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Enduring Imprint

Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz’s “ArtScroll Revolution” overhauled Torah literature, but he believed anyone can do big things if they’re open to hearing the call

 

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 (Photos: Amir Levy Family archives)

 

“D on’t use the word visionary” admonished Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz. His tone was cautionary but his eyes were laughing. “We’re not visionaries. We’re regular people trying to make the most of the opportunities HaKadosh Baruch Hu gave us.”

A year and a half ago he and his partner Rabbi Nosson Scherman yblcht”a finally allowed me to come in for an on-the-record conversation in honor of ArtScroll’s 40th anniversary.

I wasn’t sure it could work and I shared my reservations with Rabbi Zlotowitz.

“Look let’s be honest ” I said. “You’re used to being in charge but this article is for us the story we want to tell. What if you’re not happy?”

He met my gaze. “Are you saying I’m a control freak?”

There was a moment’s uncomfortable silence and then he burst out in delighted laughter.

“Okay fine you control the article. But remember we’re not visionaries. Anyone can do big things if they’re open to hearing the call.”

It wasn’t a sound bite but an attitude.

Rabbi Chaim Zev Malinowitz is a longtime writer and editor of ArtScroll’s Shas project but the first time he came to the downtown Brooklyn office to meet the administration he got lost. It was the era before GPS and Waze; he drove through the unfamiliar streets near Second Avenue and then suddenly the building appeared in front of him.

He parked and came into the lobby where Reb Meir greeted him.

“Reb Chaim I see you made it ” Rabbi Zlotowitz remarked.

“Yes ” Rabbi Malinowitz said “but I have no idea how I got here. Hashem led me here.”

Reb Meir didn’t hesitate. “Reb Chaim none of us understands how we got here but Hashem
led us and here we are.”

He Never Forgot

Rabbi Zlotowitz’s sudden passing last Shabbos at age 73 was all the more shocking because there are certain people who you just assume will be around forever — continuing to create projects of immeasurable importance for the Jewish People. Rabbi Zlotowitz’s “ArtScroll Revolution” was just that — a transformation and overhaul of the presentation and availability of Torah literature in English and Hebrew.

After spending his formative years learning in Mesivta Tiferes Yerushalayim (MTJ) where he became a close talmid of Rav Moshe Feinstein Reb Meir became director of a high-end graphics business called ArtScroll Studios which produced brochures invitations and illuminated kesubos.

He was 32 years old when he unsuspectingly lit a match that would ignite the world. It seems young but as he himself reflected it wasn’t really that young — it’s an age by which many people have already made peace with their destiny accepted that their current reality defines them. They think it’s too late to live bigger.

And part of Rabbi Zlotowitz’s greatness — what made time spent with him so precious — was that he never forgot who he was back then when as he expressed it “My life was about stressed out mechutanim screaming that the invitations were late.”

That first venture back in 1975 was the famous Megillas Esther a project he’d undertaken to honor a friend who’d passed away young. (The friend was named Mair Fogel and in last year’s article Reb Meir was insistent that I spell the name correctly the way his friend spelled it. The person was real the tribute was real and the story had to be retold with precision.) As Purim was a few months away he decided to write an English translation and commentary on Megillas Esther as a tribute and asked Rabbi Nosson Scherman — who was principal of Yeshiva Karlin Stolin in Boro Park and was also a talented and eloquent writer — to write the introduction. It sold out its first edition of 20 000 copies within two months.

And it was that project that launched a lifetime of being megaleh the hester revealing the obscure and the covered opening up the world of Tanach Mishnayos Shas Midrash and meforshim to a new generation. It would expand into historical works and novels and cookbooks and a thousand other titles and genres — each one rooted in authentic hashkafah professionally produced and attractively presented.

It’s All a Zechus In the article we ran last year, there was one point Rabbi Zlotowitz very much wanted mentioned. He’d approached a potential donor about sponsoring the Shas project — and after much deliberation, the philanthropist was advised not to go ahead with it.

