Humans of New York showcases the adorable way a Jewish journalist teaches his sons about charity

Steven I. Weiss has been praised for his work as a reporter and now as the director of original programming and new media at The Jewish Channel, a national cable outlet focused on Jewish news and culture.

But it’s safe to say he has never had this many likes on Facebook.

Weiss and his two young boys appeared on Father’s Day this past Sunday in a post on the wildly popularHumans of New York Facebook page — which provides glimpses into the interesting lives of everyday New Yorkers. Its posts routinely garner hundreds of thousands of likes.


In the post, one of Weiss’ sons explains the system his dad has created to teach him about the importance of charity and managing money. He gets one dollar of allowance from his parents each week, and he has to choose a “section” to put it under: spend, save, donate or invest. If he chooses to “invest” the allowance, his parents give him two extra pennies for each dollar at the end of the month (mimicking a small-scale return on investment). But he tends to put his money in the “donate” section.

“I have way over $10 in my ‘invest section.’ I used to have more but I took some money out and put it in my ‘donate section.’ We used to it to buy food for people who don’t have much money in their ‘spend section,’” Weiss’ unnamed son says in the post.

By Tuesday afternoon the post had received almost 800,000 likes. “Way to teach his kids both how to be economic and compassionate at the same time,” wrote one of the more than 21,000 people who left comments.  “A lot of adults today seem to have missed out on that lesson.”

The post contains an important message that resonates far beyond Father’s Day. Read it in full here.

Smith Barney doesn’t manage this portfolio. My heart does.

A conservative, long-term investor, I’ll still admit to my sometimes ridiculous attraction to the highs and lows of risk.
Question is: How much can
I — or anyone — really handle?

At 22, I’d fearlessly seek the beta — or risk factor — in anticipation of the alpha — or excess — returns. I’d diversify my portfolio, but often follow a hot dot, whose value would quickly double, drop, then creep back up. When the market tanked? I reveled in my seemingly endless time horizon.

My strategy began to shift after some market volatility, which, combined with maturity lent a better understanding of my own assets and risk tolerance. I became more moderate, investing in diverse, well-researched stocks for a longer-term gain.

Still, my rate of return seemed nominal.

At times, I’d considered leaving the market altogether, but trusty advisers would encourage me to stay the course.

Investment decisions are best executed without emotion, they’d say.
Yeah, right, say I.

See, Smith Barney doesn’t manage this portfolio. My heart does.
Disturbingly analogous to the omnipotent stock market, in dating, the alpha of a long-term relationship drives us to invest even more: our hearts, minds, bodies and souls.

We’ll work diligently to review and build our personal assets (be it career, hobbies, looks, personality or all of the above); establish our search criteria (determine characteristics of a partner); and perform severe — if often frustrating — due diligence (dating the gamut to find that sometimes elusive, but impassioned and fabled, soul mate).

As our investment pool in this feverish search shifts, so do our emotions and risk tolerance — often dramatically. And sometimes unexpectedly.

High-risk (newbie) investors might trade short-term losses (“just hanging out”) for long-term gains (dating for crazy love). Moderates (more mature) might accept some risk (getting back out there post-burn) for higher ultimate returns (falling in love … again). Lowest risk takers (seasoned cynics) may seek the safest route (maybe even … gulp … settling).

At 22 and for a while thereafter, the process was thrilling. Working to build my own assets, I was myself an actual beta — figuring my way and learning fancy investment terms while marathoning my lifestyle.

My diversified portfolio included mostly my peers: the drummer, the elevator crush who made me blush, the student, the party-guy who might actually call, the tree-hugging college friend, and even the swamped getting-established professional. My relationships gave me butterflies and stomachaches, but I withstood the volatility, hoping for high returns.

The alpha on these short-term buys sometimes seemed negligible, but experience built my assets for the long term. It also lowered my risk tolerance — a dangerous bout in my maturing stage, wherein people have paired off, leaving bounds of skeptics.

What was “edge” seemed like attitude; opinions became stubbornness. “Stability” translated to boredom; “Fun” often meant noncommittal. And as I became more selective, my investment pool downsized.

Uh oh.

Determined still, I went moderate-to-low with lower-betas who seemed ready to commit: the great guy my age, the goal-oriented (too busy) professional and the creative guy who knew how to channel it.

Ratings seemed positive, but earnings ultimately disappointed. Our stock split, and hearts got broken.

Perhaps my search criteria was askew; I considered old standbys, friends; I diversified madly to mitigate losses, but my risk skyrocketed with my diminishing tolerance and time horizon.

