OK, I admit it. I like the flexibility of being a freelancer, even if it costs me the full 15.3% FICA. But every so often, I have an experience that makes me wish I could be a full-time insider instead of a part-time outsider. This has nothing to do with employee benefits, and everything to do with synergy and a man named Anthony Lugo.
The synergy I experienced most recently was created at an OU luncheon where employees gathered to eat, listen to words of inspiration, and honor those with service records at or beyond 25 years. One of the quarter-centurions who was asked to step up to the microphone and share a few personal sentiments made the claim that he’d never been asked to speak publicly before. Despite this lack of opportunity, he succeeded in bringing the crowd to their feet with tears of laughter and thunderous applause.
Anthony Lugo, who began working in his youth as a part-time envelope stuffer, has been a dedicated employee of the Orthodox Union for over 28 years. But here’s the rub; he’s not Jewish and so he often brings a completely unique and humorous perspective to the OU’s work environment. According to Anthony:
“On my first week here, about 10,276 days ago, an older woman tripped in the hallway. I immediately rushed forward and caught her before she fell and hit the floor. For some reason she was upset by this and yelled, ‘Let go!’ So…I dropped her! And afterwords I thought to myself, ‘This place is crazy, there’s no way I’m staying on this job.’ And you know what? You guys ARE crazy!”
Anthony stands by his statement that OU personnel are crazy, but only in the best sense; as he went on to explain:
“You’re all crazy about your families. On Saturdays, you get together, share a meal, nobody kills anybody, and you do it all over again the next week! It’s crazy! And you’re crazy about your kids. You do everything you can to prepare them for the future. I’ve lost track of all the degrees earned by so many of your children. You’re crazy about your customs. 5,771 years and not one cheese burger, that’s crazy too! You’re crazy about tradition. Twenty-eight years and I’ve never been asked to work on a Saturday, not once! You look out for each other. You’re a great example to other communities. I look at the way you dress and I tell my teenage daughter, ‘it’s so much better than what you see on MTV!’ So, yeah, you guys are definitely crazy. And I hope after all this time, a little bit of it has rubbed off on me.”
Anthony lives in North Bergen with his wife and two children. The warmth and respect between Anthony and his professional colleagues is mutual. Executive Vice President Rabbi Steve Weil’s response was equally affectionate and candid, “Anthony, we look forward to the next 10,000 days!”
Despite the fact that I’m continuing to tough it out as a freelancer, I’ve finally figured out a way to experience the synergy vicariously; Rabbi Weil is now capturing it on a regular basis with a blog that’s publicly accessible on the OU’s newly re-designed website. To share the OU’s synergy yourself, simply visit: Rabbi Steven Weil’s Blog.
But back to the subject of cheeseburgers, I keep thinking about that particular observation. 5771 years without one might seem crazy to lots of folks for sure. But then again Anthony, I suppose that’s why your favorite employer offers a unique compensation package: Since 1923 they’ve established the world’s largest agency for kashrut certification. If you don’t eat cheeseburgers the options are still pretty amazing… the OU has over half a million other food products to choose from. Stick around another 10,276 days, Anthony. One can only imagine the possibilities!
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.