“I was very upset, but I remembered something Rav Moshe Feinstein had told me when a different donor had backed away from a project: Rav Moshe said that the first gentleman simply didn’t have the zechus. Someone else will.”

This was a central theme to his life, the attitude that fueled his accomplishments: It’s all a zechus. Opportunities are a gift. One who gets to make a difference is blessed, and he wanted that stressed.

One of the great paradoxes of Rabbi Zlotowitz is that he was quite literally a household name, as the product he’d conceived and developed was found in every house — but the larger-than-life persona gave way to the most delightful, down-to-earth, friendly, wise man in private. It wasn’t an inconsistency, but the opposite — it was the reflection of the regular guy with a mission to which he aspired.

He couldn’t handle pretension and was allergic to those puffed up with their own importance or relevance. He might well have been one of the most prolific disseminators of Torah in history, but he would stop a serious conversation to share a good joke and he didn’t feel a need to apologize for it.

And he had a real ayin tovah. Real in the sense that his eyes had a kind of glow when he spoke to people, especially younger people whom he was advising. For unlike many accomplished people, who gravitate to hopelessness and pessimism regarding the future of their industry, he radiated optimism and appreciation for young writers.

I have saved voice mails from him commending pieces that appeared in this magazine. I remember he once called me and suggested I subscribe to the Wall Street Journal just to read Peggy Noonan. “I think her writing can impact you in a positive way. You’ll become better because of it.”

Different projects brought me to ArtScroll headquarters over the years — not always for him, but I would always walk down the hall and pass his office. I would hope the door would be open and he’d notice me. Maybe he would call me in to schmooze. And maybe he’d even have time to invite me to sit with him at the small round table in the corner of his office.

He had a way of looking at you, a mixture of humor and love, but also expectation and challenge. Go do something with your life.

 

Let’s Schmooze

Rabbi Zlotowitz once confided to Rav Yaakov Bender that, as a young man, he’d hit a bump in the road. He was facing personal challenges and struggling with parnassah pressures, so he finally went to unburden himself to his rebbi, Rav Moshe Feinstein.

He sat in the Rosh Yeshivah’s home waiting for a chance to speak, but Rav Moshe was occupied with a halachic emergency. The harried young father sat outside, waiting, and waiting… and waiting.

Eventually it became clear that he wasn’t getting his audience that night and he headed home, disconsolate. Not enough that he was overwhelmed — was he not even entitled to share his pain?

The next day, there was a fierce snowstorm, and that evening, Reb Meir was running around his small apartment trying to put three young children to sleep. There was a ring at the lobby doorbell a few flights down. The hassled father went to see who it was.

Rav Moshe Feinstein stood there.

He came up to the apartment and took in the scene. Rav Moshe took one child, then the next, and finally the third one. He tucked each one into bed, telling them a story and kissing them good night. Then, when the house was settled, Rav Moshe looked at Reb Meir.

“Now, let’s schmooze.”

Reb Meir never forgot the difficult times. In his every invitation to chat, there was an echo of Rav Moshe’s “let’s schmooze.” Every time he waded into a situation to help someone who was down and out, to be a voice for someone who had none, he was reflecting Rav Moshe’s light.

 

I’m the Schnorrer

For the next 40 years, Reb Meir would hide behind others, deflect credit, busy himself in the back office.

I’ve never seen anything quite like his relationship with Rabbi Scherman. In his retelling, ArtScroll’s success was all about others — Rabbi Scherman’s brilliance, the graphics and production staff, the donors. “I’m a good schnorrer,” he told me. “They do the work.”

Except that it wasn’t really so. Reb Meir authored several of the volumes himself, including the annotated translations of the Five Megillos, the ArtScroll Chanukah and Succos volumes, Shema Yisrael, Pirkei Avos, and Bereishis, and had opinion and insight in all areas.

I’ve heard ArtScroll’s two leaders spar like an old married couple, Reb Nosson matching Reb Meir’s passionate conviction and self-assurance with a patient, dry wit. I asked Reb Meir how they’d gotten along for so many years.

