Il Rabbino Leonard Alfred Helman è nato nel 1926 ad Hartford nel Connecticut e si è laureato al locale Trinity College nel 1948, poi dopo il servizio militare ha frequentato il Collegio Ebraico di Cincinnati ed divenuto Rabbino nel 1955.
Ha continuato a studiare teologia servendo le comunità di Cincinnati e Los Angeles e nel 1970 si è laureato in Giurisprudenza alla Duquesne University School of Law di Pittsburgh e dieci anni più tardi ha preso il dottorato presso l' Hebrew Union College.
Dopo aver girato varie comunità si è stabilito a Santa Fe dove si è fermato come Rabbino locale per oltre 17 anni e dove è tornato nel 1995 per restare definitivamente presso la Congregazione Beit Tikva.
Come giocatore, Leonard è stato un Gold Life che ha vinto alcuni titoli regionali e che ha capitanato la squadra giovanile che ha vinto il campionato polacco nel 2006.
Munifico benefattore, Leonard ha giocato in ogni parte del mondo e il Circolo di Bridge di Santa Fe è stato dedicato alla sua memoria.
Mark Horton ed Eric Kokish che hanno giocato con lui più volte gli hanno dedicato il libro “The Rabbi’s Rules: Tips and Tricks to Improve Your Bridge Game”.
Leonard, che era anche un discreto ballerino, è scomparso a Santa Fe il 6 giugno del 2013.
Rabbi Helman (1926 - 2013) graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Trinity College in 1948, served in the U.S. Army, did graduate work in physiology and taught high school science in Charlottesville, Virginia. Rabbi Leo Lichtenberg convinced Helman that the rabbinate was his true calling and in 1955 Helman earned a doctorate of Hebrew letters at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati and became a Reform rabbi.
In 1970 Helman also earned a law degree from Duke University. Finding it difficult to combine law and the rabbinate on the East coast of the United States, Rabbi Helman took a job in Santa Fe in 1974 and practiced law full time while also serving as a part-time rabbi of Temple Beth Shalom. Temple Beth Shalom had some 60 families as members when he came to Santa Fe and by 1991, when he retired, the congregation consisted of 400 families and had a new synagogue built on the property. After a short stint in Pennsylvania and Alabama, Helman returned to Santa Fe in 1995 and became the head of Congregation Beit Tikva, a Reform Synagogue.
A bridge club was built off Rodeo Road and was named the Rabbi Helman Bridge Center. The Bridge World magazine called him “the world’s most celebrated bridge-playing rabbi.”
People spoke regularly of Rabbi Helman with great affection and gratitude. They would have done anything for him. He gave of himself as few do. He would always be at your side right away if you had problems. You would get a call within seconds. In one of his sermons Rabbi Helman asked who would say kaddish (the prayer of mourning) for him. He concluded that, “having friends who love me for what I am … that will be the kaddish for me.” At the Rabbi’s funeral Steven Abramson said it would be fitting to let Rabbi Helman have the last word at his funeral and he read from a Yom Kippur sermon which Rabbi Helman gave in 2002: “When we love, we conquer death.”
Rabbi Helman’s private life was rich with friends, hobbies and interests. He tap danced, played the piano and was a former chess champion as well as a bridge master. Helman called bridge playing “the Alzheimer’s prevention club.” When he came to the NEC Bridge Festival in 2007 he was so enamored of the experience that he made a generous donation to the JCBL to further the development of youth bridge here in Japan. He was also a benefactor of the Australian Bridge Federation and instituted two annual awards for youth bridge.
Leonard was the inspiration behind a bridge column titled ‘Thursday The Rabbi Played Bridge’. It ran for 20 years and the material in those columns was the basis for three books, “Kosher Bridge,” “Kosher Bridge 2” and “The Rabbi’s Magic Trick,” written in conjunction with David Bird. Leonard loved his bridge and played in many NABCs and also in internationals. In 1997 English expert Mark Horton received a phone call from Mario Dix, the President of the Malta Bridge Federation, to ask whether he would be interested in playing in the Malta Festival with a visiting American, Leonard Helman. It was only later that Mark discovered Leonard was a rabbi, but it seemed like a good idea. When the event was over and Leonard was leaving for the airport Mark said goodbye with a line borrowed from Casablanca, “Rabbi, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” Over the following decade or so Leonard and Mark played in some of the toughest events in the bridge calendar and against many of the world’s finest players. Horton was the rabbi’s partner when they played here in 2007.
Mark and Eric Kokish co-authored a book about Rabbi Helman
called “The Rabbi’s Rules: Tips and Tricks to
Improve Your Bridge Game” which was published in 2012. Here are a couple of deals, with permission, from
“The Rabbi’s Rules.”
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