Photo Credit: Jodie Maoz

Twenty-one years ago this week I met my future wife at the first yahrzeit commemoration for the chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth. A packed house gathered in the social hall of one of London’s largest shuls for the first yahrzeit of Rabbi Baron Immanuel Jacobovitz, and just before proceedings began a young attractive woman asked if the seat next to me was taken. Fortunately it was not. On the stage were several dignitaries including the new-ish Chief Rabbi Sacks (not yet Lord and with “just” three books to his name), Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm and Lady Amelie Jakobovitz. Lady Amelie was a dynamic force in the Jewish community, had known the Lamms for decades, clearly had a good relationship with her husband’s successor, and had a good sense of humor. In her opening remarks she said “I’m the only one in this room who can begin by addressing the others on this stage by their first names: Norman and Jonathan.”

There were, however, several people in that room outside of Rabbi Sacks’s own family who knew him from way back and at some point had referred to him simply as Jonathan. One of these was the person seated on my other side, my father, who was among his peers at college (Gonville and Caius) at Cambridge University. Had you asked my father in the late 60s if the “Jonathan” he knew was going to become a rabbi, let alone one of the leading religious figures of our generation (not only in the Jewish world), he may have been skeptical. I’m sure the same is true in reverse: if you had asked the young Jonathan Sacks whether the Jewish teenager hailing from Liverpool that had gone to grammar school with one of the Beatles was destined to sit on several NATO task forces, he may have laughed.


So here’s my second point for this week, if you’re struggling to figure out your path in life, be comforted that some of our greatest leaders had no clue what they wanted to be or do in college (or even much later in life). Rabbi Sacks, a”h, often spoke of the significance of mentors (especially Rav Soloveitchik and the Lubavitcher Rebbe) that helped guide him in his career journey, and others that enabled him to navigate some of the most difficult times in his career when he received flak from other leaders in his own (British Jewish) community for something he did or didn’t do or write.

(Point 2b: Look out for mentors that can help you navigate the ups and downs of your career journey.)

If you’re struggling to figure out what my first point was, it was somewhat subliminal: Try to go to shloshim and yahrzeit commemorations and shiurim in person because you never know who you may be seated next to. Perhaps you’ll meet your bashert! Be conscious of who you can meet wherever you go. As we approach the biggest travel period of the year, be open to striking up a conversation with the person standing in line with you before boarding, or seated next to you on the plane or bus. Start practicing when you’re in line at the supermarket or the bus stop so you can make the most of networking opportunities in the future. In case it isn’t obvious, don’t do it inside a shiva home.

Speaking of name-dropping, a mentor of mine, Rabbi Dr. Akiva Tatz, another giant of the British (and formerly South African) community, asked our small chabura an obvious question: Parshas Noach and our parsha begin with identical wording. So why does Noach get a parsha named after him, whereas Yitzchak – one of our Patriarchs – seems to have his name dropped? I invite your comments and Shabbos table discussion and will endeavor to provide a response in a future column.

Meantime, in the coming months I plan to feature several guest columnists. This will enable me to exchange my writing time for reading time i.e. reviewing some of the 200,000 college applications on behalf of a prominent University on the West Coast. Enjoy the first of these guests next week.

Share this article on WhatsApp:

Previous articleKeeping Up With The Goldsteins And The Importance Of An Investment Policy Statement
Next articleTwitter’s New Mideast, North Africa News Curator Under Fire for Anti-Israel Tweets
Rabbi Daniel Coleman, MBA, is sought after for his creative and strategic approach to career preparedness, transitions, and success. In addition to presenting to high school groups on career/financial preparedness, Daniel coaches college-bound students on navigating the admission process and crafting an excellent application. He is a popular scholar in residence in communities across America and beyond. Connect with him at [email protected] or on LinkedIn.