April 14, 2024
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April 14, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Part 2

(Continued from last week)

One day the treasurer of the committee approached me and asked whether I would take over that responsibility from him since he found it “too difficult to write out checks for expenses, when money was instead needed by the sick of Jerusalem.” I did not think I would have that problem, realizing that in business you have to spend money in order to make money, and I accepted.

I remained a member of the board and its treasurer for about 30 years, being elected during that time also to the board of directors and the board of governors of the hospital in Jerusalem.

In 1990 I resigned from all four positions due to a difference with the policies of some of the top officers of the American Committee. Although I needed to resign only from my positions with the American Committee, I felt I must resign also from my positions with the hospital itself, since I had been elected to those positions as a result of my long hours of work with the American Committee.

I had retired from Philipp Brothers Inc. in 1985 and by 1990 was working as a consultant in various areas of my business expertise. During the early 1990s I was not involved with any volunteer organization, but to test the waters, I went to Fairleigh Dickenson University to obtain a paralegal certification. I then worked for a year for the New Jersey State Attorney General’s office in the professional department as an extern. An extern is actually a volunteer. He does not get paid and even has to pay his own meals, transportation, tolls, parking etc.

After a year I resigned (despite the protests of the assistant attorney general who wanted me to stay) since I felt, although I wanted to due volunteer work, I saw no sense in having to travel to Newark and pay my own expenses, when I was sure other volunteer work would be available in my area of residence.

While I was working in the attorney general’s office, I had plenty time to think about my future and what I wanted to with myself. Up to this time my wish to volunteer had always been based on my desire, developed when I was a young man, to help needy people, in some form, somewhere in the world.

As a retired adult my thoughts turned toward myself and my family. How had I gotten to where I was? Who had helped me in getting there? How could I repay those responsible for my being who I am?

True, throughout the years I had help from many areas. My U.S. Army service helped mature me from a boy into a man and shaped my future professional life. My parents were instrumental in getting me a position at Phillip Brothers Inc., where I rose over 36 years from a lowly traffic clerk to general traffic manager and group vice president. But who made all that possible? My story of how we, as a penniless family, came to the United States is documented in “My Stories” and I lecture about it whenever I have the opportunity.

It was the United States of America, its government and its people, that gave me the opportunities in my earlier life.

It was pay-back time.

I decided that I would devote the rest of my life to pay back to society for what society had given to us. The American society had given us a new life, new opportunities and new hope. The fact that I was able to take advantage of these opportunities, often being at the right place at the right time, is inconsequential.

When I left the externship at the attorney general’s I looked around for volunteer opportunities in the area where I lived. The largest organizations using volunteers were hospitals. I spoke to my son-in-law who then and still is now a neonatologist at Hackensack University Hospital and Medical Center. He knew of an opportunity as a volunteer there. I applied and was accepted and assigned to collect demographics of the population in towns around the Hackensack area. I was told that all the information was available in the Hackensack library and my job was to sit in the library and extract the information. This job had been pending for many years and they never were able to find the right person who was willing to undertake this responsibility.

The more I thought about what I was supposed to do, the more I felt there must be places other than the Hackensack library where those statistics are already available. You see, I am basically a very lazy person. Whenever, wherever I have a job to do, I always try to figure out a way to do it more quickly, easily, cheaply or whatever applied. Also, here, although I was not being paid, nor would it cost anyone anything, if I would sit in the library for months and months to extract statistics, why not look and see whether I wasn’t wasting my time? Indeed, I found that all the information that I was to extract was already available on discs from a company that had done that job professionally many years earlier. I obtained an offer from the company and very proudly announced to my still-new boss that all the work I was supposed to do was already available on discs, at, what I thought was a very reasonable cost.

I was shocked when my boss replied that they did not have that amount (about $650 dollars, I think) in their budget. Not being familiar with Hackensack’s budget, nor with hospital budgets in general, I had no answer to that.

(To be continued next week)

Norbert Strauss is a Teaneck resident and Englewood Hospital volunteer.

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