On February 2, 2014, tens of thousands of football fans gathered in Met Life stadium to watch the Super Bowl. They didn’t know it at the time, but two strangers in the stadium that evening (from very different walks of life) would be brought together months later due to an act of kindness and nothing short of destiny. Almost exactly six months after the Super Bowl, a man named Jeff Leb (stranger number one, pictured above) who serves as the New York Director of Political Affairs for the Orthodox Union was riding the subway on his way home from work and noticed a camera on one of the seats.
Jeff, an Orthodox Jew, lives his life trying to help others and wanted to return the camera to its owner. Jeff’s son had left his MP3 player at the Super Bowl, then much to their surprise, a complete stranger found it and mailed it back to them several weeks later. Though there is a Torah commandment (hashavas aveida) to return lost property to its owner, Jeff made the point to his son that acts of kindness are not just a Jewish thing, and that there are good people all over the world.
So it was Jeff’s Jewish values, but also the reminder of the returned MP3 player that motivated him to grab the camera that evening and pay it forward. First Jeff called the MTA to find out if they had a lost and found policy, but they were not able to help him. So being the resourceful guy he is, Jeff uploaded a few of the pictures from the camera onto his Facebook profile with the following message:
“DO YOU KNOW THESE PEOPLE??? Let’s see how well Facebook works…I found a camera with a bunch of photos on it. If anyone knows who either of these people are, please contact me so I can return it to them. Thanks.”
It is said that there are six degrees of separation between all people, but Jeff and stranger number two (a woman who turned out is an executive in a well known company and asked not to be named in the article) were a bit closer! Jeff’s friend Mayer Fertig – the OU’s chief communications offers and one of Jew in the City’s advisors – shared the photos and update on his wall (one degree) which I saw. I, in turn, shared them on my wall (two degrees), and then my best friend’s sister saw my update (three degrees) and wrote “Is this for real – this woman looks like [an executive where I work].” What Jeff imagined would be a drawn out process of sharing a photo all around the world ended up being solved in a matter of minutes!
The photo was, of course, real, and it was, in fact my friend’s sister’s boss! I wrote to Jeff with the name, he looked up her number and called the woman with the missing camera. When she got the message from her assistant that her camera found, the camera owner told me she was completely surprised. The camera itself was on the new side, but not that expensive; it was those pictures from a once in a lifetime event that were priceless.
“Everyone is so busy,” the camera owner explained, “and to think that someone would spend the time and effort to track down and help a complete stranger – well, it’s one of those things that reminds you that there are truly good people in the world.” Indeed.
There was one mystery, though, that neither Jeff, nor the camera owner, nor I have been able to solve: the camera had been left at the stadium back in February, but its owner and her husband had driven home from the game without ever stepping foot onto the subway. How and why the camera ended up six months later on a subway and in the the very car that kind-hearted Jeff Leb was riding on is something that we’ll probably never know, but perhaps it’s a reminder that there is truly a Bigger plan in the world.