By Sarah Schmerler
There was a rare and striking sight as Comstock Mining Inc. (NYSE: LODE) executives rang the day’s opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange on August 13, 2013.
Seen by over a 100 million people were Rabbi Aaron Raskin, spiritual leader of Congregation B’nai Avraham and Chabad of Brooklyn Heights, and Rabbi Zusha Cunin of Chabad of Pacific Palisades, CA standing with company principals and major investors, some Jewish, some gentile.
Soon after the bell, both Chabad Rabbis headed to the Exchange floor to lay tefillin with any Jewish traders who asked. Kosher meals were ordered.
Then, most striking of all, the group took off, not for a round of self-congratulatory drinks or business meetings but for a business meeting of a much higher order: a trip to Queens to visit the Ohel gravesite of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
There, there was more tefillin laying, reflection, and prayers of gratitude. “The real CEO of any company is G-d,” noted Raskin. “It’s important that we remember that the running of business is not in our hands but in the hands of G-d; our business practices have to be kosher.”
Since its inception one year ago, Comstock is said to have thrived where other mining concerns have failed, validating almost 3 million ounces of gold and almost 30 million ounces of silver — “a remarkable amount for a company that had been in production only since last Fall — and the potential for more is there,” says Jeb Handwerger, a stock analyst and editor of GoldStockTrades.com.
It was Handwerger, an active member of the Chabad community in south Florida, who originally suggested the idea to go to the Ohel after the bell ringing and who was instrumental in the day’s spiritual tone. He flew in from Miami to be there, as well as legendary investor Herbert Stein.
Rabbi Cunin, who flew in from California to the occasion, is the rabbi of John Winfield, Chairman and the largest investor of Comstock. Strongly committed to Chabad, Winfield was born in Prague to parents who were one of the few in the family to have survived the Holocaust. They emigrated to Israel and then moved to the U.S.
The President and CEO of Comstock is Corrado De Gasperis, an Italian-born Christian, who studied ethical business practices and Torah-centered management techniques extensively with Rabbi Raskin, a renowned lecturer who co-authored “The Rabbi & the CEO,” published by Select Books in 2008.
“I probably shouldn’t say this, but to be frank, the visitation with Rabbi Raskin and all the folks who congregated at the Ohel was more special than the ringing of the bell,” remarked de Gasperis and added that “without study, we don’t have good action; and without good action, we lose our studies.”
Their connection began when De Gasperis became involved with Comstock at a time when the company was in distress. Determined to help save it, he used a method introduced by Israeli physicist Elliot Goldratt which “showed that ethics, not just mathematics, can transform a company today.”
Goldratt’s student Domenico Lepore and his wife Angela were regulars at Rabbi Raskin’s lectures. They invited de Gasperis, who was living in New York at the time, to join and over the next two and a half years (2007–2009), they learned the weekly parshah, delving into its wisdom for creating sustainable business practices and creating wealth.
“I remember a dialogue on the kabbalah of money in which we learned that innovation sometimes requires extensive planning to ensure that the engagement of a transaction is uplifting on both sides,” de Gasperis notes.
“Also, in Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints, we learned that every conflict has a solution, an injection if you will, that is positive and creative on both sides — it’s not a compromise, but a higher solution that lifts us up and works for the betterment of both sides.”
By the time Gasperis moved to Nevada, fundamental principles like Goldratt’s conflict management and the Torah’s perspective of a greater good became the one-two punch that de Gasperis would use to help revive Comstock.
“We need to ensure that there’s empathy and consideration for the needs of others, that we have a covenant that ensures that we can meet our goal together,” he points out.
“Ringing the bell with our spiritual leaders and investors present shows that we elevated our acknowledgment as a public company to a higher level, that we have the same covenant with our investors as well as with higher selves.”
“I’ve participated in over 100 openings at the stock market,” Herbert Stein remarked with tears in his eyes, “but all this pales in contrast to my exhilarating experience today at the Rebbe’s Ohel.”
Sarah Schmerler is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn. [email protected]