From Rabbi Yitzchak Sapochkinsky, Director of Chabad of Westlake Village, CA:
I responded to a letter from American Express alerting me to a charge that was on my credit card, that they thought might be fraudulent. (It was.) After several failed attempts to input my card number into the automated voice machine, I was transferred to a live person.
When the rep who answered had a non-English accent, I was tempted to ask for an English speaking representative but out of respect to him, I didn’t. After several more attempts he almost had me convinced that everything was OK and there was no fraud, when I suddenly realized that all along I had been giving the wrong card number.
Now, when he looked up the new card he again asked for identity verification. Suddenly, he asked me what Chabad was. I wasn’t sure why he needed to know but he started mumbling things about a Hebrew organization started in Israel.
I briefly explained what Chabad was, and that’s when he suddenly said. “I live in Mumbai, India, next door to the Chabad House.” I was shocked and I got the chills. My voice began trembling.
He apologized profusely for causing me this sudden emotional outburst and then he asked me if I had been related to the rabbi. I explained that we both work for the same organization and as such, I felt very connected to him, even though we weren’t relatives. I had also received an email from the rabbi about a year before the tragedy, informing me that a couple from my congregation (Fred and Joni Lovell) had visited his Chabad House in Mumbai.
I still did not realize how well he knew the Chabad House when suddenly he said: “Moshe’le was the sweetest boy. I would play football with him outside. His parents were also the nicest people. I also remember Sandra, the woman who saved Moshe’le.”
I was blown way and both us choked up. For the remainder of the conversation, our voices trembled as we tried to find the right words. We spoke for several minutes about the Holzbergs and he told me that because he wasn’t married and had no kids of his own, he had been drawn to little Moshe’le.
Needless to say, the reason for my call quickly fell to the background as we continued to speak with quivering voices about Rabbi Gabi and Rivky Holzberg and the tragedy.
After several minutes, when we got back to business, he was barely able to speak and apologized repeatedly for his “un-professionalism” as he fumbled through the scripted lines about my account etc. I assured him that he had just made my day, my week etc. We ended the call in tears.
To make an ordinary call to American Express and be reminded of how incredible the Holzbergs were and how they had touched even the non-Jew in India.
What if I had entered the correct card number the first time and never been transferred to a live rep, or reached someone else a minute earlier?
And to think that I had considered asking for an English-speaking rep!!