Lessons from Mendy

Sometimes, all the news in the world, no matter how important, doesn’t matter. Today is one of those days. Tragically, Jewish community lay leader Robert “Mendy” Klein passed away Thursday evening. In lieu of a traditional Monday Mirror, Executive Director Howie Beigelman offers his thoughts on Mendy. To read what others have said, visit the CJN, HaModia, and The Yeshiva World. To see Mendy in his own words, you can view this video of his remarks at Governor Kasich’s 2017 Holocaust Memorial event at the Statehouse.

“First, thank you for that introduction.” “He’s such a special Jew.”

I had connected a young Jewish entrepreneur with Mendy. Regardless of if the deal worked, he told me it was worth his time just to get the chance to chat with Mendy.

And that’s really the crux of it. To meet Mendy even once was to see someone truly special. He cared deeply. About Jews, the Jewish community, and Jewish issues, but more broadly too, about Cleveland, Ohio, and beyond.

Ohio is blessed with many successful business executives who become dedicated philanthropists. But few give as much of their time, in addition to generous financial support, as Mendy did.

To see Mendy work with a charity or a nonprofit was to marvel at a true partnership. He wanted to help. He wanted to build something better, to help people. And he wanted, in the very best sense of the word, to be used.

I remember Mendy speaking with me about something, and he asked me how he could be most helpful. Mindful as I was of his time, and his incredibly busy schedule, I told him he could come to any and all parts of the event, “whatever worked” for him.

He got angry. It was the only time I ever saw him upset.

He said “I’m asking you how I can help. Tell me.”

He understood, prophetically so, that our time is limited. And he truly wanted to ensure he made the most of it.

But he also did so in a way that his uniqueness shone through. To see Mendy work with staff – whether his own, or someone else’s – was to see the utmost personal respect for anyone and everyone. He treated CEOs and leaders the very same way he treated those with less lofty titles.

And to see Mendy talk about an issue he cared about was to see his true passions unleashed. Those include education and community safety, Holocaust remembrance and Israel advocacy. It also included Greater Cleveland and anyone in need.

It was why – and how – he moved, seemingly effortlessly across denominational and group lines, in the business and public policy spheres, and in and around various organizations.

He remains a one man lesson in Achdus, unity, and in caring for a person even if they aren’t exactly like you.

Mendy didn’t break the mold. There truly was no mold for him.

His Memory is Truly for a Blessing. May it always be.

About the Author
Howie Beigelman is Executive Director of Ohio Jewish Communities, the statewide public affairs arm of Ohio's eight Jewish Federations. He works at the intersection of nonprofit advocacy, strategic storytelling, and Jewish communal affairs.
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