Joe Biden, Mensch

June 25, 2020

Joe Biden’s campaign is sharing personal stories about Biden — this one was shared originally in September 2019. It’s a way to get to know him, and to show his character (or lack of it).

This one, you should read. It’s the Joe Biden I met first in 1974, and the Biden I know him to be. But I hadn’t heard this story before.

I Know Joe Biden: Rabbi Michael Beals

The story I’m about to share with you about Joe Biden is special — in fact, I’m fairly certain I’m the only living person left who actually witnessed it firsthand.

It was about 16 years ago, and I was a young rabbi, brand-new to Delaware, on my way to lead a shiva minyan — a worship service following a death of a Jewish person. I was from California. Back then, I didn’t know Claymont, Delaware from Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Rabbi Michael Beals and Vice President Joe Biden

A quick bit of background: When someone passes away in the Jewish faith, we observe seven days of mourning, called shiva. We gather a group of ten Jewish adults together — a minyan — to say the Mourners’ Kaddish. It usually happens in a person’s home — somewhere intimate.

In this case, the deceased individual — her name was Mrs. Greenhouse, of blessed memory — had not been a person of means. She had lived in rent-controlled senior housing in a tall high-rise building off of Namaans Road. Her apartment had been too small to fit everyone into, so we conducted our worship service in the building’s communal laundry room, in the basement of the high-rise.

We assembled the ten elders together, and it was in this most humble of places that I began to lead the kaddish. Toward the end of the service, a door at the back of the laundry room opened, and who walks in but Senator Joe Biden, his head lowered, all by himself.

I nearly dropped my prayer book in shock.

Senator Biden stood quietly in the back of the room for the duration of the service.

At the close of the kaddish, I walked over to him and asked the same question that must have been on everyone else’s mind: “Senator Biden — what are you doing here?”

And he said to me: “Listen, back in 1972, when I first ran for Senate, Mrs. Greenhouse gave $18 to my first campaign. Because that’s what she could afford. And every six years, when I’d run for reelection, she’d give another $18. She did it her whole life. I’m here to show my respect and gratitude.”

Now, the number 18 is significant in the Jewish faith — its numbers spell out the Hebrew word chai, as in “to life, to life, l’chayim!” But it’s also a humble amount. Joe Biden knew that. And he respected that.

There were no news outlets at our service that day — no Jewish reporters or important dignitaries. Just a few elderly mourners in a basement laundry room.

Joe Biden didn’t come to that service for political gain. He came to that service because he has character. He came to that service because he’s a mensch.

And if we need anything right now when it comes to the leadership of our country — we need a mensch.

I know this is such a simple, small story. But I tell it to as many people as will listen to me.

Because I think that, in their heart of hearts, when people are trying to think about the decision they’ll make next year — this is the kind of story that matters.

Joe Biden is a mensch. We need a mensch.

Thanks for reading.

– Rabbi Michael Beals of Delaware

This article was first published by the Biden campaign on Medium, I think. This is the earliest version I’ve found. It’s been excerpted on Twitter, for example by Stanley Krute, and probably on other platforms, too.

I know of no similar story about Donald Trump. Do you?

What they’re saying about our 2 millionth Eagle

June 19, 2009

St. Paul Pioneer Press ran an article today on Anthony Thomas of Lakeville, Minnesota, the Scout designated the 2 millionth Eagle Scout.

Caption from the St. Paul, Minnesota, Pioneer Press:  Anthony Thomas, 16, of Lakeville, will encourage other Scouts to work towards the Eagle rank. (Pioneer Press: JOHN DOMAN)

Caption from the St. Paul, Minnesota, Pioneer Press: Anthony Thomas, 16, of Lakeville, will encourage other Scouts to work towards the Eagle rank. (Pioneer Press: JOHN DOMAN)

In a sort of luck-of-the-draw deal, Thomas has been named Scouting’s national youth ambassador for Scouting’s 100th anniversary in 2010.  He’s scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama, to ride in the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, and for dozens of other less well-known affairs.

On Wednesday, he helped Northern Star Council celebrate the opening of a new Scout Camp, at Fort Snelling, Minnesota.

