This past Monday afternoon right before Tisha B’Av (the ninth day of the Hebrew month Av and a fast day commemorating the destruction of both Temples), I admittedly wasn’t connecting too much to the somber day we were entering. I had spent the last few weeks or so avoiding listening to live music, eating meat and drinking wine, going swimming, or doing anything overly exciting. At this moment, I had finished drinking an unhealthy amount of water, eating a large amount of food, and was ready for the final “dish” I would eat before 24 hours of fasting — an egg dipped in ashes — while sitting on the floor, as a sign of mourning.
The theme of my last note was about supporting our advertisers. Since then, I’ve received encouraging responses and feedback from readers and advertisers alike in support of that message.
I was a big fan of the recent Heineken commercial. Not because I like Heineken — it is actually one of my least favorite beers — but the message of the commercial really resonated with me.
One of the advantages of being involved in a newspaper is that attending and having exposure to meaningful events and functions is part of my job. Of the many events that I have wanted to attend but haven’t able to because of work or other restrictions, AIPAC was always high on the list. Thousands of people joining together from across the world to support Israel in our own backyard - who wouldn’t want to attend if they could? Thus, I will provide a synopsis of my experiences for those who may not have been able to make it to help give others a sense of what it was like.
There has rightly been much press dedicated to the recent bomb threats at various Jewish institutions throughout the country and my sincere hope is that we address these issues quickly and continue to support each other to help cope with them properly.
While all these events have been occurring, it has been quite fascinating to observe the various reactions they elicited. Some folks are filled with outrage, calling for various people to condemn these acts or take steps to overturn them. Others, such as the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, the Orthodox Union, and countless other organizations (see Gabe Aaronson’s superb article on the front cover for a more detailed picture) are indeed taking action such as advocating for security funds for our various institutions.
Rabbi Dr. Chaim Joel Laks, my grandfather, passed away six years ago this past Sunday. He was instrumental in building up the Jewish community in Queens, New York; he was very involved in the start up of a local shul, school and vaad (rabbinic council), and served as a chaplain for many years in the very hospital where he ultimately gave his soul to his Creator, the morning prayer on his lips as he took his final breaths. I recall speaking at his funeral about the impact he made on me. He was a very sophisticated and respected individual, receiving a Ph.D. in philosophy and rabbinic ordination at a very young age. He even had a street named after him.
After calling me up to the Torah for an aliya this morning, the gabbai turned to me and whispered: “I really like Kol HaBirah.”
What is the message that you wish to impart to your family at the Seder on Pesach? I did not know the answer to this important question when Rabbi Antine posed it to over 500 people at the annual Guys Night Out and Seder Summit event at Beth Sholom in Potomac, Maryland, but it at least got me thinking. I will be in New York with my parents and family and so will not be leading the Seder, but I don’t believe that absolves me from this responsibility. I think the question applies to anyone in a leadership position. Do you lead a family? A company? A team of employees? A sports team? A volunteer chesed or social action project? A committee? If so, what is the message that you would like to impart to those you lead?
Wednesday afternoon, March 1st, I was in a panic and needed some real time, practical, “no holding back” advice. So I did what I usually resort to when I am in such a state - I called a few family members, including my father and my older brother, Eytan. I proceeded to tell them that I didn’t want to publish issue # 3 of Kol HaBirah that was supposed to be sent to the printer in a few hours and I wanted to get their perspective on this. I explained first to my brother and then my father that if we went to print, I was due to lose a significant amount of money. A number of potential advertisers didn’t end up following through, plus a few committed advertisers backed out at the last minute, and I was about to be stuck footing an overwhelming bill. I had the funds to pay the bill, but while doing the math in that overwhelmed state, the future looked bleak as I projected that same number over the next few issues. To my dismay, both felt that I should go through with the issue and “eat” the loss. After grilling me on my current financial state and gaining my perspective on how the community and its businesses were receiving the paper, my father explained that most businesses tend to fail not because they don’t have the potential to be successful, but because of cash flow issues.“If you feel that Kol HaBirah is being well received,” he said, “then go through with this issue and make a game plan to recoup those funds moving forward.”
After completing a set of weights at the gym (when I used to have time to work out) I mustered up the courage to approach the military veteran who so impressed me with his diligence at the gym, all while using a prosthetic leg. I thanked him for his service and politely asked him if he would be interested in having us publish his “story” in our next issue, especially as the theme involved Disabilities Awareness and Inclusion. He looked at me point blank and said “I don’t have a disability; I’m not the guy for your paper.”