When in doubt check your e-mail. The time has come to write a new column and with the well of ideas temporarily dry I turn to the batch of electronic mail delivered this week to my computer.

Let’s see… Here’s one giving me highlights from the second session of something called the Aspen Ideas Festival apparently an annual gathering of great minds who come together to think about the world’s problems. Of course if they really wanted to focus laser-like on bettering society they’d have gathered in a Holiday Inn in Piscataway New Jersey rather than high society’s Aspen playground. But me they didn’t ask.

I get a flavor of the Festival from the fact that its second session was opened by “acclaimed pianist Malek Jandali… with an original score written to commemorate the Syrian refugee crisis.” The session continued with Bryan Stevenson founder of the Equal Justice Initiative presenting “four keys to effecting change in disadvantaged communities” the first of which is “Get proximate — you cannot see what will help if standing at a distance.” If however you’re stuck in a place like Aspen America’s most expensive city do the next best thing — write a song and play it for everyone.

But what makes the whole e-mail worthwhile is the news of yet another presentation this one by MIT Media Lab cofounder Nicholas Negroponte who is “working to create a telecommunications program at the United Nations that will advocate for connectivity as a human right.” Mr. Negroponte emphasized that the real value of connectivity isn’t economic: “All you need is to have the Wi-Fi go out in your house to understand the impact on quality of life.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Another e-mail was from the folks at Be’er Sheva’s Ben-Gurion University (BGU) of the Negev which just weeks ago had e-mailed to let me know that as described in these pages Dr. Howard and Lottie Marcus had left the school $400 million in their will. A true institution of higher earning. In this latest e-mail however BGU wanted to share some other good news:

Prof. Rivka Carmi president of… BGU led an 11-member delegation to Rome to meet with Pope Francis and Vatican leadership last month. The delegation included senior officers of BGU’s international board … and BGU faculty. Prof. Carmi presented the Pope with a special gift: a silver-bound copy of the New Testament with Jerusalem etched on its covers.

Professor Carmi noted that BGU “is a natural partner for interreligious encounters. Located in Abraham’s city our researchers contribute significantly on topics that are of utmost interest both to the Vatican and to the Holy Land.” And indeed the head of Jewish Studies at BGU Dr. Michal Bar-Asher Siegal remarked that the “meetings were fascinating. We presented BGU’s research achievements on Christianity and Prof. Hames proposed to Cardinal Koch that he accept the Ladislaus Laszt Ecumenical and Social Concern Award at the University.” Koch is president of the Commission of the Holy See for Religious Relations with the Jews. Is that how you say “Inquisition” in Vaticanese?

Alex Goren chair of BGU’s board of governors said that the “main consensus of the meetings was the importance of education in order to create a future where members of different religions could live side by side in peace.” So the priests of Rome and the high priests of Israeli academia have agreed on the importance of “different religions living side by side in peace.” Now all we need is for the imams to agree.

But I wonder: How would the Marcuses have felt about this trip? Might they have been uncomfortable about having some of what they left in their last will and testament used to buy the Pope a New Testament?

BOOST FOR A LIFETIME In a recent feature in these pages by erstwhile students remembering teachers who had influenced them Rabbi Nosson Scherman shared his reminiscences about Rav Hirsch Kaplan of Yeshiva Torah Vodaath. Speaking recently with Rav Kaplan’s grandson Rabbi Eliezer Katzman who is also my uncle I heard yet another remarkable story about the potential lifelong impact a rebbi can have.

A young boy Dovid arrived at Torah Vodaath having been sent by his parents to these shores from South America. His Jewish education was almost nil and he was placed into Rav Kaplan’s class in which the Torah background of the students varied widely. One day as Rav Kaplan was explaining a piece of Gemara Dovid who could barely read or understand Hebrew raised his hand and offered an observation.

At that Rav Kaplan excitedly sprang up and told the class to remain in their seats while he left the room. He made his way to the adjoining classroom where entering unannounced he asked the rebbi to please come to his classroom. “There’s something there you simply must see!” he urged. Rav Kaplan did the same in the classroom next to his on the other side.

Not content with that he then proceeded to the administrative offices where he found both the Hebrew and English principals and extended the same invitation to them. Perhaps it was the urgency in his voice but within moments all of Rav Kaplan’s invitees were assembled in his classroom wondering what it was they were supposed to see that justified leaving what they had been doing to come here.

Pointing to Dovid Rav Kaplan said “This boy is here from South America and after learning Gemara for only mere weeks he has asked Tosafos’ kushya!” His voice fairly burst with pure pride in the young man’s achievement. He asked Dovid to repeat what he had asked and he did so beaming.

Today Dovid is a great-grandfather who after a long career in the insurance field now spends his days and part of his nights in one of Boro Park’s most active batei medrash. A veritable pillar of the place he has chavrusas lined up to learn with him from morning until night.

And looking back he can identify the moment that led him to where he is today. He remembers how the fuss Rav Kaplan had made over his question had him floating on a cloud where he decided to stay.