Should I seek growth or the undervalued stock? Hedge? Strattle? Bail out? Or, shoot endlessly for off-the-chart heart-jumps that put me in the red, then black within a matter of days?

Not quite ready to index, I sought value with potential growth. I still sought the beta.

After a market slump, and bordering the defeatist pull-out, a tip off to a charming, intelligent (younger) option surfaced. I’d stay the course for long-term growth, I thought.

First, it was blissful and fun; carefree and light; we’d stay up late and dance around who liked whom. He called me “hot” instead of pretty, bought me chocolates and wrote me sweet cards. He called too late.

And the best part: he believed in “the one.” The one!

Things were swell until liabilities in my beta’s limited repertoire emerged. He struggled to fully identify with me. My skin felt comfortable; his was still filling out. He wasn’t cynical, which, to me, meant he didn’t reflect…. Or maybe, at 25, hadn’t yet lived.

Despite my short-term disappointment, I’d already learned to sell out sooner in lieu of a more “appropriate” investment.

See, while he was still diversifying, I was — apparently — ready to focus my assets.

General rule says: the greater the risk, the greater the return. And in today’s rough relationship market, determining risk tolerance may indeed help assuage some long-term “damage.” Problem is: it may also risk a lower alpha.

And that’s no fun.

Maybe — ultimately — we’re all just betas making our way; our yields to maturity are just different.


Dara Lehon, a freelance writer living in New York City, can be reached at

Your Letters

One People, Two Worlds

As I read with interest Gary Rosenblatt’s review of “One People, Two Worlds” (“Closed Chapter,” Nov. 8), my gut reaction was one of disappointment and frustration to Rabbi Yosef Reinman’s decision to cancel the book tour. But upon reflection, I began to consider what might be behind the decision to discourage his participation and what the dialogue contained in this book represents.

To engage in discussion on an individual basis, in order to stimulate thought, clarify and educate is clearly within the Jewish tradition. But to give credence to a representative of a Jewish theology that denies historical events and questions the divine origins of basic observances is to validate the “man-made” as being genuinely spiritual.

Yehuda Frischman , Los Angeles

Invest in Your Community

In the article “Invest in Your Community,” (Nov. 1) Michael Kaminsky states, “After Westside JCC is rebuilt, other JCCs in Los Angeles must renovate their facilities.” As a member of the board of the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles (JCCGLA), Kaminsky must be aware that the Silver Lake-Los Feliz center building is still slated to be sold out from under its current membership, and will thus be unavailable for renovation. The building was built by local Jewish families and deeded to JCCGLA in the 1950s so that it be used for the benefit of the local Jewish community.

The current members of the Silver Lake-Los Feliz Independent JCC have managed, against all odds, to incorporate as a new 501(c)(3) entity, formulate a solid business plan and enroll enough children to cover the costs of operating a preschool. Families have flocked to the center, even though they were told that there could be no commitment for them to remain in the building beyond one year. Their efforts have demonstrated that there is still a viable Jewish community east of La Brea that deserves the opportunity to grow and flourish in its own building. I urge The Jewish Federation and JCCGLA to find a way for this to happen.

Michael R. Goldberg , Los Angeles

Irv Rubin

I felt great sadness when I read about Irv Rubin’s attempted suicide (“JDL’s Questionable Future,” Nov. 8). I feel that our community let this man down. He had never been convicted of a crime, yet he sat in jail almost a year waiting for a trial and was denied bail. Not a word from the Jewish community. He was not allowed to speak in front of us — at our synagogues or at our organized protests. Yet he was always there, fighting for his love for Israel and the Jewish people. Yes, maybe he was a little crazy and maybe he did things in a way that was not correct, however, dialogue means hearing all sides of the spectrum, not just the dialogue that stretches from the far left to center right.

Scott Howard, Woodland Hills

It is ironic that Jews moan the loss of Sen. PaulWellstone and supported Jesse Jackson, yet very few of us will even say a prayeror a good word for Irv Rubin, who exposed Jackson’s anti-Semitism.

I only wish that I could have done more to help Irv, and I am dreadfully sorry that I couldn’t after all of the good things he did for all of us. The Jewish community should bow its collective head in shame and start asking burning questions. For now, what I can say, is I am proud that he is a friend of mine.

Alan Rockman, Upland

Feiler Phenomenon

David Klinghoffer reviewed a book that presents Abraham as an imaginary or composite character (“The Feiler Phenomenon,” Nov. 8). There is no archaeological evidence that Jesus ever lived, and that supposedly took place only 2,000 years ago. Yet, Christians don’t seem to find this to be a problem or a delegitimization of their religion. But, the lack of archaeological evidence for certain people or events in the Bible appears to be used in some quarters as a reason to delegitimize Judaism.

