In 1969, after qualifying to become an elementary school principal, I was given my assignment – and it proved to be in a high-crime neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago.
I didn’t know whether I should take it or not. I was apprehensive because it was the year after half of Chicago was burned down in the riots following Martin Luther King’s assassination. There was a lot of anger in the air, and a lot of anti-white anger. And here I would be replacing a black principal in a predominantly black school, at a time when only 8 out of 400 principals in the Chicago school system were African-American.
Was this a wise thing to do? I wasn’t sure, and so I decided to go to New York and get the Rebbe’s advice.
What happened in that audience with the Rebbe only intensified the awe and admiration I already had for him. It was a very special audience.
I asked the Rebbe a very serious question pertaining to my future: “Shall I accept this assignment in the heart of an African-American neighborhood or not?” But instead of answering me, the Rebbe responded with a question of his own: “Will Mayor Daley run for reelection?”
I didn’t understand what he meant – I didn’t see the connection to my question, but when he asked me this question a second time, I answered, “Yes, he will probably be mayor for the rest of his life.” I was speaking about Mayor Richard J. Daley, the father of the recent mayor of Chicago, who did in fact die in office after serving as mayor of the city for 21 years. (more…)