A variety of emotions gripped the room as Rabbi David Silverman, co-leader of Atlanta Scholars Kollel, recalled the events of 9/11 on the 18th anniversary of the tragedy. The tribute dovetailed on the program’s theme of “appreciation of life and the gifts of living in this country,” according to Silverman.
He also recognized Adrian Grant for being historically instrumental in starting this event prior to the high holiday season.
In the dinner reception, sponsors and fans expressed how studying with Kollel has positively affected their lives. The Congregation B’nai Torah “Minyonaires” made a huge showing: Zvi Bekerman, Gary Eichholz and Dave Cohen were just a few. Daniel Bekerman said, “I live right by Rabbi Daniel Freitag, and he calls me every week to come to Kollel.”
In the pre-event reception, Kollel and Congregation Ariel Rabbi Binyomin Friedman greeted guests and remarked, “We have this opportunity once a year to see everyone come together before Rosh Hashanah.”
Kollel sponsor attorney Ilene Berman said, “Tonight is an important part of our community networking to broaden our reach.”
Past Kollel president, sponsor and board member Alan Smirin said, “This is a fabulous night before the high holidays to come together and schmooze and celebrate.”
Eschewing the typical musical rock ‘n roll program à la Simon and Garfunkel with wigs, the Kollel rabbis lined up for their much-awaited enthusiastically performed skit. They lined up to persuade one recalcitrant “typically too busy Jew” that through all life cycles, there are a variety of Kollel programs, from Peachtree City and Brookhaven to Edgewood, for women, college students and retirees. You name it, they have it.
Guest speaker Kivi Bernhard commanded the stage in his South African accent, saying, “I have been called a cross between Crocodile Dundee and Jerry McGuire with a yarmulkie.”
Known for his varied career in speaking for Fortune 500 companies, Samsung, CNN, Fox and TBS, Bernhard also evoked the symbolism of 9/11, saying, “Jew and gentile alike acknowledge our freedom.” He compared the twin towers to the two Shabbat candles, “bringing light and stamping out darkness.”
Bernhard spoke of his recent move to Miami Beach and deep sea fishing, preparing his bait, seeing the beautiful blue colors and variety of teeming fish – snapper and corvina. “Jews have thrived, not just survived.” More importantly, his dominant message was that Jews can be observant and CEO and live in the same space.
“The world is desperate for clarity. … Jews represent clarity, north on the compass.” Bernhard related a story where his flight was postponed, and travelers were a bit anxious. A pilot, not assigned to his flight, was eyeing him adorned in a yarmulke and approached him to say, “I feel that Jews are blessed, and I’m calmed by being on your flight,” Bernhard recalled.
“Despite our transcendent wisdom and unbroken chain, Jews are still hated, … but we don’t have to be dictated by what society imposes,” he mused. The main takeaway was an example of an observant Jew applying for a job. Some of us would downplay that part as “personal,” but, “No, lead with values, … instead of hiding. People respect that clarity. Some Fridays you will have to leave work at 2:30 to prepare for Shabbos, but they know that we will work harder and smarter and start with a solid value system.”
Spring Hall, a rather atypical venue off I-285 on Buford Highway, had to be specially kashered for Clive Bank and A Kosher Touch to serve up their magic meatballs, chicken tenders, quinoa salad and vinaigrette slaw. Dessert followed the program.