Beverly Adler, Newbury Park

David Klinghoffer has done a full-page hatchet job on both the author, Bruce Feiler, and his book, “Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths.”

As author of the recently published biblical novel, “Abraham the Dreamer/An Erotic and Sacred Love Story,” I, unlike Klinghoffer, applaud rather than begrudge Feiler’s success. He has written a fine and valuable book.

I hope The Jewish Journal will now devote the same amount of space to a more measured, balanced review of Feiler’s book.

Rolf Gompertz , North Hollywood

One Blessing

Rabbi Ed Feinstein writes eloquently (“Have You But One Blessing,” Nov. 8) that “the Messiah will not arrive … until Esau’s tears are exhausted,” until we find “a place for the other brother.”

Could this become the basis for a new theology of partition? Is it possible that a secure, reciprocally respectful two-state settlement with Esau’s children might be a necessary precondition for our redemption? Perhaps the Messiah will come when all of Abraham’s descendants live side by side in peace.

Shawn Landres, Los Angeles

Censoring Mr. Spock

Miriam Farber’s letter speaks to Miriam Farber’s problem (Letters, Nov. 8). That anyone should “protest” art, especially Jews themselves, is an outrage. If people are so offended by nudity, in whatever context, they should stay away from any art forum. Religion is an art form and to combine the human body with what is near and dear and meaningful to some, is sensually beautiful. Religion is sensual in sounds, tastes and sight and for anyone to so fear what is exquisite and speaks to life is unfortunate. Perhaps the exhibit should only be open to those who are emotionally and culturally mature.

Betty Seidmon, Los Angeles

Jewish War Vets

Regarding your article of Nov. 8 (“Jewish War Vets Remember,” Nov. 8). Cpl. Paul Cohen’s statement that there are not many Jewish veterans in front-line combat is untrue.

I had five close Jewish friends killed in action in Germany, Italy, France, Attu and Okinawa. I was a platoon leader in the 76th Infantry Division, which crossed the Saar River in Germany under heavy fire. You can see the many Stars of David in the military cemeteries in Normandy and Italy.

My father was in the infantry in France in World War I and was gassed.

Jews carried their share of combat in all of America’s wars. Please do not pass on the old canard that Jews did not do their share. At the end of World War II, the Jewish Welfare Board published a large volume with the names of the Jewish servicemen and women who were killed or wounded in the service of the United States.

Irving Elliott Cohen, Sherman Oaks

When Shepherds Desert

One of the most important and praiseworthy contributions that The Jewish Journal makes to our community is the open forum it has maintained in both news and letter columns. We are a diverse and opinionated people. Truth and wisdom more often result from vigorous debate than from ignoring, suppressing, or stigmatizing views with which some of us may disagree.

I mention this because I do not want my comments about Joel Kotkin’s silly article “When Shepherds Desert Their Flocks” (Nov. 1) to suggest I think it should not have been printed. My only editorial suggestion is that it should not have been labeled “analysis.” Perhaps “propaganda.” Or at the very least “opinion.”

As the definitive poll, the actual election demonstrated the shepherds and the flock pretty much agreed.

And, since Kotkin cannot accept the fact that our Jewish heritage of social consciousness and social responsibility remains strong and vibrant, that Jews of many national backgrounds and from varying economic levels, continue to support liberal candidates and progressive causes, he forlornly hopes that “flocks learn how to bite a shepherd who has lost his way.”

Like a rejected lover, who has failed his suit, he now hurls insults.

Marvin Schachter, Pasadena

Pay Attention

Amy Klein patronizingly lectures us to “pay attention” to the upcoming Israeli elections, in case we are “too confused” or disinterested to find them relevant (“Pay Attention,” Nov. 8).

Klein needs to understand that Palestinian terror attacks like the one this week at Kibbutz Metzer, which left five Israelis including a mother and her two young sons dead, are not caused by Israeli governments whether of the left or of the right.

Klein bewails the fact that without Labor, a Likud-led government would not be “restrained.” She quotes Israeli journalist Tom Segev who claims “there has been no democracy in Israel.” The left believes that unless Labor governs Israel, there can be no “democracy”; the wishes of the electorate who might vote for a Likud government are autocratically dismissed.

