Nobody has a copyright on Spirituality : The Rebel and The Rabbi’s Son by Izzy Eichenstein

Israel (Izzy) Eichenstein is a descendant on both sides of royal Chasidic dynasties whose members trace their lineages back through generations in Europe. He is the son, grandson, great-grandson and great-great-grandson of ultra-Orthodox rabbis. In Chicago as well as New York, Israel and elsewhere, the name Eichenstein can inspire awe and open doors in the most religious circles.

Izzy Eichenstein found that most of those doors were closed to him — not that he wanted to walk through them in the first place.

The Chicago native’s recent book, “The Rebel and The Rabbi’s Son: Finding My Soul Beyond the Tribe” tells the story of a child brought up in a religious family who rebels and walks a different path.

A spate of books over the last few years have detailed this phenomenon in excruciatingly detailed terms, from Judith Brown’s “Hush” to Anouk Markovits’ “I Am Forbidden” to Israeli writer Naomi Regan’s newest work, “The Sisters Weiss,” a novel which centers on a woman who leaves her haredi (ultra-Orthodox) family.

Interestingly, most have been written by women. Eichenstein’s, though, is different in more ways than the gender of the author. Though his story is also a painful one, it’s told with humor and a lack of bitterness – qualities he said he was striving for in the self-published memoir.

Eichenstein, now a successful real estate developer in Los Angeles, was born and lived the first years of his life on Chicago’s West Side, the youngest child in a dynasty of Chasidic rabbis who had first come in the 1920s to the “triefe medina” of the United States. Here they attempted to replicate as much as possible the ultra-Orthodox, “Torah-true” world of Eastern European Jewry.

Eichenstein’s father, Rabbi Moses Eichenstein, first headed an Orthodox synagogue, known as the Austrian Galician shul, on the West Side. But when neighborhoods began to change, the family moved to the North Side and Rabbi Eichenstein, faced with the need to make a living for his family of three young children, became the spiritual leader of a Traditional synagogue, A.G. Beth Israel.

For an ultra-Orthodox rabbi to lead a synagogue where men and women sat together and most congregants were not Orthodox was considered a shanda by many other members of the family, even though Rabbi Eichenstein, his wife and children adhered strictly to the Orthodox lifestyle. Izzy Eichenstein traces much of the discord in his own life to this disconnect in his father’s.

Young Izzy, meanwhile, wasn’t fitting in to the life he was expected to lead, where Torah study trumped all other pursuits. He was more interested in following the Chicago Cubs, playing sports and meeting girls than in studying the Torah portion of the week. While his brother, sister and cousins “were on the ‘A’ team with the Orthodox community,” he writes, “I was now on the ‘B’ team.”

When he is unable to give a good answer to a question one of his uncles asks him about Rashi, the Torah commentator, he thinks, “If my uncle had asked me to recite the Chicago Cubs lineup or stats regarding the Chicago Bears, I would have astonished him with my knowledge and feats of memory.”

Indeed, his first deviation from the strict rules of Orthodox Judaism comes when he turns up the volume of a radio on Shabbat so he can listen to a Cubs game. He is amazed when he isn’t struck dead for the transgression. Instead, “a reluctant rebel was born,” he writes.

In his teens, he struggled in his Jewish day school but found a release in sports, both watching and playing them. At Yeshiva High School in Chicago, he tried to fit in but didn’t seem to be able to. Instead, all year he looked forward to the summers he spent at Camp Moshava in Wisconsin.

One year, though, his parents pulled him out after two weeks at the much-beloved Modern Orthodox camp and, to his sorrow and fury, put him instead in an ultra-Orthodox camp in New York. Ultimately his family knew how unhappy he was there and sent him for the rest of the summer to another “yeshiva boot camp,” which he also hates.

For the next several years, he bounced back and forth as his family tried to shape him into the ultra-Orthodox Jew he seemed unable to become. He graduated from a new yeshiva in Pittsburgh, where he sincerely tried to fit in, then spent some time at a yeshiva in Israel. He met some young Israeli soldiers and visited their kibbutz – and was severely reprimanded by the school for engaging in such extracurricular activities. He continued attending classes but without much interest. “I had fallen off the path,” he writes.

That path took him on a decidedly different turn when he met a young Reb Shlomo Carlebach, much less famous and revered than he would eventually become. Eichenstein was drawn to the charismatic performer and the other young people in his entourage –Carlebach dubbed them his “holy hippelach” – and began spending most of his time with them while still nominally attending classes at the yeshiva. Eventually he left Israel and moved to New York City, still searching for a place and profession in which he could feel comfortable.

