JFS hon­ors re­tiree Yana Vish­nit­sky

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - By Joanne David­son Joanne David­son: 303-8091314, par­ti­writer@hot­mail.com and @joanne­david­sonon Twit­ter.

On Feb. 3, 1978, 31-yearold Yana Vish­nit­sky stepped off of an air­plane and onto Amer­i­can soil, ac­com­pa­nied by her then­hus­band and their 4-yearold son, Vi­taly.

The fam­ily had left St. Peters­burg, Rus­sia, where she had been a patent at­tor­ney and me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer, to build a bet­ter life and be free to prac­tice their Jewish faith.

They had landed at Den­ver’s Sta­ple­ton In­ter­na­tional Air­port on a Fri­day night, and the Jewish Fam­ily Ser­vice vol­un­teers who greeted them not only es­corted the new ar­rivals to an apart­ment stocked with fur­ni­ture, food and house­hold es­sen­tials but also directed them to Tem­ple Emanuel to at­tend their first Shab­bat ser­vice.

The ser­vice marked the first time that Vish­nit­sky had been in­side a syn­a­gogue, and the first time that she had met a rabbi.

The rabbi was Steven Foster who, with his wife, Joyce, es­tab­lished a last­ing friend­ship that would change the di­rec­tion of Vish­nit­sky’s life.

Joyce Foster was work­ing at Jewish Fam­ily Ser­vice at the time and be­cause Vish­nit­sky was flu­ent in English, Foster helped her get a job there, serv­ing as a trans­la­tor and case man­ager for the hun­dreds of Rus­sian emi­gres try­ing to adapt to life in Colorado.

That job was the be­gin­ning of a 38-year ca­reer with JFS. Af­ter serv­ing as di­rec­tor of the Rus­sian re­set­tle­ment depart­ment, she was pro­moted to as­so­ci­ate ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor. In 2000, she was named pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, and on Dec. 5 she turned over the keys to the cor­ner of­fice to her suc­ces­sor, Shep­ard Nevel.

Her re­tire­ment party on Dec. 10 brought 570 friends to the Hy­att Regency Con­ven­tion Cen­ter for a Rus­sian-themed cel­e­bra­tion that raised a record $1 mil­lion.

It was chaired by three of her big­gest fans: Andy Miller and Geri and Meyer Saltz­man. Jane E. Rosen­baum, chair of the JFS board, was mis­tress of cer­e­monies.

“The peo­ple whose lives she has touched will never for­get her,” Rosen­baum said, adding that the most fit­ting trib­ute the JFS board could think of to com­mem­o­rate her nu­mer­ous con­tri­bu­tions was to name the agency’s ad­min­is­tra­tive cen­ter in her honor. Gov. John Hick­en­looper did his part by des­ig­nat­ing Dec. 10 as Yana Vish­nit­sky Day in Colorado. He also ar­ranged for Miller to present her with the flag that had flown over the capi­tol build­ing that day.

In her farewell re­marks, Vish­nit­sky re­called that when she ar­rived in Den­ver, “I felt in­com­pe­tent and scared. Com­ing to Amer­ica was the most im­por­tant and best de­ci­sion of my life, but im­mi­gra­tion can be very painful. (At first), noth­ing clicked for me here but JFS. It’s where I met 95 per­cent of my friends — and my (cur­rent) hus­band.”

Her hus­band, Jim Wolfe; son Vi­taly Vish­nit­sky, daugh­ter-in-law Jill Vish­nit­sky and grand­daugh­ters Zoe and Lexi were among the even­ing’s well-wish­ers, join­ing a crowd that also in­cluded Elaine and Max Ap­pel; Micky and Louann Miller; Char­lie Gwirts­man and Nancy Re­ich­man; Steve and El­iz­abeth Kris; Norm and Sunny Brown­stein; Essie Perl­mut­ter; Dr. Dean Prina; Gary and Terri Yourtz; Barry and Ar­lene Hirschfeld; Gareth and Betsy Hey­man; Carol and Dr. Har­vey Karsh; David En­gle­berg; Ed­die Robin­son; Doug and Sue Se­ser­man; and Henry and Joan Strauss.

Henry Strauss told me that in 1939, JFS helped to re­set­tle his fam­ily in Den­ver af­ter it fled Nazi Ger­many. In­ter­est­ingly, the JFS rep­re­sen­ta­tive who met them at the train sta­tion was Jack A. Weil, the founder of Rock­mount Ranch Wear. Weil died in 2008.

James Wolfe and Yana Vish­nit­sky.

Ge­orge Lupiba, Cindy Fried­land, Rabbi Joe Black and Diana Zeff An­der­son.

Ar­lene and Barry Hirschfeld.

Anna and Shep­ard Nevel.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.