Monday, February 22, 2010

Good Weekend story: Timmy & Tommy

Comment by a Melbourne Mother:

I read the following article (which, surprisingly, most of my friends seem to have missed) in last Saturday's issue of the Good Weekend magazine. I really enjoyed it and admire both interviewees. However I couldn't help thinking that this article's place was not in a non-Jewish publication but rather in the Jewish News.

What do other AJN Watchers think?

Timmy: I don't make calls on my mobile because I can't afford the bill, but Tommy calls me every day, no matter where he is in the world. Whenever we're on the phone together, he asks how my day is going. It might come up that somebody's kid has been kicked out of school because they can't afford an aide, or a Chabad house [community centre] somewhere has lost their financier. He says, "Well, we can't have that", and he foots the bill for anybody who is needy or struggling. He supports all my causes, all the things that keep me buzzing. I'm a volunteer prison chaplain. I visit the Jewish inmates. We get them kosher food - he pays for that. A lot of them want a Star of David or Jewish books and calendars - he pays for all that, too.

Sometimes I'm on the phone with him and I get a call on the other phone. I say, "Tommy, can you hang on a moment?" He overhears my other conversation, hears somebody who needs something, and he'll chase them. I had the Chabad rabbi from Thailand say to me, "Never in my life has someone chased me to give me money."

One time he knew I was having a poor Lubavitch [an orthodox Hasidic movement] family to dinner. Before we ate, a truckload of cherries, plums, pancakes arrived. He came over and had so much naches [joy] watching them eat. He's just the biggest-hearted guy. I say to him, "Tommy, you've got a heart the size of Texas." He always says, "Did you say I've got an arse the size of Texas?" Most people who have money, they're a bit arrogant, expect people to put them on a pedestal, but Tommy doesn't let a person feel beholden. When he gives, he says, "You're doing me a favour, letting me support the work you're doing." But every time he goes on a big giving spree, he calls a few hours later and says, "You'll never guess, I just got an order from America for a million bucks." It says in the Torah that you get the benefit of tzedakah [giving] in this world as well as in the next. He's a living example.

Tommy is extreme. He's extreme in generosity, extreme in positivity. He's extreme in how he loves life. He's the happiest person I know. And one of the best things is his extreme humour. I need to laugh. I love being happy. One time, I organised a fundraising night for the mikvah and Tommy was one of my comedians. He came dressed as a woman in a black wig, red cocktail waitress top and a gold lame skirt with a thigh-high split. In the audience, one rabbi's wife says to the other rabbi's wife, "That woman's skirt's a bit immodest." The other woman says, "Darling, it's a man." Hilarious. He can make up a song on the spot. He's always making up songs about the mikvah. He decided we should have a mascot, a character, so he comes up with a moose. It's a kosher animal. He got me a plastic moose and makes up this song [to the tune of Macho Man], "Mikvah mikvah moose, I want to be a mikvah moose. We want you, we want you, we want you to be a kosher Jew." He's hilarious.

I introduced him to [his wife] Issy when he was 15, but he was married twice before he eventually married her. He came over after breaking up with the second wife.

He was in tears. He was broken. I couldn't bear it. I made sure he met up with Issy again. I knew they were a match made in heaven. They do go to synagogue but they don't keep the Sabbath strictly like we do. I wish they were more observant but I wouldn't be the one to nudge them. Honestly, they do more good than a lot of observant people. Tommy gives me an amazing backstop of support and friendship. He's my oldest friend. He makes me laugh my head off every day. It's unbelievable. In fact, my whole life is unbelievable because Tommy is in it.

Tommy: Timmy has been at the centre of my life since I was a kid. We grew up in the Jewish community connected to the Temple Beth Israel in St Kilda. We used to go to Sunday school together. She had these dimples, the best smile. The past 20-something years we've been really close and the past 10 years I would speak to her twice a day minimum, maybe six times. It doesn't matter where I am in the world, I ring her every day. What's happening? Who needs help? Who's drowning, who's swimming? She'll say, "I've got a beauty this time, a prisoner, and he's as thin as a rake." I say, "We need to feed him. Go to the Jewish deli, get him some food." I love doing this. This is no burden. Everything I have, all the blessings, come from God. It's not my money; I'm responsible that the money gets used properly. There's no downside. Timmy gives me the opportunity to do my stuff through the work she does.

So many people come through her house she should have revolving doors. She greets them, she feeds them, but how does she feed them? She and her husband can't afford to feed all these people, so I foot the bill. I can't stand to see people not eat. I think that must be Jewish. Also, when you're religious, eating is actually an act of holiness because every time you eat, you say a blessing.

It's holiness but chaos, too. She's always getting herself in trouble. I rang her one day, I said, "What's the matter? You sound stressed." "Stressed! You have no idea," she says. Somehow she's given the wrong instructions to the Yellow Pages about the mikvah listing and a bill has come through for $1600. The guy who owns the mikvah flipped. "Send the bill over," I said. "I'll take care of it."

Another time she's in jail visiting prisoners, she's about to leave and she can't find her car keys. She's got prisoners and warders on hands and knees searching. The prisoners are terrified, they think the place is going to go into lock-down if they don't find her keys. She's worried she won't be able to start her car. The prisoners all say, "I can start your car, no problem."

I tried to set her up in business. I got an art studio in China to paint portraits of rabbis for her to sell. Small problem. The painters used the wrong paint and the rabbis' beards all turn pink. There's always chaos with Timmy. If there's something that sums her up, it's that she not only believes in miracles, she relies on them.

Timmy has married off 15, 16 people. She introduced me to Issy when I was 15. We went out together for nine months. She was my first love. But you go through life, young, stupid. I was married twice in between. I should have known. But, 30-something years later, I hit the jackpot and married my first girlfriend. Why? Because of Timmy. She knew. It was supposed to be the first time. She always wanted us to be together. She's besties with both of us.

I'm a bit of an old business cynic but I do believe people can be good and kind only because of who they are, not because there's something in it for them. That's Timmy. She is full of love. And she has a huge laugh. The laugh arrives 15 minutes before she does. She's the happiest person I know.


  1. I read this story quite by chance. The magazine was left in the pocket of my airplane seat as I was returning from Tasmania last Sunday. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the story and was grateful The Age ran it. It's good to see a positive Jewish story in a mainstream publication.


  2. What a lovely human interest piece. Maybe Timmy and Tommy could do a stand-up comedy routine for Purim. Would be alot of laughs.

  3. I didnt think it was that positive. Every sentence seemed to contain a reference to money.


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