I was born in 1929 in Chicago, where I have lived for most of my life. After high school, I enrolled at Northwestern University to study architectural engineering, and later got a job in the construction industry.
Most of my friends at that time were survivors of the Soviet labor camps or had been taken further east as children, to former Soviet republics such as Uzbekistan, before immigrating to Chicago. Among them was a Belzer chasid who introduced me to the Rebbe’s published talks. I was impressed at how clear the Rebbe made everything sound, and that led me to attend a Chabad class conducted by Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Hecht, a local Chabad rabbi. I found this class most uplifting – in fact, I became totally enamored with it. So much so, that I would go home afterwards and stay up until two or three in the morning reviewing what I had learned.
Naturally, I wanted to meet the Rebbe and, in 1967, I managed to arrange an audience, the first of what turned out to be many over the years.
I didn’t know what to expect, and I was hesitant when I opened the door to the Rebbe’s office, but he said, “Welcome. Sit down.” I didn’t. “I think I’d better stand,” I said, and I stood.
I would just like to say that it is difficult for me to describe what it was like talking with the Rebbe. I had the sense that I was in the presence of a loving parent, a great teacher and my best friend all rolled into one. I felt he meant business, but also that he loved me. And I felt very comfortable talking with him.
At first, he spoke to me in Yiddish, but we began discussing technical engineering terms, which I only understand in English. When he saw that I didn’t understand well enough, he switched to English – his English was grammatically perfect even though he had a strong accent. He asked me various questions about architectural engineering. For example, he wanted to know how a cantilever works. He asked, “A balcony that sticks out of a building without any visible support – why doesn’t it fall down?” (more…)