From the CEO: A Life Inspired: Remembering Anne Heyman

Alan H. Gill

– Chief Executive Officer

An inspirational family, and countless people worldwide, have been in mourning for the last week: all of us grieving a tragic loss, all of us remembering a truly remarkable life.

That life belonged to Anne Heyman (z"l).

By now Anne, and all that she did in the world, should be familiar to you.

After all, her untimely passing was covered far and wide by media, by the global Jewish community, by the young Rwandans whose lives she transformed, and by governments, NGOs, and thousands of others who were privileged to have been touched and inspired by Anne.

While I too mourn Anne's passing, I have been thinking deeply about the unparalleled example she set. And about the principles that guided her work: tikkun halev – repairing the heart – and tikkun olam – repairing the world.

In all my conversations about Anne, in the profoundly moving words that I heard at her funeral, read in the press, and listened to during the shiva, a theme has arisen that should give us pause: the power of one person to create ripple effects for so many.

The ripple effects that Anne initiated were in people; in lives uplifted; and in the inspiration that she engendered in those who, upon meeting her or hearing about all she achieved, decided that they must do more in the world.

They were moved by her courageous acts of kindness. They rushed off the sidelines to engage the world and do things they only ever dreamed of. Among them were young Jewish adults, thirsting for meaning, who were impelled to action by Anne’s humble and soul-stirring example.

That is Anne's profound legacy. And it is a legacy that we can learn from — and were challenged this week to act on by her beloved husband, Seth.

Because while we busily go about our careers and personal lives, we can lose sight of the very opportunity – and the limitless possibilities – we have to ensure that the world can be changed, can be enriched, and can be filled with countless acts whose impact exceeds even our greatest expectations.

And that’s why I want to share with you part of a poem that JDC colleague Gideon Herscher read to those who gathered for Anne’s funeral in New York City. It was written by one of the students in the second graduating class of the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village (ASYV) in Rwanda that Anne founded and nurtured until her last day.

It reads:

Hello grand mother Anne Heyman,
You stand like a man
You speak like a president
You defend like a royal person
You smile like an angel
You really deserve to be a hero
I call you a soldier.
Our country does not grow by chance
It is by the spirit of hard working
We never sit and wish, we dream and act
We are committed to making a progressive development
And show the world that we can.

Anne showed the world that, indeed, we can.

She pulled something out of the human spirit – in the children at ASYV and those in our own community – that made us all want to act, and act fast, to build on the ripples she set off in this world.

And as we honor her extraordinary life of service, it is incumbent upon us to do all we can to be stones of infinite goodness skipped in a pond of seemingly impossible odds.

That is how Anne's memory will live forever, a blessing to us all.

Shabbat Shalom,

Alan

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