By Richard A. Reinblatt, J.D., Attorney-at-Law
My Sophomore year of undergraduate study, I had decided to focus my efforts on gaining admission to law school, which had been my dream for as long as I could remember. By the beginning of my Senior year in August of 2002, I had obtained a 3.5 GPA and a large assortment of leadership positions and extracurricular activities to boast, but knew that admission would largely depend on my LSAT (Law School Aptitude Test) score, and would be extremely difficult to obtain due to the state of the economy that year, and the influx of law school applications being received due to the scarcity of jobs for new college graduates.
Up to this point, I lived with three other housemates in Omaha, Nebraska, who were all scheduled to graduate with me in May of 2003. I was making regular trips to see my Pparents in Kansas City, with whom I shared (and still share) a very close relationship. I had was planning to relocate to Kansas City for law school, and to reside their permanently.
For the past year, I had been taking preparatory course for the LSAT and had been devoting countless hours of study preparing for it, but nothing could have prepared me for events unfolding just days before the actual test. Approximately three days before the exam, my parents told me they were pursuing legal marital separation and that I should return to Kansas City immediately after graduation. This news was emotionally devastating and seemed to send my plans into a tailspin.
My impaired mental condition reflected heavily in my LSAT performance. My results were ranked amongst the lowest percentile in the country, and far worse than any of my previous practice tests had shown. This result was nothing short of devastating. As my immediate future was becoming more uncertain, and I could not take the test again until after I graduated (only to have these two LSAT scores averaged, as per most law school admissions policies), I was left with very limited post-graduation options. My new LSAT score would have to be astronomically high to offset this low score upon the scores being averaged, which seemed like a daunting task, to say the least.
Left with limited practical options, I applied for admission to bottom-tier law schools all over the country, which, although accredited, were amongst the lowest ranked schools, as these were the only schools I stood any practical chance of gaining admissions to with my current LSAT score. I also applied to my Undergraduate University’s law school, which, though ranked considerably higher and applying much higher selection standards, had a general policy of not rejecting applicants from the University’s Undergraduate College outright, but rather “wait listing” them with the year’s other Undergraduate Applicants prior to formally rejecting them.
Although the negative outcome seemed all but inevitable at this point, I never lost faith that Hashem would resolve this situation somehow. This was during a time when my lifestyle was essentially secular, but I prayed near-daily for Hashem to help me to stabilize my life, and although it now seemed impossible, to eventually realize my dream of becoming an attorney.
My faith was constant, even as “bottom tier” law schools, one after the other, rejected my applications for admission. By the final days preceding the University’s Spring Break, I had been rejected from every law school I applied to, with the exception of my Undergraduate University’s law school, which had me “wait listed”, as previously predicted. Nonetheless, the school’s admissions Officer had told me verbally that with my current LSAT score, I had virtually no chance at admissions to their program, and would have to obtain a top-percentile LSAT score to offset my current score to even be practically considered. Nonetheless, the school was keeping me “wait listed” until the entire pool of applicants for that year was reviewed. Because of this procedure, I was told to expect my application rejection notification in June of that year.
The emotional strain that I was experiencing at this point was considerable. My then-female friend – who was not Jewish – suggested a trip over spring break might be a helpful way to clear my mind of my mounting concerns. Reluctantly, I agreed to accompany her on a trip to Paris. The trip was marred by vicious street protests, protesting the inevitable outbreak of the 2003 Iraq war, which was then due to occur within days. The stress of the trip combined with the stress of my imminent post-graduation uncertainty resulted in the breakup of my relationship with this friend on the final day of our Paris trip. We returned from Paris to attend classes after spring break, both feeling very angry and resentful. Nonetheless, in the spite of the mounting stress and panic, I did lose faith that somehow, someway, Hashem would remedy this situation.
I had a relatively light schedule of classes I was required to pass prior to my graduation in May. My only substantively required class was the College’s mandatory “capstone” class, which all seniors were required to complete before graduation. I had chosen this class randomly from a list comprising approximately 20 classes, without any real concern for its content. Capstone classes are said to be designed as “summary” classes with little or no substantive content. However, the College required the passage of this class to graduate. This particular capstone class’ Professor was a former 1960’s radical whom I did not get along well with due to contrasting political persona.
My first day back from spring break, the professor immediately ranted about how “disgraceful” it was that the College would be holding regularly scheduled classes on Martin Luther King Day, but that the professor refused to hold her individual class. Rather, the professor insisted we attend a “reenactment of the March on Washington” at the University’s Student Center. Attendance, and a mandatory “reflection essay”, the professor explained, would be required in order to avoid accruing an “unexcused absence” which would jeopardize the “A” grade I had earned in this course to this point. Begrudgingly, I agreed to attend the event.
The minute I walked into the Student Center, I was appalled by what I saw, which generated vivid flashbacks of my Paris experience only days earlier. Students were parading around the room, holding up signs reading “No more blood for oil” and “President Bush is a Tyrant.” Clergy had been brought in from the City’s predominantly black areas to our nearly all-white College to read word-for-word speech replicas from the original March on Washington, however, no one was listening or seemed to care. This reaction was captured by local media.
