My Confrontation With A German Dictator – In Minnesota
Upon completing my US Army Reserve active duty, I went back home to begin searching for a job in Accounting. The economy was not the greatest in the early 1970’s when I began my search, and I was an average student. Where I eventually found a job was a blessing in disguise as it gave me increasing confidence that following Torah and doing Mitzvahs was the right path to follow.
The German dictator I refer to was my supervisor at the Minnesota State Auditor. He was of German ancestry and a nice guy at first, but as time went by, I felt like he was singling me out as if I had committed a crime – becoming more religious. At the end, his plan to make my situation unbearable was a blessing for me and a curse for him.
But again for readers to understand more clearly, I must present significant factors leading up to this story. In Economics 101 Class at the University of Minnesota, there was a special bonus for all of us, we had a series of lectures from Professor Walter Heller, a leading American economist of the 1960s, and an influential adviser to President John F. Kennedy as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, 1961–64. That was perhaps 33% of our lecture time, while our regular Economics course was taught by another teachers assistant (TA) for the remainder of the semester.
I felt I understood Professor Heller, as well as the other TA’s and expected a good grade. I went to the Economic Dept. offices to collect the papers I wrote when the course finished and I saw two boxes of graded papers, one from Professor Heller on which I received a score of 80 percent. Then I went to the other box to get my paper from the TA’s but could not find it. So I went to the TA sitting at his desk and told him my paper was missing, but he showed no concern. The board where all grades were posted for that class showed I had received a D. I was in total shock and again went to that same TA to explain that if I received an 80 from Professor Heller’s paper, how could I receive a grade of D. Instead of getting up from his chair to help me look for my paper or assist me in filing a complaint, he said I must go myself to issue a complaint with the department head – Professor Heller. The problem was Professor Heller was not in his office and would not be returning for a number of days, which he obviously knew. I questioned some of my other Jewish classmates who also said they had received grades much lower than they expected. Up to that time, I trusted the University to give me a fair grade, but that taught me to question anything that does not make sense and not remain quiet about it. Because whether I deserved it or not that grade of D would be with me for the rest of my University life and far beyond when looking for a job and any employer wanting to hire me would base part of the decision on that D.
Eventually I was accepted for a position at the Minnesota State Auditor, and at first my supervisor seemed kind and considerate. One of my first year assignments was to conduct an audit at a satellite licensing office of the Minneapolis City Hall, which would issue dog, bicycle and various other licenses. I would obtain all documentation from City Hall, and then physically go to the satellite office to verify that all receipt books had been received along with the money.
Things were going smoothly until I noticed something very strange. Some of the original receipt books were recorded as received in City Hall records while others were not. So when I came back to our office in the City Hall, my supervisor said he would go with me the next day to the satellite office. He quickly realized the problem and asked me to call all those people who wrote checks as payment for licenses issued from those receipt books that were missing from the City Hall records. I did that and discovered every one of those checks was never cashed, which indicated that the most likely culprit was the messenger who was responsible for delivering those receipt books from the satellite office to City Hall. The most logical explanation of what took place was the messenger kept the money from anyone paying by cash, but threw away the checks. That incident made headline news on a morning radio news program and my supervisor expressed his appreciation for what I had discovered.
As time progressed I became bolder in expressing my religious beliefs, and little did I know my supervisor hated every minute of it. So much so, I am convinced he began plotting with some of my co-workers how he could make life so unbearable for me, that I eventually would be forced to quit my job and here are some examples-
We had an official start time of 8am each workday, and many times my co-workers would only arrive in the office at least 5 to 10 minutes late, to which my supervisor said nothing. But for me, if I arrived at 8:01 my supervisor would become very angry and tell me that if this continued he would have to report me.
