Other Side of the Bench by David Seidemann

I begin by wishing a happy birthday to my third daughter, who turned 20 this week. Who would have believed that when she turned 20 in the year 2020 we would celebrate by going to a restaurant where we would have to sit outside (or inside, but with masks)? So much has changed.

I have been to my office in Brooklyn twice since March, and that was only to pick up mail and then return home. The phone calls are forwarded to one of two of my cellphones. My office staff is reduced, and I work from home with a secretary who comes in for a few hours a day. In-court appearances have been replaced by Zoom or Skype calls with the judge and opposing counsel.

I am in no rush to battle crowds, traffic, disease, and protests to return to the courthouse.

I was in the middle of a trial in March when it came to a screeching halt. Yesterday, a judge informed me that the courts are not expected to open before January 1, 2021, and even when the court schedule resumes to in-person appearances, gone will be the days when lawyers and clients and court staff and judges mingled while waiting for their cases to be called.

Each attorney and his or her client will be given a specific time to appear and conferences will be limited. I don’t know how jury trials will be conducted, as the process of selecting a jury has hundreds of people sitting in a room at a time.

Shuls are still relatively empty. Some people will never return to a three-hour service when it has already been proven over the last few months that one can pray with more concentration in a limited group setting where talking is minimized and where one can gaze at G-d’s blue sky as His praises are sung.

My weekly class on the parashah, which had been attended only by members of my shul, is now viewed on Zoom by people from far beyond this immediate neighborhood, such as Monsey, Los Angeles, Baltimore, and New Jersey. Those who miss the live class can watch it at a later date as a Zoom recording.

Teaching my business law classes at Touro has presented the biggest challenge. Every day from 3:45 to 5:45 p.m., I lecture and try to involve the students as much as possible. It is a different dynamic. In person, in the classroom, the nature of the give-and-take is such that I can speak only a few sentences before a student chimes in with a question or comment. There is body language, there is chemistry, that does not exist over the Zoom world. I find myself speaking for 20 or 30 minutes before a student engages me in debate. It is much more challenging for the students, and for my vocal chords. After each class my voice is shot, something that never happened when I was giving in-person classes.

I have no idea what the students are doing when they look away from the camera. Are they writing copious notes or perhaps texting a friend?

I make it a point to wear a white shirt every day as I work, in order to stay in that work mode. I wear a white shirt when I teach class out of respect to the students. I wear a white shirt during my Tuesday-night Torah class out of respect to the subject.

I am not tired of my home, though I rarely leave. I love my home, and despite all the time I have spent with the immediate family, I actually wish it were more. I’m filling up my car’s gas tank once a month instead of twice a week. The coffee I make at home is tastier and cheaper than the coffee at the bagel store on the way to work.

All in all, I have been spared this terrible disease, b’H, and feel blessed. My life has not fallen apart. My routine has changed, my location has changed, but my general orbit has remained intact.

The same, however, cannot be said for our country and for the freedoms of the average American. Not only has the agenda been hijacked and perverted by noisemakers, but the defenders of what is right and proper have been silenced, censored, attacked, and beaten. Their properties have been looted and their rights to defend their properties and their personal safety have been curtailed.

An unruly mob has surfaced and has seized control of the narrative. The recent Supreme Court decisions have seen a previously conservative judge join the liberal wing. America is becoming a shell of its past.

Congress members who were staunch supporters of Israel and of America have been defeated in the primaries. Those who remain have cowered before the young rebels. Now is the time to be afraid. In a few years, you will not recognize America.

The first casualty will be the religious freedoms enjoyed by Jews. I said it a while ago, and just last week one of the preeminent Jewish historians and rabbinic scholars in this world echoed the same sentiment on a conference call. If the Democrats win in November, it is over for Orthodox Jewry in the United States.

You might term me a reactionary or claim that I am a fatalist, but who would have thought six months ago that life as we once knew it would be snuffed out?

As the loony left will not allow you to defend your property, as the loony left makes the victim the aggressor, similarly, the loony left will not allow you to defend your religious freedoms.

If the left wins, if the traditional Democrats bow and cave in to the rebels who don’t understand the concept of federalism and a representative democracy, and persist in their efforts to dismantle America, the first casualty will be this country’s support of Israel.

Living as a practicing Jew in America will pose more of a danger than this dreaded disease. There will be a vaccine one day for COVID-19. But there is no vaccine against individuals or groups or political parties that don’t know how to read, interpret, understand, or appreciate the Constitution.

COVID-19 is recognizable by its molecular structure and by its symptoms. The dismantling of personal and religious freedoms by the left is recognizable by the sheer hypocrisy of their stated positions and behaviors. They beg for equal enforcement of the law as long as it is their interpretation of the law. They beg for equality and freedom for all as long as that freedom does not include religious freedom and does not include one’s ability to defend his property or his position without being termed a racist.

The way to defeat them is to flood the airwaves and social media with evidence of their hypocrisy. Otherwise, COVID-19 will be the least of our problems.

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 ds@lawofficesm.com.


  1. To say that life for Orthodox Jews will be over if Democrats win in November is incredibly irresponsible fearmongering. Will Trump Republicans in the religious community never do any soul-searching? Will they never ask whether it was the right decision to support an incompetent, profane buffoon who worked to divide the country and turn us against one another?


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