Temple Emanuel
Denver, Colorado
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The Live On Society: Donor Stories

A Rich Life

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David Justman came to Denver with his family in 1929.  Born in Poland, his parents had decided to move to the United States in the early 1920s, first settling in New York.  After a few years, however, his mother contracted tuberculosis and her doctors recommended she move to Colorado for treatment.  “I was only 8 years old,” David explained, “and we took a train across the country to come to Denver.”

Life wasn’t easy after they arrived.  David’s mother was welcomed by the Jewish Consumptives Relief Society, but would need to live separately from her family in order to receive care.  His father found another place to live, while David and his brother would be raised in an orphanage near Sloan’s Lake.  “It took 4-5 years for my mother to recover,” David said, “although I did see my father once a week, sometimes more.”

“My dad was a watchmaker,” David said.  Although finding work was difficult during the depression, his father approached the Denver Dry Goods Company and discovered they had no watch repair operation.  “He spoke to the manager of the jewelry department and evidently found the right man,” David explained.  “After my father described his talents, he was hired and given a work space.  Denver Dry Goods began advertising and the work started rolling in!”   

Eventually, after his mother recovered, the family was reunited and his father rented a westside home large enough for the family.  “I left the sheltering home at age 15,” David said.  “I soon discovered that it cost money to take a streetcar or go to a movie, and realized I needed to work.”

David would secure a paper route in downtown Denver.  “My customers were right in the heart of the commerce section, and included the President of Colorado National Bank,” he said.  “After a time I wanted my own transportation.  I saved my money and eventually purchased a bicycle from a friend for five dollars.”

During World War II, David worked as a mechanic for Lockheed Aircraft in Burbank, California.  “My role provide an exemption from active duty as we were developing the P-38 fighter plane,” he said.  “Lockheed ran three shifts – we worked around the clock.” 

After the war, David went to work for Banker’s Life and Casualty Company, developing a specialty in life insurance.  Different roles would take David and his family to Pittsburgh, Chicago, and eventually back to Denver. 

“Our company’s primary focus had been Health and Accident insurance, but things were changing,” David explained.  “I was asked to meet with branches around the country to help build our life insurance business.  I created materials and calculations to help agents recognize the advantages of these products.”

In 1959, David Justman became a member of Temple Emanuel, celebrating his 50th anniversary in 2009.  He fondly remembers taking a cruise through the Panama Canal, only to discover that Rabbi Foster was also on board.

David remains a thoughtful, active investor to this day.  “I’m lucky to be in a position where I can support different charities that matter to me,” David shared.  “My annual IRA distributions would be taxable, but they’re not when I use them for donations.  I look at things every December – it helps with my tax planning for the year.” 

My IRA gifts accomplish two things.  I pay no taxes on the distribution and I make a generous gift to Temple Emanuel.”

David Justman’s family includes two children, four grandchildren and many great-grandchildren.  In addition to this rich legacy, he has also built a legacy of support for Temple Emanuel, one that will help serve Jewish families for generations to come. 

Shwayder Camp and Jewish Life

 

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When Susie Sigman first came to Colorado during college in the 1980s, Temple Emanuel immediately became the backdrop for her Jewish life. Spending the High Holy Days in the beautiful sanctuary felt comfortable from the beginning. “I felt a strong sense of connection right away,” she remarked. Her initial familiarity had its roots in a historical fact.  Susie would later learn that Temple Emanuel’s architect, Percival Goodman, had also designed the temple she attended while growing up in Shaker Heights, Ohio.  “It was a small coincidence,” she said, “but looking back it helped me feel at home from day one.”

Over the years, Susie’s connection to Temple Emanuel deepened.  “Rabbi Foster officiated my wedding and gradually, Friday evening services became a commitment,” she explained.  “Later, I got involved with the Sisterhood.  Its focus on spiritual development and leadership opportunities really spoke to me.” 

