This past weekend, I gave a speech to benefit Jewish Family Services of St. Paul. I told the crowd that I was very happy to support Jewish Family Services of St. Paul, because, frankly, the people over at Jewish Family Services of Minneapolis are a bunch of schmucks.
They have this attitude: “Oh, we’re Minneapolis Jews,” they’ll say. “We’re responsible for Tom Friedman and the Coen Brothers, and Al Franken.”
And I say, “No, that’s St. Louis Park.”
And they say, “St. Louis Park is the Jewish suburb of Minneapolis, you schmegege.”
And I say, “I’m one of the three guys you just mentioned, you putzes.”
And they say, “It’s four, schlemiel. The Coen Brothers are two guys, you goniff!”
And I say, “Do you have any idea what ‘goniff’ even means?”
And they say, “Uhhh…yeah.“
Then, I say, “Okay, what does goniff mean then?”
And they say, “Um…dumb Jew from St. Paul?”
See what I mean? So, it was great to be in St. Paul and speak to smart Jews for a change. And I told the crowd that I was happy to do a speech for an organization that does great things for Jews who need help. Because I certainly wasn’t going to give up my Sunday morning for an organization that helps anybody other than Jews.
Then my friend Charlie stepped up to the podium and told me that JFS helps everybody in need. In fact, non-Jews make up a majority of their clients.
Well, that was a shock. “But Jews first, right?” I asked, trying to process what Charlie had just said.
“No,” said Charlie, “We provide help for anyone who needs it, either by providing the services ourselves or by connecting them with the right people. Whether it’s housing, food, medical care, or mental health services.”
“Mental health services?” I thought. “They’ve been very helpful to me lately.” I was starting to get it!
“So, Jewish Family Services of St. Paul helps anyone who needs their help?” I asked Charlie. “In St. Paul and surrounding areas, except Minneapolis or the Minneapolis suburbs?”
“That’s right!” nodded Charlie.
Suddenly, it all made sense. That was the moment I realized that I should have read the background material they had sent me weeks ago; or paid attention to the inspiring video they showed at the beginning of the breakfast; or listened to the moving speeches by two Russian Jewish women emigres, Irina Margolin and Dora Lender, who had just been honored for decades of assisting newly arrived immigrants who spoke no English, just like them forty years ago. That would have been very uplifting and reminded me of my obligation to all of those in need. If only I had paid attention! Well, next time, I told myself.
Oh, the rest of the speech went even better! Eric Black, writer for MinnPost, called it “a tour de force.” But that’s not important. What’s important is that we raised a lot of money to help people, Jew and Gentile alike. And also that you know that someone called it a “tour de force.”