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4: The Decision

03/29/2019 03:00:00 PM


Rabbi Elie Karfunkel

LeBron James of Akron, Ohio was with the Cleveland Cavaliers until he became a free agent on July 8, 2010. A national TV show called The Decision was where he announced that he was joining the Miami Heat. 

Close to 14 million watched. Americans have a lot of free time on their hands.

But a few years prior to LeBron’s big decision, the Temmy Latner Forest Hill Jewish Centre had to make one of its own. Do we build our own building, or stay above Starbucks despite the crazy rent? Keeping it real, but also simple.

Of course, everyone had their opinion about this. 

“No guts, no glory,” some said. “If you build it they will come,” insisted others. Not to mention, “You only live once!” (Which technically isn’t true according to Judaism.)

And, topping the response list: “Go big or go home.”

These aphorisms were usually said with bravado by people who, more often than not, don’t go big and do go home, and have more souvlaki in their kishkas than intestinal fortitude.

Here’s the thing: Rifky and I never dreamed in a million years of being the Rabbi and Rebbetzin of such a beautiful edifice, or mounting the courage to build it.

We didn’t have to, because we had the right people around us. 

Due to the vision of my dear friend Yaakov Kaplan, I was able to be the face of the Centre, while he was the spine pushing us forward to greater milestones. He formed the path that allowed us to think big. We had early capital gifts from the Latner, Tanenbaum and Glassman families. 

Without these partners, I’d still be regularly ambling downstairs to Starbucks, to buy a Venti-sized coffee—with ten packets of Splenda. 

Murray Goldman's advice to just begin the campaign was the catalyst. Dr. Jeremy Freeman and Fred Waks shepherded this project to completion. Sam Mizrahi came on board as the builder. 

So, our decision wasn't as profound as others, but we collectively decided to go for it. And, quite frankly, there ain't no turning back. 

We are so grateful to be a landmark in our beautiful city: a replica of a shul destroyed in the Holocaust. 

And for the people in it, the walking billboards who continue to be ambassadors for the One Above, we should all declare together: “Am Yisroel Chai."

Mon, July 15 2024 9 Tammuz 5784