Personal Reflections from the President & CEO

According to Jewish tradition, we are nearing the end of the Days of Awe, the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur that are known as a time for retrospection. Many believe that our actions during these Days of Awe can alter the way in which our fate over the next year will be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life. For me, a chance encounter that I just experienced renewed my own personal dedication toward tzedakah, giving back to the community, which I’d like to share with you during this meaningful time of year.

It could have been any Publix. But for whatever reason, I decided to stop at the Publix near Clint Moore on my drive home from work recently. It had been a long day of meetings and I was dressed in a suit. I ran in just to pick up a few things and proceeded to get in the shortest line possible to get out and back in the car (and home) as soon as I could. When it was my turn to check out the cashier started to make small talk – “How was your day? Are you a lawyer?” (I guess she assumed because of the dark suit).

The first thought that ran through my mind was, “Sigh, I really don’t want to make small talk today, I just want to get home to my kids!” So I proceeded to answer back – “It’s been a long day. No I’m not a lawyer” and then she asked me what I did. I said I worked for a non-profit, all that time hoping to wrap things up and get going. Then she asked me, “which one?” and that’s when everything changed.

When I said Ruth & Norman Rales Jewish Family Services, her eyes lit up and she proceeded to tell me how she had contacted the agency and we had helped her at a time that she really needed it most. She went on to name the staff person who helped her and to let me know how helpful they were to her. She made sure to tell me she wasn’t Jewish and was so thankful to have received help.

You see, she was a single mother and had run upon hard times. I let her finish telling me her story and I then I thanked her. I thanked her for sharing her story with me. I thanked her for letting me know how helpful we were to her. I told her that it was our honor and our privilege to be able to be there for her when she needed it. And I meant every word.

I didn’t have to choose that Publix that day, but I’m glad that I did because of this chance encounter with a recipient of services. I would have never guessed the cashier would have needed help. And that’s just the point. Our recipients don’t have a certain “look” – they look like you and me. They look like your parents and grandparents. They look like your children and grandchildren. Life can change in an instant and we must be ready to help when it does.


Danielle N. Hartman, MNM
President & CEO

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