He soon heard from Carlebach and again joined his inner circle, becoming his roadie and eventually his manager. He tried to arrange a meeting between Carlebach and Bob Dylan, one of his artistic heroes, but the timing was never right.

However, Eichenstein and Dylan became friends and spent hours drinking wine and discussing Judaism in Greenwich Village bars. The closeness ended when Dylan entered his short-lived phase as a born-again Christian. Eichenstein, meanwhile, temporarily ended up in his old bedroom in Chicago when he contracted mononucleosis.

It was during that confusing time that he connected with Rita Lipman, a girl he knew growing up. She came from a Modern Orthodox family – only slightly less stringent than his own – and was also in the process of moving away from her observant roots. They began dating and eventually fell in love, a process that Eichenstein marks as the end of his lost years and the beginning of a new, joyful life.

He writes: “It was as if a guardian angel had decreed, ‘This kid’s been through enough. He’s a good boy at heart. Let’s show him how tremendous this world can be.’ Whoever was watching over me (maybe it was Zaide?) led Rita and me to each other. I’m absolutely sure of it. If someone asked me, ‘What’s the proof that there’s a G-d?’ my answer would be, ‘Rita ended up in my life.’ All the other blessings flowed from that one.”

They married in an enormous Chasidic wedding at the Palmer House, and Eichenstein went back to working for Carlebach, then eventually tried a number of different jobs and professions, including selling advertising for a radio station and staging a concert to celebrate the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. Eventually the couple moved to Los Angeles and Eichenstein began mapping out a career in real estate, one in which he became very successful. Eventually they had three children.

There was still the matter of their religious affiliation. The couple joined a Modern Orthodox synagogue but found it hard to make friends. They joined another, and Eichenstein was elected to the board, bringing tremendous joy to his mother. Yet they still chafed under the religious restrictions and made up excuses about “having to take the kids to the doctor” so they could feel free to drive on Shabbat. They began attending services at a Conservative synagogue but didn’t feel comfortable there either.

Eventually, through a day school their children attended, they are led to a Reform congregation, Temple Emanuel. Eichenstein writes: “I was only conscious of one fact: I had been uncomfortable at every other synagogue in Los Angeles, and at this one, I felt comfortable. … I came to rest spiritually at Temple Emanuel” with its dynamic leader, the well-known Rabbi Laura Geller.

He decided to tell his story in a book for a number of reasons, the genial Eichenstein said in a phone conversation from his Los Angeles office.

“I felt there was a story to be told because my family is extremely well known in Chicago,” he says. “It was also one way to honor my dad. He had tremendous courage, as the son of a Chasidic rabbi, to end up taking a congregation on the North Side of Chicago that had mixed pews. He was courageous and beloved. So was my mom.”

Many who knew Eichenstein urged him to write a book. “A lot of people said, you have such an interesting story – you’re the last one of your Eichenstein generation and you grew up in a synagogue different from any other Eichenstein,” he says. “You grew up where nobody (among his father’s congregants) were observant but they all loved being Jewish.”

Izzy Eichenstein also loved being Jewish. The book, though, is about conflict, he says, noting that his name, Israel, means “to struggle with G-d.”

“I was struggling with my own Jewish identity,” he says.

He takes pains, though, to make sure an interviewer understands that he harbors no bitterness toward his parents, both now deceased.

“My dad and mom were great people,” he says. “For my father, it took tremendous courage to be in a congregation where the rest of the family, (most of whom) still live in Chicago, did not appreciate his willingness to step outside the bounds of ultra-Orthodoxy.”

Even though his congregants may not have been observant, Rabbi Eichenstein and his family remained scrupulous in their own observance, their son says. “If the love for my parents doesn’t come through, I didn’t write a good book,” he adds.

As for his own path, “I loved the Cubs. I never fit in with the beards and the hats,” he says. “But I wrote the book out of love and respect and very little bitterness. I’m not angry at anybody.”

That can’t be said for everyone in the family. Throughout the book, Eichenstein paints his older brother and sister, both of whom have remained within the haredi world, as unyielding towards their rebellious sibling. Today that brother and a cousin live in Chicago, and although they have never spoken to him about the book, “I feel sure they are not happy about it,” he says.

While he has an occasional conversation with his brother, he is not in touch with his cousins or other members of his family.

“Nobody calls me. We have gotten occasional invites to simchas, but otherwise the dialogue is at zero,” he says.

Except for “a few nasty emails” from people who know his family in Chicago, Eichenstein says the book has been received very positively.

“A lot of people came to me and said, I really struggle with my Jewish identity,” he says. “I tell them, the way to be Jewish is to struggle with G-d.”

