March 6, 2006
It is my distinct pleasure and a great delight to be here. Through your generosity, you have given me an opportunity to perform a great mitsvah. I am here among, and with fellow Nigerians, who are the happy beneficiaries and recipients, of your altruism and benevolence.
American Jewish Council has been engaged in the service of humanity for about one hundred years, American Jewish Council has during this period been very active in the advocacy for and in the provision of common good, public good, for both Jews and non-Jews.
It is public knowledge that Jews were actively involved in the formation of Civil Right Organizations in America, established to fight bigotries and hatreds, anti-Semitism and racism etc. The active participation of Jews in the advocacy for civil rights for all, are historical facts that are well known.
We also know the good works of Jewish organizations that have endeared Israel to Americans and the world, Nigerians in the Diaspora will like to play such laudable roles for Nigeria and even all of Africa.
Slavery and the Holocaust are adjudged the worst tragedies and catastrophes in human history. Jews in America have been involved in public enlightenments regarding the issues surrounding bigotry and hate. We Nigerians, here present would like to follow in your giant footsteps in these and other respects.
On a personal level, I have had the opportunity to observe closely, learn and benefit, from Jewish traditions. As a matter of fact, some of my first jobs here in New York were with Jewish Organizations, including Synagogue and Torah Centers on Ocean Parkway and Avenue S, as well as another one on Eastern Parkway and Kingston Avenue.
Thereafter, I was again, employed by the Jewish Board of Family and Children Services which is headquartered at 120 West 57th Street, near Carnegie Hall; The Jewish Board provided a plethora of wonderful services to the Jewish community and all New Yorkers.
At the time, Ms. Diana Torres a member of the minority community here in New York, she was the Human Resources Director, doing the hiring, and being the head of a very diverse workforce at the Jewish Board.
Best practices of diversity, does not get any better than what I saw there.
There were employees of various and every ethnic background. That is saying a lot, especially considering that the Jewish Board is a private community organization!
There were services for the blind, the physically challenged, and those with substance abuse issues or challenges. The Jewish Board provided many, many services to all residents of our great city, New York City, which is an assemblage of countries of the world
While so employed with the Jewish Board, I was exposed to this sense of care for others, among Jews, and I came to observe and recognize Jewish traditions that nurtures and sustains the Jewish experience worldwide.
I particularly admire your sense of community, and I have hoped then, that I will be able to replicate Jewish public spirited works that I experienced first-hand.
I remember writing to the Jewish Board, a note of appreciation, in which I mentioned how I wished, that I could replicate such lofty services and programs, in the Nigerian community, in the African American community, and to all residents of New York city and to all of America, Nigeria or the rest of the world, as is being undertaken by the Jewish Board.
I could not have predicted then, and little did I know then, that I will be taking that step today, and my participation here in this workshop or seminar, are in efforts to garner the knowledge and methods, from veterans of service to the public; That knowledge and methods, that enables Jewish Organizations and community, to have positive impact on many lives of Jews and non-Jews.
I did not know then that this golden opportunity would arise today! And it has!
Now, because of the sundry experiences with your community, particularly, the American Jewish Council for Nigerian community representatives here gathered, I feel like a part of your family, and I feel like we are mispacha.
Nigerians here present, now have the knowledge and support of your organization, to provide social services to the Nigerian community here in North America.
American Jewish Council has, an established tradition of doing public good for common good; Nigerians here have during this seminar or workshop, benefited from YOUR wealth of knowledge and experience
And we promise you that we will pass the tradition along between ourselves and to future generations of Nigerians and others.
You have unleashed a good thing. You are creating international understanding, which is the basis for world peace. Your good works are weapons, more powerful than weapons of mass destruction.
I urge Nigerians and Jews worldwide, (but particularly, Nigerians and Jews) in this gathering, I urge you to become engaged in the Jewish tradition of public spirited works for common good, works and workers that never asks for personal benefits. Works and workers that never require us to ask the question, what is in it for me?
And to our host in particular, we promise you, that we will replicate your good deeds in the pursuit of a better New York City, a better America, and indeed, a better world for all.
To the fellow Nigerians who have participated in these events, I say congratulations! And to our Jewish friends, I say, Mazel-Tovfor a job well done! Keep up the good works!
LeChaim (to life)
On behalf of Nigeria, on behalf of our peoples (Jews and Nigerians that is) Todah Rabah! (I thank you very much.)
Additional note: Please note that the seminar was attended by Nigerians from all corners of the United States, Canada and Brazil