“Okay, I was born in Washington, D.C. That’s my hometown. Went through the public school system there and graduated from George Washington University in 1973.
Well, then I went to rabbinical school in New York City. Well, for the first year it was in Jerusalem…and then I was, next four years in New York City. Was ordained in ‘78. The year in Israel was during the Yom Kippur War which was a very interesting time to be there.
It was Yom Kippur which was the holy state of the Jewish calendar year, the day of atonement…sitting in the Yochanan Ben Zakai Synagogue in the Jewish quarter of the old city of Jerusalem at about 2:00, 2:30, somewhere around there all of the air raid sirens started going off. What had happened that morning, I guess it was about 6:00 in the morning, an Israeli jet had kinda buzzed Jerusalem, which I thought was kinda weird for Yom Kippur to do it on that day.
We rarely heard planes in Jerusalem. But that obviously was some kind of a signal to folks there. So all the air raid sirens, you know, went off. And, by the time we got out of the synagogue, because it’s like a whole day of worship service, Jerusalem was in a blackout.
So, I basically just had to go home. And we had the shades on the apartment…which are standard in Israel…which I just thought were sun shades…and you put down to keep the sun out. But what they really were was a, you know, blackout shades that you can put down.
I had to go fill the bathtub with water just in case something happened to the drinking supply. What ultimately happened was that the men, in particular…were called to their units…which left a lot of gaps, you know, in a lot of the services that they did as their job.
So, you know, I had a lot of classmates who were deliverin’ milk. We couldn’t serve in the army basically because our Hebrew wasn’t good enough, and if they said ‘charge’ or ‘retrieve’ we wouldn’t know what the heck they were talking about.
But, anyway…so I was working in Hadassah Hospital which was a big hospital in Jerusalem with guys who had just come back from the fronts…I mean it was Arabs and Israelis who were basically sudden paraplegics and quadriplegics.
In other words, they got hit by shrapnel that had severed their spinal cord…or another guy…who was burned from head to toe. All we were doing…I was working with three other people, we were basically every four hours, we were turning the patients in their beds so that they wouldn’t get bed sores to compound their misery. So that was a very interesting time to be there.
But, anyway I was ordained in ‘78.
I went to Israel when I was at George Washington University…and that just sorta opened my eyes. You know, we would be riding on the bus and the driver would say, ‘You see that plane to the left. That’s where David fought Goliath.’ I mean it’s one thing to tell the Bible stories. It’s another thing to actually be there. So, it was kind of that trip that sorta set me on the course that I’ve been on for the last 45 years, or so.
So, I basically came south to Columbus in 1987. Now…[we’ve been] here for 13. After living Columbus and after living in Montgomery, I knew how…smaller Southern cities run. So I was really sorta able to hit the ground running here.
For me, it was, ‘How do you integrate yourself into the community…as quickly as possible?’
It was join the Rotary Club, do the Leadership Macon program…I started going to City Council meetings. It was when Jack Ellis was in his second term and there were all sorts of difficulties that he was countering. So it was kinda interesting to be…a fly on the wall, almost, during that whole thing.
Then, the opportunity presented itself to run for elected office…which I ran for and was lucky enough to get elected to.
It was a time when people were saying, ‘We need good people. We need good people to serve on Council.’
So, I just sort of said, you know, ‘Here I am. Send me.’
And I did that.
I’m glad because I do think that my presence has brought some stability…
The Council, now the Commission, all that just depends on the personalities that are involved because a lot of it is just dictated by who the people themselves are.
So, I talk about being a survivor of the Macon City Council. I think to a certain extent, that’s true.
Because the dynamics of the Council were a lot different than the dynamics of the Commission. I think we’re in a much better place as a community right now.
I think that a lot more people are on the same page than they were before.
I do think that the Mayor and the Commission are moving in a good, positive direction that are enabling things to happen the way that they’re happening down here.
‘Cause, the growth and even still the potential for growth in the downtown area, it’s pretty phenomenal and it’s happening.
And anybody who knows anything about economic development or economic redevelopment knows that it starts downtown and it radiates out.
So, looking at the Mill Hill project. Well, that’s starting to radiate out.
So, I’m pretty optimistic, but it’s not just something that happens overnight. It takes time and money.
Downtown has become a residential neighborhood. It wasn’t 13 or 14 years ago.
We used to debate, ‘Which comes first – the businesses that attract the people or the people that attract the businesses?’
I think it’s the people being here, the population to be served that attracts the business. And we’re doing that now.
Yeah, I’m pretty happy with the way things have worked out.
Things just often happen just to get you where you’re supposed to be going, even though you don’t necessarily know yet where that is. So, in the grand scheme of things I don’t know that I would do anything different. But it really doesn’t matter ‘cause I don’t have a choice at this point.
No matter what happens, you just have to keep moving forward.
I think you’ve got to step up to the plate…in order to attract the people we want to settle here.
Things have a way of working out for the best.
Coming to Macon, accepting the position at Temple Beth Israel was a choice that I made. And when you make those choices, you never know how it’s going to go.
There’s a Yiddish proverb that says, ‘Man plans – or person plans – and God laughs.’
You chart a course in one direction, and the next thing you know, you’re going in a different direction. So, I think you just go with the flow.
There’s always something for me to do. There’s just always something to accomplish. Even in retirement, I’m just as busy as I was before. I’m pretty much doing the same kind of things I was doing.
If you set goals for yourself and if you live your life that way, I just really can’t retire and just sit around and enjoy life.
I’ve gotta be doing something in order to feel my presence is worthwhile.
You put yourself out there and you’re in. Once you’re in, you can’t get out.
Happy…that sorta can change from day to day. But, I see a purpose in my life and the lives of others. Maybe I’m better described as a purposeful person.
Down the pipe there’s gonna be plenty of time to sleep. So you gotta make hay while the sun shines.
Being able to accomplish things and help people gives me a lot of satisfaction.
I think it’s those difficulties you go through that sort of season you. I just think you are a product of the experiences that you have and the choices that you make.
You’ve just gotta do your part. And, ‘your part’ is something you’ve got to define. Letting someone else do it, when you have the capability to do it is not playing your part.
You know as soon as you get into one of those major metropolitan areas, you’re dealing with primarily traffic issues that we just don’t have down here.
I think I learned in Columbus, I learned in Montgomery. And it continues here in Macon that there’s a lot of advantages in being a town like these. Even though some people have a tendency to look down their noses that this is a place out in the sticks. You know, it isn’t. Sometimes you really don’t understand how much you like a place until you leave it.
I will tell you that when I was in Columbus – this was back in the late 80s, early 90s – I used to go to Atlanta just about every opportunity that I could. Because in Atlanta you could get things that you couldn’t get in Columbus, big book stores and things…
Now, I really rarely go to Atlanta. There’s really no advantage to going there when I don’t have to.
I just really enjoy the quality of life that we have here.
Contentment? My dog, accomplishment, whether it’s large or it’s small – you touch somebody’s life. I guess making a difference would be the overall thing, at least in terms of interacting with other human beings.”