For Eichenstein himself, writing the book was cathartic. “My life has changed,” he says. “I’m at an age where you just have to say, this is who I am.”

He says that although he could have secured a publisher for the book, he wanted to self-publish because “I wanted to hold on to it.” Now a non-Jewish individual has told Eichenstein he is interested in writing a screenplay based on the book.

“A lot of non-Jewish people have read the book. They struggle with father and son issues” that are also at the heart of his book, he says.

“I want people to have the oxygen to find their own Jewish identity and be respected for it. People feel boxed in – they don’t have that oxygen. They fear their neighbors more than they fear G-d,” he says. “I’ve spoken all over the country and people write me from around the world saying, you helped me. I was in hiding. I wanted to give a voice to those people.”

Sometimes people tell him that the real rebel was his father for agreeing to lead a non-Orthodox congregation. “That was the ultimate rebellion,” he says. “My family wants to whitewash that story, and I will not allow it.”

There is another story that is even more mysterious. His father once told him “in hushed tones” that a Reform rabbi in Chicago helped his grandfather when he first emigrated from Europe. He never named the rabbi.

Perhaps, he says, there’s a symmetry in the fact that Izzy and Rita Eichenstein are now very involved in their Reform congregation, Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills.

The main message of his book, its author says, is that “nobody has a copyright on spirituality. You have to respect other people and their path. But if a son or daughter decides they’re not going to be religious, just love them a little more. Don’t push people away.”

Eichenstein says he still loves Chicago and the Cubs. “And I love being Jewish. The main thing was I had to find my own Jewish identity. I had to say, I’m not going to apologize for how I turned out.”

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Nobody Has a copyright on Spirtiuality : The Rebel and The Rabbi’s Son by Izzy Eichenstein

 

The recently published The Rebel and the Rabbi’s Son is a fascinating read, even for someone such as this reader who grew up among the ultra-Orthodox without the heavy burdens of a dynastic lineage on his shoulders as did the author, Izzy Eichenstein. The situation is rare and the readable recounting is even rarer, but exceptionally instructive.

 

The story recounted has a very small element of open rebellion, but rather it’s a description of some choices that were made generations back, first by Izzie’s grandfather to leave the chassidic home kingdom where his future place in the Ultra-Orthodox world may have been prescriptively assured but ultimately, as seen in retrospect, swept away by the tides of World War II.  Later Izzie’s father’s decision to answer the call of a large congregation of Jews who were experimenting with bonafide emancipation, freedom and the experiment that is the retention of Judaism in America.  For Izzie this has consequences that place him into the rebel’s role that was not his choice.

 

The well-intentioned father/rabbi inadvertently let his young Ultra-orthodox princeling glance through the cracks in the the walls of the fortress of ultra-Orthodoxy.  The tragedy is that this is something that neither Izzy’s older brother and sister as well as their extended families had ever done at such a young age, and try as he might, Izzy cannot bond and cleave to a pre-emancipated Jewish life that everyone else in his immediate and extended family seems to like and is happy to live in from cradle to grave..

 

Fortunately, Rita, the classically modern-Orthodox Jewishly-raised woman and eventually Izzy’s wife,  is willing to accompany Izzy on his journey of exile.  Izzy and Rita slowly and painfully goes from a “narrow” but status-rich ultra-Orthodox life to a place, ultimately to where they can embrace their Judaism that they claim as their birthright rather than being driven out to a desert of historical discontinuity. Izzie ultimately has to ignore his Rabbi-father’s devastating opposition to name Izzie’s firstborn son after Izzie’ grandfather. That was Izzie’s first open act of rebellion, the open claim of the family heritage on his own terms.

 

Izzy and Rita continue to struggle with the recurrent experiences of discontinuity and their children struggle with the effects of the the discontinuity. The well-intentioned roads are a paved at great cost until a place of congruence is found and traveled to.  Its a lonely journey often travelled to other narrow places with peril and potentially disastrous outcomes. Just a couple of real-life situations I personally have had the opportunity to witness:  A 12 year-old girl yanked out of a co-ed modern Orthodox school by her ultra-Orthodox dynastic court family for having a crush on a boy and married off by 16 to a ultra-Orthodox European banker and mother of two children by age 18.  The tragic death of a lively-minded gay descendent of a venerated rabbinical line. Only two stories of dynastic children, such as Izzy, in the name of preserving the admittedly rich tradition and life of ultra-Orthodoxy lived and loved by many Jews.