His answer was classic, seichel and humor and truth. “Most shalom bayis problems are about money, right? And when we go out to eat, if I order kishke and Reb Nosson doesn’t, he’ll never complain. That’s why we get along.”

What he was really saying was that if you treat people right, if everyone has what they need and feels valued and able to produce, you can do great things.

He was fastidious about representing Torah with pride and distinction, immaculate in dress and comportment, precise with words and with money.

One of Reb Nosson’s grandchildren got married out of town and Reb Meir and his wife couldn’t make it to the wedding. He sent a very generous check for the new couple, well more than is customary, and explained his calculation. He should have come. He would have flown business class. The amount was the cost of the two tickets he didn’t get to buy, a reflection of respect, accuracy, and deep friendship.

 

When I Grow Up

In reviewing recent correspondence with him, so many lines jump out. Earlier this year we were in touch about a project, a book on the experiences of a great man, philanthropist Reb Benzion Fishoff, may he have a complete refuah sheleimah.

Reb Meir told me, “I love Benny. When I grow up, I want to be just like him.”

It was a funny comment, but so telling. It meant he still had role models, goals he wanted to meet — and like Mr. Fishoff, to realize them while walking the path of sweetness and peace.

Last year, when the ArtScroll article came out, he called and left a voice mail. “Thank you for making us famous,” he said in a tone that was teasing and warm and playful and incredibly farginning.

He took a certain pride in the projects from which there was no real hope of turning a profit. It started back when ArtScroll made the decision to publish Trei Asar in Nach, and they never looked back. The mission came first, and finding a way to pay the bills came second.

Many years ago, Howard Zvi Friedman was a young Baltimore businessman, involved in the publishing industry. A local foundation approached him about printing a large-type edition of the siddur and Friedman called Rabbi Zlotowitz for advice. Three days later, Reb Meir arrived in Baltimore and graciously offered to publish it, eventually doing a similar edition of the machzor.

Those projects destined to succeed in the beis medrash, but which fall short at the cash register, were what he called his “legacy.” He was always happy when ArtScroll could find ways to benefit more readers, bring Torah to the distant corners of the earth.

In recent years, he added another role, becoming an unofficial baal eitzah, the advisor to so many organizations and individuals. Just as in his own business, he was happiest behind the scenes, letting others take center stage.

Mendy Klein, a close friend and supporter, was in Israel a few months ago and as he walked into a quiet restaurant, a special sight caught his eye.

“I saw Reb Meir and his wife at a corner table, deep in conversation. They sat there for hours, just talking to each other. And that was my Rabbi Zlotowitz, the person.”

Those who knew him would recognize the scene, husband and wife engaged in real conversation. Behind the titles and publicity and impact was the person who never disappeared, that man who never got swallowed up by the legend.

A few weeks ago he took ill, but no one really knew what was wrong with him. No one really accepted that anything could be wrong with him. Too many people relied on him, needed his vitality, his chiyus, his insight, to get through the day.

Malcolm Hoenlein went to visit him last week when he was in the hospital, and Reb Meir, of course, thanked him for coming. Mr. Hoenlein’s voice fills with emotion as he recalls the exchange.

“I told him, I didn’t come for you. I came for me. I needed to see you.”

That’s the way it was with Reb Meir. He was the type of person you hoped you’d see at a simchah or event — speaking with him filled a certain void, maybe a hole you didn’t even realize was there.

 

The Words Live On

Vayivku oso kol beis Yisrael. All of them. Accomplished talmidei chachamim and high school girls and fresh baalei teshuvah and everyone in between connected with the holiest words in the world because of Rabbi Zlotowitz and his colleagues.

And then there was the man who simply preferred to be called “Meir,” and the tears fall for the person you knew was a loyal friend 30 seconds after you met him, who prodded and teased and gave you mussar for not standing straight and asked how many children you had and if you were making a living.

I wasn’t sure whether or not to include the following story, if it would appear self-aggrandizing. Forgive me if it does.

At 1:00 on Sunday, an hour before Rabbi Zlotowitz’s levayah, my phone rang. I looked at the screen in astonishment: Gedaliah Zlotowitz. An hour before his father’s funeral.

