I moved to Lakewood about a decade ago. I have never taken an interest in local municipal politics, nor have I been involved in them at all, until now.
I was sipping coffee in shul this morning, glancing at the posters, when I overheard someone saying that he will not vote for Meir Lichtenstein because he doesn’t care about the people of Lakewood. This shocked me. I happen to have had an experience with Meir Lichtenstein, which I will share in a moment, so I decided to chime in and attempt to follow up on his statement. As an experienced investigative journalist, it took me less than sixty seconds to realize that this fellow had no material backup for that statement. It did, however, strike me that although I have always kept my personal life very private, I should share with the Lakewood public my personal experience with Meir Lichtenstein.
Before moving to Lakewood, I was told that it is very hard to get kids accepted into schools. That’s why I first applied to a good school, and only after they accepted my children did I make the move. After my oldest twin daughters graduated 8th grade, it was a very different story. As a fairly new resident in town, without any family history here, or any connections, my daughters—who were straight A students—did not get accepted into a high school. That summer was the most depressing time of my life. It is very hard to explain in words the feeling of parents when you know that your teenage girls’ lives are at stake and there is nothing you can do about it. I had no one to turn to. I kept calling various people at various schools daily but all I got was rejections.
The summer went by. Schools opened, thousands of girls went to school… but my twin daughters, who had been at the top of their class in every grade, were home. Unless you are one of the unfortunate people who have experienced this, you cannot imagine the pain, stress, and strain this puts on a family. Two weeks after schools opened, a lady asked my wife if she had reached out to Meir Lichtenstein for help. My wife said, “Meir who?” The friend told my wife that he had helped her with a similar situation.
When my wife told me about the exchange, I figured that, although I had no connection with Meir Lichtenstein, at this point I had nothing to lose. I looked up Lichtenstein’s home phone number and left him a voicemail. Not only did he call me back that night, but he invited me to come over with my wife to his house right away. We had an honest discussion about the situation, he explained to us that he has no power over the owners of the schools, but he does have a relationship with them and that he would get on the case immediately. Before we left, Meir asked for my cell number and he shared with me his cell and said, “Never hesitate to call me no matter what time of the day.”
Meir began calling people the next morning and constantly updated me. I’d rather not get into the details that ensued after Lichtenstein’s involvement, but I will share with you that Meir was a lifesaver for our entire family. One evening he called me and asked if he could stop by with his wife to speak with my children. Meir came over with Mrs. Lichtenstein to tell my daughters that in the process of trying to help us, they had learned that they were special girls and it was not their fault that they were not in a school. That visit was the biggest shot of chizuk to my children.
After Meir ultimately got my girls into a school, I made him an offer that whenever he runs for reelection, I would gladly place advertisements or other forms of PR in ZMAN, which is extremely popular in Lakewood. Meir said to me, “I helped you because I cared, it’s not politics and I don’t want anything for it.” I reached out to him a few years ago again to remind him of my offer and he gave me a similar response. He never took up my offer for free publicity.
After my experience in shul this morning, I figured I must share with the public my very private and personal story. I’m sure you know for certain who my family is voting for in this municipal election.