For the sake of the family: My son-in-law put us in a terrible position

As told to Chaya Silber

Looking back, I should have foreseen the inevitable. But I was only the father-in-law, and my influence was limited.
Perhaps, had I realized the extent of the risk and how it would tear my family apart, I would have voiced my opinion more strongly. I would have told my son-in-law the expression my father, z”l, a Holocaust survivor, often used: “Mit mishpuche est men kigel.” It’s basically a polite way of saying that business and family should never mix, under any circumstances.
This magazine is full of inspirational success stories, notably in the “LunchBreak” column, about family members who work well together. Week after week we read accounts of entrepreneurs who generously invited their family members into their business and “made it big,” with everyone sharing slices of the pie and living happily ever after.
It’s dangerous to think it’s that easy. I’m here to tell you the unvarnished truth—it’s very risky. This is the story that almost destroyed my family.
Dudi Gold is my eldest son-in-law. He joined our family 18 years ago when he married our eldest daughter, Esti. Dudi is brilliant and laser-sharp, while Esti is gentle and kind. They have five lively sons and a beautiful baby girl.
My next daughter, Rissi, married Zevi Friedler. Unlike Dudi, Zevi comes from a fabulously wealthy home, though he never flaunts it. Ironically, Zevi is the one who is quiet and cautious, whereas Dudi is bold and daring. My two sons-in-law are as different as night and day.
After learning in kollel for over a decade, Dudi made the decision to go into business. As he often said, and I agreed, he wasn’t the type to work for someone else. Dudi needed to be his own boss, to call the shots and follow his own instincts. He dabbled in selling electronics on eBay, then refurbished computers, until he finally decided to pursue his dream.
With the help of an experienced programmer, Dudi developed an app that was intended to revolutionize the way businesses do their purchasing. The app, which utilized a carefully culled list of manufacturers around the world, guides savvy businessmen to the most economical supplier of whatever product they needed. If the app took off, it had the potential to make it to the big leagues.
There was only one issue that was keeping him from bringing it to the market. Late one Motzaei Shabbos as we were eating melaveh malkah together, Dudi said to me, “I need an investor with deep pockets to get this off the ground, and there’s no one I can borrow money from. I don’t have access to anyone like that.”
I nodded, understanding all too well. Dudi’s parents subsisted on a shoestring budget, and his siblings were all struggling financially. My wife and I both worked hard for our parnasah. We were in no position to help him.
“Why don’t you ask Zevi’s father for advice?” I suggested. “He may know how to guide you. Ask Zevi to set you up for a meeting with him.” My other mechutan was a savvy businessman who ran a multimillion-dollar real-estate empire. He was a very busy man, between the business he ran and askanus, and he was not easy to reach.
That’s how it came about that Zevi arranged a meeting for Dudi with his father, Reb Nosson. Nosson was an astute businessman who recognized the app’s potential, and he agreed to finance the start-up.

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