 

The exercise of spiritual life-choice is not undertaken without hazard. The autobiographical author describes his ultra-Orthodox milieu, at one point, as a cult. He describes being slapped across the face for reciting a prayer for the State of Israel and being torn away from an idyllic religious-Zionist camp after two weeks, but the author neglects to elaborate on the schism between the ultra-Orthodox non-Zionism or anti-Zionism and the Zionism of the other streams of Judaism such as modern-Orthodox, Conservative and Reform that he explores and ultimately thrives in.

 

This book puts sorely needed flesh on a representative ultra-Orthodox dynasty, a group I often research and is the fastest growing demographic segment of the Jewish world,  but is often only poorly understood and described in caricature.  It is not a group that is going to fade in time, but rather ultra-Orthodox are emerging more and more in the crucial issues of the day within the life of the Jewish community of America and Israel because of their sheer demographic success.  It’s a well-written contemporary personal journey with great Jewish descriptive and demographic

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The Rebel and THE RABBI’S SON
By Pauline Dubkin Yearwood (11/29/2013)

Israel (Izzy) Eichenstein is a descendant on both sides of royal Chasidic dynasties whose members trace their lineages back through generations in Europe. He is the son, grandson, great-grandson and great-great-grandson of ultra-Orthodox rabbis. In Chicago as well as New York, Israel and elsewhere, the name Eichenstein can inspire awe and open doors in the most religious circles.

Izzy Eichenstein found that most of those doors were closed to him — not that he wanted to walk through them in the first place.

The Chicago native’s recent book, “The Rebel and The Rabbi’s Son: Finding My Soul Beyond the Tribe” tells the story of a child brought up in a religious family who rebels and walks a different path.

A spate of books over the last few years have detailed this phenomenon in excruciatingly detailed terms, from Judith Brown’s “Hush” to Anouk Markovits’ “I Am Forbidden” to Israeli writer Naomi Regan’s newest work, “The Sisters Weiss,” a novel which centers on a woman who leaves her haredi (ultra-Orthodox) family.

Interestingly, most have been written by women. Eichenstein’s, though, is different in more ways than the gender of the author. Though his story is also a painful one, it’s told with humor and a lack of bitterness – qualities he said he was striving for in the self-published memoir.

 

 

 

Eichenstein, now a successful real estate developer in Los Angeles, was born and lived the first years of his life on Chicago’s West Side, the youngest child in a dynasty of Chasidic rabbis who had first come in the 1920s to the “triefe medina” of the United States. Here they attempted to replicate as much as possible the ultra-Orthodox, “Torah-true” world of Eastern European Jewry.

Eichenstein’s father, Rabbi Moses Eichenstein, first headed an Orthodox synagogue, known as the Austrian Galician shul, on the West Side. But when neighborhoods began to change, the family moved to the North Side and Rabbi Eichenstein, faced with the need to make a living for his family of three young children, became the spiritual leader of a Traditional synagogue, A.G. Beth Israel.

For an ultra-Orthodox rabbi to lead a synagogue where men and women sat together and most congregants were not Orthodox was considered a shanda by many other members of the family, even though Rabbi Eichenstein, his wife and children adhered strictly to the Orthodox lifestyle. Izzy Eichenstein traces much of the discord in his own life to this disconnect in his father’s.

Young Izzy, meanwhile, wasn’t fitting in to the life he was expected to lead, where Torah study trumped all other pursuits. He was more interested in following the Chicago Cubs, playing sports and meeting girls than in studying the Torah portion of the week. While his brother, sister and cousins “were on the ‘A’ team with the Orthodox community,” he writes, “I was now on the ‘B’ team.”

When he is unable to give a good answer to a question one of his uncles asks him about Rashi, the Torah commentator, he thinks, “If my uncle had asked me to recite the Chicago Cubs lineup or stats regarding the Chicago Bears, I would have astonished him with my knowledge and feats of memory.”

Indeed, his first deviation from the strict rules of Orthodox Judaism comes when he turns up the volume of a radio on Shabbat so he can listen to a Cubs game. He is amazed when he isn’t struck dead for the transgression. Instead, “a reluctant rebel was born,” he writes.

In his teens, he struggled in his Jewish day school but found a release in sports, both watching and playing them. At Yeshiva High School in Chicago, he tried to fit in but didn’t seem to be able to. Instead, all year he looked forward to the summers he spent at Camp Moshava in Wisconsin.

One year, though, his parents pulled him out after two weeks at the much-beloved Modern Orthodox camp and, to his sorrow and fury, put him instead in an ultra-Orthodox camp in New York. Ultimately his family knew how unhappy he was there and sent him for the rest of the summer to another “yeshiva boot camp,” which he also hates.

