It has been a tough couple of months at The Covenant Foundation. We have lost two giants: Eli N. Evans z”l, Chair of The Covenant Foundation Board of Directors for 22 years, and Harlene Winnick Appelman z”l, Executive Director of the Foundation for 16 years and a 1991 Covenant Award Recipient.
The grief we feel is palpable. By the time this volume of Sight Line is published, we will have concluded shloshim for Harlene and had an evening devoted to celebrating her life. To honor Eli’s legacy, a symposium has been planned in partnership with the Center for Jewish History and the Southern Jewish Historical Society; it will take place on October 9. These programs are meant to offer family members and the community an opportunity for comfort and reflection. But there is no doubt: These losses are profound.
When I first came to New York City as a young professional, I met Eli, who was then the President of the Revson Foundation. Eli became my champion. He was kind, patient, curious, and brilliant; his laugh was truly contagious. He was the consummate storyteller. As Associate Director of The Covenant Foundation, I often traveled with Eli to Chicago for Board meetings. We spent many hours in the airport terminal swapping stories, and I was always mesmerized by his. Eli was a wise and gentle soul. We will all miss his counsel and wonderful stories!
Although Harlene and I had connected on several projects prior to 2006, it was not until that year, when I was hired to be the Associate Director at the Foundation, that we began to work together so intensely. From the beginning, Harlene described us as partners. We trusted each other completely and depended on each other to fulfill the goals of the Foundation. As anyone who has worked with us can attest, our leadership styles are quite different, and yet our core values, sense of duty and obligation, creative instincts, and programmatic vision merged as one Covenant voice that I am proud to continue to advance. We had imagined a friendship into old age, but with deep sadness, I acknowledge that this will not be so.
Reflecting on these losses, I have become acutely aware that my identity has been altered indelibly. As we lose those close to us, we must reorient and face the world a little more alone, but also buoyed by the lessons that those relationships imparted. No amount of preparation makes the final goodbye easier, but the promise of forging new connections and deepening old ones gives us the strength to move forward, and even flourish.
My mother, Marcy Blinderman, is now over 100 years old. She has taught me so much, but in this moment, a few crucial lessons stand out: Continue to build new relationships until you are no longer capable of communicating. Remain curious about all that is new even if you are not immediately comfortable. Develop new interests and do not be afraid of the future; rather, delight in the possibilities. If not, your soul will be diminished, your heart will be filled with longing, and your mind will lose its elasticity. I know she is correct.
Several articles that appear in this volume consider the ideas of connection, spirituality, and healing, through a variety of approaches, conceived of and led by thoughtful and inspired educators. As we enter the New Year, let us remember, too, the unique power and healing quality that relationship-building offers, and look ahead to the new connections we may build in 5783.
Shana Tova U’Metuka,