ENGLAND’S OTHER FIRE

With so much news coverage  focusing on the tragic fire of epic proportion at Grenfell Tower in London last Wednesday, which by latest count claimed 79 lives, it’s more than understandable that a fire hours later at Kay’s Kosher Deli in nearby Golder’s Green did not attract any attention. It should have. Although no one was hurt, much less killed by the Deli fire, Sil and Riv, both in their 20’s, were left homeless. Left with nothing, they took to “sleeping on the streets,” with one sleeping on a bench and the other sleeping beneath the bench.

It didn’t take long for Larry Berkowitz to learn about their plight. Mr. Berkowitz is owner of Bluebird Care, a company that provides home care throughout the borough.
“Luckily, we had a flat vacant, so we’ve given that to them (Sil and Riv) for a month or two, rent-free until they find their feet (sic).” Had the rent-free flat been the sum total of Mr. Berkowitz’s kindness and generosity, it would have been most appropriate for all who learned about it to extend a Yasher Koach to Mr. Berkowitz  and  to express a heartfelt “dayyeinu”!

But Mr. Berkowitz did not stop there. He gave Sil and Riv jobs, in that they were looking for employment when the fire broke out. “We understand that they weren’t insured, so they lost everything,” said Mr. Berkowitz. “There’s a local fund-raising effort underway to help them replace lost furniture and goods. Hopefully, the jobs should help them too. We’ll start their training next week.”

As a rabbi, as one who believes in individual as well as communal responsibility to help one another, as well as the stranger in need, I shepped a great deal of naches reading about how Mr. Berkowitz immediately stepped in to help. Rather than ask the vacuous “Isn’t somebody going to do anything?” Mr. Berkowitz “out-Mosesed” Moses. Whereas our biblical role model first looked “hither and thither” before taking matters into his own hands, Larry Berkowitz did not take the time to look. He immediately took matters into his own hands and arranged for living quarters.

As a result of this most moving human interest story, I have three wishes:
Not only do I wish Sil and Riv every bit of success as they begin to rebuild their lives, but I hope that Sil and Riv (I could be wrong, but from the photo, I imagine them to be African immigrants) always remember the kindness extended to them by Larry Berkowitz. If Sil and Riv choose to tell others in their community about their misfortune, I would hope that they tell others in their community about their good fortune as well.

I hope that Larry Berkowitz serves as a source of inspiration to others. I hope that others are inspired by what Mr. Berkowitz did and that others adopt the attitude of: “If Larry Berkowitz can do it, I can do it.” If Larry Berkowitz’s act of chessed (kindness) ends up spawning other acts of chessed, then society will continue to improve and become immeasurably better.

I hope that Larry is rewarded for his generosity and selflessness. In addition to letters of gratitude and seeing that his efforts bear fruit more luscious than he himself ever anticipated, I hope that Larry is rewarded by HaShem with good health and long life, as well as the very best life has to offer. He surely deserves it.

AMBASSADOR RAIL SERVICE

I have a proposal. When Israel inaugurates its rapid transit train service between Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, I propose that the German Ambassador to Israel, The British Ambassador to Israel and the Jordanian Ambassador to Israel be invited to be passengers on the maiden voyage. It’s not the trains’ speed of up to 100 M.P.H. that ought to serve as an eye-opener for them, nor is it the cutting edge of technology that Israel has every right to pride itself with. Satisfaction on Israel’s part ought to be the reason for these three invitations.
The German Ambassador to Israel needs to make that trip aboard Rakevet Yisrael (Israel Rail) to be shown that whereas the Third Reich saw efficiency in transporting as many Jews as possible whether they be elderly, young children or infirmed via trains bound for Concentration Camps and Death Camps having the innocent victims stand for days (there were so many Jews packed in that there was virtually no room to sit) without food, water or bathrooms, Israel sees efficiency totally differently. Efficiency for Israel means station entrances and exits that are more than adequate in number and size; efficiency in Israel means comfort aboard the train; efficiency for Israel means the capability of safely transporting thousands of passengers by train each hour in comfort.
The British Ambassador to Israel needs to make that trip aboard Rakevet Yisrael (Israel Rail) to be shown that whereas the British High Command cursed the Jews in Palestine with their bloody underground fighters; Israel sees the concept of underground totally differently seven decades later. After descending hundreds of feet below street level, passengers will enter a world of climate controlled comfort filled with snack bars, coffee shops and kiosks. Rather than pour salt on the wounds of the British with the complete absence of British Leyland Buses that at one time served as the main vehicle of mass transit on Israel’s highways, Israel can now give the British yet another “shtoch” (jab) knowing fully well that the British are eating their hearts out seeing a state of the art train station under Binyanei HaUma, Jerusalem’s International Convention Center and then comparing it to London’s Victoria Station. Pity!
The Jordanian Ambassador to Israel needs to make that trip aboard Rakevet Yisrael (Israel Rail) to be shown that whereas Jordanians used rocks to block the highway at Castel (Al Qastal) and then open fire at the stopped buses, murdering innocent Jews as they were on the last leg of their journey to Jerusalem, Israel handles rocks completely differently.  In creating the high speed rail line, demolition crews blasted through rocks to enable construction crews to dig the longest tunnel in the country (the longest bridge in the country was also built for the very same reason). Some see rocks as weapons; Israel sees rocks as a challenge which its people have been able to meet and successfully surmount time and time again.
And while those three ambassadors are traveling on that first state of the art train estimated to pull out of the station in March 2018, their Israeli host may want to point out that the twenty-eight minute journey from Jerusalem to Tel-Aviv has a significance all its own. In Gematria, Hebrew Numerology, the Hebrew word Koach (strength) equals twenty-eight. What a wonderful way of showing strength!