For the next several years, he bounced back and forth as his family tried to shape him into the ultra-Orthodox Jew he seemed unable to become. He graduated from a new yeshiva in Pittsburgh, where he sincerely tried to fit in, then spent some time at a yeshiva in Israel. He met some young Israeli soldiers and visited their kibbutz – and was severely reprimanded by the school for engaging in such extracurricular activities. He continued attending classes but without much interest. “I had fallen off the path,” he writes.

That path took him on a decidedly different turn when he met a young Reb Shlomo Carlebach, much less famous and revered than he would eventually become. Eichenstein was drawn to the charismatic performer and the other young people in his entourage –Carlebach dubbed them his “holy hippelach” – and began spending most of his time with them while still nominally attending classes at the yeshiva. Eventually he left Israel and moved to New York City, still searching for a place and profession in which he could feel comfortable.

He soon heard from Carlebach and again joined his inner circle, becoming his roadie and eventually his manager. He tried to arrange a meeting between Carlebach and Bob Dylan, one of his artistic heroes, but the timing was never right.

However, Eichenstein and Dylan became friends and spent hours drinking wine and discussing Judaism in Greenwich Village bars. The closeness ended when Dylan entered his short-lived phase as a born-again Christian. Eichenstein, meanwhile, temporarily ended up in his old bedroom in Chicago when he contracted mononucleosis.

It was during that confusing time that he connected with Rita Lipman, a girl he knew growing up. She came from a Modern Orthodox family – only slightly less stringent than his own – and was also in the process of moving away from her observant roots. They began dating and eventually fell in love, a process that Eichenstein marks as the end of his lost years and the beginning of a new, joyful life.

He writes: “It was as if a guardian angel had decreed, ‘This kid’s been through enough. He’s a good boy at heart. Let’s show him how tremendous this world can be.’ Whoever was watching over me (maybe it was Zaide?) led Rita and me to each other. I’m absolutely sure of it. If someone asked me, ‘What’s the proof that there’s a G-d?’ my answer would be, ‘Rita ended up in my life.’ All the other blessings flowed from that one.”

They married in an enormous Chasidic wedding at the Palmer House, and Eichenstein went back to working for Carlebach, then eventually tried a number of different jobs and professions, including selling advertising for a radio station and staging a concert to celebrate the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. Eventually the couple moved to Los Angeles and Eichenstein began mapping out a career in real estate, one in which he became very successful. Eventually they had three children.

There was still the matter of their religious affiliation. The couple joined a Modern Orthodox synagogue but found it hard to make friends. They joined another, and Eichenstein was elected to the board, bringing tremendous joy to his mother. Yet they still chafed under the religious restrictions and made up excuses about “having to take the kids to the doctor” so they could feel free to drive on Shabbat. They began attending services at a Conservative synagogue but didn’t feel comfortable there either.

Eventually, through a day school their children attended, they are led to a Reform congregation, Temple Emanuel. Eichenstein writes: “I was only conscious of one fact: I had been uncomfortable at every other synagogue in Los Angeles, and at this one, I felt comfortable. … I came to rest spiritually at Temple Emanuel” with its dynamic leader, the well-known Rabbi Laura Geller.

 

 

 

 

He decided to tell his story in a book for a number of reasons, the genial Eichenstein said in a phone conversation from his Los Angeles office.

“I felt there was a story to be told because my family is extremely well known in Chicago,” he says. “It was also one way to honor my dad. He had tremendous courage, as the son of a Chasidic rabbi, to end up taking a congregation on the North Side of Chicago that had mixed pews. He was courageous and beloved. So was my mom.”

Many who knew Eichenstein urged him to write a book. “A lot of people said, you have such an interesting story – you’re the last one of your Eichenstein generation and you grew up in a synagogue different from any other Eichenstein,” he says. “You grew up where nobody (among his father’s congregants) were observant but they all loved being Jewish.”

Izzy Eichenstein also loved being Jewish. The book, though, is about conflict, he says, noting that his name, Israel, means “to struggle with G-d.”

“I was struggling with my own Jewish identity,” he says.

He takes pains, though, to make sure an interviewer understands that he harbors no bitterness toward his parents, both now deceased.

“My dad and mom were great people,” he says. “For my father, it took tremendous courage to be in a congregation where the rest of the family, (most of whom) still live in Chicago, did not appreciate his willingness to step outside the bounds of ultra-Orthodoxy.”

Even though his congregants may not have been observant, Rabbi Eichenstein and his family remained scrupulous in their own observance, their son says. “If the love for my parents doesn’t come through, I didn’t write a good book,” he adds.

As for his own path, “I loved the Cubs. I never fit in with the beards and the hats,” he says. “But I wrote the book out of love and respect and very little bitterness. I’m not angry at anybody.”

