By DeBorah Layman
Being Joel Rotenstreich’s friend can be an expensive proposition, he says in an only half-jokingly manner.
That’s because Rotenstreich is passionate about Holocaust education and tireless in his efforts to raise money for the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center, attending countless lunches and meetings with friends and associates to raise money for the cause.
“Fundraising is my niche,” Rotenstreich said, “and I’ve learned that, with fundraising, family and business, you accomplish more face-to-face.”
Rotenstreich’s approach makes it hard to say, “No,” to him, but it made it easy for BHEC to name him as honoree of its annual L’Chaim event, being held Aug. 19 at the Alys Stephens Center.
“The work of the BHEC is very close to my heart,” said Rotenstreich, “We need more teachers teaching kids what it means to be courageous and to speak up when they see something that’s not right.”
Rotenstreich, a BHEC board member, co-chaired the group’s annual fundraising efforts in 2016 and 2017, but that isn’t the extent of his community involvement.
Education, social justice and interfaith unity have been driving forces in his life for years, according to a statement issued by BHEC. He has served on the boards of numerous organizations over the years; conceived and led the Anne Frank Tree project; was campaign chair and president of the Birmingham Jewish Federation; and served three five-year terms on the Mountain Brook Board of Education, including being president from 2000 to 2002.
He and his wife, Bunny, have led 22 group trips to Israel, including seven interfaith/interracial study missions. In all, more than 600 local clergy, educators, city and county officials, community leaders, friends and neighbors have experienced Israel through the interfaith study missions led by the Rotenstreichs.
Rotenstreich is quick to say that none of the community work he has done could have been accomplished without his wife of 57 years.
“I’ve never accomplished anything alone,” he said.
That includes surviving two life-threatening illnesses.
“Bunny and I have overcome some pretty unusual challenges that, together, have made me who I am, and I love life,” Rotenstreich said.
The couple has two children, Mark and Beth, and twin 8-year-old grandsons.
“Asher and Noah are my future,” Rotenstreich said. “I try to teach them what my parents and mentors taught me: be nice, do the right thing, and tell the truth. Be the best you can be and do the best you can do.”
BHEC’s L’Chaim Celebration
What: L’Chaim entertainment, education and recognition event caps the BHEC’s annual fundraising campaign.
When: Aug. 19, 2:30-4 p.m., with dessert reception following the program
Where: Alys Stephens Center’s Jemison Concert Hall Entertainment: Steel City Men’s Chorus and entertainment arranged by Keith Cromwell of Red Mountain Theatre Company, including vocalists Caleb Clark, Abijah Cunningham, cantor Jessica Roskin and student performers from RMTC’s Conservatory.
Tickets: $50, on sale at bhecinfo.org
More information: Call the BHEC at 795-4176