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.