That can’t be said for everyone in the family. Throughout the book, Eichenstein paints his older brother and sister, both of whom have remained within the haredi world, as unyielding towards their rebellious sibling. Today that brother and a cousin live in Chicago, and although they have never spoken to him about the book, “I feel sure they are not happy about it,” he says.

While he has an occasional conversation with his brother, he is not in touch with his cousins or other members of his family.

“Nobody calls me. We have gotten occasional invites to simchas, but otherwise the dialogue is at zero,” he says.

Except for “a few nasty emails” from people who know his family in Chicago, Eichenstein says the book has been received very positively.

“A lot of people came to me and said, I really struggle with my Jewish identity,” he says. “I tell them, the way to be Jewish is to struggle with G-d.”

For Eichenstein himself, writing the book was cathartic. “My life has changed,” he says. “I’m at an age where you just have to say, this is who I am.”

He says that although he could have secured a publisher for the book, he wanted to self-publish because “I wanted to hold on to it.” Now a non-Jewish individual has told Eichenstein he is interested in writing a screenplay based on the book.

“A lot of non-Jewish people have read the book. They struggle with father and son issues” that are also at the heart of his book, he says.

“I want people to have the oxygen to find their own Jewish identity and be respected for it. People feel boxed in – they don’t have that oxygen. They fear their neighbors more than they fear G-d,” he says. “I’ve spoken all over the country and people write me from around the world saying, you helped me. I was in hiding. I wanted to give a voice to those people.”

Sometimes people tell him that the real rebel was his father for agreeing to lead a non-Orthodox congregation. “That was the ultimate rebellion,” he says. “My family wants to whitewash that story, and I will not allow it.”

There is another story that is even more mysterious. His father once told him “in hushed tones” that a Reform rabbi in Chicago helped his grandfather when he first emigrated from Europe. He never named the rabbi.

Perhaps, he says, there’s a symmetry in the fact that Izzy and Rita Eichenstein are now very involved in their Reform congregation, Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills.

The main message of his book, its author says, is that “nobody has a copyright on spirituality. You have to respect other people and their path. But if a son or daughter decides they’re not going to be religious, just love them a little more. Don’t push people away.”

Eichenstein says he still loves Chicago and the Cubs. “And I love being Jewish. The main thing was I had to find my own Jewish identity. I had to say, I’m not going to apologize for how I turned out.”    http://rabbisson.com

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November 29, 2013 · 12:37 pm

What You Wear Isn’t What Your Worth

Clothes don’t make the man.
—Unknown.


Apparently, Wall Street investors prefer that disruption be applied to business and not to fashion.

When Mark Zuckerberg, cofounder of Facebook, began his IPO tour to persuade Wall Street investors to purchase stock in his company, he showed up in his iconic hoodie. In doing so, he continued a tradition of technology CEOs who shun formality, especially when it comes to dress. That’s right, no million-dollar R. Jewels Diamond suit for Zuckerberg, whose über-casual garb often shocks the stodgy business types.

Interestingly, Zuckerberg’s alleged lack of fashion sense was perceived as a not-so-subtle slight to the New York City financial world, where a Brooks Brothers suit and a Rolex are the acceptable uniform and “successory.” Analysts were all agog. In fact, Wedbush’s managing director Michael Pachter, an analyst, commented, “I’m not sure [Zuckerberg] is the right guy to run a corporation.” He also said,

Mark and his signature hoodie: He’s actually showing investors he doesn’t care that much; he’s going to be him. I think that’s a mark of immaturity. I think that he has to realize he’s bringing investors in as a new constituency right now, and I think he’s got to show them the respect that they deserve because he’s asking them for their money.

These senseless comments, in addition to causing a whirlwind of backlash from the Silicon Valley faction and its casually clothed followers, affirm a basic point that I have always believed: Your worth should be a function of your aptitude, not your apparel. People like Pachter believe that the clothes make the man. This notion is ludicrous, and Zuckerberg, whose company at the time was worth nearly $100 billion, is the living antithesis of this corporate canon. Perhaps Pachter should try wearing a hoodie, so that he can loosen up and focus on what really matters—respecting the money and the man who generated it.

When it comes to what is acceptable to wear when doing business, conventional wisdom demands that you dress to impress, that you project the most professional image. However, my experience has been that the “suits,” as they are affectionately known in Silicon Valley, are no more substantive than the “hoodies.” In fact, the hoodies are often less concerned with social norms and more concerned about developing the best product possible or monetizing their inventions.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not condoning that you dress to the point of being offensive. For example, when his company was young, Steve Jobs, the cofounder of Apple, was notorious for his counterculture dress, long hair, and body odor (only to be outdone in his mature years by a black turtleneck, loose-fit jeans, and running shoes). His coworkers constantly complained that he smelled bad because of his vegan diet and that he would begin picking at his feet during important meetings. Now that’s just bizarre no matter how much of a genius you are.

