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Finding inspiration to help repair the world honors Brenda Glick for her work with LSEM

posted Jan 31, 2014, 12:12 PM by Thomas Glick

Finding inspiration to help repair the world

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Gail Appleson is a writer for Armstrong Teasdale LLP and freelancer who lives in St. Louis. Appleson is co-chair of the Justice for All Ball,  a fundraiser for Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, which takes place Feb. 22 at the Chase. 

Posted: Thursday, January 30, 2014 10:31 am | Updated: 3:11 pm, Thu Jan 30, 2014.

By Gail Appleson | 0 comments

Just one month after joining the St. Louis Post-Dispatchas a reporter, I interviewed an attorney who showed me what it means to try to repair a broken world. Although that was more than eight years ago, I will always remember the lawyer, Michael Kornblum, and his selfless passion for helping those in need. 

In addition to his full-time job as an in-house counsel at Safeco Insurance, Kornblum volunteered for Legal Services of Eastern Missouri (LSEM). It was through LSEM that he handled a heart wrenching pro bono case involving an indigent man with a history of mental problems. Kornblum was determined to do everything he could to rescue the man and his family from a fraud that had exposed them to thousands and thousands of dollars of debt and taxes. 

Although the case took a great deal of time and Kornblum made numerous trips to the client’s home, he seemed unfazed by the extra effort. 

“I just felt like it was a situation where someone was clearly taken advantage of,” Kornblum had told me at the time. Although he died in 2010, I immediately thought of him when a colleague commented recently that she was surprised to learn that I am an LSEM volunteer.  

“But you’re not a lawyer,” she said.

She’s right. I’m not. And it’s true that lawyers are the ones with an ethical obligation to provide pro bono services to the poor who otherwise would have no access to the courts. However, I do have the privilege of working in the legal profession since I’m now employed as an editor at Armstrong Teasdale. Because of that, I believe that the pro bono duty extends to me.

But there’s another very important reason that I volunteer for LSEM: tikkun olam

These words, which can be found in the prayer Aleinu, translate to repairing or perfecting the world. Some say the phrase means we have a responsibility to partner with G-d to make the world a better place. Over the years,tikkun olam has also become associated with the pursuit of social action and social justice. 

It’s a fundamental concept that many of us learn as children. In fact, every time I say the Aleinu, I think of my father who was always quick to help those in need and stand up for what was right. One inspiring incident happened in the 1950s when I was growing up in a still-segregated Memphis. We lived adjacent to an African-American neighborhood and my father and older brother used to play baseball with black children who lived nearby. The games took place in a vacant lot behind our house. One summer evening a man from the “White Citizens Council” came knocking on our door. He wanted Dad to stop this interracial fellowship. 

My father was furious and threw the man off our property, warning him never to return. 

Another example comes from Dan Glazier, the executive director of LSEM. Glazier was named a Jewish Light2010 Unsung Hero. In the paper’s article about the honor, Dan described how he was influenced by his mother, a social worker, and his father, a dentist, who made giving to others a priority. Glazier remembers his father’s dental practice was “in some ways like a social service agency” because of the reduced and free dental care he donated.

I can’t help but think the concept of tikkun olam is a key reason that so many Jews are drawn to work or volunteer for LSEM. Serving clients in 21 counties in Eastern Missouri, LSEM’s trained staff provides legal support and matches social services for the victims of domestic violence, children with special education requirements, families in need of adequate health care or struggling to obtain affordable housing and many more issues that impact the quality of life of the poor and elderly. 

“Our goal is to help our clients to first survive and ultimately thrive…to keep the American dream alive for our clients,” Glazier told the Light

LSEM has a paid trained staff but it also relies on a network of volunteer lawyers and other professionals. It’s especially important to think about LSEM this time of year because the non-profit group will soon host its largest annual fundraiser called the Justice for All Ball. The heart of this black-tie event, which will be held Saturday, Feb. 22, is a silent auction in which attendees open their wallets to provide necessary operating funds for the organization. 

Volunteers, many of whom are Jewish, are in the process of asking businesses and individuals throughout the community to donate items for the upcoming auction. I have to admit that soliciting items is not something I’m entirely comfortable doing so I have great admiration for my fellow volunteers who don’t blink an eye about knocking on doors. 

Among them are Brenda Glick, Judy Gorin and Saraann Parker, who have been tirelessly pursuing items for weeks.

I asked Parker, who is co-chair of this year’s auction and a lawyer at my firm, how she has the courage and the energy to do it. In addition to her heavy work schedule, she is also busy planning her son’s upcoming bar mitzvah.

Like Kornblum, Glazier and so many others with ties to LSEM, Parker seems totally matter-of-fact about her extra efforts. She sees a need and is driven to meet it.  

“If it’s important enough, you have to overcome fear and charge ahead to the goal at hand,” she said. “I don’t want to live with ‘what if’ regrets.”

Found at http://www.stljewishlight.com/opinion/commentaries/article_f3012bc8-89cb-11e3-a827-001a4bcf887a.html