By itself, this event could simply be written off as simply another example of the University’s frequent left-wing grandstanding. However, this event, combined with my breakup, combined with the chaos I witnessed in Paris, combined with of all my other mounting concerns associated with my imminent graduation, simply pushed me too far. I wrote a scathing, blistering reflection essay condemning the events I witnessed at the March on Washington reenactment, stating that all of the University’s students, professors, and administrators should be ashamed of themselves for capitalizing on an event like this to promote their left-wing agenda, and that this event was a completely inappropriate place to air their grievances regarding President Bush’s agenda.
My friends, apparently detecting my very public outrage, encouraged me to convert the essay into an opinion letter and submit it for publication to the University’s weekly newspaper. I had never previously considered this, nor had I ever written any letter to any newspaper, let alone the University’s newspaper. Although I realized the newspaper receives a large volume of mail daily and the odds of the publication of my letter were slim, I decided it simply couldn’t hurt to send the letter in. To my surprise, the newspaper published my letter in their next printed issue.
The content and tone of the letter surprised even my closest friends, who had told me they had previously regarded me as generally very passive and easygoing. The letter’s message was not lost on various anti-war students and groups, who confronted me in person, over the phone, via rebuttal letters published in the University’s newspaper, calling me a “racist” and a “war monger.”
Eventually, the furor died down, and life continued on as normal, with my immediate future and residence after my roommates graduation still extremely uncertain. Nonetheless, I did not lose my faith that somehow, Hashem would guide me towards the right outcome. Shortly thereafter, I received a call from an individual who claimed to be the chair of the Martin Luther King Day planning committee. This individual requested I join the Committee as the Committee’s only student member, to help plan next year’s event. At the time, I had regarded this as an attempt to simply appease future opposition to the event, however, I agreed to join the Committee as I wanted to clearly express the basis for my concerns.
The Committee subsequently met on campus once every two weeks, and my suggestions and concerns in planning next year’s event (which I would not be attending) were taken into account. Eventually, I developed close working relationships with many of the Committee members.
During the Committee’s final meeting in April, 2006, less than one month before my graduation, one of the committee member’s innocently asked me what my plans were after my upcoming graduation. Very embarrassed, I meekly responded that I did not have plans as of yet, and that although I had applied to many law schools, but I had not yet been admitted to any of them. This individual asked if I applied to the University’s Law School, to which I replied yes, but I was currently wait listed.
The room immediately became silent. Everyone looked at a gentlemen sitting in the middle of the table, who smiled and smugly responded, “What are you all looking at me for, just because I am the head of the Law School Admissions Committee?” Not only was he the rotating head of the committee, who just happened to be both serving on, and chairing the committee that particular year after teaching at the Law School for many years prior, but he was one of only two Jewish professors at the entire University. Although he did know I was Jewish, he, until this point, did not connect me with the Law School admission application his committee had previously wait listed.
I attended the Pesach Seder at his house the very next week. Less than one week after that, I received a phone call from a shocked law school admissions counselor, I was being immediately admitted to the University’s Law School, with an academic scholarship. I immediately went into shock, and then began crying uncontrollably. The odds of the occurrence of events that put me in that particular Planning Committee’s room, at that particular time, under those particular circumstances, simply cannot be explained via any logical explanation that does not exclusively credit the direct hand of H-shem.
The next few weeks were frenzied. I scrambled to move my possessions into the School’s graduate dorm, a place in which I was only now qualified to live due to my admission to Law School. Law School started shortly thereafter, and I experienced the extreme intensity of the overwhelming amount of material to study and attempting to digest complex material in a competitive, unforgiving environment. However, no mater how much stress I was under, I never lost faith that I was exactly where Hashem wanted me to be, and that Hashem put me in this place to finish law school for purposes that I may not yet, or ever understand. This is what made the sleepless nights and extreme pressure manageable. It was during this time I began to keep kosher and became partially Shomer Shabbos.
After 1st year final exams, which counted for 100% of each class’ grade, and were all scored on a strict bell curve, resulting in as many F’s as there are A’s, as many D’s as there are B’s, etc, the law school, as a matter of policy, expels nearly 1/3 of the 1st year class. Thank G-d, my exam results were exemplary. I was not expelled. It saddened me to learn that many students sporting top-percentile LSAT scores and other prestigious honors were not as fortunate.
The rest is history. I graduated, passed the bar, and eventually was placed where I am now, as In House Counsel for a Fortune 500 Company. I’m doing a job I love and look forward to every day. However, it is exclusively through this job whereby I became closely acquainted with the City’s Orthodox Jewish Community to which several of the Company’s employees belong, and this has resulted in my continuing spiritual growth, which increases steadily with my continued learning and Shabbat, Kashrut, and Yontef observance. I’ve never been more confident that I am exactly where H-shem wants me to be, however, I still am in absolute awe to think of the events which occurred in my life that have lead me to this point. I live with open eyes which help me see with absolute clarity the role H-shem has in my life, and with eternal gratitude and respect for H-shem for leading me down the path that has helped me to realize my dreams.