“Sruli,” he could barely speak, “I just wanted you to know my father loved you.”

And at that moment, I knew that it would continue. The work of being meir, of illuminating the world with words of Torah and words of chizuk, would live on.

Reb Gedaliah was doing exactly what his father used to do, all the time. He was seizing a moment and squeezing out its potential, encouraging, lifting up.

Reb Meir, you would speak about the ArtScroll Revolution.

But you made a different revolution as well, not with books, but with lives. You broke new ground in solving disputes, in helping the forgotten, in finding creative ways for mosdos to thrive in spite of their limited connections.

Your revolution, Reb Meir, it lives!


 

The Right Words

Rabbi Paysach Krohn

I

will always be grateful to the Ribbono shel Olam that I had one last opportunity to spend 20 minutes of private time with my dear friend and mentor, Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz, less than 24 hours before he passed away. Before my drive to the Boro Park Center Rehabilitation Home on Friday, his son Reb Gedaliah forewarned me in a text: “My father is too gentle a person, he would never tell anyone to leave, even if he was weak, so stay for only five minutes unless he tells you to stay longer.”

He did.

When I entered his room, I was surprised to see him sitting up in a chair near his bed, looking wonderful. I said, “I feel like the fellow known as Bar Bei Rav d’chad yomi — the student who traveled three months to and from his teacher just to be there for one day (Chagigah 5b). I’m traveling an hour back and forth only to be here for five minutes — but that’s fine.”

Reb Meir smiled and replied, “I once did the same thing. I got on a plane, flew to Eretz Yisrael, went to be menachem avel a supporter of ours, and then got right back on the plane and flew back to New York.”

Of course he did that. Reb Meir always did the right thing and said the right thing. He was clever, astute, perceptive, and exceptionally sensitive. I remember how he revered his late father, Rav Aaron Zlotowitz z”l (see his acknowledgments in Megillas Esther), who, aside from being a great talmid chacham, was a mohel for many years. When Reb Meir’s youngest son was born, his father was already very elderly. There was no way he could not ask his father to perform the bris, but he was a drop concerned. “Please do me a favor,” he said to me, “stand alongside him and watch that he is doing everything correctly. But don’t observe in a way that he should realize you, as a mohel, are there checking on him; just be casual so he won’t perceive your being there.” I did stand by and Rav Aaron performed the bris perfectly. Just to be doubly sure, Reb Meir asked that I come to remove the dressing the next day, which I was honored to do.

I recall as well the delicate way he spoke to my late mother, Mrs. Hindy Krohn, when she wrote her book, The Way It Was, about her childhood in Philadelphia in the ’20s and ’30s. He knew she was an almanah and thus complimented and encouraged her throughout the two years it took to put it together. Years later when my daughter Chaviva Krohn Pfeiffer wrote Maggid Stories for Children, our family became the first (and so far only) family of three generations of writers published by ArtScroll. Reb Meir, with his sterling courtesy, made sure to call my mother and laud her family.

Reb Meir could say but a few words and make you feel so special. I remember back in March 1985, I came to his house in Flatbush to pick up the first copy of my book Bris Milah. I couldn’t wait to see it. I had spent thousands of hours writing, rewriting, and reviewing various drafts of the manuscript. I was expecting a thick book of hundreds of pages.

In his kitchen, Reb Meir gave me the soft cover edition and I thought I would faint. It was so thin — not even 200 pages. I was positive that they had left out certain sections without telling me. All that work and this is all it was? I tried to keep my disappointment inside, but Reb Meir read my face. “It’s monumental,” he said, “and you’ll be so proud of it.”

I didn’t believe him then, but he was right on both counts.

ArtScroll’s Reb Shea Brander and Eli Kroen are graphic art geniuses, and though they would design the covers of my Maggid books, the final decision was always Reb Meir’s. In a discussion about graphic arts, he once told me astutely, “Anyone who says you don’t judge a book by its cover never tried to sell one.”

