Around my office are constant reminders of my Dad. A picture of my father with my son sits on my right, another photo of my dad is on my left, and on the wall hangs a framed poem about my dad’s generosity to the Boston Jewish day school community. This rhyme stands out to me:
“Mort Ruderman cared for everyone
his warmth was genuine and true
He followed Rabbi Akiva’s saying
for he loved every single Jew.”
My father was a successful man and this fact seemed important to some people, but to most he was a down-to-earth person who would do anything for his family, friends and those in need. He loved being part of a diverse Jewish community and wanted nothing more than to give back in a big way. My siblings and I took our father’s values and brought them into the work of our foundation in our own strategic manner. Including people with disabilities is the fair and right thing to do, and this is what we focus on.
After my father passed away in October of 2012, we wanted to do something meaningful in his memory. We decided to remember him by honoring a person who has made an extraordinary contribution to the inclusion of people with disabilities in the Jewish world and beyond. Dr. Michael Stein is that person. With a humble manner, just as I saw in my dad, he makes a world of difference in the lives of people with disabilities.
On May 8, we honored Michael Stein with the Morton E. Ruderman Award in Inclusion. We met at Meditech– a software company in Canton, MA which my father was instrumental in founding. One hundred good friends, family members, and leaders in the Greater Boston Jewish community enjoyed the opportunity to celebrate both the work of Michael Stein and the legacy of my father. My brother Jay spoke beautifully about our father’s humility and the great pleasure he received from helping others. Bill Alford spoke of Michael Stein’s incredible work on behalf of people with disabilities and their families around the world. Michael’s personal stories provided a powerful and inspiring highlight of the evening.
My brother Todd summed it up: “My Dad was modest, believed in fairness, taught us the power of giving, and always advocated for those who could not. He devoted himself to helping others. When he was asked what he would like written on his gravestone, he replied: ‘I helped others get ahead.’ I see many similar character traits between my father and Michael Stein.”
I believe my dad would have been deeply proud of this Award, of Michael and his work, and of his children.
Sharon Shapiro is a Trustee of the Ruderman Family Foundation and the director of the foundation’s Boston office.