When I was thirteen years of age, I was doubly orphaned. My mother had passed away when I was a child, and then, when I was almost fourteen years old, I lost my father as well. I had to move into yeshiva full-time, as I had no other place to go.
I spent the next part of my life – from age fourteen until age seventeen – living at the Manchester yeshiva, and then I spent nine months at the yeshiva in Gateshead, until I turned eighteen.
As far as I’m concerned, the big day came when, in September of 1958, I was granted permission by the Rebbe to come to America on a student visa and start studying at the Chabad-Lubavitch headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn. So it was with great excitement that I arrived in New York, where I learned for the next four years.
During the time I was there, I had several opportunities to have an audience with the Rebbe – usually on my birthday. These visits were short. I wasn’t a businessman; I wasn’t a married man; I was a boy in yeshiva. What problems can a boy in yeshiva have? Still, the Rebbe always imparted words of encouragement to me.
The next major milestone in my life occurred four years after my arrival in New York, in the summer of 1962, when I got engaged to my future wife, thank G-d.
I went in to see the Rebbe to ask for the Rebbe’s advice on what I should do now – where should I settle down, how should I support my future family.
The Rebbe said that he would like me to look for jobs in four places – Manchester, London, Montreal and New York. I should explore job opportunities in each of these places, and then he would help me choose whichever was most appropriate for me.
I did that, and it was ultimately settled that London would be the best place for me. And, by the way, I found out later that there was no job for me in London but when they heard that the Rebbe had said that I should seek a job opportunity in London, they created one for me. I’ve been here for the past 45 years, so it was the right move.
As I was discussing my future with the Rebbe, he suddenly asked me, “Are you buying your bride a present for the wedding?”