The Jewish Eye
Irving Bunim's Jewish Holiday
Irving Bunim was one of the key leaders of Orthodox Jews in the twentieth century. He was famed for his Hatzala work during World War II, his support for Jewish education, his philanthropy, his Torah knowledge, his speaking abilities, and his activism. He was also a successful businessman who was known for his integrity.
On one occasion, a company called A.D. Julliard which manufactured corduroy and velveteen sold Bunim a significant amount of velveteen. Bunim had a long and respectful relationship with the owner of the company, Burnet Valentine. When Bunim received the bill, he looked over it and saw that the first carton was labeled as containing 38 yards, the second carton was labeled as 42 yards, and the rest of the cartons were labeled as containing similar amounts. Bunim was puzzled since he had ordered much larger quantities. He went to the basement and checked the cartons and realized what had happened. The billing clerk had dropped the first digit of each carton. The first carton actually contained 338 yards, and this applied to all the cartons. Bunim had been under billed by $40,000 because of these errors. In the 1950's, $40,000 was a huge amount of money and Bunim was certain that the company would soon realize their mistake and correct the bill.
Time passed, and Bunim realized that Julliard had not become aware of their mistake. Bunim called Valentine, and asked to meet with him the next day. When the meeting began, Bunim said to Valentine, "I want you to know that today is a Jewish holiday." Valentine said, "I didn't know that. What is it?" Bunim answered, "Today is the day that a Jewish businessman shows you what our Torah's ethics and morality demand of us." He then proceeded to explain to Valentine about the mistake that he would have never discovered and handed him a check for $40,000. Valentine was shocked, but grateful. He admitted that he would never have discovered the error. He told Bunim, "I don't know anyone else in the business world who would have returned this money."
Bunim later related this story to his family. He said, "That moment when Mr. Valentine realized what Hashem's holy Torah means to us was the greatest Kiddush Hashem a man could ask for." (Source: A Fire in His Soul)
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