I have the pleasure of knowing many, many good people. I also have the incredible good fortune of knowing some really GREAT people. One of those, my dear friend Alan B. Slifka, passed from this world just before shabbat.
In Jewish mythology, one of my favorites is the notion of the Lamadvavnik, the 36 Righteous people who keep the world world moving forward. Without a doubt Alan was one of those 36, one of those people who can see the whole and the details within, and work to bring harmony to our lives.
Lamadvavnik is the Yiddishism of One of the 36. The idea of 36 is 18 (life in Jewish numerology) X 2, or life X2, or two lives. You see, a true lamadvavnik knows that alone we are nothing, not even really alive. Life as we know is only possible when we relate to the other, when there are two lives. Thus 36.
Alan lived this concept with his every moment, it was the bedrock of his character. Alan lived to bring the lives together, around the globe. But he did it all with such a sense of joy, of love for life and his fellow person. It is no wonder that amongst the many many incredible projects Alan created is the Big Apple Circus, which is all about joy. I never had a meeting or even a moment with Alan without a joke, a broad smile, often laughing together.
I first met Alan 12 years ago at a Jewish Funders Network conference. He had already accomplished more than than a minyan of his peers, both in for-profit business and philanthropy, but he connected to me on such a deep human level, and I was all of 30, very raw and inexperienced. One time I attended an event at his house in Easthampton, and he was such a gracious host, making each person feel completely at home. And then at the end of a long intensive day Alan's main concern was to find a way to get me as quickly as possible back to my family (he literally help up a plane for me, returned my rental car for me, gevalt what a mensch).
Alan became one of my mentors, teachers, friends, and business partners. Alan was 81 when he was taken from us -- we needed him for another 81 years. I only hope Alan made sure someone took his place as one of the 36 Righteous -- now that I think for a moment, I am sure he did. He cared so much about us, at all times. May his memory be a blessing to us all.
(below is the formal obituary as appeared in the NY Times. see request of family for donations)
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