Rabbi Gershon Avtzon - new logo

By Rabbi Avtzon 

 

It is an honor to live in the state of Ohio. It is a very family-friendly state and a state with a lot of historical significance. It also has another, not well-known, distinction: It is home to the Duck (or Duct) Tape capitol of the world. While the official Duck-Tape brand is made in North Carolina, the headquarters of the company — and its large distribution center — is in Avon, Ohio. They actually host an annual festival, called the Avon Heritage Duck Tape Festival, which attracts thousands to that small town every summer. 

The history of Duck-Tape is fascinating: The iconic tape was invented by an Illinois mom named Vesta Stoudt who wanted to save soldiers’ lives in World War II. The year was 1943 and Stoudt, who had two sons serving in the U.S. Navy, was working at the Green River Ordnance Plant near Amboy, Illinois. 

She noticed that the boxes of ammunition she was packing and inspecting had a flaw: they were sealed with paper tape, with a tab to open them. Workers then dipped the entire box in wax to make it waterproof. But the paper tape was very thin, and the tabs often tore off, leaving soldiers frantically trying to open the box while under fire.

Stoudt then had an “aha” moment: Why not create a waterproof cloth tape to seal the boxes instead? She suggested it to her supervisors but didn’t find the support she was looking for. So Stoudt did something amazing: on February 10, 1943, she wrote a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt outlining the problem and her solution, complete with diagrams!

President Roosevelt was so impressed that he passed her letter on to the War Production Board, which mailed a letter to Soudt letting her know that her idea for duct tape had been approved. The board then asked the Industrial Tape Corporation to make the product because of its demonstrated expertise in producing adhesive tapes. The “Duck” name came from two factors. First, the tape was originally made from an army green cotton duck fabric. Second, the water-resistant properties of the tape were said to repel water like the back of a duck.

My family has also had a special connection to Duck-Tape. Many years ago, one of my younger sisters became obsessed with Duck-Tape and started collecting rolls and doing all types of crafts. We had rolls all over the house. While I originally thought that it would be passing craze, she stuck with it and is constantly making videos about her crafts and ideas, and spends her summers traveling to many overnight camps doing duck-tape crafts with the campers.

In one of my conversations with my sister, I asked her to tell me one amazing fact about duck-tape. She said that most people are unaware of the strength of duct-tape that is stuck to each other. While on its own, it is easily ripped and torn apart, together it becomes nearly inseparable. It is so strong that studies show that it could pull hundreds of pounds.

I was thinking of this as we enter this month of November 2022. It is an election year and, naturally, the campaign rhetoric is at its height and personal passions are in full bloom. People care very strongly about their political views, ideals and candidates. That is the blessing of living in a democracy, where the people choose their leaders. Yet, it obviously comes with a big risk: when the political process becomes so personal, it can cause many divisions and rifts between families, friends and communities. When people feel that the very essence of democracy and freedom are on the ballot, it becomes very difficult to tolerate and embrace someone of opposing views and opinions.

The key to Jewish survival, and our future, is our unity. We are a people of many different viewpoints and religious observances, yet we must always remain one unified people. Our souls that are truly united as one, even stronger than duct-tape attached to each other, must always be stronger — than the ideas and personal opinions that divide us. Our differences of opinion are external and transient, while our shared essence is internal and eternal. We must not get distracted by the externals and forget that this year is a special “Hakhel-unity” year. On the contrary: this November would be a very good time to bond and “stick” with each other, especially with someone that does not agree with your own political views and opinions. The world must know, and our children must see, that the Jewish people are one and connected with each other in an inseparable way.

 

Got Duck-Tape?

 

Shabbat Shalom!

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