Every fall, I reflect on the meaning behind a message from Rabbi Hillel: “In a place where there is no humanity, strive thou to be human.”
In this day and age, doing well and doing good are not mutually exclusive. Although the concept of tikkun olam is rooted in Jewish texts and traditions, its importance and application transcend the Jewish community and can be applied to achieve change in the world at large.
Every fall, during the holiday period, I find myself re-reflecting on the meaning behind a message from Rabbi Hillel I have across from my desk at work: “In a place where there is no humanity,” he wrote, “strive thou to be human.” These words serve as a reminder of my father and the sense of compassion he instilled in me and my three siblings. He taught us that kindness and empathy are the foundations on which humanity will stand or fall. For this reason, and many others, he was my mentor, best friend, hero and also one of the inspirations for KIND — the brand I conceived 12 years ago.
But before he was any of these things, my dad was a 9-year-old boy who had to live through one of the darkest periods in human history. When World War II started, my father was living with his parents and his 14-year-old brother in Kovno, Lithuania. Eventually, he, his brother and my grandfather were sent to Dachau, where they were left to starve in subhuman conditions and forced into slave labor.
But, as evidenced by my father’s experiences there, the human spirit shows itself even amid the worst circumstances. My father never forgot a German soldier who risked serious punishment by throwing a rotten potato at my dad’s feet when others were not watching, providing him the sustenance to endure and offering him a glimpse of humanity in the midst of such darkness.
When we look for it, we see the transformative power of kindness around us, too. Small acts of kindness are happening everywhere, all the time, each one contributing toward shared efforts of tikkun olam, or repairing the world. Collectively, these acts of kindness — both big and small — make this world a better, more tolerant place to live.
In creating KIND, I drew on the principles of tikkun olam in a 21st century environment. Despite early setbacks (of which there were many), I never lost faith in my commitment to developing KIND as a “not-only-for-profit” business that sells healthy and tasty products while also doing its small part to positively impact society. I started my first “not-only-for-profit,” PeaceWorks, in 1994 to foster joint ventures among neighbors striving to co-exist in conflict regions. At KIND, we have a different model, but a similar intention. Our social mission, known as the KIND Movement, is to spread and inspire kindness in the world, and it has been part of our DNA since 2004.
As I reflect on the past 12 years, I realize how fortunate I am to have the opportunity to honor my dad’s memory. I was inspired by the lessons he left behind to conceive KIND in his honor. These same lessons have made me increasingly and acutely aware of our shared responsibility, as human beings, to leave this world a better place than we found it.
Daniel Lubetzky is the CEO and founder of KIND Snacks and author of The New York Times best-seller “Do the KIND Thing.” A version of this column first appeared in the The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles.