Thursday, February 19, 2009

Honor. Service. Priorities. Wisdom.

...or, This is Community Service.
My involvement in organizational work, or community service... I got involved because I felt strongly about the purpose of the organization. ~ Dan Friedenreich, aka Grandpa
This past Sunday, my brother and I attended a small luncheon honoring our grandfather, Daniel Friedenreich. My grandparents are in the process of packing up all their belongings to move to a senior residence in Philadelphia, near our aunt and uncle, something my mother and aunt have been pushing rightfully for a while. My grandfather's shul - the Bell Park Jewish Center - threw the luncheon, meant to honor his 57 years of dedicated service to the synagogue he founded after World War II ended, including 40 years as President (the last 20 years consecutively as the shul has slowly died out or moved away). In addition, though they had already honored him at the last board meeting, President Warren Hecht and his wife and Mrs. Zalisky of the Queens Jewish Community Council (QJCC) came as well to honor him again for his service - he's a founder, a past President, and at 87 years old, still a current board member there. New York State Senator Frank Padavan actually pushed back his swearing-in to attend, which was really nice; a few others, including [NYS Assemblymember] Mark and [NYC Council Member] David Weprin, sent their wishes, plaques, or representatives as they had conflicts.

My grandfather's quote above is rather simple and straightforward - which is exactly how it should be. One of the easy lessons growing up in my family was that of ethics. Both sets of grandparents were pillars of integrity in their communities, known for going well above and beyond what was expected of them in a modest and quiet manner, avoiding unnecessary controversy and standing up when necessary. Even this Sunday, at the end of the luncheon, my grandmother asked me if I'd be able to help out with the synagogue's bookkeeping and the like after they moved, as my grandfather had been keeping the books for them for many years. I didn't understand why she was being so secretive about it, and while noting I only worked as an auditor and may not be able to help, I'd be happy to take a look, she explained why she was being so quiet:
Grandma: I don't think it would be ethical for me to suggest they ask for your help while we're still here and Grandpa is President, as Grandpa is firmly against nepotism.
Ezzie: [smiling] Me too.
Grandma: After we move, though, I'm going to suggest that they ask for your help - I think they're really going to need it.
I found this fascinating. All too often nowadays, people don't even blink at the idea of having family take paying jobs on behalf of the same company or organization as other family members. Here, my grandparents didn't want to suggest from a position of "power" that their synagogue - which they would no longer even be a part of - even ask for the free assistance of their family, as it might pressure the shul to do so instead of looking at other options.

While there are certainly "hockers" who have a great impact, my grandfather was never such a person. He is not a forceful person, nor is he the type who creates or uses 'connections' to get places or to get things done. He just does things the right way - building, creating, sustaining.
"I got involved because I felt strongly about the purpose of the organization."
We should all try to find the purposes we're interested in and approach those projects in "the right way". It would go a long way to building the better future for our grandchildren, much as our grandparents did for us.