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Mountain States Spotlight with Karen Bigelow

  • March 13, 2017


ADL Board Member and education advocate Karen Bigelow shares her passion for social justice and the work of the Anti-Defamation League.


How did you first become involved in ADL? How are you involved now?

My mother and my aunts showed me how to get involved from an early age.  They have always been active in the Jewish community, mostly with National Council for Jewish Women (NCJW).  It was engrained in me to get involved my entire life because of their commitments in Denver and in Dallas.

When I graduated from college and lived in Dallas, I was super involved with the Jewish Federation there and that was my start.  Here in Denver, I became involved with the Anti-Defamation League because of two different people in my life.  My wonderful friend Gareth Heyman brought me as a guest to an ADL board meeting and I was hooked.  Also, my dear friend Tara Raju works at the ADL as the region’s director of education and in that capacity, directs the No Place For Hate® initiative. I always wanted to get more involved with this program to help it grow.

What do you do in your professional life?

I do marketing consulting for several companies including a telemedicine company, a national non-profit, and a local bank.  I have worked in Marketing and Client Services for most of my career in different industries including payments, loyalty, restaurants, electronics, as well as a few public relations companies.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a Supreme Court Justice like Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg!  I always wanted to be a part of fighting for what was right with our society.

Where were you born? From where do your ancestors hail?

I am a Denver, CO native, but my grandparents came here during the Holocaust.  My mother Glenda Kaufman’s parents came from Poland and my father Joe Kaufman’s parents came from Landau, Germany.

What’s your favorite holiday?

I love holidays!  My favorite is probably Thanksgiving.  I love spending the entire day with friends and family.  It’s a relaxing day to catch up with everyone and in addition, my cousins and I love prepping and cooking together and inviting everyone we know!  This past Thanksgiving was extra special because all of my family traveled to Grand Rapids where my cousins hosted a special Thanksgiving for refugee families.  It was the most wonderful Thanksgiving I have had so far!

What’s your favorite food?

I’m not sure I can name just one thing, I love to try foods from other cultures and I am a big fan of anything curry!

What are you reading?

My favorite fiction books are those by Patricia Cornwell, but right now I am reading anything I can about politics because I am fired up about what is going on in this country! Educating myself is very important in the information age since there are so many false claims being made. This is how I insulate myself from unsubstantiated sources and propaganda.

What’s a special place you have visited?

I absolutely love to travel and have traveled much of Europe.  I have been lucky to have gone to Israel twice so far.  It has so much meaning in my life.  My other favorite city is Prague.  It’s such an incredible city and has so much Jewish significance.  We are trying to plan a trip to Europe with our three boys next year and all of them would also like to visit Israel soon.

What’s one thing every person should know or experience?

Being loved unconditionally and treated fairly in life.  There are so many people in this world who do not live in conditions like we do in the United States.  We typically have no idea how people live in different parts of the world, and as refugees come to our country we need to show compassion and be more giving. Even within America we have a wide variety of different peoples and cultures that should strive to understand one another.

What teacher or class stands out to you the most in your education and why?

My favorite class was a junior high school journalism class (at Hill Middle School in Denver).  I loved learning to write about current events and things that affected all of us.

What are you passionate about personally? What can’t you stop talking about?

Right now it’s politics.  I can be a bit overbearing about it, but I am scared and upset by what is happening in our country and in our world.  I worry for our future and the future of my children. There is a tremendous amount of manipulation happening online and I want to help educate others about how to identify propaganda vs. fact and reality.

Where can we find you when you’re not working?

I can be found at sporting events watching my three sons compete.  They are each in their own sports and we generally are attending practices or games six days a week!

What would be impossible for you to give up?

My family!  I have an incredible family, from my nuclear family at home, to my parents and sister to my cousins and aunts.  Honestly, we are always there for each other and it’s a source of contentment and pride!

If you had to teach something, what would you teach?

Compassion!  This world is not an easy place to navigate and I have seen people treated horribly.  No one deserves that and we all need to learn to be compassionate. We are all members of the human race first and foremost and compassion opens the door to this understanding.

Tell me a story that immediately pops into your mind that was a defining or significant moment for you.

When I was growing up, I attended Sunday school through the tenth grade to become confirmed at Temple Emanuel in Denver.  My friends and I would invite each other to synagogue and church to share our different religions with each other.  I remember being taught about other religions and don’t ever remember anything bad ever being said about them.  But one time at a Catholic church I attended with a friend, the priest said nasty things about Jewish people and I was shocked.  Another was a boy I went to elementary school with was chased down on his way home from school.  Some other boys carved a swastika in his skin.  It was just horrible and I’ll never forget that!

Why do you choose to make a financial investment in ADL?

It’s important to not only volunteer your time to this worthwhile cause, but to help financially to ensure the programs continue.  We need the ADL to continue its very valuable work and they cannot do so without our contributions. ADL provides one of the best ways to help combat the disinformation and hate that is growing in our country. My husband’s company matches our contribution, which is so wonderful, and I encourage everyone I know to contribute!

Complete this sentence: For me, the ADL is …

on the front line in this trying time!  We need to commit fully to stopping Anti-semitism and hate of any kind. This racism, bigotry and anti-religious freedom is not only the enemy of our future but is downright un-American!