Better Late Than Never: Thank You, Ira and Mindy

Posted by mwallach on September 6, 2012 in New To You |

Dear Mindy and Ira,
Having been given the opportunity to attend Championsgate again this year, my husband Stephen and I decided to extend our trip to Orlando and enjoy a mini-vacation. While visiting Disney’s EPCOT Center, we met a remarkable woman from Wales and her mother – a happenstance interaction with complete strangers which reinforced my steadfast belief that everything happens for a reason.

They both wore matching light blue rubber bracelets, akin to those made famous by Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong Foundation. It read “2 Wish Upon A Star” and Stephen thought it was something they had bought there, in the park. She explained the bracelet could be bought on premises, but was actually the name of her website. Upon better inspection, Stephen saw that the bracelet read “www.2wishuponastar.org”. After they had walked away, the young woman’s mother returned to our table to tell him about her incredible daughter and the unspeakable tragedy that served as the motivation for her website.

In February of this year, the woman’s daughter lost both her son – and then her husband – within a mere five days. Out of her personal grief and experience, the young woman started a website that raises money for families in need of various services, including bereavement care. Immediately and instinctively, Stephen reached into his pocket and gave what he had. The woman thanked us on behalf of her daughter, left us the bracelet she had been wearing and went on her way. Rendered speechless and completely stunned, Stephen and I stared at the bracelet and sat quietly for a few moments, thinking. If only to learn about her website, hear her story or gain a new appreciation for our abundant blessings, I knew we were meant to be there at that moment.

People are called to act by a variety of voices, inspirations or needs. Some hear those calls, but choose to ignore them. Others, however, spring into action with a vim and vigor to be challenged by none though marveled at by all. Despite being faced with an unimaginable catastrophe, this young woman proactively sought to better her life and that of her two remaining children. The reality is that she could have chosen to stop living. Instead, through the generosity of others and her personal resolve to overcome, she is committed to living life.

You also sensed a call for action. Understanding the need and urgency within the Jewish community for an increase in leadership, unity and dialogue, you envisioned an opportunity for problems to be faced and challenges met by bringing people together with the sole purpose of solving crises. Simply put, the idea was to put the people in the room from communities across the globe who could effectuate real change. At first glance, such a concept makes perfect sense and is rather logical. When one stops, however, to consider the enormity of that task, the genius of that vision and the courage needed for such an undertaking, it would appear too daunting and virtually impossible to carry-out. Instead, we just celebrated Championsgate VII – a true testament to your resolve and personal commitment to the Jewish people, this generation and beyond.

By partnering with Yeshiva University for this endeavor, you recognized its centrality within our world and how it continues to serve as an incubator for great leaders and creative minds. While the first Championsgate amounted to about thirty people gathered for three days in one conference room, it has blossomed to 450 participants from all over the world, filling spaces in conference centers that could serve as aircraft hangars. Surrounded by torah and the values you share with your family, we gathered, discussed and listened, taking our roles seriously and heeding your call to action. And throughout the weekend, we were given the challenge to come away from the conference with a renewed spirit and motivation to see ourselves as part of both the process and the solution – and we did.

Honored to be part of the mentoring program introduced at this year’s conference in which lay leaders are paired with one of YU’s Presidential Fellows, I take my responsibilities seriously. Not only do I have the opportunity to impact on the life of a future leader, I appreciate how my actions and advice can shape what kind of leader she will become. And as I have shared with other younger members of the Jewish people with whom I have worked, I will encourage her to do three things: speak to be heard, be hopeful and give hope, and always be generous.

For two years in a row, Stephen and I have benefitted from your own vision and generosity. Without both, there would be no Championsgate, no such opportunity to solve many of the challenges faced by the Jewish community. True: we did not succeed in lowering yeshiva tuition or in finding a match for every Jewish single. We did, however, come numerous steps closer to each, and that alone is something of which we can all be proud.

Just like the feeling I had after our serendipitous meeting with the young woman, I know you were meant to do this. So dedicated to your community in Houston and to the needs of the Jewish people at large, it makes perfect sense that – as a team – you would envision Championsgate and generously provide such an opportunity to a massive room of people, many of whom you might not even know.

G-d has blessed both of you with values, commitment and each other. And on behalf of all those who benefit from those blessings, I express my sincere gratitude and heartfelt appreciation. Thank you for making a difference in our lives so that we can make a difference in the lives of others.

My Best,

Miriam L. Wallach

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1 Comment

  • Elly Lasson says:

    I echo Miriam’s sentiments. I have attended the past two years and there seem to be enhancements that make each year better than the next. The Mentoring Program launched by Rick Guttman and the CJF staff is just one example of a unique investment in the Jewish Future (pun intended). In Psychology there is a concept called “action learning” which takes knowledge out of the laboratory and applies it to society to address issues that are quite real. So, the ongoing work that Dr. Scott Goldberg and Harry Bloom presented as it relates to the acute problems in Jewish education is testament to this.

    Yasher Koach to Ira and Mindy for hosting not just a conference but their YU family.

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