Thursday, October 6th | 11 Tishri 5783

December 23, 2018 8:36 am

Is This the Jewish Tony Robbins?

avatar by Alan Zeitlin

Charlie Harary. Photo: Alan Zeitlin.

While good and bad things happen every day, shootings like the one at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh don’t. Terrorist attacks in Israel are nothing new, but the murder of Ari Fuld, who was stabbed in the back and still chased after his killer, stung especially hard. Jews have been assaulted on the streets of New York City, and our politicians have openly spewed antisemitic rhetoric. One can’t help but wonder what’s next.

A few weeks before the new year, more than 200 people gathered at the Manhattan Jewish Experience (MJE) on New York’s Upper West Side to see Charlie Harary. At the event, the author of Unlocking Greatness told them that history and the Torah show that Jews have the mettle to remain tough.

Harary spoke of his grandmother, an Auschwitz survivor, who cried and walked out of his son’s siddur ceremony. She described a near-death experience when she stood up for a woman being attacked and was pummeled in response.

“[The Nazi] took his boot and started kicking my head,” Harary said, recalling his grandmother’s words. “And what he said before he stomped on my face was, ‘We’re not only killing you. We’re gonna kill your whole people.’”

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Left for dead, she was pulled to safety by her sister. Still, a nagging question more than mystified her.

“How is it possible that the same set of eyes that saw the bottom of a Nazi boot could see not my son, not my grandson, but my great-grandson holding the book that they told me would be gone?” Harary quoted her as asking. “How can one set of eyes see both of those things?”

Harary said the answer was that she didn’t give up.

Harary also gave advice to the crowd, saying that people should not be startled when things don’t go as planned.

“When we get a curveball thrown our way, we don’t look at the curveball and say, ‘I’m not enough.’ We look at a curveball and say, ‘You have no idea who I am.’”

Harary drew laughs when he spoke about how he wanted to get an offer from the “WASPiest” law firm he could find after graduating from Columbia Law School, because he was a Jewish boy from Brooklyn.

So is he a Jewish version of America’s best known motivational speaker, Tony Robbins?

“If anyone calls me that, it’s not who I am,” Harary said in an interview after his speech.

Harary is the co-founder and CEO of the venture capital firm H3 and Co., and an associate professor of Management and Entrepreneurship at Yeshiva University. He also hosts two radio shows. Harary’s speech was part of an annual event to honor the memory of Ruth Wildes, the mother of Rabbi Mark Wildes, who founded Manhattan Jewish Experience. Wildes said that when he was a new rabbi and had no place to host people for Shabbat, his mother did not hesitate to have people for dinner at her home. He said that her spark inspired him to create MJE.

Long Island resident Rivkah Namdar said that Harary stood out because of his high energy and sense of urgency.

Gabriel Regus of Manhattan agreed.

“He was an electrifying speaker and had a remarkable way of connecting with the audience in a comical and serious way,” Regus said. “The message of knowing who you are really resonated with me as a convert … discovering who I am spiritually. It was a deep and profound message.”

In closing, Harary said that Jews should walk in 2019 with a bounce in their step.

“We can’t have a victim’s mentality,” Harary noted. “What’s happened to us as a people is unparalleled, but it’s about perspective. If we approach it from the perspective of strength, then it’s about carrying on the legacy of previous generations that went through challenges and persevered.”

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