Without going beyond the extremes of ridiculousness, wear what is comfortable to you to perform your best. Respectable and comfortable are not mutually exclusive. If a person cannot see past the irrelevancy of your clothing to assess the relevancy of your idea, perhaps you should move on. Cultural norms are changing for the better such that ideas are more important than if you’re wearing Izod.

Ironically, Zuckerberg’s bold move to wear a hoodie during his IPO road show says much more about his confidence than if he were to don the most expensive designer suit in the world. Besides, he owns a majority of his company, so what we think about what he wears doesn’t really matter, and that supports what I have always believed. Beyond the patina of pretense that is fashion, there exists something much more important: the value of your ideas. The reality is that with or without a hoodie Mark Zuckerberg is still worth billions of dollars. That should be the end of discussion.

During Facebook’s historic IPO, I got my wish: Zuckerberg wore a hoodie and sandals when he rang in the bell on the first day of trading for his company. I wasn’t surprised. (Let’s not forget that his business card reads, “I’m CEO, bitch.”) That monumental dress-down day was the ultimate proof that what you wear isn’t what you’re worth.    Credit : Entrepreneur Mind

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LAX Rooftop Billboards….Unconventional Ads Takeoff

“Make it Simple, Make It Memorable, Make It Inviting to Look at, Make it Fun to Read”    Leo Burnett

Guerrilla marketing is all about finding creative ways to stand out from competitive clutter. Sometimes this means putting a twist on an old method, but increasingly, it means finding completely new methods to achieve the objective.  CBS had a long running successful ad on The LAX Oakstone Rooftop Billboards for “The Amazing Race” show and now The  TNT Network is  utilizing The LAX Oakstone Rooftop Billboards with a Creative Ad Campaign in marketing their season of “Mob City”  which debuts on TNT December 5th that has received rave reviews.

The Unconventional  marketing  Ad Campaign involved painting the roofs of three buildings that total over 100,000 square feet that are  seen when you are landing at LAX Airport featuring colorful advertisements for the show. Anyone now landing at LAX is being treated to the unexpected LAX Oakstone Rooftop Billboards  Ad from thousands of feet up! The ads  are generating a significant buzz as people  are talking about the unconventional ad campaign that is creating a stir both for the passengers landing at LAX, and for the Print Media who like to write about advertising that is outside the box. The LAX Rooftop Billboards will work perfectly for Advertisers  that want a new buzz for their Ad Campaign.

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The Oakstone Company created  “The LAX Rooftop Billboards”. (www.oakstonecompany.com)

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Book Review ” The Rebel and The Rabbi’s Son” by Izzy Eichenstein

The recently published The Rebel and the Rabbi’s Son is a fascinating read, even for someone such as this reader who grew up among the ultra-Orthodox without the heavy burdens of a dynastic lineage on his shoulders as did the author, Izzy Eichenstein. The situation is rare and the readable recounting is even rarer, but exceptionally instructive.

The story recounted has a very small element of open rebellion, but rather it’s a description of some choices that were made generations back, first by Izzie’s grandfather to leave the chassidic home kingdom where his future place in the Ultra-Orthodox world may have been prescriptively assured but ultimately, as seen in retrospect, swept away by the tides of World War II.  Later Izzie’s father’s decision to answer the call of a large congregation of Jews who were experimenting with bonafide emancipation, freedom and the experiment that is the retention of Judaism in America.  For Izzie this has consequences that place him into the rebel’s role that was not his choice.

The well-intentioned father/rabbi inadvertently let his young Ultra-orthodox princeling glance through the cracks in the the walls of the fortress of ultra-Orthodoxy.  The tragedy is that this is something that neither Izzy’s older brother and sister as well as their extended families had ever done at such a young age, and try as he might, Izzy cannot bond and cleave to a pre-emancipated Jewish life that everyone else in his immediate and extended family seems to like and is happy to live in from cradle to grave..

Fortunately, Rita, the classically modern-Orthodox Jewishly-raised woman and eventually Izzy’s wife,  is willing to accompany Izzy on his journey of exile.  Izzy and Rita slowly and painfully goes from a “narrow” but status-rich ultra-Orthodox life to a place, ultimately to where they can embrace their Judaism that they claim as their birthright rather than being driven out to a desert of historical discontinuity. Izzie ultimately has to ignore his Rabbi-father’s devastating opposition to name Izzie’s firstborn son after Izzie’ grandfather. That was Izzie’s first open act of rebellion, the open claim of the family heritage on his own terms.

