Screenshot from MTV

Meeting Bieber wasn’t the biggest highlight of ‘Hand in Hand’ for local rabbi


I met a superstar yesterday. No, it wasn’t Justin Bieber or Oprah or George Clooney. They were there too among the dozens of celebrities who came together to appear in the recent Hand in Hand benefit for hurricane relief. But this simple rabbi is not interested in celebrity gossip (or any gossip for that matter).

I will resist telling you how starstruck I was being the same room as some of my celebrity heroes (okay, I was very starstruck to be that close to Stephen Colbert, Kerry Washington, and Stevie Wonder, but that’s not the point). Of course, the real heroes are the first responders and ordinary citizens who have done extraordinary things in recent weeks to offer support and shelter on the ground in Texas and Florida.

All of us, thank God, were dry and safe on a studio lot in sunny southern California. I had been invited there by Scooter Braun, one of the organizers of the event, to join other faith leaders in offering prayers of hope as part of the program. By simply standing alongside a pastor and an imam, I was attempting to make a silent statement of interfaith solidarity in the wake of tragedy. Natural disasters require human responses and I was there to play a very small part in trying to help those affected.

While all of the superstars who made the effort to participate in the telethon deserve praise, the superstar who I want to tell you about is someone who you wouldn’t have seen on the TV screen. Her name is Sheryl. She’s a middle-aged woman who has been a production coordinator for decades in Hollywood.

She often works behind the scenes helping to make sure massive productions, like the Oscars or blockbuster movies, run smoothly. She is kind and humble. She met me at the entrance, got me “credentialed,” and escorted me into the green room where the other superstars were gathering.

Sheryl told me that she had volunteered her time that day (as everyone involved in the production had). She said that she saw the devastation in Houston and wondered how she could utilize her professional talents to help in some way. Sheryl is a superstar because she reminded me that each of us can do something to respond when disaster strikes.

Not all of us are famous, but each of us has a role to play. Without Sheryl, the shining faces of Justin Timberlake and Julia Roberts (okay, enough name-dropping) wouldn’t have been broadcast to millions of people across the country offering hope and a way to help.

Thank God for Sheryl and the many others who volunteer, are kind, take pride in their work, and make a difference – every day.

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