year on somewhat of a rotation basis by the different major networks. CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox all have their turn at delivering the broadcast to over 100 million people annually. Now it is entirely possible that Denver lost this year because the game aired on the Fox Network. I’m not convinced that is the reason, but after listening to the president’s interview it is a theory worth considering. Mr. Obama dismissed the IRS scandal, the Benghazi cover-up, the healthcare debacle, and all of the other issues weighing down his presidency on the slanted coverage of Fox News. So I am just postulating that if all the other ills of society are to be blamed on Fox News, perhaps Denver’s epic meltdown can be blamed on Fox as well.

There is no question that the Denver Broncos deserved to be there. The question was, were they ready? Being somewhere, and even deserving to be somewhere, does not mean one is ready to be there. Which brings me to my point.

When I spent a year in Israel after high school, back in the 1980s, most if not all of the people with me were in their third year of college. We had two years of college under our yarmulkes and were a bit more mature than those just finishing high school.

We did not have credit cards or cell phones, and we called home maybe once a month. We did not come home for Pesach or Sukkos and did not eat out at Jerusalem’s finest restaurants two, three, or four times a week. We did not hang out in “crack square” (ask your children what and where that is), and our teachers did not have to conduct sweeps of Ben Yehudah on Thursday nights and Saturday nights to make sure we were not engaging in, how should I say, unwholesome activity.

Because this is a family newspaper, I will not go into the details of horror stories I heard just in the last two weeks of what some students, young men and women, studying at what we would term right-wing seminaries and yeshivas routinely engage in on Thursday nights and Saturday nights in Jerusalem. I debated writing about this and spoke with a community rabbi seeking his opinion on the matter. He was unequivocal that I address this issue.

What used to be a privilege, to spend a year immersed in Torah study, has become a rite of passage. For many, it has become not much more than an opportunity to vacation after high school and take a break from being raised under a parent’s watchful eye.

Children who still are in need of the guidance of parents are being sent thousands of miles away to yeshivas and seminaries that realistically can’t stand in the shoes of parents. And so the questions remain: Do 18-year-olds still need parental supervision and guidance? And can the yeshivas and seminaries provide the supervision and guidance necessary?

The answer to the first question is yes. The answer to the second question is one can only hope. So what is the solution? Well, for starters, the thought process has to change. We should not assume that every high-school graduate is ready for a year abroad. And if it is determined that a child is mature enough to go, the child and the yeshiva or seminary should be made aware of our expectations as parents before the child boards the plane and before the school cashes the first post-dated check.

The message emanating from some yeshivas that unless you spend that first year in Israel you are somehow less worthy must be erased. The message flowing from some high schools and seminaries that unless you attend this seminary or that seminary your marriage prospects will suffer must also be muted.

A year in Israel where a young man or woman is given the proper level of supervision, guidance, attention, and support can change his or her life forever. The same year abroad where the student is lectured to but not directed can also change that student’s life forever. The difference is that in the former scenario one has a chance at becoming a champion. Left to their own devices, too many teenagers fumble tremendous opportunities.

There is no substitute for hands-on coaching. v

David Seidemann is a partner with the law firm of Seidemann and Mermelstein and serves as a professor of business law at Touro College. He can be reached at 718-692-1013 or


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