It’s Nice To Be Somebody’s Hero
Yesterday I attended the awards ceremony for the Kaplun Foundation writing competition. Students from all over the world submitted essays on their Jewish heros. I am deeply touched that my neighbors kid – Ariana Samet, a 7th grader at Manhattan Day School (MDS) decided to make me her hero. I am also very proud of her as she won this prestigious competition! I thought I would share with you her writings.
Jodi Samuels is my hero. Jodi is the mother of three young children and sets a great example for them all. She is a warm person, whose home is always open; even to strangers. This is someone, who was given a challenge in her life, but has chosen to embrace it rather than just deal with it. But, it doesn’t stop there. She continues to spread awareness and has provided opportunities for those with similar circumstances. At first throughout her community, but now, throughout the world. Jodi exemplifies Hachnasat Orchim by welcoming others into her home. She and her husband Gavin, moved to New York City in the year 2000. They both grew up in South Africa and came to New York after having spent a few years in Australia. They only knew a few people when they arrived and felt that there must be many other “Internationals” in New York, who like them, were lonely in a new country and were looking for a sense of community. She co-founded JICNY (Jewish International Connection New York), to meet the needs of international Jews in New York City. Beginning with one Shabbat meal in her home, she and her husband Gavin have now hosted over ten-thousand guests from other countries for both Shabbat and holiday meals. The organization caters to Internationals in New York City hoping to give them a home away from home with opportunities such as Torah classes and classes on how to find your future spouse. Since its establishment, JICNY has led to countless relationships and at least sixty marriages! Jodi’s door is truly open to all. If someone needs a place to stay, Jodi will make room for them whether for one night or for months at a time! Any Jew who has lived in New York City from another part of the world has been touched by Jodi and the JICNY. In fact, this past summer my mother and I were in a restaurant in Paris. The waiter asked where we were from and we were surprised to find out that he had lived in New York for a couple of year’s right across the street from our apartment. We were not surprised however, to find out that he knew Jodi. When we asked him about her, his face lit up. He said that he had eaten in her home a few times and that he had attended a number of the JICNY programs. While he didn’t think that Jodi would remember him, he would always remember her with appreciation for the community that she helped him to have while away from home. A couple of years ago, Jodi gave birth to her third child. A beautiful little girl, Caily was born with Down’s syndrome. Many, if not most parents, would look at the birth of a special needs child as some sort of punishment. Not Jodi and her husband. Rather than saying, “Why me,” they said, “Of course us!” Their feeling was that who else should G-d choose other than ones who open their home to all and strive to make a difference for all. From the moment that she heard the diagnosis, Jodi has been hard at work making sure to give her precious Caily every opportunity that her other children have. She has also worked tirelessly to make sure that all Jewish children with Down’s have opportunities. Jodi is not only opening her home to people and working on JICNY, she is also spearheading an effort to make sure that all children with Down’s who are high functioning, have the ability to be mainstreamed at a Jewish Day School. Jodi was nominated as a National Jewish Community Hero and was a finalist. She sleeps only three hours each night; not because she is not tired but rather, because there is work to be done, work to change the lives of others, work to change the world for the better! Jodi takes the core Jewish values of Hachnasat Orchim (having an open house to guests) and helping those in need to a new level. While she is only in her mid thirties, Jodi has done more good than hundreds could do in a lifetime. Jodi Samuels is amazing and she is my hero
Originally published: June 6, 2011