PASSOVER EDITION 5778 SECTION C PAGE 20
Every year the IJN salutes people known or obscure who bring freedom into our lives. Passover, with its message of gratitude to G-d for our freedom, is the appropriate moment to say thank you.
Lisa Farber Miller
Lisa Farber Miller invented an address that, for much more than a century of its existence, this community could not even have imagined. With the Jewish community’s construction of General Rose Memorial Hospital in 1949, and then with the sale of Rose Medical Center in 1995, the community suddenly had a major, permanent endowment. It was a no-brainer to figure out that the community would put aside at least part of this endowment for itself. But how? To what specific ends? Who would make the decisions? What would be the process for grants? What Jewish and ethical principle should be controlling?
Many grappled with these questions, but none more than Lisa Farber Miller, who recently retired as Rose Community Foundation’s long time program officer for its Jewish Life Committee. Yes, there is a committee; yes, there are overall RCF guidelines; but more than anyone Farber Miller provided the leadership and made it all work.
Needless to say, there have been and will remain many competitors for these funds; there have been awards more productive than others; but in the long view Farber Miller has left her imprint on Colorado’s Jewish community. She has left it enhanced and, if we can put it this way, “outreached.”
Outreached to coming generations through institutional endowments now in place, outreached to future leaders through the Rose Youth Foundation — all around, Farber Miller created a more vibrant, expressive community.
Let’s see. There is the yeshiva. There is the kollel. The three Jewish day schools. The Beth Jacob. Then there is Bruce Heitler, who has become an institution of intensive Torah study unto himself.
It started many decades ago when Heitler began hosting a weekly Torah class in his busy real estate office. No matter what was happening, this hour of Torah study became sacrosanct. Well, decades later, the Torah class is still happening, but by now it is but the tip of the iceberg. Heitler is out there virtually every evening teaching one Torah class or another. They reflect his deep dive into Hebrew, the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud over these past decades. The distance he has traveled since the days when he was a beginning student an hour a week in his office is immeasurable. And even this does not include the extensive time he spends studying Torah with his grandchildren — also a virtually daily endeavor.
One might think that Heitler has nothing else to do. Nothing could be further from the truth. Besides his stewardship of a busy real estate firm, his academic training in philosophy, in the law and in city planning, plus his long experience in real estate, made him a perfect go-to person for the reconfiguration — the reinvention, really — of the former Lowry Air Force base into what we now know as the lovely Lowry neighborhood.
Heitler wears many hats, serving as a model of Jewish ethics as he interacts with the full variety of types in our fair city.
All the talk about six degrees of separation notwithstanding, we are all total strangers to virtually everyone on the planet. Only rarely do we bridge the gap. For most of us, this is by making a new friend, a relationship that may or may not stand the test of time. Rare is the relationship that is absolute, utterly impervious to time; and that relationship is the donation of a kidney. Adam Leventhal donated a kidney to a perfect stranger.
Then, when all the various risks and discomforts were over, Leventhal involved himself in the various stages of finding kidneys for others.
Somehow, when people heard of Leventhal’s donation, it fit. Ever since he was a youth he put himself out there as a Bar Mitzvah tutor, a deliverer of words of Torah in a wide variety of contexts, and a favor-doer extraordinnaire. (We mention this last quality with hesitation, since the Torah advises us not to praise a person’s helpful qualities overmuch lest he be taken advantage of.) Surely not least of Leventhal’s favors is his regular visits to the most forgotten of all — those in prison.
An obvious type of idealism only becomes obvious after it’s brought up because it is difficult to embody consistently. We refer to refraining from unkind speech (leshon hara). Adam Leventhal talks about and teaches this. He quite literally talks the talk. His many humble and friendly qualities add a beautiful sheen to our community.
Jonathan and Lisa Perlmutter
There’s a reason why idioms exist across multiple languages. They typically contain universal truths. As in, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. ” We prefer, “the tree doesn’t grow far from the apple.” That is, the achievements of the next generation cast credit on the earlier generations who nurtured them. Indeed, the number and the manner of the many contributions of Jonathan and Lisa Perlmutter shine a beautiful light on their progenitors.
Their manner is understated, quiet, gracious, out-of-the-limelight, often behind-the-scenes, always with a soft touch, as if to say, what’s the big deal?
We first heard of Jonathan Perlmutter long ago when he was a student volunteeering to teach reading skills to elementary school students in a rough neighborhood. As he has emerged as a community leader in synagogues, schools, AIPAC, Denver Health and other agencies and institutions, it is not really “he” who has emerged. It is so often “Jonathan and Lisa,” together, jointly making it happen.
There is much talk about the crisis of continuity facing Diaspora Jewish life. Young adults are dropping out, not connected the way their parents and grandparents once were.
The Perlmutters’ commitment to local community, Israel and religious life — which they inherited through their equally dedicated forebears — is a lesson par excellence in how to ensure Jewish continuity.
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