He was always dressed immaculately and he cared that those he loved would appear that way as well. I guess he loved me because one time he took me aside and quietly said, “You are someone who always appears in public, be it for brissen or speeches. Your shoes should be polished better than they are.” He meant it like a father and I accepted it.

I don’t think he originally planned to elevate a generation — but step by step, he did. The megillos, the siddur, the Chumash, Shas Bavli, and now, what he considered among his greatest achievements, Shas Yerushalmi. He will be a paragon for generations to come.

Chazal (see Yoma 35b) teach that “Hillel obligated the poor,” and in that light, one can say that Reb Meir, together with his regal partner Rabbi Nosson Scherman yblch”t, obligate every American-born Jew.

Yes, you can be born in America and achieve Torah greatness. That is Reb Meir’s legacy.


Reasons to Rejoice
Rabbi Yehuda Heimowitz

I

t would take an equal or close confidant of Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz to capture the full impact he has left on the Jewish People: the millions of hours of Torah he enabled, many of them learned by myriads who would never have cracked the binding of a sefer had it not been for the ArtScroll series; the fact that there may not be a single frum home in North America — and the same applies to numerous not-yet-religious homes as well — that do not stack at least a few, if not dozens or hundreds, of ArtScroll/Mesorah works on their bookshelves; or the level of devotion it took to embark on multi-decade projects for which he had to commit to generous salaries for top-tier talmidei chachamim and supporting editorial and proofreading staff, to ensure that each ArtScroll publication would be a work of excellence.

But as someone who was privileged to be an active participant in producing over a dozen volumes in the ArtScroll series, including three biographies in which I had the zechus to work closely with Rabbi Zlotowitz, I feel privileged to share a few personal memories with a public that was, by and large, a passive beneficiary of his professionalism and devotion.

One of my first encounters with Rabbi Zlotowitz was in the lobby of a Jerusalem hotel, where he invited me to meet him not long after I became an ArtScroll contributor. To say that for a budding writer this meeting in the summer of 2009 was a dream come true would be an abysmal understatement. For anyone who ever entertained the notion of writing Torah works in English, ArtScroll represents the pinnacle of achievement — and here I was, meeting its legendary founder.

Two memories stand out from that meeting.

On a personal level, I was astounded by the dignity he accorded me, a relative novice to the industry, while he already stood at the peak of the Torah publishing world for three decades. It would be fair to say that “Chazitei l’Rabi Meir mei’achorei — I saw Rav Meir from the back” (Eiruvin 13b). He already had so much to be proud of when I began to work for him, yet his graciousness toward someone several decades his junior never waned. Certainly, he could be a demanding boss — as he should have been, considering that respect for Torah was at stake — but he was also extremely encouraging and generous in delivering a well-deserved compliment or an encouraging e-mail.

I will always recall his enthusiasm as he handed me a still-warm copy of the Yerushalmi Gemara Maasros, which had come off the printing press a few hours earlier. At that point, ArtScroll had completed the Bavli project in English and in Hebrew, spanning nearly 150 volumes in all, and was well into elucidating Yerushalmi — aside from its classic siddur, Chumash, Tanach, Mishnah series, and an endless list of other works. I would have expected the release of a new volume to be a humdrum experience for Rabbi Zlotowitz, but he was so proud of the Yerushalmi Maasros that an unenlightened observer could easily have mistaken it for his first published work.

Perhaps that explains the level of professionalism that is the hallmark of the ArtScroll Torah works: the eloquence, the editorial exactitude — even the external packaging. Had the leader of ArtScroll grown indifferent to the experience of producing Torah publications, the quality of the product would have trailed off proportionately. But publishing new Torah works did not grow old to Rabbi Zlotowitz, and he considered the release of each volume an additional occasion to rejoice.

