Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

Concerned also on the international level, he led in the early 1980s a project to deliver medical supplies, clothing and other desperately needed survival items to the Falashas, black Jews suffering persecution in Ethiopia. It was, he says, "a mystical experience."

Helman presided over a drive to build a fine new Temple Beth Shalom, which opened in 1986 to serve a rapidly growing congregation. Not long afterward he stepped down as rabbi, and left Santa Fe to do other work. But like so many who deeply love this city, he returned a few years later, and became rabbi of a new, second Jewish congregation.

In recent years a progressive disease has slowed down Helman, affectionately known as Santa Fe's "Rabbi Different," but has never stopped him. He maintains contact with friends and congregation members, and still pursues many interests. He sums up his life's work as "not easy but joyous." And adding to the joy is his sense of play: If you’re lucky, you might even see him tap-dancing in the spotlight at Vanessie some night soon.

Story by Richard McCord
Photo ©2004 by Steve Northrup