Barbara and Tom Trager moved to Boulder in 1999, the same month that the Boulder JCC opened. Their destinies have been intertwined ever since. In fact, the growth and success of the Boulder JCC – and numerous other Jewish organizations – is directly attributable to the Tragers and the many people like them who understand what can be accomplished when people come together with their sleeves rolled up.
The Tragers already recognized the value of community when they arrived in Boulder from California, where they had been active in Jewish life. Not surprisingly, the Tragers quickly made friends, but Barbara admits she expected Boulder to be a “hippie town,” and was
shocked to find so many Jews here. I vividly remember thinking that everyone was so nice here. I was new and wanted to get involved, which I did. But I was amazed by how much was going on.”
The Tragers became members of Bonai Shalom, where Barbara remains active on the social action committee. Barbara joined the Steering Committee of Allied Jewish Federation’s Boulder Women Division, and also joined the board of Hillel, where she served for three years, driving to Denver for meetings.
Barbara also joined the board of Menorah, where she felt a strong kinship with the mission of engaging Jewish community through cultural arts.
Barbara and I first met more than a decade ago at a film series screening at Bonai Shalom, which I organized and where I led discussions following the movies.
“It was packed to the gills,” Barbara remembers. “I can’t even remember the title of the film, but I remember thinking I wanted to support this.”
Tom joined the Boulder JCC board four years ago, and has served as the JCC’s liaison on the Menorah board for two years. Tom’s father had been actively involved with the JCC in Cincinnati, where he grew up in a large and engaged Jewish family. Tom felt a special connection to the capital campaign efforts to build a new JCC in Boulder.
Tom is currently auditing a class in Jewish history taught by Professor David Shneer, director of CU’s Program in Jewish Studies. He never misses a class and studies his texts.
Tom has retired from CU – twice in fact. But he keeps getting pulled back. Tom is about retire for the third, and hopefully final time. More CU classes may be in his future, and certainly even more time devoted to strengthening community.
Barbara remains on Menorah’s Program Committee, where she shares her flair for entertaining and making people feel welcome. There’s no better greeter at a Menorah event, although the line might back up a little because Barbara keeps jumping up to come around the table and give people a hug.
The Tragers’ warmth and generosity have earned them a reputation for graciousness unrivaled in the community. They are humble about their accomplishments, and seem almost surprised to find themselves at the center of a community of beloved friends.
While still new in the community, the Tragers hosted a Hillel event at their home following a talk at CU by Dennis Ross, who had led the failed negotiations at Camp David. More than 90 people made their way from the packed audience at Glenn Miller Ballroom to continue the charged conversation with Ross in the Tragers’ overflowing living room.
Israel has always been important to the Tragers, and they are strong advocates for the safety and security of the Jewish state. Facilitating discussion around this hot topic has been a focus of their efforts in recent years. Tom has been involved with Stand By Israel, and they were supporters of Shaul Gabbay’s Institute for the Study of Israel in the Middle East at DU. Barbara serves as convener of the Boulder Jewish Community’s Israel-Palestinian Dialogue on the Conflict in the Middle East.
Barbara and Tom met just after Barbara came back from a transformative year in Israel – although she laughs that she didn’t go back to Israel for 32 years after they met.
Along with Israel, Barbara says that family is very important to them. Their grown children Mara and Josh have followed them to Colorado. Barbara also had a sister and brother-in-law living in Denver when Tom was offered a job at CU as senior in-house attorney. Mara recently married and is expecting the Tragers’ first grandchild, which is a dream come true for the eager grandparents to be.
“Our kids are very important,” Barbara says. “But we live independent lives. We enjoy a lot of volunteer work, our friends and being part of the community.”
Over the years, the Tragers have supported many new initiatives. Barbara was very involved in bringing a group of young Sudanese women to Boulder. Recently, she helped launch the Jewish Community Career Network Group, designed to help people with career issues.
When approached by Menorah to be honored at the Jazz Brunch gala, the Tragers hesitated for a moment. Tom suggested we just honor Barbara, who has volunteered more hours in the community. I assured them that they were seen as a couple whose combined contributions were enormous. Barbara said she felt oddly uncomfortable stepping into the limelight, and being publicly singled out for work that it has been her pleasure to do.
But the Tragers understand that supporting a worthy organization sometimes may mean stepping outside one’s comfort zone. Their humility makes their willingness to be honored more meaningful.
“Ok,” Barbara said with a sigh and one of her signature hugs. “I’ll do it for you.”
Tickets are still available for the Jazz Brunch: Click here to purchase.