It was only years later, when I was midway through Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, my first biography, that I pinpointed the additional element that explains ArtScroll’s excellence: Rabbi Zlotowitz’s tremendous feeling of responsibility. His works carried the brand “Mesorah Publications,” and Rabbi Zlotowitz clearly exhibited that he was aware of the responsibility being a transmitter of Torah entailed. Throughout the production of that biography and the subsequent books Rav Elyashiv and Maran Harav Ovadia (Yosef), Rabbi Zlotowitz personally led each conference call in which he and his team would share their feedback and discuss their concerns on every page of the manuscript. These sessions were highly stimulating and challenging, as he would put the stories to the ultimate ArtScroll test: Would they serve to inspire readers to greater spiritual heights? He was unapologetic about what others derisively described as ArtScroll’s hagiographies, where only the good was presented. He would repeatedly remind me that ArtScroll never mentions any machlokes or other unnecessary derogatory details surrounding a gadol’s court, because the audience does not grow from it. “We’re aiming to inspire” was his unshakeable approach to these works.

Undoubtedly, the same attitude held true for all the other thousands of works he published, and placed them on the level of distinction that Torah Jewry came to expect from ArtScroll/Mesorah.

And Rabbi Zlotowitz was a transmitter of Mesorah in another way, as well. He was a talmid of gedolei hador, and maintained a fealty and devotion to their words throughout his life. Even in recent years, when he could simply have applied the guidance he received from the likes of Rav Moshe, Rav Yaakov, Rav Gifter, Rav Elyashiv, and others of their ilk to current decisions he had to make, he would continue to seek the counsel of gedolim, frequently quoting Rav Dovid Feinstein as having advised him one way or another. He reveled in the brilliance of gedolei Yisrael, and would recount his personal encounters with them with captivating delight.

Of particular pleasure to him was when he received proof — in the form of candid photographs — that the likes of Rav Elyashiv and yblcht”a Rav Aharon Leib Steinman used the ArtScroll Gemaras. It was the ultimate compliment and validation of his life’s enterprise, the sign that he had fulfilled the mission for which he will be missed by every member of the Torah community — from beginners cutting their teeth in Yiddishkeit on an ArtScroll siddur, to the greatest sages of our generation who found answers to long-held questions in the footnotes in the Gemaras.

And as someone who was zocheh to catch a drop more than a glimpse of the Rav Meir whose very name speaks of light, I will forever miss the floodlight that will continue to emblazon the path of every Torah writer for all eternity.


To Simplify the Complex
Yitzchok Saftlas

I

am but one of millions who have the chiyuv to call Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz “Rebbi” — but one of the fortunate few to call him a rebbi and mentor in business.

When I started working at ArtScroll in 1989, an employee told me, “Rabbi Zlotowitz’s strength is to simplify complicated matters.” I then saw how he lived by that motto firsthand.

I’d like to share some lessons that he imbued in me — and share them in a format that would make him proud.

On Harbatzas Torah  Although the ArtScroll siddurim, Chumashim, and Gemaras are found in yeshivos, shuls, corporate offices, and homes in every corner of the globe, there are many titles that are not “best sellers.” I vividly remember one meeting when a certain sefer was being considered for translation. Someone commented that the title wouldn’t sell that well. Reb Meir responded, “Klal Yisrael needs this sefer. We’re going to publish it. Hashem will pay us back in other ways.”

On Hakaras Hatov This one should be self-evident to everyone; just look at the first few pages of any ArtScroll sefer. Pages are devoted to “Acknowledgments” — and they include donors, writers, designers, business relationships, and even the people in the back office.

On Family Being First I had the honor of working closely with Baruch, one of Reb Meir’s sons, for a number of years. That’s when I learned about “Line 14.” It’s the special phone line whose number is known only to Reb Meir’s children. I’ll never forget those few times when Baruch had a pressing question, and he winked at me, and I knew…“Line 14!” Major donors, international business relationships, and demanding deadlines all took a back seat when his child had an issue.

On Simchahs He would always make time to attend simchahs despite the daily pressures he faced. He would point out that a baal simchah always notes those who made the effort to attend — and he lived by that same standard, even though he had as good an excuse as anyone to skip a simchah.

