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Bumps on the Road

Today they’re household names, but it started with a leap of faith: “I’ve learned to ignore the doubters who say, “If others, smarter than you could not achieve this, why should you try?”

I

was involved in politics as far back as I can remember. I’d worked as a lobbyist and for several political campaigns, but I’d never thought of doing klal work, certainly not for the yeshivos.

What changed was that together with a friend, I was looking to start a low-cost high school in Silver Spring, Maryland. We saw tuition costs spiralling out of control, and we poured our energies into raising money and hiring a principal. After all that, though, there was not enough registration and not enough funding, and the school couldn’t open.

I was in shul right after that disappointment, and someone remarked to me how admirable it was that we had tried that venture. He said, “Why don’t you use politics and advocacy work to improve school choice issues, to bring tuition relief and other services and benefits to kids?”

I took him at his word and went for it.

One of my first successful projects was bringing busing to Silver Spring. It had never happened, and there was this mindset of, “This can’t happen, because if it could, it would have happened already.” But with a lot of siyata d’Shmaya and hard work, it happened. I’ll never forget seeing the kids, including my own children, get on those buses on the first day. It was like a dream come true, saving parents commuting costs and heartache. One parent told me it gave him hope that change for the better could happen.

 

After a year though, the transportation fell apart again, but after that, we saw we could achieve something from nothing, and we never looked back.

I’ve learned to ignore the doubters, the cynics, and the pessimists, who say, “If others, smarter than you could not achieve this, why should you try?” That attitude prevents a lot of good things from happening. You have to go forward, believe in your cause, and let even failure open doors for you.

Maury Litwack, director of state political affairs at the Orthodox Union and a critical member of the OU-Teach NYS team, has close to two decades of public policy and political experience. Prior to working with the OU, he served as a policy staffer for two members of Congress.

 

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 830)

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