It was a special day, according to coverage at Northern Star Council’s website:

History was made as Thomas was introduced as the BSA’s two millionth Eagle by Minnesota State leaders. Making the presentation were Associate Justice Christopher Dietzen, Representative Kate Knuth and Representative Cy Thao.  Each shared their reflections on the importance of Scouting in their lives and then read a Proclamation from Governor Pawlenty declaring June 17 as “2 Millionth Eagle Scout Day” in Minnesota.

Scouting began awarding Eagle badges in 1912 — Thomas Eldred was the first Eagle.  The 1 millionth Eagle was awarded in 1982, 70 years later.  It’s been 27 years for the second million.  About 100 million boys are or were Boy Scouts since 1910.

You’d think this news would be a bigger deal.  Why isn’t this news going farther, faster?

Send this to your local newspapers and television stations — ask them to make a note of Thomas’s achievement, to encourage local kids.

More news stories:

Other resources:

Taxis to the past, and the future

May 30, 2008

Bill Howdle lives, for a while longer anyway, in Manitoba. He’s got heart disease and a brain tumor, which explain the name of his blog, Dying man’s daily journal.

He used to drive a taxi. One woman was grateful he did.

That story is well worth the time to read it. Click on the link. After all, each of us is dying. We might learn something.

Top story for Teacher Appreciation Week: Student donates kidney to teacher

May 10, 2008

I got some very nice cards, especially those that were hand made, from the heart.  I got a candy bar when I really needed it.

This woman got a kidney from a former student.  How could you top that?

In Elwood, Indiana, former student Angie Collins saved Darren Paquin’s life.  What did he teach her, besides English?

Marriage rights and civil rights giant, Mildred Loving, 68

May 5, 2008

We learned today that Mildred Loving died Friday in Milford, Virginia.  She was 68.

2007 was the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court Decision in which she played a key role, Loving vs. Virginia. In that decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state laws against interracial marriage are unconstitutional.

The romance and marriage of Mildred and Richard Loving demonstrate the real human reasons behind advances in civil rights laws.  They left Virginia to avoid facing prosecution for having gotten married; but when they wanted to be closer to family, they wrote to then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. He referred them to the American Civil Liberties Union, who financed the case to get the law changed.

Richard and Mildred Loving, screen capture photo from HBO documentary,

Richard and Mildred Loving, screen capture photo from HBO documentary, “The Loving Story.”

See the post from last year on the anniversary of the decision. The Associated Press wrote today:

Peggy Fortune [daughter] said Loving, 68, died Friday at her home in rural Milford. She did not disclose the cause of death.

“I want (people) to remember her as being strong and brave yet humble — and believed in love,” Fortune told The Associated Press.

Loving and her white husband, Richard, changed history in 1967 when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld their right to marry. The ruling struck down laws banning racially mixed marriages in at least 17 states.

“There can be no doubt that restricting the freedom to marry solely because of racial classifications violates the central meaning of the equal protection clause,” the court ruled in a unanimous decision.

Her husband died in 1975. Shy and soft-spoken, Loving shunned publicity and in a rare interview with The Associated Press last June, insisted she never wanted to be a hero — just a bride.

“It wasn’t my doing,” Loving said. “It was God’s work.”

Mildred Jeter was 11 when she and 17-year-old Richard began courting, according to Phyl Newbeck, a Vermont author who detailed the case in the 2004 book, “Virginia Hasn’t Always Been for Lovers.”

Richard died in 1975.

History loses another hero.

Update: Just as one more showing of how things have changed, this is the headline of the story of Mrs. Loving’s death in the Fredericksburg, Virginia, Free Lance-Star, the local newspaper in Mrs. Loving’s home county, Caroline County:  “CAROLINE HEROINE DIES

I’ll wager the Virginia headlines were quite not so glowing in 1967.

Cubs’ Rick Monday saved the American flag

April 29, 2008

Odds are high that readers of any blog are too young to remember. Heck, I’d forgotten about it until Matthew Tabor reminded me.

April 25, 1976: Rick Monday, center fielder for the Chicago Cubs, saved the U.S. flag.

Rick Monday snatches the U.S. flag from burning

Get the story from Tabor’s blog. He offers credits to

Major League Baseball was kind enough to preserve the story, which you may watch below.


Debunking the Nigerian scam, with grace and compassion

March 30, 2008

This person should be a diplomat; when I am a fool, I hope someone will puncture my balloon with as much wit, grace and caring.

Oh, yeah — it’s another story about librarians, wouldn’t you know?

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