Editor's Note: Chabad-Lubavitch of Fairfield County in Stamford, Conn., co-directed by Rabbi Yisrael and Vivi Deren, honored the author with its annual Lamplighter Award. A former board member of investment firm Neuberger Berman and a past president of the United Jewish Federation of Greater Stamford, Ed Spilka was hailed by the rabbi as a "true profile in courage [and] a model of what leadership truly is." This article is based on the author's acceptance speech.

We met the Derens about eight years ago when our son Nathaniel attended the Chabad Gan Yeladim preschool. It was the start of a wonderful friendship and journey.

I didn't know much about Chabad-Lubavitch then, and what I did know was not without its dissonance. So I approached the relationship cautiously. But the reality is that we were disarmed pretty quickly.

Now, maybe I'm a soft touch, but my experience is hardly unique as it relates to the Derens specifically and, more broadly, to Chabad-Lubavitch emissaries around the world. I've heard it said over and over that they have a special way that touches people.

I think that special "something" was captured by a relatively insightful guy named Albert Einstein. He said: "There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."

And it is that latter approach that resonates even with those of us who are pretty firmly grounded in the practical and the secular. When we are exposed to an outlook brimming with Divine possibilities, we soften and are inspired. We feel the love, and that is powerful medicine!

Ed Spilka receives the Lamplighter Award from Rabbi Yisroel Deren. His daughter Naomi, right, is a member of the international board of Chabad's Friendship Circle.
Ed Spilka receives the Lamplighter Award from Rabbi Yisroel Deren. His daughter Naomi, right, is a member of the international board of Chabad's Friendship Circle.
Of course, it would be too easy for Chabadniks to allow us to revel in this constant high, this state of vicarious bliss. No, they somehow feel the need for us to translate that feeling into an action. They challenge us to do a mitzvah, or provide us with the opportunity to learn. They instruct our children and immerse our teens in Jewish values through programs like the Friendship Circle.

The chutzpah, imagining that they can transform the world one person and one mitzvah at a time!

Well, with that in mind, Rabbi Deren began to visit me at my office in Manhattan every Thursday during lunch. We focused on each week's Torah portion; he found ways to make it relevant and meaningful to me even as I was distracted by the machinations of the stock market. I continue to learn, including at some very inspiring Rohr Jewish Learning Institute courses. I also participate in Chabad-sponsored workshops on a variety of subjects.

I've learned that being a Jew requires action. It's good to study and pray, and to wrestle with ourselves, so long as we stay focused on our behavior: We must treat each other with respect and interact with the world around us in a responsible fashion. To paraphrase Rabbi David Hartman, "What you do and how you act defines who you are."

I happen to think that we are lucky to have Chabad in this community. Not only are they doers, but they reach in and remind us of the Divine within each of us and guide us in sharing it. We are the beneficiaries of their presence here in Stamford and are stronger and richer for it.