The Founder of Facebook Isn't My Only Roommate Worth Mentioning

When people ask me about my roommate, they usually want to hear about Mark Zuckerberg. But just once, I'd like to tell the stories of those other roommates who have changed my world.

With the recent announcement by Facebook of its impending IPO, I have once again found myself in the media for my apparently most important achievement to date: choosing to share a suite with the future founders of Facebook.

Let there be no mistake about it: I enjoyed living with those guys. They were good roommates and good people. They also changed the world for the better. I was witness to history during that year that we lived together, and I understand why people always ask me about it.

House Call Yossi Turisky
Yuval Tebol

However, the founders of Facebook are not the only impressive people with whom I’ve ever shared a room or a house. And just once, I’d like to share about the other incredible people with whom I’ve had the pleasure to live.

I’ll start with Joe, who lived with me for my last two years of college (including with our famous roommates). I have many friends from years at Harvard who do well. But Joe is one of the few that I can genuinely say does good.

Joe always wanted to utilize the internet to get people involved in something meaningful. Through his company “Causes,” Joe has utilized Facebook to raise over $30 million for a variety of nonprofit organizations. Joe has brought “tikkun olam” (human acts which repair the world) to a new level in today’s world as he made charitable giving accessible to millions. I hope I can make the same impact with my work one day.

Of course, before I started university, I lived with some housemates that I did not choose: my family. While nobody is impressed (or surprised) when I tell them that I lived with my parents or my siblings, they have instilled in me values much more meaningful than any exciting story about that time I lived with the Time Man of the Year.

Not only would I not be who I am without my gene-sharing housemates, I wouldn’t be where I am. My grandmother of blessed memory lived with us for half of each year when I was a child. She is perhaps most responsible for my aliyah, seeing as how I fell in love with Israel from the first time we visited her when I was three years old. She, her parents, and her five siblings all made aliyah independently, at different stages of their lives. No doubt their precedent (and their descendants - my many Israeli cousins) enabled me to take the plunge myself.

No less influential are my older brother and my little sister. Professionally, they are impressive. My brother has used his talents - his intelligence, his analytical abilities, his charisma - to help governments around the world better serve their people. My sister removed herself from her comfort zone to move to a foreign country, with minimal plumbing and electricity, learn a new language, simply to help people she did not know live healthier lives. Both my brother and sister have a desire to use their professional abilities to help people, near and far. It’s truly inspiring.

And while they inspire me with their commitment to help those they do not know, they show an even greater commitment to one another - and to me. There is no question that I am proud of both of them, but this is no distant pride. I know that I can always rely on them, and they remind me both of the need to help strangers while being there for the ones we know and love.

Finally, I must give the most credit where it is due, my parents. They instilled in me a love of learning combined with a love of teaching. They modeled the commitment to community, friends, and family that has made my siblings and I who we are. Each in their own way, they showed me what a true Jewish home is, one where ritual acts coexist with moral values.

It is true that when people ask me to tell them about “my roommate,” they typically want to hear about the most famous one only. And while the others may not be household names, just once, they deserve to have their stories told.

Arie Hasit, is a Jewish educator and a student at the Beit Midrash at Machon Schechter. He dedicates this column to his father in honor of his 64th birthday, and apologizes for the lack of Vera, Chuck, Dave or any other grandchildren to sit at his knee.