The legacy of National Jewish Health is built on philanthropy and countless volunteers like Bea Asherman, of New York. She helped to sustain the institution by dedicating more than six decades of her life to the cause.
While the organization evolved over the years and went through several name changes and expansions, Bea’s commitment to provide support for people with respiratory, cardiac and immune conditions was a constant.
“Fannie Lorber was my inspiration. I have weathered it all because of my abiding love for people, especially those I’ve met through this organization,” Bea wrote.
Fannie Lorber founded the Denver Sheltering Home in 1907 as an orphanage for Jewish children. As “The Home” evolved from an orphanage into an asthma treatment center, Fannie’s son, Arthur, was the visionary who combined compassionate care with ground breaking research and thus created the premier treatment center for respiratory diseases in the country.
A Chance Introduction Leads to Lifetime of Dedication
Bea was introduced to the New York Auxiliary Chapter of the National Home for Jewish Children at Denver through friends. The auxiliary chapters were the heart of the children’s home, and served as a remarkable fundraising mechanism that began in the 1920s and eventually grew to 1,500 auxiliaries across the country.
Bea first supported the hospital as a member of the New York Chapter, where she later became president, and then as a national auxiliary board member and trustee. Bea’s husband, George, was by her side as she worked tirelessly to raise money for the hospital.
Her children Ira, Isabel and Marian all watched in amazement as their mother went from meeting to meeting without ever missing a family meal. “The chapters threw theater parties and would sell tickets to Broadway shows to raise money,” Ira recalls. He still remembers seeing “Inherit the Wind” with Paul Muni and Ed Begley. Marian and Isabel cannot forget going to the annual luncheons, each year at a different hotel. “For us they were memorable days.” Following in his mother’s tradition, Ira eventually became a member of the hospital’s singles chapter in New York City.
In addition to the theater parties, Bea spearheaded hundreds of events ranging from flea markets and bingo to gala luncheons and glamorous dinner dances. In a 1990 newsletter, Bea wrote, “I am filled with wonder and overwhelmed with all that we have accomplished … we have raised over these years considerably more than a million dollars.”
Building Support Across the Nation
Beyond fundraising, Bea helped to grow the auxiliaries. More than 17 auxiliary chapters in the New York area can trace their origins to her guiding spirit. She also actively recruited more than 100 new members.
“Everyone I know is a member — neighbors, relatives, friends and enemies!” she wrote in a 1977 National Asthma Center newsletter.
Bea was also a talented writer and infused her creativity into chapter publications and events. She kept New York Chapter members apprised of the latest news in her update called, “From the Bea Hive.”
“I remember that she would write chapter-specific lyrics to the tunes of popular songs for the inauguration of each new chapter,” recalls Ira.
‘The Center is my consuming love and obsession.’
Ira remembers traveling with his mother one year to the annual convention that was held each year in Denver and seeing the impact of the care provided here. “We were taking a flight out to the convention, and I saw a child who was sick in a bed on the flight. I remember an ambulance picked him up at the airport. A few months later, I returned to Denver, and I saw that same child playing basketball at the hospital.”
In her book, A Gift of Love from the Bea Hive, Bea wrote, “This volunteer work has greatly enriched my life with many rewarding results … I have the joy and gratification of helping sick, asthmatic children to a better life. I think I received more than I gave and give I did in time, effort, family support, and yes, even money. Proud to say I am still at it.”
Bea passed away in 1999, and we are incredibly grateful for her unwavering commitment to the institution. Ira and his wife, Sandy, continue this tradition of support for National Jewish Health and have led seminars on volunteerism for the institution.
Learn more about how you can support patients at National Jewish Health