A real estate developer, Ken has graduate degrees in architecture and business. He and his wife live in a beautiful home with their two teenage sons and a yellow Lab named Tikva. For two decades, Ken climbed the corporate ladder relentlessly. “It’s been a busy 20 years,” he laughs.
However, in 2009, his situation changed. “I was sitting on top of the corporate world, and then, overnight, I found myself unemployed,” he recounts. “You go from running to meetings day-in and day-out, to suddenly spending your weekdays walking your dog and picking kids up at school. It’s a humbling experience and somewhat disorienting.”
Ken turned to his local Federation. His family had always donated to the Annual Campaign, and he had never imagined that he would one day be on the receiving end of Federation services. “While one frequently sees people struggling around them, you unfortunately only develop a true sense of empathy once you find yourself in similar shoes. You quickly realize that there are other Jewish families such as yours experiencing similar trials and tribulations.”
With some trepidation, Ken began attending Federation programs designed for unemployed businesspeople like himself. He soon shed his fears, though, and the programs formed a new foundation for his life. “It reorients you,” he says. “You realize that you’re in good company with other very smart, accomplished, successful businesspeople who have simply found themselves out of luck during hard times.”
Ken speaks about his situation cheerfully. “I’m in real estate development, so I have to always have a positive outlook,” he says. Being less busy has given him a chance to spend more time with his family. “I was one of the few fathers who did not miss a single one of my son’s junior varsity basketball games at school last season,” he brags. “That will be remembered more by my son in years to come than me building just another building.” It has also allowed him to explore his Jewish roots.
Indeed, Ken has come to view his business setbacks as the force that brought him closer to his Judaism. “When everything is going smoothly, the depth of your spirituality isn’t necessarily at the level that it could be,” he says. “Whenever I look back upon hard times, I always appreciate them because I grew as an individual and sometimes came closer to my faith as a result.”
Ken and his wife make an effort to raise their sons with the lessons of their father’s struggle. “As parents, it’s our duty to expose them to environments and people that are less fortunate than themselves,” he says emphatically. “We have to give them a sense of empathy for others who are in need. One never knows when it might be themselves, friends, or loved ones who find themselves in a tough situation.”
They encourage their children to focus on interpersonal relationships and building a strong Jewish character base. “While it’s very important to have high goals to work towards, you don’t want to achieve them at the expense of connecting with people and being out of touch with your Jewish faith.”
Ken believes that he will soon be back at work, but when he returns, he will maintain the connections he made during his months of unemployment. “Federation has kept me connected with other positive, like-minded, spiritual Jews who offer their support and encouragement,” he says. “It just makes you feel like you’re not alone. With a little faith and with good company, we will come out of these difficult times with a new appreciation for community and Jewish Federation.”
Being ASSOCIATED is feeling like you are not alone. DONATE NOW to THE ASSOCIATED Annual Campaign>>