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Lost & Found in LA

Lost & Found in LA

Embodying Jewish values is the best PR for Torah and the Jewish people.


Imagine losing your wallet at a large public event. What do you estimate the chances of ever seeing that wallet again? Especially if the wallet contained $350 in cash, plus credit cards, gift cards and more.

Ethan Youssefzadeh, an 18-year-old in Los Angeles, was at a high-school track meet last week when he found a wallet lying in the grass. Looking at the driver’s license, Ethan was able to identify the owner’s address. So he immediately did the right thing: He got into his car and drove 45 minutes out of his way to the owner’s house.

The owner had been getting ready to cancel his credit cards, never expecting to have the wallet returned. When Ethan came to the door, the wallet-owner was in disbelief.

They got to talking. The owner asked Ethan about his school and his Jewish observance. The owner was so inspired by the young man’s sincerity and honesty, that he offered Ethan reward money.

“No thank you,” Ethan replied. “I was just fulfilling what the Torah teaches – it’s a mitzvah to return any lost article you find.”

That night, the wallet-owner, who is Jewish, wrote to the administration of Ethan’s school, YULA Boys High School, saying, “The truth is, I am not sure if my children, or even I, would have ever returned something with such great value.”

Then the man added: "If this is what Jews do, then I want my kids to be like your students."

In today’s world, when Torah observance is so widely misunderstood and under attack from various socio-political camps, acts of kindness such as Ethan’s carry enormous value.

“People think that Jewish observance is so far-fetched,” Ethan told “But my Torah studies teach that caring for others and respecting their property is normal. I always try to think: How would I want someone to treat me if I were in the same situation?”

The morning after returning the wallet, Ethan’s story became the focus of a special school assembly. From there, word has spread, demonstrating how, in Ethan’s words, “small things can have a big impact.”

“There was never a moment where I thought to keep the money,” says Ethan. “A few hundred dollars comes and goes, but this story will stay with me for a lifetime.”

But that’s not the end of the story. When the wallet-owner found out that Ethan is president of his school’s student council, he offered to donate the $350.

“Okay,” said Ethan. “For the benefit of the Student Council, I will gladly accept.”

Lost Connection

The great Jewish philosopher Maimonides writes that a Jew’s purpose in this world is to create Kiddush Hashem – positive PR for God and His Torah. The litmus test of fulfilling this lofty directive is when people look upon a Jew’s actions and say: "If this is the effect that Torah has on a person, then I want it, too."

Ethan and the wallet-owner have since kept in touch. The man says that he never before appreciated the importance of being Jewish, but this deed has now sparked a renewed interest in his heritage.

Which brings the story full circle. The Torah imperative of "returning lost objects" goes beyond just ”wallets lying in the grass.” Another aspect is that if someone has lost their connection to Judaism, we must do what we can to help restore that connection. This, Ethan has unwittingly accomplished as well.

May 26, 2012

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Visitor Comments: 6

(6) SL, June 4, 2012 9:14 PM

Great Job Ethan!

Keep it up!!!!!

(5) phyllis wallace, June 1, 2012 4:27 AM

jewish people

awesome story, you don't find people like much anymore, god bless

(4) Miriam, May 30, 2012 11:20 AM

Ethan, you're amazing!

Why is this such an incredible story? Because we live in America, 2012 where unfortunately the secular world we live in teaches "Each man for himself. Don't be an idiot." But you didn't listen to that lesson. You chose the real stuff, the Torah! Go Ethan! Your parents must be so proud!

(3) Anonymous, May 30, 2012 10:08 AM

lost and found

Another beautiful story of returning a lost wallet: My friend took their children to the Kotel and one of the children picked up a real fat wallet (which, as a side note, is called a "suspicious item" and could contain a bomb and in Israel it is forbidden to pick up anything closed - a little girl in Nantanya once picked up a doll head and got her hand blown off) but back to the subject,the child gave it to his parents who took a brief glance inside the wallet and saw a bundle of $100 bills. The mother put it in her pocketbook and left their phone number with the Kotel police. After they got home thye also left their number with the Jerusalem police and them counted the money. They stopped counting at $80,000 (80 thousand!) because they were too tired to continue. ( Can you imagine carrying around such an amount of money?) Two hours later a lady with a strong French accent called, described the wallet and its contents in great details and came to their house to pick it up. She and her husband were overjoyed at its return, they brought the money with them to buy an apartment in Israel. They offered a reward which was of course refused. After they left, my friend told me that the children broke out in song and dance and the parents joined them with so much happiness that they were able to fulfill this mitzvah. Just in case you're wondering, this is a poor family with 11 children, the father has a low-paying teaching job in a yeshiva and they live from gemach (free loan) to gmach, and are very much in dept. But they sang and danced in joy.

(2) Ruth, May 30, 2012 2:28 AM

I once found a wallet when I was in the 5th, grade.

I was walking on a street where I was going to a store on a Friday afternoon and I saw this wallet right on the side walk. I picked the wallet and opened the wallet and there was money. I saw the man had a family. I rushed to the small grocery store and took it back near the back of the store and told the owners Father I found this wallet and to call the man right away. I came from a large family and he wanted to know which one I was. I knew he knew I just didn't say anything. Wanted to know if I wanted a reward and I said no! The next day I went to the store and ask if the man picked up his wallet. Told me yes and left a whole dollar bill for me. I was really surprised at this. A dollar went a long ways back then. I told him to thank the man if he ever came into the store again. We were taught to be honest. I am now 74 and still remember that day on a late afternoon. I thought it was probably his pay. Thank you for letting me share my story of so many, many, years ago. Ruth

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