Stern Students Visit Crown Heights
Like a Computer
By Dovid Zaklikowski for COLlive and Hasidic Archives
Frank Lautenberg was the CEO of Automatic Data Processing, a payroll service company that later became one of the largest computing service companies in the world, when he was appointed the chairman of the United Jewish Appeal in 1975.
Shortly after his appointment, Mr. Lautenberg met with the Rebbe to discuss his new role. The UJA was then the most prominent Jewish organization in the United States, raising significant amounts of money for a broad range of social programs.
“I wanted to hear what the Rebbe, whose influence extended across the globe, had to say,” Mr. Lautenberg recalled. “I wanted to try and understand what it was that attracted millions of people to him, and I wanted to better understand the responsibilities of a Jewish leader.”
The Rebbe encouraged him to think outside the box. “I believe that you are certainly not afraid to do something new… something that can be perceived as a radical change,” he said. The Rebbe thought the UJA could be more effective than it was. He recognized the need for fundraising, but said it should not be the organization’s only goal. He emphasized the urgent need to combat assimilation, “to prevent the Jewish people from disappearing.” The Rebbe also wanted the UJA to allocate more funds to Jewish education.
When Mr. Lautenberg said he would bring up the ideas with the other board members, the Rebbe alluded to Mr. Lautenberg’s day job: “The innovation of computers is that what once took two months, two weeks or two hours is now done immediately. This is the reason people spend millions on computers.
“You tell me that you will attain results in another two months, two weeks…. That’s not the way they work in the computer business!”
If you had an urgent order for computers, the Rebbe asked, “would you sell the computers, or would you start a discussion [with the board]?”