The tenets of forgiveness

Dorie Fain
Dorie Fain is the founder and CEO of &Wealth, a boutique financial advisory firm dedicated to helping women who are recreating their lives, with offices in New York City and Baltimore.

Published 2/27/2018 in The Maryland Daily Record 

The year 2018 has started out with as fast a pace as I ever remember. My travel schedule to see clients has kicked off as we begin our planning, and people are focused on what lies ahead for the coming year.

Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting with a client and his trusted friend, whom he has selected to be involved in some aspects of his personal financial planning. This man and his family are simply extraordinary. My client has long raved about them, yet this meeting still caught me by surprise as I had no idea of the extent and the depth of how this interaction would impact me.

The backstory is that this family had four children until one of their identical twin sons was killed by a drunk driver in 2010 at the age of 21. This young man was across the country attending college when he was struck by a drunk driver, and, in the act of saving his girlfriend from the impact of the oncoming car, he lost his life. Eight years later, I was meeting this bereaved father within days of the anniversary of the accident. The look of grief in his eyes was evident. The exhaustion of a nagging ache that never really goes away yet here we were in this afternoon-long meeting together, forcing life to really go on.

We talked openly about aspects of the impact that his son’s death has caused. Unexpectedly, he shared the message that he delivered at the sentencing of the man who was drunk that night and driving the car that took his son’s young life. He spoke of forgiveness, and he used a term in Hebrew called Teshuva. The concept of forgiveness as a gift that we give ourselves is one that I learned many years ago when Oprah Winfrey interviewed the family survivors of murder victims and how they were able to forgive the offenders. It was controversial for many people to grasp how someone could decide to let go of the anger and instead chose compassion toward the very person who caused them such profound loss. This man and his family chose this path. It was remarkable to hear him talk about it in these terms.

Teshuva translated to English more literally means repentance but is also defined as a return. I interpret this to mean a second chance. He spoke of four key elements to the process: 1. Regret – One must make a confession of detailed responsibility without trying to reduce culpability. 2. Leaving the negativity behind – One must deeply listen to and understand the extent of the harm from the victim’s point of view. 3.Verbalization – One must provide reasonable restitution as the victim requests. 4. Resolution for the future – Given the exact same circumstance, one will now act differently.

The message he shared to the offender in court was this, to paraphrase – it is not what you have done but what you will do in the future. We can’t change what has been done and the real crime beyond the obvious, which can’t be undone, will be to not seize the opportunity to make right the life that remains. Learn and grow from this mistake. You have a chance to do this.

The family supported a lesser sentence in an effort to allow for this process to have potential. This touched me in such a way to experience someone walking the walk. It might be easy or casual to say what we would do in a situation and here this family is living it. I am so drawn to their courage and conviction of such compassion. I could sense that this has helped to heal them in some way, knowing there is no way to completely ever truly heal.

During his life, Avi Schaefer was known as a young man looking to build connections to communities perceived to be at odds. The Israeli-Palestinian bridge was one that Avi cared deeply about promoting. In his memory, his family created the Avi Schaefer fund to help young adults become change-makers in their communities. It was this legacy that he left behind and this legacy that has inspired his family to carry on as they have. It is so rare to be moved by a person’s resolve in the face of deep tragedy and I am feeling so lucky to have had this experience with such an inspiring person.
To learn more about the Schaefers’ story and the Avi Schaefer Fund, please visit

Dorie Fain, founder and CEO of &Wealth