Charlie Harary: Mentor, parent, friend

January 31, 2020

Other News

Charlie Harary.

Sitting in my car at Norfolk International Airport on Wednesday, January 8, I was a little apprehensive. After months of preparation, I was about to meet the legendary Charlie Harary and drive him to the Simon Family JCC. Harary was visiting Tidewater as part of the Milton “Mickey” Kramer Scholar-in-Residence Fund of Congregation Beth El Foundation’s Tidewater Together series.

Harary’s resume includes: CEO, investor, consultant, entrepreneur, best-selling author. In the weeks leading up to his visit, I watched video clips of him sharing bits of wisdom on everything from Judaic teachings to turning dreams into reality. I found much of his advice practical and relevant to my own life. In fact, that morning, before leaving, I used some of Harary’s advice about connecting with children while advancing in one’s career. I told my children “a very important man is coming to my work to speak to a lot of people. I am supposed to spend all day at work, but I told them ‘No! I must be home to see my kids’. So I will be home for an hour after school to have some special time with you.” While I would have come home for that hour anyway, following Harary’s advice to point it out to my kids helped them feel seen and valued. My kids said goodbye with a hug and a kiss and not a single tear.

Kevin Lefcoe and Charlie Harary.

Harary’s first event at the Sandler Family Campus was a lunch with United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s Women’s Cabinet. After Amy Lefcoe introduced Harary, she asked him to share inspiration he uses while raising funds for causes he cares about. He began by sharing a story about how, in 1948, on the eve of Israel’s declaration of independence, Golda Meir traveled to the United States to raise $25-milliion for the State of Israel. She spoke so eloquently and compellingly, that in that one speech, in front of that one crowd, she inspired others to raise $50-million, double her goal. “The Jewish People don’t raise money,” says Harary, “they raise dreams.”

That evening, after spending an hour with my kids, my six-year-old daughter thanked me for coming home, and asked me to say “hi to Charlie” for her. Back at the Simon Family JCC, Harary was slated to meet with UJFT’s Society of Professionals. After Raizy Cook’s introduction, Harary encouraged attendees to discover their own greatness by stretching out of their comfort zones and risk-taking on big challenges. “Ability does not lead you to take responsibility. Responsibility leads to ability.” He asserted that by taking responsibility for big things, just like Gold Meir raising money for the Israeli armed forces at a critical time in history, people discover and develop new abilities that they never thought possible.

Charlie Harary, Robert and Darcy Bloch.

Later, 200 people heard from Harary about his new book, Unlocking Greatness, hoping to discover how to unlock their own greatness and help others to do the same. Beginning every speech with a story, Harary talked about a man whose company was about to fail when he meets the famed Warren Buffet, who writes him a $1-million investment check. Due to events that follow, the man never cashes that check, but still ends up turning his company around. “How?” Harary asked the audience. “Because, someone looked at that man and said ‘I see you. You are important.’” Sometimes, all it takes for someone to become successful is someone’s belief that they are capable, important, seen. Each person is capable of giving that gift to others, and to ourselves, he suggested.

By the time I drove Harary to the airport on Thursday afternoon, I had heard him at three community events and enjoyed personal conversations about our children, families, careers, and paths into Judaism. In 24 hours, I made real, tangible changes in my life because of what I learned. When we said goodbye, I thought back to how I felt standing in that same place the day before. While Harary’s list of accomplishments and professions was impressive, it was no longer intimidating. It was inspiring. Of all the roles I had listed leading up to his visit, I realized that I had missed perhaps the most important three: mentor, parent, and friend.

-Sierra Lautman


Milton “Mickey” Kramer Scholar-in-Residence Fund’s Tidewater Together is a collaboration between the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater and area synagogues.

To learn more about Tidewater Together, including upcoming events, visit JewishVA.org/TidewaterTogether, or contact Sierra Lautman, director of Jewish Innovation, at 757-965-6107 or SLautman@ujft.org.

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