The words Tzedakah and Tzadik (Gracious Person) share a common root: two special people inspired our family’s endowment contributions.
My grandfather, Ely Petzinovitch, known as Reb Ely, of blessed memory, was a very generous person who gave Tzedakah to anyone in need. A particular story reflects his commitment to our religion: when the Germans were approaching his home town of Yedwabne, he took all the Torahs from the town synagogue and sent them with his horses and wagon to a larger town to be saved. Rather than use the horses and wagon to save his family or belongings, he used them to protect the Torahs, the center of our Jewish life.
The second role model, of blessed memory, is my beloved wife and mother of my children, Lauri Podell Zofan. She worked with great dedication for the Agudas Achim Synagogue preschool and youth committees and the Columbus Jewish Federation. Her commitment and devotion furthered the cause of each institution. In her last days, she conducted meetings from her sickbed to promote the Federation’s 1992 Mega-Mission to Israel. She knew that taking others to Israel would bring them closer to their roots and beliefs in Judaism.
It is in our hands to show and educate our children and grandchildren of our great heritage. The Columbus Jewish community has helped me raise and teach my children about being Jewish and loving it. From the Agudas Achim preschool and NSCY to the Columbus Torah Academy and the Columbus Jewish Federation’s ‘Gift of Israel program,’ they and many others received a Jewish education and developed a love of Israel. As we make all our Jewish community stronger, we will be able to grow from strength to strength and from generation to generation.
The people that influence me to give Tzedakah were Tzadikim, as our Hallel prayer says, ‘This is the gate to God, Tzadikim will go through it.’ May we all be blessed some day to go through this gate.