Last night, the Southwest Region of the Anti-Defamation League held their annual Pass the Torch Awards dinner. This year, they selected Martin and Kelly Fein as the recipients of this prestigious award.
The award was created to honor ”community leaders who have exemplified a commitment to promoting respect, counteracting hatred and bigotry, and supporting fair treatment for all.” As Mr. Fein is a client of Knudson, LP, I attended the dinner as a show of support. I had no idea what a blessing it would be. My boss was unable to attend due to scheduling conflicts and asked me to attend in her place. This year was my first year to attend the ADL event, and I was unaware of what to expect. The invitation simply said “Business Attire.” Thus, I showed up in my standard navy blue suit (briefcase in tow) straight from the office, only to arrive and find that I was surrounded by finely clad patrons at various levels of high society. Naturally, I retreated to a small corner of the room in order to regain my equilibrium and observe these beautiful people in action. As I was dutifully checking my email, an older gentleman approached and asked if he could sit in the chair next to me. I responded with a cavalier but friendly, “Of course, I don’t own the real estate!” We began a conversation about our completely different reasons for being on the outskirts of the room – I, because I knew no one; he, because he knew everyone. When I asked him if he was famous, he said, “yes.” When I asked him if I should know who he was (again, in jest and with some snickering), he again said, “Yes, if you know anything about the mission of the ADL,” to which I had to admit I did not and asked him to educate me. The next words out of his mouth shocked me: ”I am Holocaust survivor, Walter Kase.”
The next ten minutes changed my life. We spoke about his family and my family. We chatted about seemingly trivial things. Our eyes brimmed with tears talking about such small niceties in the face of so much gravity. Mr. Kase insisted that we not cry, but rather relish life and all of its beauty just for this night. And then we parted company. It was one of the most meaningful exchanges I’ve had. Look up Mr. Kase and his story. He is featured in an exhibit at the Holocaust Museum Houston and is an active advocate in schools against all forms of discrimination and bullying. I attended the ADL event as a show of support for an individual client, and left with a vow to support an entire movement.