Chabad of the Greater Five Towns members Chaim Hecht, Shmuel Jacobs and Zaki Kapetas, all 14, were in the midst of their regular Friday pre-Shabbos custom of conducting their tefillin mitzvah.
As the three walked across the parking lot of the Signature Bank in Woodmere about 3 p.m. on Jan. 25, they saw bundles of money, wrapped by rubber bands and deposit slip. It was more than $8,000.
“We were going to CVS in Woodmere,” said Kapetas, who lives in Cedarhurst and attends Mesivta Ateres Yaakov High School in Lawrence, “when we saw it.” “I think I spotted it,” said Jacobs, who also lives in Cedarhurst and is a student at MAY.
“We picked it up and were surprised,” said Hecht, a Woodsburgh resident who attends Manhattan Torah Academy in Manhattan. “We knew we had to give it back. There was no hesitation.”
To a man, the young men said it was their upbringing that brought them to that conclusion. “It shows there are kids still being brought the right way, it was awesome, said Gary Greenseich, a senior client associate at the Woodmere Signature Bank, about the boys returning the money. The bank rewarded the boys with each receiving a $25 Visa gift card.
Jacobs, whose father Sholom owns Jacobs Real Estate in Lawrence, said that he understands from his dad’s business dealings that people should not cheat other people. “This is how my parents act,” the younger Jacobs said, “this was like a test and you always do the right thing.”
Rabbi Zalman Wolowik, the co-director of the Chabad of the Five Towns, said he was very proud of the boys. “Without a moment’s hesitation they returned over $8,000 to the teller,” he said. “This is a great mitzvah.
Rabbi Mordechai Yaffe, who is head of MAY, was also very glad that the teaching from the boys’ parents and their schooling has made an imprint on the teenagers. “You just look have to look at who their families are,” he said, about why the boys did what they did. Yaffe also spoke about the boys’ deed to the entire student body.
Though Hecht noted that there is a commandment about returning lost items to the rightful owner, they would not be human if they might have a little portion of regret about not keeping even a portion of such a large sum of money.
“You think about how many V-bucks (virtual money) you could of bought for Fortnite,” said Kapetas, who quickly added there was no uncertainty about returning the money.