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A Stone's Throw

A Stone's Throw

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.

May 27, 2006

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Visitor Comments: 27

(27) ata, June 22, 2009 5:54 AM

wow that was so beautiful

(26) Anne, June 15, 2009 4:47 PM

How does one see racism in this?

In response to the Black woman who was offended that it just so happened to be Black children who were to blame for this deliberate, ongoing criminal action, my response is: It is what it is! There aint no getting around it. Society has no qualms about subjecting Orthodox Jews who dress differently, to ridicule for a lot less reason than criminality. This saint, rather than demanding restitution, gave of himself. And what a mitvah that is. I am so proud of my Jewish heritage and lessons learned from our beautiful Torah! May we all as human beings, learn from this lesson, rather than trying to tear him apart about alluding to the fact that these were in fact Black children performing a criminal act. This man is a prophet and a saint.

(25) racahel goldring, June 15, 2009 11:34 AM

a real kiddush hashem

beautiful end...always does not hapen like this but is worth trying

(24) Anny Matar, June 15, 2009 11:12 AM

I wish more would do the same

Once you realise that not all teenagers are bad but that they do miss something in life, maybe life itself, having no positive guidance at home for one reason or another, you'll find that a little strength and kindness mixed together will help them jump the hurdle of frustration (for that is what keeps them in the streets) and you might save a soul. "Kol adam olam b'meoloh" you might save him and his future, his life.

(23) Jeff Knight, June 15, 2009 10:02 AM

Very touching!!

I was very moved by this story...thank you for sharing it.

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