As the years unfolded, Susie’s two children Scott and Sam also enjoyed Temple life, attending both the preschool and religious school. As soon as they were old enough, they went to Shwayder Camp, and continued each summer, even becoming counselors in their teenage years. It was a special time for them and helped forge their Jewish identity.

Eventually, Susie’s connection to Temple led to a staff position as Rabbi Foster’s assistant.  “My life was changing,” she explained.  “That’s one of the great things about Temple Emanuel.  It’s available to us throughout our lives – even in ways we can’t always anticipate.”  Susie would later transition into the Program Director role, spending 14 years working at Temple Emanuel between the two positions. 

The idea for an estate gift first occurred while she was planning her first trip to Israel and putting her will in place.  “My attorney was a Temple member,” Susie said.  “I’d seen information about the Live On campaign, so it all came together.  My gift felt like a natural expression of the love and deep gratitude I felt for Temple Emanuel. It had always been there for me; I wanted to be there for it…even after I was no longer around.”

Shwayder Camp will be the beneficiary of her estate gift.  “There were other options too, but Scott and Sam had such wonderful experiences at camp,” she said.  “I want to help make sure it’s always a part of the Jewish community, and part of Temple Emanuel.” 

“It was easy to balance my responsibilities with this gift,” Susie added.  “I allocated everything by percentages.  This let me provide for my children first, while also showing them the importance of giving back.  This gift honors my children and their experience at Shwayder Camp.  It encourages something similar in their future lives.”

Susie hopes others might consider a similar gift.  “Temple Emanuel offers so many ways to connect,” she said.  “People with a myriad of needs and interests can find their niche here, and it’s really easy to give something back.  We can help future generations experience Jewish life in a positive way.  We have a chance to make this happen.”

 

The Gift of Jewish Life

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Leslie Schaeffer grew up in New York, but moved to Colorado with two young daughters in the early 1990s.  Although she did not have an opportunity to affiliate with a synagogue as a child, it was something Leslie was determined to provide for her family.  “We didn’t have relatives in Colorado, but I knew I was going to rear my children in a Jewish community,” she said. 

After reaching Denver, Leslie discovered Temple Emanuel; it was a little surprising.  “I had an idea of what I wanted, but I couldn’t believe that such a large, welcoming community would be waiting for us,” she explained.  “The support I was seeking -- to cultivate a Jewish life with my daughters --  I found in abundance.” As time passed and their lives unfolded, Leslie’s appreciation only deepened. 

“My girls attended the religious school and Shwayder Camp, both became Bat Mitzvah in the Feiner Chapel, and over time they developed into strong young women with a deep appreciation of their Jewish identities.  My older daughter Reane is now a naturalized Israeli citizen and my younger daughter Sarah has taught at the Early Childhood Centers at the Boulder JCC and Denver JCC as well as at Temple Emanuel. Temple Emanuel has offered a structure to support Jewish family life that only a great synagogue can provide,” Leslie said.  “And during good times and challenging times, I have been so grateful for the support of the clergy.”

Temple Emanuel is widely recognized as a progressive, engaged community that encourages a dynamic expression of Jewish faith. 

“No synagogue does more to welcome and accept Jews of all different experiences and ways of being Jewish,” Leslie said.  People are free to be Jewish in a myriad of ways – from the emphasis on social justice to studying the Torah, from the connections to Israel to supporting civic imperatives.  It’s all there.  We engage with diverse communities and find many ways to get involved, to express our Jewish identity.”

Leslie first seriously considered an estate gift while participating in a class taught by Rabbi Black on how to write an ethical will.  “I was encouraged to reflect upon the values I wanted to pass along to my children,” she explained.  “When I thought about the huge impact Temple Emanuel has made on our family, and how much I value that impact, it made sense to make a gift through my estate.  Last year I finally got around to making Emanuel one of my IRA beneficiaries, something I thought a lot about again after taking the adult B’nai Mitzvah class a few years ago.  That experience was transformative.”

