Monday, June 30, 2008

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is

Happy Monday. I hope your weekend was cool, in all ways.

The headline on this post is a credo to live by. It's one of mine, second only to the prime credo: It doesn't have to make sense.

I am going to mark a significant birthday in a couple of weeks. You'll notice I didn't say celebrate. How old am I? If I wanted you to know, I'd have told you.

This morning's mail included a small flyer congratulating me on marking another step along the chronological way (no, it didn't say that.)

Printed on it, among the colored balloons, was an invitation to call a toll-free number. What I would receive for my trouble, it promised, is a free flight for two to any international airport located in the continental United States. It further promised, if I called within 72 hours of receiving the missive, was seven days of free car rental.
There was even a facsimile of a boarding pass.

So, I began to investigate since this was a perfect example of the credo in this post's headline. And, of course, I soon found out it was. Allow me to explain.

At first, I thought there might be something to this, because Southwest has recently included Avis in its Rapid Rewards frequent-flier program. Maybe this is a way of publicizing that marriage.

But I soon came upon a Hartford Courant column that took the air out of my balloon. In it, columnist (and really good old-time journalist) George Gombassy outlined the promotion and said that state consumer protection officials and the state Attorney General in Connecticut had connected it to a Rocky Hill firm called Ultimate Travel and were not happy about it. In fact, they are suing the firm on fraud charges.

I had noticed that there was small type on the back of the "boarding pass" saying that this promotion was not by Southwest or Avis, but it said they were the top suppliers.

Anyway, Gombossy says in his column, if you call the number, you will be invited to a 90-minute sales spiel. According to the column, some of those who went to Ultimate Travel's offices came out thousands of dollars lighter.

Read the column here:,0,6465190.column

Page 2

An old, gentle man named Norman Rubin went to his reward yesterday morning and I know he is already sitting on the Lord's right hand.

He was 93.

Mr. Rubin, shown in the synagogue he loved a couple of years ago, has been reading the Torah and other holy books and scrolls at Congregation Bikur Cholim Sheveth Achim in New Haven, and its antecedents, for as long as anyone can remember. I only knew him for about a half-dozen years.

Mr. Rubin had made his way in the world in a singularly Jewish way. He studied in Vilna, Lithuania, at a famous yeshiva and made it to the U.S. before the Nazis wiped out that community and before the world renamed it Vilnius.

He worked as a kashruth supervisor at various kosher butcher shops and delis, when New Haven had such things. It now has only one. He lived with his wife and daughter until his wife passed away. His daughter looked after him, although he lived in his own apartment.

Until a scant few weeks ago, he walked the mile or so from his home to Bikur Cholim on Saturday. He read the Torah, not an easy task. On Saturday afternoon, he would walk home and then back again to the synagogue, no matter the weather. In summer's heat and winter's blast, he showed up when much younger people didn't.

"Thank God I made it," was his watchword. He said it often.

He had conquered health problems in the past, but he was just too worn out this time. He died at about the time he would rise each morning to be sure he was in synagogue.

A memorial service is planned for Sunday evening, July 6, at 8 at Bikur Cholim. He will be buried in Israel.

I will miss Mr. Rubin's gentle charm. I know that right after his death, he presented himself at Heaven's door and and was immediately ushered into his place at his master's right hand.

And I know what he said. "Thank God I made it."

Page 3

I promised myself that I would not get involved in the vitriol that has been displayed in the commentary section of the New Haven Independent. That Web newspaper runs stories and then invites comment from readers on those stories.

The situation surrounding the city's invitation to illegal immigrants to settle within its borders, has been particularly grist for the mill of vitriolic commentary. Again, I'm not going to become embroiled in this, but only to say that it is getting a bit out of hand.

Just go to for a sample.

What got me was the bile that accompanied the announcement that Catherine Sullivan DeCarlo, one of the nicest people and most talented journalists you would even want to meet. Some clown upbraided her for doing nothing and celebrating the fact that someone who is not directly involved in teaching is leaving the system. Another invites her to write a book such as that by former White House spokesman Scott McClellan for serving a system that has had "enormously bad consequences for lots of children."

I've known Catherine for close to 20 years and I know she had nothing to do with bad consequences to anyone.

Whether Reggie Mayo, the schools superintendent, is good at his job is open to question. He was raised up more than 20 years ago, at first as an interim replacement for John Dow Jr.. Dow had a habit of calling reporters and others at 4 in the morning to scream at them in language that would have made the late George Carlin blush. The interim became permanent. The Board of Education hired Dow even after reporter Lynn Tufts of the New Haven journal-Courier went to his last gig, I think it was in Michigan, and wrote stories saying Dow's employers there were less than happy with him. Whether they've done any better this time is a legitimate subject for debate.

But to paint Sullivan-DeCarlo with the same broad brush is not. A good spokeswoman is not someone who parrots the boss no matter what. A good PR person tries to shine the best light on the organization to be sure. But the good one's won't lie. They may shade, but they won't lie and it's up to the reporter to find out the truth.

So, let's wish Catherine Sullivan DeCarlo well and hope that the next spokesperson (make no mistake: there will be a next spokesperson) is as good as the last.

Until next time...


Anonymous said...

Barukh Dayan haEmeth. Reb Rubin was the real deal and knowing him was a blessing.


Roger Sherman said...

Mr. Rubin's death represents yet another case of the general weakening of the New Haven's Orthodox Jewish community.
Its most important synagogue the Young Israel has basically disintegrated and is without rabbinic leadership.
The 2 kosher bakeries both closed their doors recently.
Even the Westville Synagogue is no longer the powerhouse it once was.
Only the Chabad movement continues to grow, but it offers little in terms of a community for modern American Jews.

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