I was born and raised in London, England, where I led a dynamic secular life. During the 1970s I came in contact with Chabad in Stamford Hill.

My wife knew Rabbi Faivish Vogel, one of the Chabad shluchim, and she introduced me to him. From that point on, we developed a close friendship. For many years I served as Chairman of Friends of Lubavitch U.K., which assisted in providing the funds needed to support Lubavitch activities.

When Rabbi Vogel suggested to me that I should go to meet the Rebbe in New York, I jumped at the opportunity. Before meeting the Rebbe, I had quite an experience spending Shabbat at 770, the Chabad headquarters. As the Rebbe came into the room, waves of people moved aside, just like the parting of the sea to let the Israelites through. At the farbrengen that Shabbat, I had a front-row seat, watching the Rebbe up on the dais. This went on for many hours, and it was something that one has to experience in person. I can’t even begin to describe it.

Then I entered the Rebbe’s office with a lot of trepidation, but he was a very approachable person and immediately put me at ease.came my appointment with the Rebbe. I entered his office with a lot of trepidation, but the Rebbe put me immediately at ease. He was a very approachable person, and he spoke to me in perfect English. We discussed many subjects, ranging from the state of Jewry in England, to the State of Israel, to the needs of the Jewish people.

The meeting began at 1:30 AM. From time to time a bell would ring, which was supposed to be a signal from the Rebbe’s secretary for me to leave. But each time the Rebbe motioned for me to stay, and we continued talking until 4 AM!

I think that the Rebbe’s purpose in seeing somebody like me was to find out how much he could challenge me. I think that the Rebbe’s purpose in seeing somebody like me was to find out how much he could challenge me.How much he could bring out from me any hidden talent and potential that needed actualizing. It was as if he looked into my very soul. It was an incredible experience.

Among the questions I asked him was, “How do I educate my children, when I myself was not educated in Yiddishkeit?” I told him that I thought myself to be a good Jew because at least a third of my working day was spent on Jewish communal affairs, and because I always contributed my fair share to charity, but I was completely secular in other respects.

I explained to the Rebbe how it came to be that I never got any Jewish education. My mother died when I was seven, and I was brought up at a boarding school for orphans. Then the war came, with its deprivations, and when it ended, I was fourteen and started work.

The Rebbe responded with great sensitivity. I asked, “How do I educate my children, when I myself was not educated in Yiddishkeit?”He replied, “Don’t worry, your children will educate you.” And indeed, that is what happened. The Rebbe emphasized the importance of my children going to Jewish schools, and I followed his advice. My daughters went to the Jewish Free School and my son to Hasmonean, which is a yeshivah-type school. And they met my every expectation—all are good Jews, leading full Jewish lives, and their children are doing likewise.

The Rebbe gave me advice in my business matters, as well. Regarding a question I had, he told me to borrow as much as I can and as much as I need, “so you can expand your business quickly and also expand your charitable activities.”

Recently, I sold a business which went public for many hundreds of millions of dollars. And while my share of that business was relatively low, because it had been diluted over the years as the company brought in more partners and expanded, nonetheless it was sufficient for me to make a 10 percent charity donation in six figures. My son, who has taken over most of my business activities, takes the same view about charity as I have always taken—that you give more than you should, more than you can, because it will come back next year somehow or another.

But the advice of the Rebbe which perhaps had the greatest impact on me had to do with my community role. I had asked the Rebbe about making aliyah to Israel, but he didn’t encourage me. As far as he was concerned, my first responsibility was to my community in the U.K.

I pointed out that it was a diminishing community—thirty years ago it numbered something like 400,000 Jews, but at the time when I met with him it was down to 350,000. Now it’s not much more than 250,000. The Rebbe’s response to this argument was, “It’s like the story of G‑d destroying the city and being challenged: ‘If there are only ten righteous people, would You not save the city?’ And G‑d answered that He would save the city.”

The The Rebbe wanted to ensure that wherever Jews live and make their mark on the world, they should be able to do so.Rebbe wanted to ensure that wherever Jews choose to live and make their mark on the world, they should be able to do so. And if you are amongst them—and if you are a community leader—you can’t abandon ship. You are responsible for seeing they’re provided with religious facilities, education, security, and whatever else they need.

So that was a challenge that the Rebbe threw out at me. And while my wife and I had planned that some time after our marriage we would move to Israel, we ended up staying in the U.K. and becoming involved in all aspects of the Jewish community, particularly in education.

I recall that whilst organizing a United Jewish Israel Appeal mission to Israel in 1990, the Gulf War broke out. Afraid of a major dropout of participants, I turned to the Rebbe for advice, by asking him whether his stand on “Israel being the safest place” had changed.

The Rebbe’s response was “emphatically not,” and the mission went successfully ahead.

I became involved with the Jewish Educational Trust, which was set up by the late Chief Rabbi Lord Jakobovits, to establish a network of Jewish day schools in England. We succeeded in this effort, and as a result there are now primary and secondary Jewish schools which service the majority of Jewish children. Over the time that I had been involved with this project, enrollment jumped from 12 percent to 60 percent, and is still expanding. I think in this respect we’ve done probably the best job in the Jewish world in looking after Jewish education, with the exception of Australia.

And all this came about because of the Rebbe’s advice to me. When I first met him, I was already in a leadership position in the U.K., but he looked to challenge every aspect of my being—he brought out even more in me.