Jessica Davidova of Wayne State University Law School and Chase O. Yarber of University of Detroit Mercy School of Law will each receive JBAM’s Charles J. Cohen Scholarship.
Two exceptional Jewish law students will receive $1,500 scholarships from the Jewish Bar Association of Michigan (JBAM) at a free Zoom event on May 25.
Jessica Davidova of Wayne State University Law School and Chase O. Yarber of University of Detroit Mercy School of Law will each receive JBAM’s Charles J. Cohen Scholarship, which recognizes law students who have demonstrated a commitment to making a positive contribution to the legal and general communities.
Davidova, of Farmington Hills, was born in West Bloomfield to a family that immigrated from Azerbaijan, a Muslim-majority nation north of Iran that is friendly to Israel.
As an undergrad at Wayne State, she experienced an antisemitic incident for the first time that greatly affected her. While president of Students for Israel, she coordinated an event that used henna to celebrate peace, culture and diversity — but was met by an angry mob that claimed she was appropriating their culture.
Davidova was perplexed because henna does not belong to any particular culture. In Azerbaijan, henna is used at the end of wedding receptions, even Jewish ones. However, she understood that the students’ anger was due to ignorance and wrong assumptions that are held between different communities. The incident inspired her to help educate people on the importance of diversity.
Davidova created a platform within Students for Israel where students could learn about issues that minorities face globally. Through her advocacy, she was also able to meet with ambassadors, lawyers and government representatives to discuss the importance of international politics.
Before starting law school, she was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship from the United States government to go to Tel Aviv to find ways to improve the intercultural relations, cultural diplomacy and intercultural competence between the United States and Israel.
Currently, Davidova serves as president of Wayne State’s International Law Student Association and is an editor of the Michigan International Lawyer, a publication for attorneys by the State Bar of Michigan. She also serves on the Board of Governors of Hillel of Metropolitan Detroit and is a fellow at the Detroit Center for Civil Discourse.
“I returned to Detroit because I realize the value of being part of the Jewish and legal community focused on bettering the city,” Davidova said. “I definitely want to practice law here. I feel like Detroit is a big enough city where it matters — but it’s small enough to feel like you matter in it. That’s the beauty of Detroit.”
Scholarship awardee Chase Yarber of West Bloomfield has always had a keen interest in the field of law and the Jewish community. Following his bar mitzvah, Yarber dedicated his time to furthering Jewish studies and helping teach others about Jewish life and identity. Between the ages of 13-18, he worked as a teaching assistant at Temple Shir Shalom Sunday school.
After graduating high school, Yarber was inspired to learn more about Judaism. His older brother Grant at the University of Michigan was going on a trip to Poland sponsored by the Jewish Resource Center at U-M, and he arranged to go, too. There, he visited Jewish historical areas, witnessing the horrors of Auschwitz and other sites from the Holocaust.
“The experience changed my life and compelled me to grow my Jewish identity,” Yarber said. “Attending Michigan State University, I worked with the Jewish Resource Center at Michigan to install our own JRC at Michigan State. Within a year, I worked with a rabbi, and we successfully started our own JRC, where I served as president. We amassed over 20 members and organized a three-week trip to Israel.”
Aside from his passion for Jewish life, Yarber shares an equally important love for the field of law. Over the years, he’s gathered experience at numerous law firms, most recently at Honigman LLP, and an externship with Justice Brian K. Zahra of the Michigan Supreme Court. At U-D Mercy, Yarber ranks near the top of his class. He is a member of Law Review and Moot Court and serves as a teaching assistant.
“These opportunities have all furthered my commitment to the field of law,” Yarber says, “and my growth as a future attorney.” He says his experiences in Judaism have taught him passion, leadership and the importance of community.
His mother, Judy Yarber, bravely fought leukemia for three years, and Chase was a bone marrow donor for her. Sadly, she died on May 4, and Chase is dedicating his award to his mother to honor the love and support she provided their family throughout her life.
Southfield attorney Andrew Cohen, the son of the late Charles J. Cohen, whom the award will be given in memory of, says JBAM is thrilled to award Davidova and Yarber with its first-annual scholarships.
“My father, Charles, cared tremendously about ethics in the practice of law and believed that the way to improve ethics was through education,” Cohen says. It is only fitting that this year’s awardees demonstrated not just educational achievement and community involvement, but the highest of ethical standards.”
The May 25 Zoom event is free and open to the community. Also at the event, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel will receive JBAM’s inaugural Ruth Bader Ginsburg Champion of Justice Award and retired U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn will be honored with the organization’s first Lifetime Achievement Award. To register for the free event, visit jewishbar.org.
Associate Editor David Sachs contributed to this report.