As we emerge from Covid, there’s been a noticeable delay in the delivery of goods, creating scarcity or limited availability and raising costs and stymying the post-Covid economic recovery – and a lot of this goes back to supply chain problems. This is true of new cars and appliances and raw materials for building supply, to toilet paper and food products and all kinds of everyday things. 

Nowadays, most things are not made locally or in the neighborhood. Many things we rely on come from across the country or around the world. And manufacturers today do not produce all their ingredients or components themselves, as many or outsourced, delegated or purchased from other suppliers, some of which are concentrated in certain regions of the world. For all of this to come together, be available and accessible at local stores or to arrive at our doorsteps, so many eyes and hands, machines and vehicles must all take part and play their role. 

As the saying goes: You are only as strong as your weakest link. One delay in a critical component, or one bottleneck in shipping, a storm in this part of the world or striking or not enough workers in another part of the world – it all affects the supply chain. Especially if multiple weaknesses occur at once, then the supply chain can really be affected, and it can take quite a while to get back on track.

Being that the supply chain is affecting all us, and impacts so many different areas of life, I wondered what life lessons or spiritual application could we find in this? I posed this question online and people shared some very interesting ideas – perhaps to develop some of them soon.

But just then, the next day, I had opportunity to visit the local American-Italian Heritage Museum on Central Ave, and its founder and director, Professor Philip DiNovo. My father Rabbi Israel Rubin read about him in the Times-Union newspaper, and is always eager for “wide open windows” (or WOW for short) exploration opportunities for the school he runs (where our kids go and where I teach) named Maimonides. So he asked me to accompany him on a visit to Dr. DiNovo and we could Zoom the museum tour and interview (a first according to Dr. Dinovo). 

Dr. Philip Dinovo is a retired business professor who has been collecting and preserving American-Italian heritage materials for over 40 years and 25 years ago founded the American Italian Heritage Association & Museum (located at 1227 Central Ave in Colonie) which he continues to direct with much passion and vigor – even as he himself is deep into retirement and at an age that most people do not work or get out much. 

He took us on a quick but detailed tour of the museum’s ten artifact rooms which are divided into areas of immigration, food, faith, culture, music, and other themes, each item there has a backstory – there are many tidbits & nuggets of history around every corner (many things you won’t learn elsewhere) about the many contributions of Italian-Americans (including Jewish Italian-Americans).

But perhaps the best exhibit in the museum is Dr. Nivovo himself! His tireless passion for preservation of heritage, transmission of old deep values, cherishing culture of things large and small, remembering one’s history… His concerns and messages for continuation of Italian-American heritage certainly resonate with us as Jews. In fact, he spoke with admiration of a Jewish education and its important role in instilling values and transmitting traditions to the next generation, into the future. He was especially concerned with the aging of the Italian-Americans who cherish and remember their traditions and that many of their younger descendants do not have that same sense of identity to carry it into the future. 

Ah, so this is a supply chain message! Think of the supply chain not as horizontal across continents but as vertical through the timeline of Jewish history. The Jewish heritage is one long chain of links, generation after generation of Jewish continuity and connection. Every person adds their piece, does their part and continues to pass it onward, keeps it going forward. This even happens on a smaller and compressed scale in the generations of students (total turnover every 4-5 years) on campus at UAlbany, we’re each needed to do our share, keep it going and pass it onward. But any weakness in that chain, or a missing link, or bottleneck, affects the whole system, and delays or diminishes what ends up at the final destination.