During winter, Shabbat would come in very early and candle lighting was before 4pm. We worked in the City Halls of both Minneapolis and St. Paul, so I would have to drive to a parking garage a few blocks from St. Paul City Hall which took a few minutes to get to and I calculated that I would need to leave my work by about 3:20 to safely get home to St. Louis Park which was about a 16 mile drive giving me a few extra minutes for traffic and snow. My supervisor did not agree and only allowed me to leave by 3:30pm without any further discussion. I was always worried about what would happen in case of an accident or other issues, but Baruch Hashem, I always managed to just make it home on time with just a minute or two to spare on many Friday afternoons.
I could give you many more examples but the main point is that my Supervisor also would criticize my work if he found any mistakes, but never complimented me. Especially after I began wearing my Yarmulke to work every day, after I had built up enough courage to do so.
The final incident which was my Red Line between the supervisor and myself, took place after I had been working there a few years, and a new University Accounting graduate joined our department. To make me totally upset, my supervisor said I would now be working under the new graduate and have to report to him after having finished all of my work for the day. You can just image how I was feeling. But I was not going to leave without putting up a fight, and so I made inquiries where I could take my case and was first told the Anti-Defamation League, who said they did not have an active branch in Minnesota at that time, so my only other choice was to go to the State of Minnesota Department of Human Rights which agreed to hear my case.
I gave testimony in front of a panel of witnesses all the incidents that my Supervisor had done that were just plain and simply singling me out because I was a Jew which made him angry. After deliberation, I received a letter that the Department of Human Rights along with its Commissioner agreed with me and therefore I won the case. They ordered my Supervisor to be put on probation for a period of six months and thereafter would review the case again from what I remember. At that same time I decided that it was not good for me to stay at my job and quit. Just before leaving my Supervisor found out what I had done, and I recall that he realized he needed me to be his friend all of a sudden.
I was in my last few days of working there, and needed to go to the men’s room, whereupon I noticed my Supervisor following right behind me. It was there I saw a sight which I thought was from Hashem himself. My Supervisor in a nice voice, the tone of which I have not heard since the very early days I began working with him, said he wanted to know why I had to go to the Department of Human Rights, instead of coming to him first so that we could sort out our differences. And I responded to him as follows with such a loud voice that I began screaming at him and telling him off.
I pointed out all the things he did to upset me and let him know that I was very angry how he treated me all these years. He looked like a frightened little boy who was getting a scolding, which was the reality.
The lessons I have learned from this as well as many incidents I have faced is not to be afraid to stand up for my rights. And if I see something very wrong, I should not be afraid to speak up about it.
But that was not the end of this story, because I had left Minnesota in Pesach of 1978, and with the help of Rabbi Feller, began learning in Hadar Hatorah.
I married in South Africa in March, 1979; and was working at Sage Holdings, the first company to introduce Mutual Funds into South Africa. A few years later, after we had our first child Yaakov, and Leah was pregnant with Miriam; the biggest surprise arrived in the mail. It was a letter which was addressed to my parents’ house from the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.
Part of the letter said as follows-
I, the new Human Rights Commissioner, have reviewed your case and have determined there was no just cause for the decision made against the other party, and therefore am overturning this verdict. You have ten days to appeal this decision and if we do not hear from you during this period, then the case will be closed.
There are a number of obvious reasons this new decision was not made properly among them the new Human Rights Commissioner should have tried to contact me to make sure I would receive this letter on time, and appeal the new decision.
So the main difference between my actions after seeing my grade from Economics 101 and my response to my supervisor at the Minnesota State Auditor is that I had gathered enough information and courage to now stand up for what is right, and put it in to action.
And I ask myself why Congress can not see clearly the problems the PLO is causing and suspend them indefinitely for the many anti-American statements they have said, among others.
At the moment, it is clear the Democratic Party is now being dictated by these PLO members. President Trump is calling for them to apologize to Israel, but it’s the Democratic Party that should be issuing an apology to all of us for allowing them to stay in their seats in the first place.
And on Friday an official from Hamas called for supporters to rise up and kill Jews throught the world, more proof that those lawmakers who support Hamas should be thrown out immediately.