I spent a morning with a great speaker this week — Jay Rifenbary.
Jay is the author of Return to Your Core: Principles for a Purposeful and Respected Life. His presentation on Tuesday morning was about core values. At one point he asked the group, “What would you like to be remembered for?”
I rose my hand and told this story.
When I was 23, I got an interview for the position of technical director for the Speech and Theater Department at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn. I got the job. My first day there, the department chair — Dr. Becker — called me in and told me that a primary reason that I had gotten the job was because I had come across as a “mensch”. I’ve always appreciated that and my hope is that when I’m gone, I will be remembered as a mensch.
Jay smiled and asked the group, “Does everyone know what a “mensch” is?”
My buddy Larry piped in and commented, “It’s an Italian term” which I thought was pretty funny.
Jay then asked me to make sure everyone knew what it meant.
A “mensch” (Yiddish) is a human being — a genuine person. A person of integrity and honor.
At 23, having Dr. Becker say that to me was pleasant but I don’t think I understood the significance of it. I remember later telling this story to Walter Blum — who would eventually become my father-in-law. After hearing this, he smiled and said, “It is a great honor to be considered a ‘mensch’. It is a very good thing”.
I am now closer to the end than the beginning of my career. And I think about how my “menschitude” has served me well throughout my life.
So, how would I like to be remembered? As a mensch.
As Walter said 40 years ago, “It is a very good thing.”