> Current Issues > Society

A Stone's Throw

May 9, 2009 | by Riva Pomerantz

A small revolution began with a broken window.

In a rundown, rough-'n-tumble neighborhood in East Cleveland, a group of Orthodox Jews sporting beards and kippas stand out like sore thumbs. But every morning, they make their way downtown to their warehouse buildings, seemingly oblivious to their forlorn surroundings.

Shimon Weiner is one of these men. From his office on East 131 Street, he often sees people, mainly African-Americans, wandering aimlessly down deserted streets. Sometimes he catches a glimpse of the occasional fight, and every day without fail he sees swarms of children running to and from the public school around the corner.

When the next stone hit his window, Shimon hit the roof.

It was at the end of a school day when the first window was broken. Shimon heard a loud crack as a perfectly aimed stoned found its mark. Hoots of laughter accompanied the shower of broken glass. When the window-breaking spiraled from a one-time incident to a favored leisure activity, Shimon decided he was not going to sit still.

When the next stone hit his window, Shimon hit the roof.

He raced down the stairs and collared the first kid he could. After exchanging a few choice words with the group of terrified youngsters, he finally let them off the hook with threats should there be a reoccurrence.

He was surprised when the next day began with a satisfying crrrack.

Shimon Weiner is not a small man. When he barreled down the street that morning, the kids began to quake. After expressing his rage, Shimon released his captives with the threat that if they ever threw another stone, they'd wish they had never been born.

Oy! Shimon said to himself, as he made his way back to the office calming himself down. What in the world have I done? Messing with inner city kids is not the wisest thing to do, and he felt the ramifications of his reaction sinking in fast. He dialed the school and asked to speak to the principal.

"A group of your kids are on their way to school and they're probably a little shaken up," he admitted sheepishly. "They've been breaking my windows and I really lost my cool." Then he added, "I want to think of a constructive way to stop their behavior."

The principal took the initiative to give Shimon's number to the parents of the offending students. It was not long before he received a call.

"Is this Mr. Weiner?"

"Yes," said Shimon, preparing to get lambasted for intimidating the children.

"I wanted to apologize for my son breaking your windows. I'm so sorry," said the voice on the other line.

Shimon was flabbergasted.

"Well," he said. "Why don't you and some of the other parents come down to my office? I have an idea how we might be able to stop these boys from damaging more windows."

A few hours later a group of parents joined Shimon in his downtown office for some cake and juice. Shimon explained his idea.

"I figure that if the kids and I could get to know each other a bit, they won't want to break my windows," he said simply.

Later that day, a small group of elementary school students walked into the offices of DryCast Inc. Shimon greeted them warmly, offered them some snacks, then paid them to do some light work in his warehouse. The meeting was a huge success. As they were leaving, Shimon told the kids, "You're always welcome to come to my office. Whether you need a bathroom, a drink or help, the door is always open. "

The next morning, Shimon had a bunch of kids knocking on his door eager to say good morning to 'Simon.'

Torah wasn't given to angels; it was given to imperfect human beings who are striving to bring spirituality into their day-to-day life.

Now they come often. Before school and after school they stop in to say hello and chat with Shimon and his partner Avraham. He asks them about their aspirations in life, about who their heroes are. Some of these children live in homes without father figures; many of them wake up each morning to face a difficult, uncertain world. With his gentle guidance and warmth, Shimon has become a source of hope to dozens of kids.

He is brainstorming on how to expand this kernel of success to help more inner-city kids realize their full potential.

As we anticipate Shavuot, the day on which we renew our commitment to God and His Torah, this story speaks volumes. Torah wasn't given to angels; it was given to imperfect human beings who are striving to bring spirituality into their day-to-day life. Shimon realized his mistake of acting in anger and wanted to repair the damage. He picked up the pieces of that broken glass and made it whole again.

Shimon's tiny revolution started with a broken window. Your next beautiful experience may be only a stone's throw away.

🤯 ⇐ That's you after reading our weekly email.

Our weekly email is chock full of interesting and relevant insights into Jewish history, food, philosophy, current events, holidays and more.
Sign up now. Impress your friends with how much you know.
We will never share your email address and you can unsubscribe in a single click.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram