Rabbi Helman was the spiritual leader of Congregation Beit Tikva since our founding in 1995. Walking in downtown Santa Fe with Rabbi Helman was an enlightening experience, for every third or fourth person you passed greeted him and stopped to tell a joke, to reminisce about friends and family, or to check on his standing in the latest bridge tournament. On any given day, he could be found at St. Vincent’s Hospital visiting and comforting ailing congregants, friends, and casual acquaintances, or discussing topical issues with the hospital’s medical ethics board. He officiated at life cycle events including Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, weddings, and funerals, and inspired us with his spirit and his understated dignity.
Known around Santa Fe as the “Rabbi Different,” he served for many years as the chaplain for the State Senate, was a masterful song-and-dance man who led the crowd in celebration at the annual Fourth of July Pancake Breakfast on the Santa Fe plaza, and was a world-class bridge player whose team took first place at the Polish National Bridge Tournament in 2006. The Leonard A. Helman Bridge Center was dedicated in Santa Fe in 2008. From 1974 until his retirement in 1987, Rabbi Helman served as an administrative law judge and attorney for the New Mexico Public Service Commission. In May 2004, he was honored as a Santa Fe Living Treasure, and February 3, 2006 was declared by then-Governor Bill Richardson as “Rabbi Leonard A. Helman Day” throughout the State of New Mexico. On July 10, 2010, Rabbi celebrated the 70th Anniversary of his Bar Mitzvah. Rabbi Helman passed away on June 6, 2013 after a long, illustrious and fulfilling life.