Former Ohr Chadash writer meets Khizr Khan

Max meets Khizr Khan at the University of Virginia. Photo courtesy of Max Krupnick.


The Ohr Chadash staff is a close group, so when Max Krupnick, former member of Temple Emanuel and a student at John Burroughs School, moved with his family to Charlottesville, Va. last summer, we were sad to see him go. Luckily, we have been able to keep in touch with Max, who has been doing some incredible things since he last wrote for us.

This past year, Max got the opportunity to interview Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of Army Captain Humayun Khan, who was killed in a suicide attack near Baqubah, Iraq in 2004, and was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. He came to the attention of the American public during the 2016 Democratic National Convention when his father spoke about him and other Muslim American serving in the U.S. military.

I recently talked to Max about his move to a new town and his interview with Khan. While he misses us back in St. Louis, Max is enjoying his new home and the opportunities that have come his way because of his move.

“It’s been a great experience, being able to move to such a beautiful place and meet a bunch of new, interesting people,” Max said.

The difference between St. Louis and Charlottesville is not just in the landscape, however. Max pointed out that he didn’t realize how lucky he was to be a part of such a strong Jewish community in St. Louis of roughly 60,000, while Charlottesville’s Jewish community numbers only 1,000, according to Jewish Virtual Library’s website.


 “It was very different for me, coming from St. Louis, where every weekend I could be hanging out with people and then I’d have my friends from school ask me ‘How do you know these people’ and I would say ‘Oh, they’re Jewish’ [and] then moving to a comparatively small town in central Virginia where there are a handful of Jews. It’s very different coming from a place where 15 percent of my high school class was Jewish at Burroughs.”

Max has been able to continue his reporting, as well. In fact, he is now in charge of his school newspaper. It was while learning about his new town that Max discovered his connection to Khan, who is also from Charlottesville.

 “It’s a small town so I figured there might not be a lot of really interesting people here, but he sounded pretty cool, so I decided reach out to him,” Max explained. 

About a month after trying to contact him, he got a response. The Khans were going to be in Charlottesville, at the University of Virginia, for a short time in late September.  After hearing Khizr Khan speak, Max and a few others went to his house to talk to him and his wife. The discussion that followed, Max says, was as great as he thought it might be.

 “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience because I was thinking, ‘This man has made such an impact on so many people, and I know I’m getting to interview him.’ We just talked for a long time. I had collected a lot of questions from people– my own questions, questions from people in NFTY, people from school– so I had a wide range of topics that we got to discuss.”

Max took away a lot from his opportunity. There were a few lessons, however, that really stuck with him.

“He really does have a refreshing perspective on America,” Max said.“[The interview was in] the middle of an election cycle that was so ridiculously brutal. But he [was] so upbeat and positive. He spoke about the American dream, and how we are all blessed to be here.”

Max also stressed the importance of reaching out to people that inspire someone. “Getting in touch with people that interest you [is] definitely worth doing,” he noted. “The worst thing that could happen is that they don’t respond, but you could end up with an experience like I had that was extremely interesting and extremely relevant– it’s pretty cool.”

Max was kind enough to share the conversation that he had with Khizr and Ghazala Khan; excerpts are published below.

How has Islamophobia affected you?

Khizr Khan: I have not experienced it. Am I saying it doesn’t exist? No, it does exist, but maybe because of the approach that we have we adopted, unintentionally, just considering everybody part of [our] community and dealing with them on equal basis, in return they acknowledge us, and respect us. 

Ghazala Khan: I have not. Maybe I don’t let anyone see me that way. Because I am a human, you are a human, it’s in the heart, in the eyes, that’s why anybody has ever given me anything. Even in the street, when I walk, when I go for groceries. Nobody has ever said anything to me.


How do we prevent the next generation of Americans growing up in a country full of Islamophobia?

Khizr Khan: Communities should intermingle. Not just the majority, but the minority has an obligation as well… Today, Mrs. Khan said something very great to the class that I think everybody was touched by. She said a small gesture goes a long way. As soon as a new person comes into a school or your class, greet them. By simple saying, hello, my name is so and so, I’m so glad you’re here. Those three sentences mean the world to them . . . Those simple things can last, leave an impression for the rest of your life that you were well received in the community. It is that type of gesture, simple things, not that complicated, that impact all of us in a positive manner. Never hesitate, never underestimate your kindness. Sometimes if you feel strongly about something and you see wrongdoing being done, say this is wrong. You don’t need to argue, you don’t need to fight, simply asserting your leadership, simply saying this is wrong, I don’t agree with that. It makes such an impact on someone.


If you want to see more of the interview, visit the Ohr  Chadash webpage at