John: I’m here with Alan Schwartz, Attorney, Judge and Model Citizen. It’s good to hear you from you, Alan.
Alan: Good morning, John.
John: You know the theme of this month’s issue is both living in gratitude and paying it forward. I was hoping to get a few words from you about paying it forward as I know it’s a big part of your life.
Alan: My pleasure.
John: Would you please tell our readers and your fans a little bit about why you pay forward?
Alan: It seems to me that those of us who are lucky enough to have done well in our careers and our lives have some obligation to try to pass that on to others, often times expecting nothing in return, although good things usually come about regardless. The best example I can give as a practicing attorney for 40 years is that I spend a lot of time mentoring law students and young lawyers, for organizations like the Nassau County Bar Association and a variety of mentor programs, and we frequently have student interns working with us on a regular basis. It’s usually and primarily law school, but we’ve had high school students, college students, and even secretarial and paralegal students work with us at the firm. The benefit to them is it that it gives them a real idea of what it’s like to practice law, and it allows me to spend time with young people who are enthusiastic about what I do for a living, which in turn makes me more enthusiastic.
John: But you don’t get any payment for this mentoring work, you get the positive emotional feeling of doing good for others.
Alan: Correct, John, but I think that what happens is it ultimately comes full circle, because some of those people who interned for us have actually come back and ended up working for us. They may have even interned more than once with us. Ironically, we’ve had two or three legal assistants over the years who enjoyed what we do so much that they decided to go on to law school, and possibly return as practicing attorneys.
John: Wow that’s great. You know they say there are different descriptions of paying it forward, that many cultures call it different things from Karma to Tranquility or Peace, or Do Unto Others. I think we’ve all seen the movie Pay It Forward from years ago, and it can become a trend. How have your efforts in paying it forward impacted or influenced others to also pay it forward? So you think it becomes like a chain letter?
Alan: I think it does because I think it develops a level of enthusiasm that people carry on what you’ve passed on to them. No matter what group I work with, whether it’s the Long Island Community Chest, the Fight For Charity, Voices for Truth and Humanity, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, or any other when you are working with people who are enthusiastic about what they are doing, that enthusiasm becomes contagious and serves not only the mentee but the mentor as well, in what becomes a mutually beneficial relationship.
John: I remember going to the Voices For Truth & Humanity and you were way ahead of your time. I know that you were talking about being inclusive of all races and everyone so that everyone we got along. Tell us a little bit more about the Voices For Truth and Humanity because I know you’re very passionate about that.
Alan: You’re being very modest John, because you not only went to our big fundraiser last year, but you actually volunteered your services as a professional photographer to assist us there. Voices For Truth & Humanity is a Holocaust education and anti-hate group, that decries all forms of genocide and hate, and operates under the theory that only by educating people can we avoid the atrocities of the past. What’s interesting is that the group was formed before covid, the Black Lives Matter movement and all of the intolerance we’re now seeing surrounding our upcoming election, where hate seems to be running rampant. Voices For Truth & Humanity came about as a result of the efforts a group that was initially focused on Holocaust education, but it became readily apparent that the real underlying message was one of anti-hate. So it was interesting that the group came about before all the hate and anger that we’re most recently seeing over the course of the past year.
The thing that struck me most in meeting with committee members of Voices, was that while I anticipated the membership to be primarily Jewish, given the focus on the Holocaust, I found it to be anything but, with people from varied religious and ethnic backgrounds all coming together to fight hate. This was remarkable similar to the work I do with the JCRC-LI [Jewish Community Relations Counsel of Long Island], which is all about diversity and bringing people of diverse backgrounds together, in the belief that the more we learn about each other, the more we will all coexist peacefully and bring people together
John: Absolutely. I try to pay it forward by helping people find love and by telling people’s stories, including sharing yours and other Model Citizens. I know that you and your wife Riva often go out and pay it forward and give advice to many people almost on a daily basis, before COVID isn’t that true?
Alan: We do, John, because we enjoy it. Riva and I are fortunate in that we really don’t need it to work at this point in our lives, but have no desire to retire, and we do things because we enjoy doing so. We like to think that type of natural enthusiasm is contagious, and antithetical to all the hate and anger around us.
John: Coming up during this holiday season that we’re coming into and with all the turmoil of the election it’s really nice to know that there are people like you that continue to pay it forward to those who are less fortunate, especially those coming into the legal world. You should be pretty proud of yourselves, and I hope that you are.
Alan: Thank you, John. Always a pleasure.
John: Thank you again for this interview and once again congratulations on being honored as a Model Citizen. It is very well deserved.
Categories: Alan Schwartz