Volume 3, Number 169
'There's a Jewish story everywhere'

Tuesday-Wednesday, August 11-12, 2009


A victim of terror specializes in kindness

By Sara Appel-Lennon

SAN DIEGO—-Shmuel Greenbaum, author of
A Daily Dose of Kindness, Stories from the Heart, A Response to Terror tells about how he responded to a tragedy in his life, by shifting his focus to the daily kindnesses people show one another.

Greenbaum and his “Partners in Kindness” sent written testimony of daily kindnesses in the form of a daily newsletter called “A Daily Dose of Kindness.” They named their organization “Partners in Kindness.” In the spirit of altruism, names of the donors and recipients of the kindnesses were purposely omitted in these writings and 33,000 readers across six continents receive the newsletter.

The first line of the book’s foreword immediately caught my attention. Abraham Twerski, M.D. writes “Life, when all is said and done, is about the choices we make.” This profound sentence encouraged me to keep reading because of its insight and brevity.

Furthermore, Twerski talked about the positive societal outcome from reading the book. “It can transform a world filled with callousness and conceit into one of caring…”

Personally my mood had been one of sadness and apprehension after listening to the daily news yet, once I started reading Greenbaum’s book, my outlook became brighter because I shifted my focus from what wasn’t working in our world to the wonderful acts of kindness people bestow upon each other as reflected in the book.

Greenbaum shared his background and what prompted him to write the book. He and his wife, Shoshana, were married less than a year and were expecting their first child, when they took advantage of her graduate school scholarship to spend six weeks of study in Israel.

” That summer was the highlight of our marriage,” Greenbaum said.  "We spent four of those six weeks together enjoying every minute, until our joy came to a crashing halt on August 9, 2001.”  

A suicide bomber in a Jerusalem restaurant murdered his wife and unborn child. Only 32 days later terrorists caused a catastrophe in the United States on September 11th when they murdered almost 3000 people.

Greenbaum said, "The world was in shock and fear.”… He said that the kindness of strangers is what pulled him through this tragedy.
“How could I feel helpless when I saw everyone helping?" the author acknowledged "I wanted to be like them and help others too.”

 On January 1, 2002 he convened with friends to brainstorm what they “could do to make the world a better place.” Remarkably, Greenbaum chose to focus on kindness in the world rather than succumbing to feelings of vengeance or despondency.

Reading Greenbaum’s book, I picked up on some practical ideas about how to spread kindness daily. For instance, after a wedding or a celebration, one writer suggests donating the left over food and flowers to a charity. Another writer suggests buying a nonperishable food item each time you buy groceries and donating them regularly.

One section of the book describing a kindness greatly impacted me. It was called "Some day Peace will be made with a human gesture." The parents of an Israeli soldier shared this story after their son, Gedalia, an IDF soldier was killed in battle at the age of 21.

The story begins with a civilian Palestinian family with five small children living in a small house with terrorists. The family cowered in the corner, fearful of being killed when the Israeli soldiers entered the house.

The Israeli commander pointed toward the back door and instructed them in Arabic to leave the building for their own protection and to go where they could find food and shelter for civilians. The family did not move due to their paralyzing fear.

Staff Sergeant Gedalia realized why the family did not obey. He bent over the mother and handed her a chocolate cake that he had been saving to share with the other soldiers. She shared it with her children and she started to relax. She now understood that she and her family were safe. She and her spouse gathered their children and they walked out the back door as they had been instructed .
An old adage comes to mind about this particular vignette. People may not remember what you did but they will remember how you made them feel. This is one family who will think better of Israeli soldiers as a result of this act of kindness.

Greenbaum encourages all of us to find opportunities to show kindness on a daily basis. His book is successful because he is helping to make the world a much better place in which to live. Greenbaum is a role-model of kindness and he encourages us to join him.

If tragedy strikes, will you be bitter or will you get better?

A Stuyvesant High School student from New York heard Greenbaum speak publicly. He writes “It is so uplifting, so enlightening, so refreshing to hear someone like him talk to simply bubble over with excitement at the thought of doing good in the world. He is, in his way, a role-model to us all.”

Greenbaum described his late wife, Shoshana. “Her life was dedicated to truth and kindness. She inspired men and women of all religions with her ways… I know that whatever I have done after Shoshana’s death, we would have done together were she alive.”

For more information go to www.PartnersinKindness.com

A reader's letter

I can totally understand the excitement and appreciation of Makuakai’s manager.  Your article is interesting, positive, accessible (easy to understand), and inspiring.    And, I didn’t know there were Rabbis in Hawaii.

Annie Russo
La Mesa, California

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