In the annals of “things named in honor of people,” a Chabad House doesn’t necessarily register. But just last month, a center in Portland, Maine was dedicated in honor of an unlikely character: Burt Shavitz. Yeah, the guy on your beeswax lip balm, variously described as a “cantankerous hippie” and “scruffy face of Burt’s Bees.”
While Shavitz and his wife are members of the tribe (an unfettered beard suits him) the reasons for the dedication run a bit deeper. His partner and co-founder, Roxanne Quimby, recalls that when they were starting Burt’s Bees in the middle of the Maine woods, a Chabad rabbi drove more than a hundred miles to tell them “to give away ten percent of their income, and be rewarded ten times over.” Whether because of the rabbi’s blessing or striver’s luck, Quimby says their lives, and their business, soon began looking up. (But they never strayed far from their humble origins: in 2014, Shavitz was living in a turkey coop.)
The rabbi, Moshe Wilansky, became a friend, visiting from far away and even officiating at their children’s bar mitzvahs. After Shavitz died this past July, it wasn’t hard to make the decision to give back. It’s what Burt, and possibly his bees, would have wanted.