Leslie is looking forward to exploring the next chapters of life with Temple Emanuel.  “At some point I will retire and there is still so much to learn and do,” she said.  “I have started to chant Torah occasionally during the Saturday morning service and would like to do it more often.  I discovered I have a voice!”

“And the Saturday morning services are wonderful,” Leslie added.  “Each week is an educational and life-affirming experience.  My husband Bob is not Jewish, but he attends with me.  He feels so welcomed.  I love that the service encourages gratitude for our blessings and includes many prayers for peace. Ever since my earliest days in Denver, Temple Emanuel has been my spiritual home.”

 

Shwayder Camp – A Lifelong Commitment

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For Scott Esserman and Mieke Thorson, Shwayder Camp has been a centerpiece of their lives for a very long time. Scott’s connection began in 1984, after friends from the National Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY) persuaded him to come from St. Louis to Colorado to be a camp counselor.  It was a pivotal choice.  Scott would stay involved each summer, eventually accepting the role as Resident Director in 1991 after graduating from college. 

“When I think about the lifelong friendships I’ve enjoyed, the moments we’ve all shared,” Scott said, “Shwayder Camp sits at the heart of so much.  Coming here in 1984 shaped my life in ways that few other decisions have.”

After spending most of her childhood in Montana, Mieke’s family moved to Denver in 1985 and immediately joined Temple Emanuel.  It would take a few years, but her brother’s Shwayder experience encouraged her to interview for a camp counselor position in early 1993.  “It’s where Scott and I would meet,” Mieke said, smiling.  “Although, for the record, we did not date until later,” she added.

Each summer, Shwayder Camp offers sessions that serve almost 500 Jewish youth.  Nestled within Arapahoe National Forest, its 260 acres create a magical mountain experience.  “Each session is small enough for people to form significant connections,”  Scott noted.  “They work through challenges to build a strong sense of community, all with a clear focus on living Judaism.  The camp reinforces a positive understanding of Jewish Life.”

“It’s hard to explain if you haven’t experienced it,” Mieke added, “but the dependence upon one another forges acceptance.  You’re removed from everyday life and placed into this remote, beautiful setting.  The isolation fosters a healthy and powerful reliance on one another.”

When Shwayder Camp experienced financial difficulties in the 1990s, Scott and Mieke quickly offered their help.  “Buildings had to be condemned, other capital improvements were necessary,”  Scott said.  “There were serious conversations about the viability of running a mountain camp with such a short summer season.  We literally gave our blood, sweat, and tears to help ensure its continued existence.”

Scott and Mieke would stay close through the years, continuing to strengthen Camp in various ways. 

“Mieke and I got engaged there,” Scott said, looking back.  “Our daughter had her bat mitzvah there.  We both created lifelong friendships and we’re now watching our kids and our friends’ kids go as well.  Camp has become a central part of our family narrative.”

This commitment informed their decision to create an estate gift.  “Shwayder Camp is a critical part of Temple life, but it will need future capital infusions and budgets can be tricky,” Scott said.  “Mieke and I want to help preserve the Camp even in times of financial challenge.” 

“This is our gift to Temple Emanuel and to a stronger Jewish community,” Mieke noted.  “We still go to family camp during Labor Day weekend each year, sharing the experience with our children.  Shwayder Camp will always be a part of us.”

 

Why We Became Members of The Live On Society: Danny and Becky Foster

There was little doubt that Temple Emanuel would play a significant role in Danny Foster’s adult life. As the son of our Rabbi Emeritus, Steven Foster, Danny was literally born into the Temple community – experiencing its vibrancy and richness from his earliest moments. “It is part of who I am,” Danny said. 

Temple life, in part, also helped inform Becky Foster’s decision to convert to Judaism. “We’re widely recognized as a welcoming, progressive, and deeply engaged community,” Danny explained. “It appeals to people who seek a dynamic, positive expression of Jewish faith, while also keeping tradition.”