Left-wingers like Klein need to remember that Labor-led governments under Yitzhak Rabin and then Ehud Barak made a “land for peace” agreement with the PLO, withdrew the army from substantial areas of the West Bank and Gaza and offered a full peace in summer 2000. The Palestinians, claiming to be “frustrated” have returned to full-scale terror against Israeli civilians. That is the problem and no Israeli “peace offer” will change that. The necessary change must be made by the Palestinians, who need a leadership that opposes and fights all Palestinian terror groups and fully accepts Israel’s right to exist.

Bob Kirk , Los Angeles

Gold’s Hot Tip:Invest in Israel

For people who like to make money — and who take the long-range view — now is the time to invest in the Israeli economy, despite the current situtation, according to Stanley Gold, president and CEO of Shamrock Holdings, the investment arm of the Roy Disney family.

For some time, Shamrock has been the largest private investor in Israel. With a new capital-growth fund of $170 million fully subscribed, of which $65 million is earmarked for Israel, Gold is looking for new opportunities.

"The combined effects of the intifada and the world recession have stopped the kind of Israeli economic growth we saw in the mid-1990s, and a lot of investors got scared and ran away," Gold says. "We look on this as an opportunity to buy at bargain prices and reap the rewards later."

Putting his money where his mouth is, Gold has invested $700 million to $800 million in Israel on behalf of Shamrock over the past 15 years.

Gold’s confidence in the basic soundness of Israel’s society and industry is based on three factors, which, he says, underlie all economic growth:

  • The intelligence and educational level of the population.
  • An incorruptible judicial system.
  • A modern, cutting-edge technology that yields world-class products.

Because Israel rates high in all three categories, its economy will come back stronger than ever, predicts Gold.

One of Shamrock’s first major investments was to buy a controlling interest in Koor Industries in the early 1990s, which was sold two and a half years later in 1997, resulting in a total profit of $130 million.

Currently, Shamrock has a 46 percent interest in Tadiran Communications, which makes military communication systems, with Gold as the company’s chairman. Shamrock holds 50 percent of Pelephone Communications Inc., Israel’s second-largest cellular phone service, and 10 percent of Paradigm Geophysical, a geoscience software firm.

The company’s extensive real estate holdings include a substantial interest in the new Tel Aviv bus station, which is being remodeled as a retail shopping center and transportation hub.

One project Shamrock is not into, despite recent reports in the Israeli press, is the development of a $135 million Israeli Disneyland. "That story was made up," Gold says.

Worldwide, Shamrock has invested some $2 billion since its founding in 1978, and its Israeli investment decisions, like all others, are based purely on economic considerations.

"I don’t have a job unless I make money for the Disney family and our private investors," Gold says. "My Zionist impulses have nothing to do with it."

Participation in a Shamrock investment fund is not for the average Joe Blowstein, with the minimum stake running between $5 million to $10 million.

Gold, the profit-oriented capitalist, is also a self-described socialist, and when a visitor questions the apparent contradiction, he quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson that "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."

He attributes his "philosophical socialism" to his parents, both good union members, and to growing up, 59 years ago, in South Central Los Angeles, when the population was one-third black, one-third Asian and one-third white.

"That [environment] was the best thing that ever happened to me," reminisces Gold, chewing on an unlit cigar while sitting in his sunny office in Burbank, a stone’s throw from the Warner Bros. studio lot. "I sold the old Los Angeles Mirror for 7 cents at the Coliseum, I got 3 cents per customer and a 1 cent tip."

He holds as his credo that society must provide a safety net for the less fortunate, and, even more importantly, a ladder to enable poor minorities to climb up into the middle class.

"If that doesn’t happen, if the gap between rich and poor keeps widening, then, ultimately, our society will be torn apart," he says.

Gold does not like to talk about his own community and charitable activities, but his support of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) is well-known.

He created a considerable stir in 1997, when as outgoing chairman of the HUC-JIR board he addressed the graduating class on the Jerusalem campus. In an impassioned speech, Gold warned of the danger facing Israeli democracy by the Orthodox insistence on dictating religious practice and he has since sought to "counterbalance this kind of poisonous attitude."

He is also recognized for his strong support of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles’ Tel Aviv-Los Angeles Partnership program, especially the three-month exchange program among Israeli and American high school students.

"This program gives Israeli youngsters a chance to witness the religious pluralism practiced here," he says. "They get the perspective that you don’t need to be a Chasid to be Jewish."

Given Israel’s current problems, Gold was asked what Los Angeles and American Jews can do to help the state.

"After 54 years, Israel has less need for charity and more for working partnerships on the economic, social, religious and cultural levels," he responds.

"If American Jews can find ways to participate on any of these levels, they will do significant good for the Jewish people."