by Annette van de Kamp-Wright, Editor of the Jewish Press
Being Jewish, according to Dr. Larry Roffman, “is not about sitting on the sidelines of life. It is life. You reach out, you welcome newcomers, you volunteer, you study, you vote, care, support Israel, and you add your voice to public discussions.”
Larry Roffman is this year’s Humanitarian of the Year, and will be honored by the Jewish Federation of Omaha at the Annual Meeting on June 3.
Originally from Council Bluffs, IA, Larry attended Abraham Lincoln High School, after which he studied at the State University of Iowa, earning a combined B.A. and medical degree. He and his wife Silvia (Sivi) have two daughters. Susie is married to Mike Norton, Julie is married to Thor Rosenquist. They’ve also been blessed with grandchildren: Justin, Seth, Aaron and Leo Norton, and Asher and Eitan Rosenquist.
“My father Sam told me once that everybody has to have a job and earn a living,” Larry says. He’s tried to follow that advice (and then some) ever since.
His primary hospital was Clarkson Hospital, and he served several terms as Chairman of the OB/GYN department. In fact, the comment frequently heard around the community is: “Larry Roffman? Oh, he delivered me/my siblings/my children!”
Case in point: “Dr. Larry Roffman has given a lifetime of commitment and devotion to the Jewish Community of Omaha,” says Jody Malashock, Jewish Federation of Omaha President. “I congratulate Larry on receiving the highest honor of our Jewish Federation. On a personal note, Dr. Roffman will always be special to me – he delivered both of my children.”
It’s one way to have an impact on many, but Larry didn’t stop there. He’s acted as a volunteer clinical instructor for OB/GYN medical students at the former Nebraska College of Medicine, which is now the Nebraska Medical Center. His colleagues honored him as a “Clarkson legend.” Since his retirement, he has continued to work with the Nebraska Medical Center on a variety of projects.
Larry is a Past President of Temple Israel, and a former member of the Investment Committee. He continues to serve on the Jewish Federation Foundation Board of Directors, and has served on the Jewish Social Services Board, where he was named an Honorary Trustee for Life. He continues his membership on the Douglas County Hospital Foundation Board, and was a board member for the Nebraska Jewish Historical Society, due to his interest in the history of Iowa and Nebraska, and Council Bluffs and Omaha in particular.
Maybe that interest in history is partially responsible for the fact that Larry doesn’t easily forget where he comes from, or who helped him along the way.
“My teachers, from elementary through medical school, had a very strong effect on me,” he says. “They set the standards I have always tried to perpetuate.”
Those teachers, no doubt, would be proud: the Roffmans established a scholarship at Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine, specifically targeted at students from Western Iowa and Eastern Nebraska.
“We Jewish kids from Council Bluffs grew up with our AZA buddies in Omaha. We socialized, met up at the JCC for dances and meetings and created wonderful bonds that have lasted for many years, especially since many of us made the move from Council Bluffs to Omaha over time.”
“From the moment I arrived in Omaha, Larry has been available to provide helpful counsel,” says Mike Silverman, Jewish Federation of Omaha CEO. “His commitment to our Jewish community is unparallelled. At JSS, he shows a rare level of insight. I can’t think of anyone more deserving of the Humanitarian of the Year award.
To Larry, Jewish life centers on family. Family means Sivi, his children and grandchildren, brother and his family, and all other relatives. “But,” he says, “there’s more to it than literal family. It also means good, dear friends. It means schmoozing, “solving” local and national problems over breakfast, lunch or dinner with like-minded individuals. Few things are better than being with friends who are equally invested in the Jewish Federation, our Jewish community, and Omaha in general. My ‘eating partners’ are people who give time and money to a variety of causes, from Jewish Federation to synagogues, and from education to organ donation and civic organizations. Family means sharing the passion to make the world better. We can’t do it alone.”
Larry counts himself fortunate to have the high caliber of both lay and professional leadership in Omaha. “Because we care, Omaha is recognized nationally for our philanthropy and our ability to get the best out of people everywhere, from synagogues to Federation agencies and various community organizations.”
Dr. Roffman will be presented with the Jewish Federation of Omaha Humanitarian of the Year Award during the Annual Meeting on Monday, June 3, at 7 p.m. in the JCC Theater.