I recently traveled to Washington and had the unique honor and opportunity to be a part of the White House Community Leaders Briefing. During the 10 hours of packed meetings, a group of community organizers, not-for-profit directors, elected officials, and other leaders from around the country joined together in unity for a series of meetings at The White House. We had the chance to introduce ourselves, our organizations, and the communities we represent to senior members of the Administration.
Our day started with sessions in the White House Conference Center on Jackson Place, in the cramped rooms where so many huddles and discussions that affect our lives are made. With my focus on economic development, I made sure to schedule time with Deputy and Assistant Administrators at the Small Business Administration and other agencies and departments that focus on job creation and support for small business. Throughout the day, we rushed from meeting to meeting, but I had the chance to have meaningful discussions in the State Dining Room, Blue, Green, and East Rooms, and the chance to shake hands and even hug the leaders who seemed to sincerely appreciate our visit to the Capitol and that we were willing to share our community’s challenges and concerns.
Perhaps the most meaningful time for me was the time I spent alone on Shabbat. Our meetings ended just minutes before the sun set on Friday, so I took a hotel room and decided to take it easy and enjoy a peaceful walk. I have been fortunate to visit here several times in the past. Most recently, I visited with JUF’s Government Affairs committee and met with almost every member of the Illinois delegation in Congress. Senator Mark Kirk recently selected me to serve on his Small Business Advisory Board, and I always enjoy the chance to be heard. This time, I was unrushed and visited all of the sites and historical monuments, like the World War II reflecting pond, Lincoln Memorial, and the towering Washington Monument. These are all symbols of what makes our country great, especially when you see the different people that come together to visit, commemorate, and share the experience with families. I enjoyed chatting with people from around the country, including those from my hometown of Skokie.
My feet kept walking, as my mind was racing, thinking about the strength of our community when we can stand together—much like the visitors from around the world, who came together in appreciation of our great nation. As a child, I was taught that the highest form of charity is helping a fellow human being earn their own livelihood, and I have tried to work toward that goal in a grassroots effort by developing an organization to address the growing needs of unemployment and underemployment in our community. To my knowledge, at least 78 people are now employed and millions of dollars in business are being transacted thanks to our grassroots efforts in trying to “connect the dots”. During my visit to the White House, I discovered that there is no way to escape the partisan bickering, but the support is there when we come together on issues of mutual interest and importance.
There are many opportunities to get involved and be a part of the greater good—the community. I am proud of my involvement in and support for the tremendous resources and organizations we have in Chicago, including JUF. JVS Chicago helps thousands of people annually, helping people fine tune their skills to get back into the workplace. Next month, Jewish B2B Networking and the Small Business Advocacy Council are hosting a small business and employment expo for 2,500 networkers, 100 vendors, and 30 employers. I am inviting our community to come together in a show of force at The Business Event on August 25. Let’s put aside all that separates us, and focus on all that unites us—there is strength in numbers and in a united community.
Shalom Klein is vice president at MKA Receivables, a small business collection agency, based in Skokie, IL. Shalom is a tireless networker and has founded Jewish B2B Networking, Inc., which plans and hosts many events for small businesses all around the Midwest region. He is also the Publisher of Jewish Business News Magazine, a small business publication which distributes fifteen thousand copies to over 300 locations around the Chicagoland area.