When I got married, I was already an ordained rabbi – having attended the Chasam Sofer yeshivah in Boro Park and then the Beis Medrash Elyon in Monsey – but when I went to work, I chose an unusual avenue for someone of my background. I became the assistant for community relations to US Congressman John Lindsay.
In 1965, when he decided to run for mayor of New York City, he asked me to set up meetings for him with the top Jewish leaders of the city, and the first appointment that I made was with the Lubavitcher Rebbe. They spoke for some time, and after Lindsay walked out, he said: “This man is brilliant.” He just couldn’t get over the Rebbe’s vast knowledge and the wise advice he gave him. And then he added, “Could I meet with him again after I’m elected?”
“Definitely,” I replied. “The Rebbe’s door is always open. And he wants to see leaders like you, so that he can give you some ideas how best to run the city.” In fact, Lindsay did go back several times, and he even helped get security for the Rebbe.
When the Crown Heights riots broke out in 1991, he was no longer the mayor, and the new administration was not as receptive. But I still had contacts in the police department, and I managed to arrange for a couple of unmarked police cars to escort the Rebbe when he traveled from Brooklyn to Queens to pray at the ohel, the gravesite of the Previous Rebbe.
The first time he went with the escort, I was there to make sure everything went well. The Rebbe noticed me standing behind his car in the driveway, and he signaled that I should come over to him. He looked through all his pockets and found a nickel and gave it to me with his blessing. That was one of the most precious gifts that I ever remember receiving. (more…)