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How can one person make a difference?

Recently I was listening to a lecture on by Rabbi Shmuel Marcus the Rav of Kehilas Ishei Yisrael, in Kew Gardens Hills, NY. Rabbi Marcus’ topic was the amazing impact an individual can have in the world. You don’t have to be in a position of power or influence to make a meaningful difference in the world. All you have to do is a kind deed to someone in need.

He told the following true story as an illustration: Rabbi Mordechai Green moved to Hamilton Ontario in 1958, where he ended up serving for 44 years. When he came as a young man, 24 years old, the shul was dwindling, and there wasn’t much going for it in the neighborhood. He knew in order for that Orthodox shul to succeed he needed to move and rebuild in a nicer neighborhood in Hamilton. But with what? He had no money. He went to a local branch of Royal Bank, one of the largest banks in Cananda, sat down with the Vice President of the bank, an Episcopalian by the name of Mr. Amy, and he asked him for a loan of $500,000. The Vice President almost laughed at him! He said, “Do you have anyone backing you up on this loan, to cosign on it?”

Rabbi Green said no, and the bank manager said, “I’m sorry, but how can I give you a loan? Have a good day.” Rabbi Green gets up and turns to leave, when Mr. Amy says, “I’m just curious, but why do want half a million dollars?” Rabbi Green tells him, “It’s to build a synagogue.”

“Oh a synagogue? What kind of synagogue?” he asks.

Rabbi Green tells him, “An Orthodox Synagogue.” Mr. Amy says, “OK, then sit down. I’ll help you!” Rabbi Green is curious and asks, “Why do you want to help me?”

“I’ll tell you,” said the vice president of the bank. “When I was a boy, I was orphaned at a young age. My mother had 5 children and no source of income. We were living in Timmins, Ontario, and my mother walked into the general store there one day, looking at the price tags on the food and clothing. The owner of the general store came over and said to my mother, “I heard what happened to your husband. Don’t worry about the cost. Take the clothing you need for your children, take the food you need for your children. As long as I own this store your family will be taken care of.”

“That man was an Orthodox Jew and this is the first opportunity I have to repay his kindness,” said Mr. Amy. Decades later, that one Jew is long gone but because of that one chesed that he did decades ago, there is now a massive beautiful shul, yeshiva and mikvah, with thousands of Jewish children who have received an education there over the years. One person CAN make a difference in the world!