Tag Archives: Manfred Swarsensky

2020 Manfred Swarsensky Humanitarian Service Award To Be Presented November 18

Dr. Floyd Rose was chosen to receive this year’s Manfred E. Swarsensky Humanitarian Service Award for his decades-long contribution to education in Madison.  The November 18th Rotary meeting will be allocated to this award, and Floyd Rose will be presenting the Rotary program that day.  We look forward to his presentation on November 18. 

This year’s Swarsensky Award Selection Committee was impressed by the caliber of this year’s nominees, and below is a listing and brief summary of each of these candidates who are also building bridges in our community:      

Paul T. Ashe:  If you wonder, “what can one person do?” think of Paul T. Ashe. In 1979, while he was in his mid-20s, he began distributing sandwiches to people in need out of a small Christian bookstore above a convenience store on Gorham Street.  That was a band-aid on a systemic problem.  From that, he formed a partnership with St. Paul’s University Catholic Center on State Street to secure space for a noon meal.  He reached out to leaders of a wide range of faith communities to recruit small teams of volunteers to cook and serve balanced hot meals.  Soon more than 50 faith communities were participating.  This became the Community Meal Program that welcomes strangers.  The Community Meal Program grew to meet the growing needs of the community.  Through the benevolence of the community, and without any government support, a commercial building was purchased and rehabilitated and became Luke House which serves guests 9 meals each week—4 noon meals and 5 evening meals.  Here meals are shared at round tables—family style.  After Mr. Ashe’s retirement, the program remains, as the model of dignified hospitality that Paul established. This nomination submitted by Ernie Stetenfeld.

Dr. Patricia Tellez-Giron Salazar:  Dr. Patricia Tellez-Giron Salazar immigrated to the United States in 1993 and settled in Madison.  She practices medicine at the Wingra Clinic and serves a very diverse and underserved population and reaches out into the community to help build bridges for the Latinx community.  She serves people, primarily Latinx, with limited access to healthcare services by maintaining extensive involvement across a variety of different healthcare organizations that include counseling at Agrace about end of life care issues; educating about nutrition and healthy eating with Centro Hispano, healthcare and family planning; serving as medical director for the Latino health summit, Teen Health Bash, and chronic disease summit; and caring for the geriatric population.  She also supports other organizations in the community including Latino advisory council to the United Way; Chair of Dane County Latino Health Council; advisory to UW-Madison professional association for Latinos for medical school; and the Metropolitan Madison School District Multilingual Guiding Coalition.  This nomination submitted by Ron Luskin.

Becky Steinhoff:  Becky Steinhoff is recognized for her vision to address an underserved area of Madison with a community center—and with her belief that people will come together to do the right thing.  Through her tenacity, the eastside of Madison has the Goodman Community Center.  She found supporters and philanthropists and marshalled other organization to create a state-of-the-art community center from the bones of vacant historical industrial buildings.  She grew the size of the staff from 3 to more than 100 to meet the needs of the 35,000 people who use the Goodman Community Center.  Becky and her staff maintain a safe place where conflict is addressed honestly and in good faith—and joy reigns.  Becky retires after 31 years of leadership, but her legacy and the foundation of a healthy community center survives.  This nomination submitted by Linda Baldwin O’Hern.

Nancy Young:  Nancy Young exemplifies volunteerism.  As a professional mental health counselor skilled in conflict resolution, she uses her training in any way that it is needed.  She has consulted with community adolescent programs and worked on women’s and poverty issues to help women achieve their potential as leaders, and she is active in several capacities in her church.  Her most profound humanitarian contributions have been her service to the American Red Cross where she has been deployed to 14 national disasters that include multiple mass casualties.  The American Red Cross selected Nancy as one of only four mental health professionals in the country to be deployed to the Sandy Hook shooting.  Nancy and her husband Ed host children of Chernobyl each year who come to Madison for relief from the aftermath of the contamination of the nuclear accident in 1986.  In addition, they have opened their home to host numerous international students attending the UW.  She also volunteers for the Madison Symphony Orchestra League and serving on its Board.  This nomination submitted by Mary Helen Becker.

“He Was a Different Kind of Giant”

–submitted by Andrea Kaminski; photo by Loretta Himmelsbach

Hannah Rosenthal 11 11 2015Wednesday, November 11, marked 77 years since Kristallnacht, the deadly attack against Jews throughout Nazi Germany and Austria which is considered the beginning of the Holocaust. Club President Ellsworth Brown noted that 20 years earlier, November 11, 1918, was when the armistice was signed ending World War I.

On this important anniversary of division and reconciliation events in history, Rotarians celebrated the memory of Manfred E. Swarsensky, a member of our Club until his death in 1981. Rabbi Swarsensky’s legacy remains with us as a model of human behavior and a call to action.

Our speaker was Hannah Rosenthal, CEO and president of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation and a former member of our Rotary Club. A student and mentee of Rabbi Swarsensky, Hannah has carried on his legacy of building relationships within and between communities.

Hannah’s father lived in Mannheim, Germany, when Swarsensky lived in Berlin. As a girl, Hannah often heard her father speak about Swarsensky’s wisdom and oratorical skills. She was thrilled when her mother announced one day that Rabbi Swarsensky would be coming to dinner. Hannah got dressed up and asked for the honor to open the door for him. She wanted to greet the ancient wise man she assumed must be “at least 10 feet tall.” She was surprised when she found that he was not even half that tall. “He was a different kind of giant,” she explained.

Over the years, Hannah had the honor of working and studying with Rabbi Swarsensky. She described a few remarkable characteristics that defined him and his legacy.

Rabbi Swarsensky was resilient. In Germany he watched his synagogue be burned and his congregation tortured and killed. He was arrested by the Gestapo. He came to the United States with every reason to be bitter, but he was not. Instead he dedicated himself to working for reconciliation.

In 1970, thirty years after leaving Berlin, he went back and visited his father’s and grandfather’s graves, and he spoke to Jews. He knew he was there to speak to the importance of reconciling with one another. When he returned to the United States, he increased his ecumenical activities. Unlike many of his colleagues, he was willing to marry inter-faith couples. He taught at Edgewood College, a Catholic institution.

Although Swarsensky treasured reconciliation, he believed that all people should bear witness to horrendous incidents of cruelty throughout history. Through these horrors we learn lessons. If we don’t learn the lessons of the holocaust, it is bound to be repeated.

Swarsensky also believed we all should leave something behind that matters. We need to communicate to our children the fundamental values of who we are, who we want to be and who we want them to be. He said we will find out about whether there is an afterlife “when the time comes.” But our legacy will live on long after our life is over if we teach, preach and live by our values.

Rosenthal concluded that we need to call out rhetoric or actions that are divisive and dangerous, and we need to reach across the divide and seek reconciliation.

An award-winning documentary video, “A Portrait:  Rabbi Manfred Swarsensky,”  was created and produced by Rotarian Dick Goldberg with assistance by Wisconsin Public Television in 2000.   This film received a national bronze Telly Award for best short documentary.

Did you miss our meeting this week?  CLICK to watch the video.