We all have friends who are people we like, or they wouldn’t be our friends. But how many of us have friends who enrich our lives and make us proud of their acts of generosity and kindness? How many can we describe using the word “honorable” and who epitomize the spirit of Tzedakah or charity?
I have one and his name is Adam Haber. Adam made money on Wall Street and unlike many, decided that the blessings he received came with a responsibility: to help others. So, one day in 2003 he read in the newspaper, as did many, about a Holocaust museum in Indiana called CANDLES (Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Experiments Survivors) which had been spray painted “remember Timothy McVeigh” and then torched. Unlike all the others who read the story, Adam immediately contacted the Holocaust survivor who founded the museum and then sent the funds to pay for the restoration.
On Labor Day 2005, Hurricane Katrina tore into Louisiana and Mississippi, killing thousands and destroying tens of thousands of homes and lives. All Hands Volunteers (www.hands.org) immediately deployed to Biloxi, Mississippi to enable hundreds of volunteers around the country to clear debris, clean out homes, attack mold, and help the community in their desperate need. Adam and I flew out just before Christmas. We spent three days sweating in the Mississippi sun, sawing and lifting tree limbs, and then in Tyvek suits inside shells of homes decimated by Katrina, sanding down walls and washing them down with Clorox (no one then knew that wasn’t a great solution for mold).
But at night, while others were relaxing from the day’s work, Adam went throughout the community and personally handed out gift cards which he had bought for a special reason. He understood that this was a pretty religious community and many of those that were providing help, had lost all themselves. He handed out thousands of dollars of gift cards that he bought to special cases so that they could have some Christmas gifts for their families and themselves. Of course, being Adam, he then worked the phone and met with the local provider of propane and challenged that business owner to provide 1,000 units of propane for free if Adam bought 1,000 units. And that was how 2,000 families were able to have a hot meal that Christmas.
In 2008, Cedar Rapids, Iowa experienced the worst spring floods in almost a century. Thousands of homes were damaged and families displaced. Again, All Hands Volunteers deployed and again Adam traveled to help. This time, with his wife and children spending their last week of summer vacation before school started, mucking out homes, carting out debris and readying homes for construction. At one point, I looked up and Adam (who is over 6 feet tall) was shorter than me—he had partially fallen through the floor which had given way beneath him—one leg through and dangling 20 feet above a basement.
Once again, merely helping out wasn’t enough for Adam. He worked the telephones and called up the 10 largest businesses in Cedar Rapids. He explained that he was there with his family from Long Island helping their community and wanted to know how they were going to help out too. He was able to set a meeting with one of the largest employers in Cedar Rapids and asked them to match a $50,000 donation that he was preparing to make to their community on behalf of his family, if they would equally donate. And they did. And 50 homes were able to be sheet-rocked and electrified in Cedar Rapids.
In 2010, one of the greatest disasters in the modern world befell Haiti when a magnitude 7 earthquake hit and over 220,000 people were killed and millions were impacted. First, Adam provided his restaurant Aldea for one night for free, covering the thousands of dollars for costs of food and personnel, to enable a successful $30,000 fundraiser for Haiti relief. Then, Adam traveled to the Haiti All Hands base in Leogone, where he lived in a tent for five days sweating under the Caribbean sun, helping rebuild homes, wheelbarrowing out debris and building a schoolhouse.
On Oc. 29, 2012, Superstorm Sandy barreled into Long Island. On Oct. 31, Adam volunteered his AWD vehicle to take around the assessment person for All Hands to Long Beach to determine where All Hands Volunteers should deploy. Adam wrote a check before the winds died down, to enable All Hands to be able to fund the assessment and initial deployment. Adam then drove from Massapequa to East Rockaway, offering help and trying to understand the need. He spent the next several weeks trying to meet that need. When he learned that many in Roslyn, especially the elderly were feeling the effects of the cold, he rallied the school board to open the high school as a warming and charging center.
When he then found out that many of the kids who depended on free lunch were going hungry while schools were closed, he paid for pizza to be delivered to the high school each day it was out of session. He then helped organize a clothing and food drive for Roslyn as well as the South Shore, personally arranging with a local moving company (Men on the Move) to generously donate a driver and truck and then he accompanied the goods and helped deliver all to the Rockaways—not once but three times.
Then, he spent time in Freeport, learning their needs and helping arrange for the delivery of donated shoes and food. In those first weeks, he personally delivered toys and school supplies to the schools in Long Beach. On Christmas, he once again arranged for a truck and spent most of two days delivering electric heaters, which were donated by Sears, to impacted communities throughout the South Shore. Of course, he opened Aldea again for a fundraiser to help those in need.
That same year, Adam celebrated his birthday by nailing up sheetrock at one home in Long Beach that All Hands was helping reconstruct, and then helping an elderly couple displaced by Sandy move around furniture. Adam finally, graciously accepted a position as a Director on the All Hands Board, despite all his other demands and commitments. Since becoming a Board member, he has opened his home to host board meetings, raised funds for the devastation in Nepal, and again opened his restaurant at no charge to raise funds for rebuilding in the Philippines following its devastation following the typhoon.
Last week, in the midst of a campaign for which he has been working tirelessly, Adam helped host a successful fundraiser for victims in Haiti of Hurricane Matthew.
I don’t want to mention how much it hurt Adam when the online anti-semitic attacks came at him a few weeks ago. Or the incredulity when his opponent argues that he would deliver Long Island to the hands of NYC special interests, and then she received a close to $1 million donation from NYC charter school backers. Or the speciousness his opponent arguing that electing Adam would cause Long Island to get less school funds from Albany, yet the overwhelmingly Republican Long Island delegation to Albany for 50 of the last 52 years has wrought exactly the current and continuing imbalance between what Long Island sends in taxes and receives. Or the ridiculousness of arguing that if Adam is elected, resulting in a democratic Governor, Senate and Assembly the entire state checks and balances would be ruined…not the checks and balances of the legislature, executive and judicial branches, but a checks and balance invented for this election.
What most don’t realize is that when he ran for the school board of Roslyn, it was to help his community, which needed help after our superintendent stole from us. He ran for county executive because he could see the problems in Nassau that needed fixing. And he ran and is now running for the New York Senate because he thinks he can help in both Nassau County and entire State of New York. He wants to help, just like he has throughout our country and our world, because it’s the right thing to do. Because he is an honorable man. A mensch.