Izzy and Rita continue to struggle with the recurrent experiences of discontinuity and their children struggle with the effects of the the discontinuity. The well-intentioned roads are a paved at great cost until a place of congruence is found and traveled to.  Its a lonely journey often travelled to other narrow places with peril and potentially disastrous outcomes. Just a couple of real-life situations I personally have had the opportunity to witness:  A 12 year-old girl yanked out of a co-ed modern Orthodox school by her ultra-Orthodox dynastic court family for having a crush on a boy and married off by 16 to a ultra-Orthodox European banker and mother of two children by age 18.  The tragic death of a lively-minded gay descendent of a venerated rabbinical line. Only two stories of dynastic children, such as Izzy, in the name of preserving the admittedly rich tradition and life of ultra-Orthodoxy lived and loved by many Jews.

The exercise of spiritual life-choice is not undertaken without hazard. The autobiographical author describes his ultra-Orthodox milieu, at one point, as a cult. He describes being slapped across the face for reciting a prayer for the State of Israel and being torn away from an idyllic religious-Zionist camp after two weeks, but the author neglects to elaborate on the schism between the ultra-Orthodox non-Zionism or anti-Zionism and the Zionism of the other streams of Judaism such as modern-Orthodox, Conservative and Reform that he explores and ultimately thrives in.

This book puts sorely needed flesh on a representative ultra-Orthodox dynasty, a group I often research and is the fastest growing demographic segment of the Jewish world,  but is often only poorly understood and described in caricature.  It is not a group that is going to fade in time, but rather ultra-Orthodox are emerging more and more in the crucial issues of the day within the life of the Jewish community of America and Israel because of their sheer demographic success.  It’s a well-written contemporary personal journey with great Jewish descriptive and demographic

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The Value Of Being the Underdog

credit to : John Baldoni 

You might not think that a guy who has three won Super Bowl rings, is movie star handsome, is married to a supermodel, and has a guaranteed eight-figure contract would know much about what is it like to be an underdog. But you would be wrong.

 

Tom Brady, quarterback of the New England Patriots, has won the NFL’s MVP award  but, no one ever handed him anything on the football field. He was selected as the seventh quarterback (199th overall) in the NFL 2000 draft. His rating by the scouting combine was marked by such considerations that he was slow, did not have a good arm, and was physically underdeveloped by NFL standards.

 

What makes Brady, and so many executives I have worked with, excel and reach the top of their profession is their bedrock belief in themselves. They have been overlooked as well as knocked down but they get up again and as a result, they develop a strong sense of self-confidence that is rooted in a key trait for success: resilience.

 

Where does resilience come from?

 

The easy answer is “from within.” Consider it a a defense mechanism that is switched to offense when adversity strikes. For example, a resilient person will respond to a defeat by saying, “Others may not believe in me, but I believe in myself and let me show you want I can do.” A non-resilient individual just gives up.

 

As such resilience is a necessary trait in leadership, especially as businesses seek leaders who know what it takes to get knocked down but have the wherewithal to get up and try again. Such a trait is necessary when you are looking for someone to hire or promote an employee.

 

Here are four characteristics to consider:

 

Resolve. Another word for it might be perseverance. This is the quality that will not allow you to give up, especially when there are roadblocks. Resolve is that inside drive that looks for ways around obstacles but also the doggedness to keep on trying.

 

Authenticity. People want leaders who are the “real deal.” There is so much phoniness in our celebrity culture that employees become hyper sensitive to those managers who play the “me-first” game. First to take credit and first to assign blame. Rather people today look for those willing to be accountable even when bad things happen.

 

Perspective. There is no shame in getting knocked down. What matters is the ability to stand up again. Sometimes adversity so rattles a person that it undermines confidence to a degree that they lose perspective. There is nothing wrong with being disappointed but when it turns into defeatism, that’s a problem. Resilient leaders take the long view and never get too when they fail or too high when they succeed, they maintain perspective.

 

Confidence. People develop a sense of confidence through their accomplishments. Too much confidence is hubris and turns others off. Too little confidence also turns people away because no one wants to follow someone who does not believe in himself.

 

Organizations looking for those who will lead them in the future need to consider how a leader reacts to adversity. If he or she buckles, then pressure of command is not for them. But if they embrace it and see it as a challenge and want to bring others along with them then they have heart, the desire to improve and to help others do the same.

 

Resilience is an attribute that every leader needs to have, whether they throw passes for a living or balance the books. Do you and your colleagues have it? Would you recognize it if they did?

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