Guest post by Renée Rockford, JEWISHcolorado Chief Advancement Officer
His work has been presented to American Presidents and celebrities from John Travolta to Ben Stein. His renowned collection of handmade Judaic art can be found the world over in fine galleries, private collections, and museum shops. Now, his signature handcrafted work can also be found in the now temporary homes of those who lost their homes in the Marshall Fire.
Renowned Washington, D.C.-based artist Gary Rosenthal knew that those who had lost everything in the fire would need a replacement for their family’s Judaica, very often priceless keepsakes handed down for generations. And while he couldn’t replace the original items, his beautiful and donated artwork is an invaluable gift.
As he has done for communities the world over in times of need, Rosenthal has once again worked to restore a sense of Jewish light and identity just when it’s needed most. His social work efforts have benefited Hurricane Katrina victims and, more recently, families that lost children in the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
Now, after a fight with pancreatic cancer, Rosenthal has stepped back from his wholesale business, but he continues to serve the Jewish community through his mitzvah projects and through The Glass Ribbon Project, whose pink, fused-glass Strength Stones raise funds and supports patient work with Sharsheret, an organization for women and families affected by breast, ovarian, and other cancers.
Less than a week after the Marshall Fire, Rosenthal wrote to JEWISHcolorado, “Tomorrow is my last day of radiation/chemo after nearly eight months of treatment for a recurrence. I’m holding up well and feeling good.” In the same email, he committed to shipping mezuzot, Shabbat candlesticks, menorahs, and other Judaica to Colorado. JEWISHcolorado’s President and CEO Rabbi Jay Strear then took those items to Boulder and handed them to representatives of Boulder area synagogues for distribution to those in their congregations in need.
Wrote one family who had been helped by JEWISHcolorado’s work, “The kindness from strangers has been the most amazing thing. You have given us not just the belongings that we lost, but you’ve given us hope—which is the greatest gift, and the one that will get us through this crisis.”