On Deadlines I recall an occasion when he asked me when a particular project would be ready. I told him 11:30 a.m. “Are you 100% sure you’ll have it 11:30?” he asked. “I’d rather you tell me 12:00 p.m. and show up 15 minutes early at 11:45, than tell me 11:30 and show up 15 minutes late at 11:45.”

On Chizuk See e-mail above. I’m uncomfortable sharing it — but it shows the side of Reb Meir that many did not see firsthand, hence it’s being shared now.

On Sales On one occasion that I was seeking his advice, I initially hesitated for a few days before calling him. When I finally called, I began by noting that I meant to call a few days prior. He then admonished me, “The world is filled with people who just wanted to make the call. Yitzchok, always just make the call!”

On How to Approach Life Another time that I was seeking his guidance, I first faxed him something that I wanted him to review. A few minutes later, Reb Meir called me and said, “Yitzchok, you faxed it the wrong way. Re-fax it the correct way and I’ll respond to your question.” After I re-faxed the document in the other direction, he called and began, “Yitzchok, I made you do this exercise because I love you. The first time you sent it with the fax header showing at the bottom on the document. The second time the fax header was on top.” He then added pointedly, “Always do everything in life headfirst.”

On Business Advice He once commented to me, “If I had listened to everybody’s comments when we started, there wouldn’t be an ArtScroll today.” He gave this sagacious advice to me to encourage me to trust my gut, and ignore naysayers and people who always seem to focus on challenges instead of solutions. (Note: He was not referring to advice from gedolim; he always sought out their guidance.)

On Marketing Did you ever wonder… why does ArtScroll need to advertise after all? Many of their seforim have no equal! Yet, Reb Meir spared no cost or effort in the realm of hishtadlus to spread the success of the seforim produced by ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications. Catalogs, advertisements, videos, websites, brochures, e-mails… every marketing channel and form of media is leveraged in ArtScroll’s effort to make Torah and tefillah accessible to every Jew.

On Perfection Anyone who worked at ArtScroll knows about Reb Meir’s insistence on perfection — and the result is seen by every person who picks up an ArtScroll sefer.

On Humility Reb Meir would correct anyone who called him “Rav Meir,” directing him to use “Meir” instead. Although he and the entire leadership team at ArtsScroll are larger than life and their zechuyos are unfathomable, they are very approachable and modest.

On Building Bridges Reb Meir was a master at navigating the complex world of different segments within Klal Yisrael. He had his unique way of securing their trust and confidence.

On Implementation Of all the lessons I learned from Reb Meir, the one that seeped into my bones was that projects must see the light of day! Bumps, distractions, setbacks…we all know they might pop up on any project. But what sets productive people apart is the ability to stay focused and see a project to the finish line. Over 2,000 ArtScroll titles are the ultimate testament to that.

 


So Much Wisdom
Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

I

t was likely the most polite — and temporary — rejection of my professional life.

“Reb Yakov, I’d like to be the first donor to this important project,” Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz said to me with a smile, taking a checkbook from his desk, “but this really isn’t what we do.”

I had come to Reb Meir’s ArtScroll office nearly a decade ago asking him to publish our Let’s Stay Safe child safety book at a time when that topic was simply not discussed in polite company. Truth be told, the book was most certainly not congruent with the Mesorah/ArtScroll mission that spreads Torah literacy and scholarship worldwide in perhaps an unprecedented scale in our glorious history.

Despite the fact that it may have been more prudent to take a pass on the book, Rabbi Zlotowitz and yblch”t Rabbi Nosson Scherman took an active role in publishing the book, recognizing what the ArtScroll name would do to mainstream child safety education across the widest spectrum of Orthodox Jewish homes.

Rabbi Zlotowitz was such a wise and practical man and I learned so many life lessons from observing him. In fact, when leaving his office, I often had the same feeling I get each year after reading Koheles during Succos — a sense of difficulty in processing all that rapid-fire, excellent advice in real time.

It is hard to believe that Reb Meir’s time on this earth is over, and even harder to believe how he managed to accomplish all that he did in just 73 years.

Yehi zichro baruch

 

(Originally featured in Mishpacha Issue 666)

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