Returning $1,000 Floating in the Air
Two Chicago teens found $1,000 blowing in the wind outside their Jewish school.
“It was so windy – literally, money was floating in the air!” Zev Goldstein, a senior at Fasman Yeshiva High School, a Jewish high school in Skokie, Illinois, described the scene outside his school the morning of November 18, 2021 after an armored truck delivering money to an ATM across the street accidentally let cash get blown away in the powerful breeze.
In an Aish.com exclusive interview, some of the participants in that surprising, chaotic scene described what happened next.
“We had just been talking about the importance of analyzing the decisions we make in our lives,” explains Rabbi Ephraim Goldman, a teacher in the school. Each day after the morning service, there is a short class on mussar, Jewish ethical teachings about how to act in different challenging situations – such as finding hundreds of bills floating through the air on a windy day.
“We’d been discussing paying attention to what we’re doing in life – not just to blindly go along, but to really think about what we’re doing,” Rabbi Goldman recalls. Little did he know that these life lessons were about to be put to the test.
Right before breakfast, Rabbi Goldman stepped outside with two seniors, Coby Kamish and Zev (Zevi) Goldstein, both 17. They couldn’t believe their eyes. Hundreds of banknotes in all denominations were flying through the air. Nearby, a man was frenziedly collecting as many of the bills as he could. Rabbi Goldman couldn't make sense of the situation. How could someone lose so much money outside?
Coby and Zev started collecting the money. “At first I thought it belonged to the man and I was giving it back to him,” Coby recalls. Coby gave the man some bills, and when they came to give him more money the man said, “Just keep it.” That’s when the boys realized the money came from some other source.
Rabbi Goldman looked around and saw across the street, at the bank, money coming out from an armored truck. "A guy was trying to pick it up but it was so windy it was literally everywhere.”
With bills swirling all around, the scene was chaotic. The strange man who’d been collecting money got in his car and drove away. For a few minutes, Coby, Zev and Rabbi Goldman raced around, picking up bills. “I said, don’t get too excited,” Rabbi Goldman recalls with a chuckle. They knew that since the money didn’t belong to them, there was no way they could keep it. “I obviously understood that the money wasn’t mine,” Coby recalls. His first thought was to gather the money together so that he’d be able to eventually return it to its rightful owner.
For fifteen minutes, the trio ran around in the blustery, chilly day, collecting as much money as they could. The bills ranged from $5 to $100, and soon they’d amassed well over a thousand dollars.
Freezing cold, they went indoors and told Rabbi Dovid Kupchik, the yeshiva’s principal, about their adventure.
For the yeshiva students, keeping the money was never an option. The school sent an employee over to the bank across the street to enquire whether the lost money was theirs. A Skokie police officer came to the yeshiva and asked Coby, Zev and Rabbi Goldman for details about what happened – including a description of the man who’d pocketed some of the money for himself. The yeshiva sent all the money they’d managed to collect back to the bank.
Rabbi Ephraim Goldman
For Coby, the most exciting part of the entire experience wasn’t the thrill of picking up hundreds of dollars that were blowing through the air – it was the opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem – a central Jewish commandment to sanctify God's Name by doing the right thing and being a role model.
This mitzvah empowers us to act in ways that reflect well on God and the Jewish people. “As a Jewish kid, I want to be a good example of the Jewish community,” he explained to Aish.com. “I wear a kippah, so in a way I represent the Jewish nation.”
Coby has lots of experience in being aware of how his actions might reflect on his fellow Jews. He is an avid baseball player and last year Coby made local news when asked to try out for an elite baseball team, The Show, a premier team on Chicago’s South Side that he greatly admired.
Coby lives on the city’s North Side, and once he made the team, he was the first white player that The Show ever had. “They’d never met a Jew before,” Coby recalls. “They’d heard all kinds of crazy things about Jews.” He tried to change their perceptions of Jews for the better by acting in an upright way all the time.
The Skokie yeshiva students gained something even more valuable than money: the opportunity to put the timeless Jewish teachings they’ve studied into practice, and the chance to rise to the occasion and show the world Jewish ethics in action.