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Jesse Roth

Life Lessons Learned Along the Way: The Brilliant De-Mortification of Jesse Roth


By Thomas W. Werner

We continue our series of personal, impactful stories that have shaped how we practice law.

I can never say enough wonderful things about my brilliant law partner, Jesse Roth, who authors the second article this month. Jesse is a brilliant attorney, a fantastic writer, an all- around terrific person, and a tremendous family man who is devoted to being a great father to his seven children. Jesse is also a man of great Jewish faith. Since he joined our practice group in 2014 as an Associate, Jesse has never hesitated to answer this constantly knowledge-seeking gentile’s numerous questions about various Jewish holidays and other traditions. I consider Jesse not only a great asset as a legal partner – I also consider him to be a great asset as a friend.

Aside from teaching me about various aspects of the law and about Judaism, Jesse has also recently taught me (perhaps without knowing it until he reads this article) about the value of using LinkedIn. Over the past several months, Jesse has shared numerous stories, both professional and personal, to his LinkedIn page. I’ve gotten into the habit of devouring each one, absorbing as best I can Jesse’s brilliant descriptions of recent decisions from various Michigan and Federal courts and his stories that reflect on the many lessons he’s learned from his practice, from his family, and from following his faith. I grinned upon reading how his daughter’s preschool teacher begins phone calls. I chuckled at the name of his collegiate intramural flag football team. I beam with pride for him when he celebrates his professional successes, which are rapidly becoming too numerous to count.

And then came three weeks ago when Jesse told a story on LinkedIn that piqued my interest even more. It was a story about a lunch that Jesse attended with approximately 15 other associates of the firm. As Jesse put it, because the lunch was meant to celebrate the end of Jesse’s time as a summer associate for the firm and the soon-to-come onset of his life as a full-fledged Associate.

Two aspects of Jesse’s story struck me. The first aspect was his opener: “I was mortified.”  The second aspect hit me about a quarter of the way through reading Jesse’s story when I realized that I had been there, that I was one of the 15 Associates who had feted Jesse at that kosher restaurant. Upon my realization, I started reading Jesse’s post anew from the beginning. The second time through, I was even more struck by the three words with which he began: “I was mortified.” It turned out that Jesse’s mortification was when, to use Jesse’s words: “In the middle of our lunch, a bearded man stands up at his table in the middle of the restaurant, takes out a shofar (ram’s horn) from his pocket and begins to blow.”

I imagine that as he typed those words, Jesse may have reddened a bit. After all, he continued that “my colleagues were amused,” and that “I deeply wanted to fit in, but I felt the lunch ended up highlighting my differentness.”

As for me, upon reading Jesse’s words, I smiled. I, too, remembered the shofar-blowing gentleman. In fact, I’ve thought about him often over the years since that lunch. As I remember it, the gentleman who blew the shofar actually came around to the tables and asked, respectfully, if anyone minded. It was only after he got approval from the crowd that he then blew the shofar. As I later reassured Jesse, I was not so much “amused” by the gentleman. Instead, I was awed. In particular, I was awed that the gentleman had the courage to follow the traditions of his faith so closely, while also keeping in mind others around him. Plus, the gentleman sounded pretty darn good to this gentile’s ears!

Even so, I understood how at the time, Jesse would be “mortified” by the blowing of the shofar at a business lunch in which he just wanted to fit in with his colleagues. And I loved Jesse’s conclusion that “I’ve learned to value and take pride in the rich differentness that I – and everyone, especially the restaurant-shofar-blower – bring to the table.”

When he reads this article, I want Jesse to know this: I, too, appreciate the differences between him and me. In addition to the difference between our faiths, I also appreciate that Jesse is a man who, very unlike me, never swears. I’ve done my best over the years to treat his office as a swear-free zone (although I recognize that I owe a few dollars here and there to an imaginary swear jar). Just as Jesse accepts that when he’s in my office, course verbiage may fly from time to time (or, on occasion, more frequently than time to time). I’m proud to have Jesse as my partner and friend.

With the tragic, hateful, and terrifying ongoing events in Israel, I want to share another LinkedIn post from Jesse, one that he posted 22 hours or so before I wrote this article:

I’m new to this platform but know enough to know that we’re here for work, not personal. But it’s honestly hard getting any work done, consumed by the suffering that is being inflicted on our brothers and sisters in Israel.

In this, Jesse is unfortunately all-too right. Although I might not be a Jewish “brother” myself, I consider Jesse to be like a brother to me, as well. And I share in his thoughts for everyone suffering in Israel. I may not know off the top of my head the words that those of Jewish faith might use, but I am mindful of the call and response message from every Catholic Mass that I attended as a child, in which the priest said to the congregation, “Peace be with you,” to which the congregation replied in unison, “And also with you.” In that sentiment, I guarantee that those of Catholic and Jewish faith are not so different.

To everyone in Israel, and to all those with loved ones in Israel, please allow this gentile to offer the same sentiment to you: Peace be with you, as soon as possible.

In our second article this month, Jesse Roth discusses whether an impaired plaintiff may wait 30 years before launching a collateral attack on an underlying settlement.