Signature Event and Liev Schreiber pack Ball Arena
The weather outside might have been bone-chillingly cold and blustery, but the atmosphere inside Ball Arena on the evening of Wednesday, February 22, was warm and convivial. In the same space that usually is home to the Avalanche on ice or the Nuggets on the court, more than 800 people gathered for JEWISHcolorado’s Signature Event, brought together by the opportunity to enjoy an excellent meal in an impressive venue, share laughter and hugs with old and new friends, bestow awards on several young leaders in the community, and honor Nancy Gart with a Lifetime Achievement Award for 45 years of volunteer service.
Special guests included Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, but what may have made this evening unforgettable for many was the main speaker: Actor, Director, Screenwriter, Producer, and Narrator Liev Schreiber who is best known for his role as the bat-wielding Ray Donovan.
In a wide-ranging conversation with Temple Emanuel Associate Rabbi Emily Hyatt, Schreiber reflected on his Jewish heritage, the personal impact of his Ukrainian immigrant grandfather, his volunteer work in Ukraine since the war began, and two upcoming films in which he plays major roles.
By the end of the evening, guests left with a renewed commitment to their community, bolstered by a better understanding of the role JEWISHcolorado plays in representing Jewish interests in Colorado, supporting those in need both at home and around the world, and sustaining a vibrant Jewish life for this generation and the next.
As he demonstrated at the Signature Event, Liev Schreiber may be the antithesis of the stereotypical self-involved celebrity. He is unfailingly polite, generous with this time and ideas, gracious with people, and willing to engage in conversation with anyone who wants to talk with him. Both before and after the Signature Event, he posed for photos and talked to fans of all ages including young ones (who may know him from X-Men Origins: Wolverine) and older ones (who have watched him play Ray Donovan which ran for 7 seasons on Showtime).
Schreiber’s conversation with Rabbi Hyatt was wide-ranging, from his favorite role (Ricky Roma in Glengarry Glen Ross for which he won a Tony Award) to his aspirations as a child (“I wanted to be a handball player.”). Their discussion ranged from serious topics (the war in Ukraine) to light-hearted ones (LEGOLAND®) which kept the crowd laughing.
Rabbi Hyatt and Schreiber talked about his role as Anne Frank’s father Otto in A Small Light, an upcoming biographical miniseries set to air on Disney+ recounting the story of Miep Gies who hid the family of Anne Frank during World War II. “This is the story of ordinary people,” Schreiber said. “Miep Gies risked her life for a family of Jews and changed history.”
Schreiber also will be seen as Henry Kissinger in the new movie Golda, starring Helen Mirren as Golda wrestling with the Yom Kippur War. For that role, Schreiber described meeting Kissinger (“He comes up to my chest.”).
“He is very charismatic and complicated, and he loved [Golda] deeply,” Schreiber said. “It was lovely to see a 99-year-old man talk about her in such a fond, boyish way. She had his number and he had hers.”
Earlier in his day, Schreiber had spent time touring the Golda Meir House in Denver.
Finally, Schreiber talked his decision to do volunteer work in Ukraine during the past year (“It made me feel alive again.”) which has taken him to Ukraine multiple times where he has met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. “It is extraordinary how he has stood up for his people and stood his ground,” Schreiber said. “Not to mention that he is Jewish.”
“It made me remember my grandfather and his generation who were willing to fight in a war for their principles,” he continued. “This is what America is about. The moment is now. We have to remind the world who we still are.”
‘What is JEWISHcolorado?’
JEWISHcolorado Board Chair Rob Kaufmann opened the evening by reminding the crowd that it was just one year ago that Russia was massing troops on the border of Ukraine preparing for an invasion. The theme of Ukrainian resilience and heroism in this David and Goliath battle recurred throughout the evening.
“Through this crisis, and many others, JEWISHcolorado has been steadfast—leading our community, supporting those in need, keeping us apprised, staying connected to Israel, creating Jewish life for people of all ages, and serving as your Jewish philanthropic home,” Kaufmann said. “If our community is strong, then JEWISHcolorado is strong If JEWISHcolorado is strong, our community is strong.
When Rabbi Marc Soloway was unable to make the event due to inclement weather that delayed him out-of-state, Rachel Kaufmann joined her father at the podium and, on her 18th birthday, led the room in Ha’Motzi.
JEWISHcolorado Interim President and CEO Renée Rockford addressed the crowd, which packed the room, and gave voice to an important question: “What is JEWISHcolorado?”
She pointed out that the JEWISHcolorado is the traditional Federation. It is also the Jewish Community Foundation, stewarding millions of dollars in community assets, the Israel and Overseas Center which connects to Jews abroad, the center for Jewish advocacy with the Jewish Community Relations Council, and the center for Jewish education.
“Alone we are nothing,” Rockford said. “But together, with long-time invested families and many newcomers, together with community partners—the synagogues, rabbis and cantors, the teachers, the schools and agencies, the JCCs, the JCRC-member organizations, community and governmental partners, sister organizations working in and for Israel—together, we are JEWISHColorado.”
Campaign chair Lisa Mintz took the podium to bestow awards on outstanding young adult leaders. The Charlotte B. Tucker Young Leadership Award was given to two individuals: Carly Schlafer for her engagement with JEWISHcolorado’s Young Adult Division and Erin Adlerstein for work she has done at Temple Beit Torah. The Warren & Ruth Toltz Young Leadership Award was given to Hirsch Neustein for his involvement in Jewish life both in Colorado and around the world. Samantha Raizen Walsh earned the inaugural Michael Staenberg Young Jewish Agency Professional Award for her commitment to Jewish life and learning.
Then, Mintz introduced night’s star honoree—Nancy Gart. “Today is Nancy Gart Day in the City and County of Denver,” Mintz said. “In his proclamation, Mayor Michael Hancock described Nancy as “a kind, generous, longstanding community volunteer whose selfless dedication is fundamental to the continuity of thriving communities.”
Characteristically humble, Nancy thanked the community for their support. “I have been blessed with so many opportunities that have enabled me to work with talented professionals and committed lay leaders,” she said. “I’ve had the pleasure to learn from those who came before me, to work with my peers, to continue their work, and now, I look forward to a strong future with the vibrant young leaders I see before me.”
In the final remarks of the program, Incoming Board Chair Ben Lusher told the crowd about his personal experiences with the Joyce Zeff Israel Study Tour, Moishe House, PJ Library, and the Jewish Community Relations Council.
“As the beating heart of JEWISHcolorado, you know that it takes real resources to build community,” he said. “This is our signature event, and we are looking to all of you to help us continue the momentum.”
By the end of the evening, many stayed to congratulate Nancy Gart or chat with Liev Schreiber.
Some members of the audience made a special donation to JEWISHcolorado and walked out with a Ray Donovan baseball bat autographed by Schreiber. Everyone left with a sense of the important role JEWISHcolorado plays creating community and throwing—as Nancy Gart would describe it—“a good party!”