Shlomo “Sol” Werdiger, CEO of Outerstuff and Chairman of Agudath Israel of America’s Board of Trustees, in his years in askanus, has worked extensively with the United Nations and developed a friendship with Ban Ki-moon, who served as the secretary-general of the United Nations between 2007 and 2016. One day, the secretary-general called Sol at his office and asked if, by any chance, his company had a summer intern program.
“I have someone who’s very interested in getting an intern position,” said the secretary general.
Sol put the secretary-general in touch with his Human Resources Department and didn’t make much of the request.
Later that year, during the summer, at a time when Israel was hit with an intifada and the United Nations was consistently censuring Israel, Sol’s office received a phone call. His secretary patched the call through to Sol, informing him that the Korean ambassador to the UN, Mr. Oh Joon, was on the line.
“Yes, Mr. Ambassador, what can I do for you?” asked Sol.
“What can you do for me? Are you kidding me? I want to thank you for everything you’ve done for me.”
Sol was flabbergasted. “What did I do for you?”
Sol was informed that the ambassador had a daughter who was interested in fashion. Ban Ki-moon had recommended that she apprentice and work at Mr. Werdiger’s office. She turned out to be a great worker, and the ambassador was calling to thank him for hiring his daughter.
“I want to take you out for lunch,” said Mr. Joon.
They made a lunch date three weeks later.
The day that Sol was to meet the ambassador for lunch, Sol got a call saying that the ambassador would be a half-hour late. Sol went to Prime Grill in Manhattan to wait for the ambassador, who finally arrived with a bodyguard.
Sitting down, the ambassador immediately posed a question.
“Tell me, Mr. Werdiger, what makes you Jews such special people?”
“Mr. Ambassador, what are you talking about?”
“Listen, we Koreans are very much like the Jewish people. We’re very family-oriented. We’re nervous about our kids. We want to make sure that they have the right environment.
“Coming from a traditional Korean family, my wife and I were petrified when our daughter went to work. What kind of company was it going to be? Who’s going to influence her there? But she insisted, and the secretary-general said you’re a nice guy.
“Mr. Werdiger, for the last year, every night, our daughter has come home and said, ‘Mom and Dad, this company…what a great place! Everyone dresses nicely, they don’t curse, they don’t scream, and they’re very respectful. The whole day, rabbis are coming to the office (for charity), and every day they pray in the office!’
“Mr. Werdiger, we can’t get over it. We keep on saying, ‘Wow, what special people the Jews are! We’re just so thankful for everything you’ve done for our daughter.’”
Mr. Werdiger was blown away. He hadn’t even met the girl who had been working for his company.
Now the ambassador shifted gears. At that time, South Korea was a temporary member of the UN Security Council. That morning, there was a vote in the United Nations to censure and place sanctions on Israel.
“Mr. Werdiger,” the ambassador shared, ‘I called my wife from the UN and asked her: Isn’t Israel the same Jewish people as the people where our daughter works? They’re such nice people! Why are we always censuring them?’
“She said, ‘I don’t know!’”
The ambassador called his people back in Korea and asked, “Why are we always voting against Israel? Do we have something against the Jewish people?”
The office told him to do what he wants.
And that day, when the censure against Israel was put up for a vote, he abstained.
For the first time in history, South Korea didn’t vote against Israel.
Mr. Werdiger stepped out of the restaurant and made a call to a renowned askan, seeking to verify what he had just heard. The response was astounding: All the frum askanim had indeed observed the United Nations vote in wonderment. They were scratching their heads, trying to figure out why, for the first time, South Korea hadn’t voted against Israel. Sol later spoke to Israeli officials – even the prime minister – who were likewise bewildered.
Sol knew the answer.
Two days later, there was another vote at the UN, and Sol received an email from the ambassador, telling him, “My dear Jewish friend Sol: Do not worry! We will not vote against the Jewish people. We will not vote against Israel.”
And throughout that summer, Korea never voted against Israel.
Because the ambassador’s daughter was treated with mentchlichkeit by a frum company. Nothing more, nothing less. She saw the kindness, gentility, and generosity of Jewish people and shared her impressions with her parents. And the rest was history.
That’s the difference we can make by the way we act and the way we interact with others.
You just don’t know the impact you make on others when you act as a frum Yid should.