Tuesday, October 9, 2007

It takes "Chutzpah" to be a great Leader

Tonight the Jewish community and others will be saying goodbye to their current Rabbi who has served in Baton Rouge for nearly 24 years.

Rabbi Barry Weinstein and his wife tonight will be honored for the work they have conducted here in our city as they are now "retiring," from their position.

I heard Rabbi Weinstein this morning on the the "Jim Engster" show on WRKF.....yes, I DO listen to "Public Radio" and have for years.

I listened to Rabbi Weinstein recount how he came to Baton Rouge and where he was from and how he came to want to be a Rabbi as a young man....and where he had served before coming to Baton Rouge, which to my surprise was Omaha, Nebraska.

When I was a Senior in High School....I went to work in Omaha, Ne. at "Excel Merchandise" ....it was a "Wholesale company" owned by a Jewish man. His Family had migrated from Russia to the United States and his Mother and Father had started their own little store that turned into what it was when I went to work there.

I learned so much about "The Jews"..during those six years I worked there and my heart has been open to Jewish people ever since then. I had never been exposed to Jewish people ever in my 17 years of life other than what I might have seen on TV.

I can still remember my very first day working there. As everyone else was leaving to go home that night, my boss stayed and chatted with me a bit to let me know some things about himself. The TV was on in the office and the evening news was on and there was some type of "Anti Semitism/Neo Nazi" riot, thing going on and he said to me
"I never have a problem with people unless it's that kind of people."
I had no clue what to say to him at that point, but I didn't blame him at ALL for feeling that way.

I had been shown the French made film "Night and Fog" when I was a sophomore in my Social Studies class and those horrible images were engraved in my mind. I never had any prejudices against the Jewish people and didn't know anyone that had.

Growing up in the Midwest you are exposed to a LOT of Jewish things. There are tons of Jewish owned business's and restaurants and all kinds of great cultural things relating to Jewish life like "Hadassah's" and "Jewish Community Centers" like the one my bosses wife worked at.

It is SO not like living in the South. I didn't realize for a long time that there were even any Jewish people here in Baton Rouge because you don't hear much about them ever.

Through the years I worked there he allowed me to ask him every crazy thing I wanted to about Jewish culture and lifestyle and their beliefs. I must have drove him...."Meshugge." But he bore with me.

My husband even went to work there as well...long story Don had to have a
"Cornea Transplant" at age 19 and couldn't do construction work any longer and Jerry offered him a job in the warehouse as a printer. Jerry was a nice man. He had a big heart, he wasn't perfect, but God did use him in our lives and us in his.
We know this.

I worked at Excel Mdse. until the day before my first child was born. Don worked there until we moved here to Baton Rouge. Through the first year we lived in Baton Rouge we kept in close contact with our old boss and the other employees there...then they told us one time on the phone that they were "closing down the business." That to me was sad.

We still would go see our old boss when ever we would go back home at his brother in law's very, famous jewelry store which is now owned by Warren Buffet. Through the years we had less and less time to go visit him and focused on our family there instead. Now we have totally lost contact with him and the others. We will forever hold him in our hearts and minds though.

Listening to Rabbi Weinstein today made me appreciate what he did for Baton Rouge by way of his "serving the community" and his "inner faith" work that he has done. If I heard him right today....they are going to stay in the city and continue to do charitable work.

The saddest thing to me about all this is that he probably could have kept his job if he had just taken the "easy way out."
He has been "forced" into retirement because of a stink over him allowing
"Katrina evacuees" to stay in their synagogues during the hurricane crisis.
This is common knowledge.....but it's a real credit to his character that he doesn't talk about it.
You can read it in print though if you chose to at this site....Jewish Journal.com.

It just goes to show......that sometimes when leaders.....be it Pastor's or Rabbi's or whoever take a stand and do what is right.....it will cost them something.
Maybe even their position.
I've seen this happen more than once.
I have some good friends going through this right now too. It's not easy but it's the RIGHT thing to do.

It's called "morals, ethics and integrity."

I want to say "Thanks" to Rabbi Weinstein for having......"Chutzpah."That's Yiddish for...."GUTS....BOLDNESS or AUDACITY."

1 comment:

Michael said...


How are you, Don and the kids? I was doing some random late night googling and came across your Blog.

It was very nice to see what you wrote about dad. I do however, have some bad news. Dad passed always back in August. I can see from your comments how much he meant to you. That truly warms my heart. The number of people at his service was unbelievable. He did touch the lives of so many people.

I would love to chat, if you are so inclined… here is my email address. (michaelwasserman@verizon.net)

Oh, please check out Lisa's web site. www.delawarevalleydance.com By the way we have three daughters... yes, all dancers.

All my best to you and the family,