A Change Of Heart
By Sholom Kramer

The brothers, Rabbis Shmuel and Sholom Gurevitz, shluchim in Lyons, France, made a dinner for the mosdos Torah and chesed they had established in their city. They considered what gimmick they could use that would set their dinner apart, and decided to show video clips of participants at the dinner and the donors appearing before the Rebbe for "dollars." The idea was original and uplifting. None of the guests or their families could remain indifferent at the sight of themselves or their father standing before the Rebbe.

When the portion of the video showing Mr. Alain Saban, one of the biggest donors, was shown, as he stood before the Rebbe, who blessed him with "l’hakamas beis ha’seifer" (establishing the school), he was particularly affected. He asked to be allowed to go up to the podium and tell of his experiences with the Rebbe.

This is the story Alain Saban told:

We are a happy family, myself and my wife and daughter. We had whatever we wanted. But then one day my wife fell ill. I traveled to the Rebbe, and during "dollars" I asked for a blessing for my wife. The Rebbe gave me a dollar and then another dollar, saying, "For the school you will establish."

How did the Rebbe know about that? The Friday before, my friend Rabbi Sholom Gurevitz told the Rebbe’s secretary, Rabbi Leibel Groner, that I was building a giant hotel in Lyons which would also serve as a school for hotel management. It was 5748, which the Rebbe had declared as Shnas HaBinyan (the Year of Construction), and in the spirit of that special year I decided to build a huge building.

Afterwards, the secretary told us that when he had told the Rebbe on Friday, the Rebbe looked happy and derived pleasure from the news. The Rebbe gave me a bracha for the new hotel and I was about to leave, when the Rebbe said, "When you open the hotel, make sure to place mezuzos on every doorway."

With this blessing from the Rebbe, I immediately made preparations for the hotel management school together with the magnificent hotel. It was no small job, and it took years of work before it was completed.

For the opening ceremony, I invited all the distinguished personalities of Nice, the city where the hotel had been built. The tables were laden with delicacies, and everyone waited in anticipation for the official opening. I was waiting patiently for my two special guests before the ceremony would begin.

Finally the two people came in. They were Chassidim with beards wearing sirtuks and black hats. Everybody looked at them in surprise, trying to figure out how they belonged at this event. The guests were mystified to see me greet the two warmly and announce, "The guests arrived and now we can begin."

I continued: "I didn’t open my school and hotel without the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s blessing. He told me to put mezuzos on every room, and I was waiting for his representatives here in France. I asked them to come to the grand opening and to place the mezuzos on the main entranceways." And that’s how the hotel opened with mezuzos on every doorpost.

* * *

Years went by. The hotel was deep in debt and had to declare bankruptcy. The losses were in the millions, much of which had not belonged to me, but were funds that had been borrowed from various banks and businessmen. At that time I knew that after the bankruptcy they wouldn’t see their money again, and that hurt me more than anything else. I am an upstanding person, not a cheat.

Government authorities suspected that the business had gone bankrupt after fraud had been committed. They appointed a special auditor to ascertain whether the business had legitimately failed due to human error and bad luck or because of embezzlement of funds. This assessment was most unpleasant. I knew I hadn’t stolen or even taken an extra penny, but I was extremely nervous, for who knew whether the auditor or the court would be convinced of my honesty and integrity.

As time passed, my fears proved justified. I was called to various meetings at the auditor’s office, and was asked to answer questions hinting at the direction the auditor was leading – which was bad for me. The auditor produced a report saying that based on his findings, I had embezzled money. Things got really unpleasant, to say the least. I had to prove that I hadn’t embezzled any money. My family united with me and did what they could to help. They all prayed for my health and for a successful conclusion to the matter.

Things got even worse. My house was confiscated and sold. My parents quickly bought it back so that I wouldn’t enter a bottomless depression, as the doctors warned would happen.

* * *

The day of the auditor’s decision had arrived. His final decision was almost certain. That day, I sat in my office and waited for him to come in order to hear his decision.

When he entered the office I saw him stand and gaze upon the mezuza in the doorway. He looked at it for a while and then entered. My office contained many pictures of myself and various senior officials in the French government, including the president of France. There were also certificates of appreciation and professional certificates attesting to my fine reputation in the hotel business. In the center, among all the pictures and certificates, was a huge picture of me receiving a dollar from the Rebbe.

The auditor looked at this picture for some time, and only then sat down in the chair facing me, and began detailing his summation. I sat and trembled, knowing that it was almost a certainty that I would soon be officially informed that I had lost my enormous investment.

But as soon as the auditor began speaking, instead of criticizing my handling of the business, he began speaking in my defense. He said that a number of odd circumstances and mistakes made by an inexperienced hotel owner had caused problems which led to a further chain of mishaps. Furthermore, in a tedious presentation he explained his findings and concluded that there was still a chance to save the business. He would request the government to lend me a huge sum of money to start the ball rolling again.

I was flabbergasted, as were my family and friends. I could only thank G-d for the unexpected miracle He had done for me. I had only one question: What made the auditor change his mind? I just had to know, so I asked him: "Tell me please, since everybody expected a bad report from you regarding my role in the business, what made you change your mind?"

The auditor looked at me and replied: "This morning, before coming here to give you my decision, I walked to the different floors of the hotel and noticed something interesting. I saw a mezuza on every door.

"I am Jewish. Before the war, my wife and I lived in Austria, and by the skin of our teeth we managed to flee the anti-Semitism and the tragedy to follow. We somehow made it through the war and then arrived in France. We decided to change our way of life so that nobody would know we were Jewish. We hid our being Jewish as much as we could.

"When I saw the mezuzos, I knew what they were. I remembered them well, though I thought a mezuza is to be put on the front door and maybe in another important room or two, and that’s it. Here I was seeing a mezuza on every single door on hundreds of rooms in this hotel, knowing full well that this wasn’t your personal home! I figured that a person so particular about mezuzos couldn’t possibly be a fraud and a thief.

"I came to the main office where you sit and do business. I noticed that every doorway in the office has a mezuza. I also saw a picture of a rabbi, and could see that he is a holy man. I knew only one thing – I had to return to my Jewish roots."

* * *

"From that point on, the path to complete teshuva was short," concluded Mr. Saban emotionally. "I merited two miracles. First, the Rebbe saw the future, forseeing what would happen and advising me to put a mezuza on every door of my hotel. Second, the Rebbe saved a Jewish couple from assimilation and brought them back to Judaism.

"Another miracle happened, in that since then I have established a chain of hotels all over Europe, all because of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of course!"


I could only thank G-d for the unexpected miracle He had done for me. I had only one question: What made the auditor change his mind?


Home | Contents | Archives | Interactive |Contact Chat | Advertise

©Copyright. No content may be reprinted without permission.