Temple Israel’s Voices of Inspiration benefit on Oct. 13 will include stories of coming together as a nation and as a community
By ERIN ELLIOTT BRYAN / Community News Editor
On Jan. 8, 2011, a shooting rampage took place at a constituent meeting outside of a supermarket in Tucson, Ariz. Six people were killed and 13 were injured, including U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head.
Somehow, Giffords managed to survive and has undergone extensive rehabilitation.
Inspired by his wife, Astronaut and Space Shuttle Commander Mark Kelly will be the keynote speaker at the Voices of Inspiration Speaker Series on Saturday, Oct. 13 at Temple Israel in Minneapolis. The evening, a benefit for Temple Israel, will be dedicated to the theme of “Coming Together as a Nation and a Community.”
Astronaut and Space Shuttle Commander Mark Kelly will deliver the evening’s keynote speech. (Photos: Courtesy of Temple Israel)
“I have learned a thing or two about the power of the human spirit,” Kelly says in publicity materials for the event. “It has been an incredible experience for me to watch my wife, Gabby, first fight so hard to survive and then fight so hard to come back. She has been an incredible inspiration to me. She reminds me each and every day to deny the acceptance of failure.”
Kelly will be introduced by honorary benefit chairs, Temple Israel congregants Elliot and Eloise Kaplan, who will share their own story of tragedy and triumph, and the power of coming together as a community.
Elliot and Eloise Kaplan will express their gratitude to the community for supporting them through Eloise’s tragic accident.
On Feb. 27, 2011, Eloise was struck by a hit-and-run driver on Market Street in San Francisco. She was thrown and hit her head on the pavement, suffering a serious brain injury. She also sustained multiple broken bones — including eight broken ribs, and her clavicle and pelvic bone — and was in a coma for four weeks in a hospital in California.
During that time, members of the Kaplans’ family set up a CaringBridge site to update family and friends on Eloise’s condition. As the weeks went by, the site logged more than 4,700 members and about 30,000 hits.
“The initial prognosis was that she probably would not have speech and her memory would not be there and whole. But the community was with her at all times,” said Elliot, a partner with the law firm of Robins, Kaplan, Miller and Ciresi L.L.P. “I go to the synagogue, but I’m not sure that prayer means much. I never really had a strong conviction. After this, I’m convinced that the strength of a community — which is evidenced by their prayers and by their thoughts and their wishes and their deeds — really contributed positively. And I don’t have any doubt in my mind.”
Eloise did regain consciousness, and she was airlifted back to Minnesota where she spent time in intensive care and later began rehabilitation at Hennepin County Medical Center. She was hospitalized for approximately four months.
“The doctors will tell you she’s a miracle,” Elliot said. “But miracles only happen, I believe, with the help of a lot of people. Most people who had her injuries wouldn’t be around to talk about it.”
The Kaplans’ first public outing was to Rosh Hashana services last year. Eloise continues to participate in physical and occupational therapy, as well as speech therapy, and only recently began walking without a cane, though she just does that around the house.
“I was so lucky,” Eloise said. “I just have to say that I’m one of the the luckiest people we know, that I have the family and the community.”
Throughout this process, both Elliot and Eloise maintain that humor plays a big role in Eloise’s recovery. Eloise was sometimes scolded by medical personnel who thought she wasn’t understanding their commands; actually, she was just being sarcastic.
“They asked her one day who she was and she said Oprah Winfrey,” Elliot said. “When the psychologist came in for the week to review what she was doing, they had a note that she was thoroughly confused.”
“I wanted to be the richest woman in America, just for one moment,” Eloise added dryly.
Elliot said that this has been an “incredible learning experience” for their family and it has inspired them to do even more for others. They have unwritten the Voices of Inspiration benefit.
“It’s important that you’re giving, even when things aren’t as good, they’re tougher,” Elliot said. “You give, whether it’s less, because you can’t forget those values. We don’t want our kids to forget those values.”
“I think the Kaplans have always given to people who have needed the community and have provided the support to make that happen,” added Temple Israel Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman. “And this experience has shown what it means to need the community.”
Elliot said that the benefit will serve as a reminder of that fact.
“It’s about letting people know how important this community is,” he said. “And I think Mark Kelly will tell you the same story.”
Temple Israel’s Voices of Inspiration Speaker Series will continue 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13 at the synagogue, 2324 Emerson Ave. S., Minneapolis. For tickets and information, visit: www.templeisrael.com/benefit.htm or call 612-374-0313.
(American Jewish World, 9.28.12)