Bernie Springer was an insurance agent and, from all accounts, a pretty good one.
He was also a devoted community supporter — most notably for Beth Israel Hospital and Geriatric Center, Israel Bonds and his beloved Beth Joseph Synagogue — and we know that he was pretty good at that, too.
But those facts don’t nearly paint the full picture of the Bernie Springer we knew.
We knew him as a strong and intelligent man who had no trouble distinguishing wrong from right, and as a courageous man who was unafraid to act on his convictions.
A Denver Jewish legend has it that when Channel 4 broadcast the miniseries “Holocaust” in 1978, a local band of Ku Klux Klansmen showed up at the TV station bearing signs denying the Holocaust.
Springer promptly showed up himself, a loaded gun in his coat pocket, so the story goes, and was fortunately dissuaded by a friend from taking whatever action he had apparently contemplated.
It was Springer who brought to the attention of the Intermountain Jewish News the deeds of Denver’s “Lavender Hill Mob.”
This was a group of varied Denver professionals (including Springer, freshly discharged from the US Army) who worked clandestinely in the late 1940s to procure arms and ammunition for the fledgling State of Israel, then fighting for its very survival.
Their activities were, for the most part, highly illegal, so much so that nearly 50 years later — long after the statute of limitations had elapsed — when we put together a story about their exploits, some of the original members refused to talk about what they had done, not sure that the statute of limitations had expired. It was no small irony that some of these men went on to become attorneys highly respected for their integrity.
Thanks to Springer, readers of the IJN have been treated to the full story of the Lavender Hill Mob. We’ve reprinted it twice already, and readers still want to see it again.
Springer was no more afraid of the statute of limitations than he was of the consequences of his original deeds. Nor did he fear a gang of hooded Klansmen spreading insults and falsehoods — although we’re glad he got his temper under control before he did anything he would surely have regretted later.
Bernie Springer might have been a mild-mannered, bespectacled, gray-suited insurance agent, but — like Clark Kent — he was also a man of steel beneath the unruffled, staid exterior. He was honest, he was brave, he was almost always right — and his contributions to the birth of Israel are immeasurable.
For that alone — as they say — dayenu.
Copyright © 2013 by the Intermountain Jewish News