Today, the Fosters are deeply committed to sharing this experience with their three children. Their involvement spans from Danny’s Board service to Becky’s volunteerism – which has included a governance role with the pre-school, leadership for its fundraising events, and her work to revamp the B’nai Mitzvah Program’s strategic plan. “We both realize it’s important to give back,” Danny said, “to help strengthen our Temple community in all the ways we can.”

This shared commitment also led the Fosters to join the Live On Society. They have established a life insurance policy that names Temple Emanuel as its sole beneficiary.

“We still make our annual gifts,” Danny noted, “but we also wanted be part of the Live On campaign. As a younger family, we still have weddings and college expenses ahead of us. We realize we’ll have more options later in life, but for today a life insurance policy was an easy, cost-effective way to guarantee our support.”

There are many ways to include Temple Emanuel in your estate plans. Some gifts are simple, others more involved. Some are large, others small. Regardless, the spirit behind each and every estate gift is the same – the desire to preserve our Temple for generations to come.

“My father taught us as a family to love this community,” Danny said. “And as a family, we are committed to doing everything we can to help.”

Thoughts from a Live On Society Family - A Rich Legacy

Mandell Winter, Jr inherited a rich family tradition at Temple Emanuel, one dating back to the 1880s – only a few years after its founding in 1874.   His great-grandparents were married by Rabbi William S. Friedman.  His grandfather served as President of the Congregation. His father served as the Temple Administrator for nearly 28 years, starting just after overseeing construction of the current building in the mid 1950s as chair of the Congregation’s Building and Grounds committee.  His great uncle was Maurice Shwayder.  Mandell, his father and grandfather all served as presidents of the Brotherhood and on the Temple board. Four generations of Confirmands.

So it’s no surprise Mandell would embrace this tradition of service as a Board member, President of the Brotherhood, in the Friedman Club, Shwayder Camp camper, counselor and photographer; and with Pat, in the first Chavurah which continued for over 20 years.  “Temple Emanuel is part of my life,” Mandell explained, “it’s a part of me.”

Pat Winter would find a different path to Judaism.  “In my search for a meaningful religious experience, she explained, in Judaism I found I could question. I didn’t have to accept teaching as fact, but as guidance for a spiritual life.” 

Alongside Mandell, Pat would also enter deeply into Temple life, serving on the Board, chairing the Shwayder Camp Committee, and also by writing a booklet to help parents navigate the process of their children’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah.  “In some ways I was probably still proving myself to Mandell’s family,” she joked, “but I also felt a profound responsibility to the Temple community.” Neither having celebrated Bar or Bat Mitzvah at 13, both went through the Adult Bnai Mitzvah program.

Although the idea for an estate gift had arisen before, Mandell and Pat decided to move forward during a visit with their attorney.  Mandell’s professional background in financial planning and Pat’s work in fundraising at Children’s Hospital helped inform their decision. 

“We knew we could make a gift and still provide for our boys,” Pat said.  “Our attorney raised the question and we just felt the time was right.”

Mandell elaborated further on their decision, citing a central question in Jewish life.  “How can we best express Tikkun Olam – our calling to repair the world?  The Jewish community embraces this responsibility in many ways and Temple Emanuel is the heart of this conversation for us.  We want our gift to help ensure the continuation of our Congregation.”

There are many ways to make an estate gift.  Some are simple, others more involved.  Some gifts are large, others small.  By coming together, we can all help preserve our Temple into the future. 

“Temple Emanuel opens its doors,” Pat observed, “to interfaith opportunities, allowing us to reaffirm our shared humanity.  We have an important voice.”

Mandell concurred, adding, “The Congregation makes a difference in our community. From Rabbi Friedman’s being a founder of Denver’s Community Chest which became The United Way, until today, it matters. It’s our sincere hope our Congregation will thrive for generations to come.”

Learn More

For more information about creating your legacy at Temple Emanuel, please feel free to contact Francie Miran at miran@emanueldenver.org or 303-388-4013, x335.  Again, there are never any expectations or obligations to complete any gift.