Hey Rosen, where you going?” 

 “It’s my lunch hour,” Moishe explained, still on his way out [of Gart’s sporting goods store where he worked].

“No it’s not,” was the retort. “We’re too busy; we need you to cover.”  He punctuated his demand with some rather colorful language. Moishe liked and respected three of the four Gart brothers; unfortunately, this happened to be the fourth.

Moishe swallowed hard, forcing himself to remain calm. “But my wife made a special trip. She wouldn’t be here if you’d told me earlier you wanted me to work through lunch today.” 

The man shrugged. “Well, that’s too blank bad.”

None of the other brothers used language like that in the store, much less in front of a lady…. Moishe barely concealed his anger as he announced once again that he was going to lunch.

“If you do,” the other growled, “don’t bother coming back—you’re fired.” 

Moishe put a protective arm around his young wife and left without another word.

They walked to their favorite lunch stop: Joe “Awful” Coffee’s—where the coffee wasn’t awful …

“You don’t have to worry, you know,” he told [Ceil] reassuringly, as they slid into their favorite booth. “I’ll start looking for another job right away.”

“I’m not worried.” She tried to match his optimistic tone….

In fact, Moishe already had an idea of the kind of work he wanted to do…. He had heard a radio interview in which [a man] … insisted that until a person had worked with his hands, he was not worthy to be considered a philosopher.

After lunch, [Moishe] went home and … began poring over the classified section of the newspaper. He purposely avoided sales opportunities in favor of manual labor. Before long, … Moishe got [a carpenter’s assistant] position…. Six weeks into the job his boss shook his head sadly and said, “Rosen I never seen anybody work so hard and fail so badly. I hate to do this, but I won’t be able to use you after this week.”

Next he tried driving a truck. That job ended on the very first day—when the boss asked to see his social security card and driver’s license…. It had never occurred to Moishe to get a license because he had no car.

…One after another, Moishe attempted a series of jobs for which he was ill-suited…. [He finally] decided that respect for manual labor was all very well, but doing work he was actually good at was even better. When a friend mentioned that the Fairmount Cemetery had an opening for a sales manager, Moishe called and made an appointment for an interview….

Moishe answered the questions put to him confidently, and felt relieved as the interviewer nodded his satisfaction. “You can run the operation however you see fit, as long as sales remain up,” the interviewer explained. “You seem very well qualified; the job is yours if you want it.” Moishe wanted it.

Moishe’s membership at Trinity Baptist Church had brought him into contact with several luminaries from Denver Seminary (then called Conservative Baptist Seminary in Denver), including Dr. Vernon Grounds, who, at that time was the dean.1 Dr. Grounds had shown himself a friend to Moishe, and through him, Moishe learned that many seminary students needed part-time work. He was welcome to come visit the seminary if he wished. Moishe felt that ministers-in-training would be sensitive in caring for bereaved customers. He visited the seminary and recruited his entire sales team from the student body.

It was the kind of move he would later refer to as “convergence” because it brought together multiple purposes. It provided compassionate care for his customers and it helped the theological students cover their school and personal expenses.

Selling burial plots wasn’t nearly as much fun as selling cameras, but Moishe did well at it—and the sales job at Fairmount Cemetery turned out to be an important, if brief, chapter in his life. One of the men he hired from the seminary helped him to take the next step in his call to ministry … a step that would help prepare him to change the face of Jewish missions.

Footnote:

  1. Dr. Grounds later became the president of the seminary.