T heir work has influenced countless others. They lead lives that are an inspiration to aspiring askanim, entrepreneurs, mechanchim, and writers around the Jewish world. But who inspired their own journeys?

In this collection, seven leading personalities of the frum world pen letters to their mentors, the people who have led them on their life’s path.

Their lessons can be our own.

Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, writes to his mentor, Rabbi Moshe Sherer z”l, the Agudah’s longtime leader.

Dear Rabbi Sherer, My first words to you: Thank you.

At one point in my career, I spent my time helping corporations avoid antitrust liability. It was you, Rabbi Sherer, who saw in me someone who could use his talents to serve the Jewish People. Thanks to you, I now spend my days helping Klal Yisrael.

Then, during the 14 wonderful years I worked at your side at Agudath Israel, you mentored me, teaching me lessons that have been linchpins in my life and work.

Shortly after I came on board, you walked into my office and carefully straightened a picture hanging on the wall. “One thing I can’t stand is a crooked picture,” you explained. I got the message: Straight means everything. If we are straight, honest, and erlich, we have credibility. If we lose our reputation for integrity, everything is at stake.

You had a great relationship with Don Nolan, New York’s deputy commissioner of higher and professional education. Any new yeshivah in New York state that wanted state recognition as an institution authorized to offer post-secondary education would have to work through his office. But upon your recommendation, he would almost immediately issue a letter authorizing that institution. Until the day came when Nolan said, “Rabbi Sherer, I still love you, but in light of a hearing in Washington about allegedly fraudulent activities in Judaic schools, I can no longer simply take your word on this — from now on the yeshivos will have to go through a vetting process.” You called me into your office on that day to share what had happened, and I have never seen you so dejected.

Crookedness saddened you, but I also saw what made you happy. I remember the day when we had a sensitive sh’eilah for the Moetzes. Since the matter had legal ramifications, we first consulted several lawyers. They told us that we had two options. Of these, option A was the better, and option B the riskier. I accompanied you to ask the gedolim. They listened and questioned us, and, after deliberation, they directed us to pursue option B. I left that meeting downcast, but you were elated.

As we exited together, you began to plan our implementation of option B. And then you said to me, “Chaim Dovid, this is the day I joined Agudath Israel for. Here, the gedolei Torah make the decisions. I truly believe that they have the clearest vision and are most equipped to guide us.”

Rabbi Sherer, your words echo in my ears, even though it is almost two decades since you led us. You delivered those Motzaei Shabbos keynote speeches with precision, oratory flair, and unforgettable passion. And the word you repeated with all your strength was “Together!” You taught us that every stream and group has a place in the klal and we can only survive and thrive with achdus.

You also taught us that we are “keepers of a sacred trust.” Until today, when I walk into a meeting, I can hear you saying that a representative of Agudath Israel should imagine the Chofetz Chaim on his right and Reb Chaim Ozer on his left, the Gerrer Rebbe and the Tchortkover beside them. I learned from you that Agudath Israel is not a 21st-century organization, but one that connects to those giants of a century ago.

Another valuable lesson that you taught and embodied: “If it is worth doing, then do it as if your life depended on it.” (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 680)