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Kudos: Four free Jews who personify Passover

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Clockwise, top left: David Fogel, Sue Parker Gerson, George Gumbiner, Rabbi Eliot Baskin

PASSOVER 5774 EDITION 
SECTION C PAGE 24

Every year the IJN salutes people — known or obscure — who bring freedom into our lives. It is always time to say ‘thank you,’ but Passover, with its eternal message of gratitude to G-d for our freedom, seems an especially appropriate moment.

David Fogel: Leadership

In his community activism, David Fogel embodies the bon mot of the late, beloved Max Frankel, who, when asked whether he’d lived his whole life in Denver, replied: “Not yet.” And thank G-d it’s so, since one of Fogel’s main strengths is institutional memory, knowledge of all the players and the accompanying sense of where things need to go. On top of which, Fogel is not hide bound, the very opposite of “this is the way we’ve always done it.”

Fogel’s activism has encompassed decades of dedication to B’nai B’rith, JNF and many other causes, and now finds itself at the cusp of a new era for, well, we won’t say “Allied Jewish Apartments,” which has just rebranded itself as “Kavod Senior Life.” This reflects the expansion of its mission and activities beyond its senior living component. Though the rebranding is long in the planning and no doubt reflective of earlier leadership, too, it launched under the presidency of David Fogel — no accident.

With Fogel, what you get is not just “leadership” — that elusive quality that makes things move forward — but an embracing smile, a warm humanity, a great capacity to laugh, a cheerful acceptance of the ironies of life — a joie de vivre. No doubt, he takes all this, in part, from his late, unforgettable parents, Irving and Doreen Fogel, and parents-in-law, Jimmie and Goldye Radetsky. We say, “in part,” because David Fogel is his own creation, and this community, not to mention his family, is lucky to have him.

Sue Gerson: Grace

Sue Parker Gerson came to Denver because her husband took the job as Rodef Shalom’s spiritual leader 21 years ago. But she has made her own name in this community as a teacher, adult education executive, civil rights professional and, yes, rebbetzin. She’s a woman of many hats and wears each of them graciously.

Parker Gerson’s love affair with Jewish education started with her Conservative Jewish upbringing in New Jersey, and was reinforced in college when she majored in Judaic studies, and earned  an MA in Jewish history. She’s taught almost her entire adult life. Who knew, however, that not only could she teach but also display great administrative and leadership skills, as she built CAJE’s Melton Mini-School into a major adult Jewish education venue in Denver? The top cats in the national Melton program knew because they made her a regional director and awarded her with their highest honor at a ceremony in Jerusalem.

Melton had the benefit of Parker Gerson’s talents for 12 years until she made a career change and joined the office of Mountain States ADL, where she is putting her people skills and dedication to work in the pursuit of a world free of prejudice and discrimination.

While she’s made her own name, Sue Parker Gerson serves enthusiastically as Rodef Shalom’s first lady, and very proudly as the wife of Rabbi Bernard Gerson and the mother of Elliot and Jennie. No one can have it all, but Sue Parker Gerson comes close.

Rabbi Baskin: Cherubic

There’s something cherubic about Rabbi Eliot Baskin. He spreads delight like a picnic blanket in spring. Yet the JFS Jewish community chaplain is a wise and serious man who grapples with life’s most grievous challenges: loss, and surviving loss. Through JFS’ Rafael Spiritual Healing Services, he offers counseling from a Jewish perspective. He also visits Jews in hospitals, prisons, hospices and mental health facilities. Those can be dark places. For Baskin, all our journeys are holy and vulnerable to G-d’s presence.

The Toronto native graduated from HUC-JIR in 1985. He was the first rabbi to earn a doctor of ministry degree in pastoral care and counseling from the school in 1993. He understood where he was needed most, even as his rabbinical path has led him to pulpits, too: Har Shalom (Ft. Collins), Beth Evergreen and now Har Shalom in Durango.

Past president of the Rocky Mountain Rabbinical Council, he teaches theology at the Melton Mini-School, philosophy for Akeya, volunteers for the Denver Police chaplains unit, helps friends and strangers alike. Love is his instrument; shalom, his tapestry.

Baskin is married to orthodontist Dr. Hilary Baskin; they have two accomplished sons, Jonah and Gabriel. Love enables him to travel far and wide. This is Baskin’s gift:ministering to the disquieted Jewish soul while encouraging its vast potential. He is the conduit between disparate worlds, and we thank him.

Pres. George: Fresh Air

Whatever one thought of President George (W. Bush), the opinion on President George (Gum- biner) is unanimous: the nicest guy you’ll ever meet. Oh, the “President” part goes back to Gumbiner’s presidency of Aish Denver during the terms of President Bush, when, at shul announcement time, people would spontaneously greet Gumbiner as “President George.” He smiled sheepishly as his face turned beet red. You would never know how serious, focused, helpful and effective in his leadership Gumbiner has been over his decades in Denver.

We mentioned Aish Denver. We could also mention Denver JDS, Hillel Academy, DAT, Allied Jewish Federation, many pro-Israel organizations and other institutions in our community. Usually not in a public, prominent position, “President George” has done the work of presidents, secretaries, fundraisers, board chairs, you name it. Gumbiner gets things done and makes them happen.

Meanwhile, he brings a real Colorado flavor to it all. Gumbiner has climbed most (all?) of Colorado’s “fourteeners,” often with Dr. Isaac Teitelbaum. That breath of fresh air — literally and figuratively — one associates with George Gumbiner.

Overlaying all of this is Gumbiner’s matchless passion for the safety and welfare of the State of Israel. In this he leads us all, pricks everyone’s conscience and sets the standard. And for all this, not to mention his endless personal kindnesses, we offer our gratitude.

Copyright © 2014 by the Intermountain Jewish News

Last Updated ( Friday, 11 April 2014 04:26 )  

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