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religion and spirituality."
His work led to invitations to speak
on television shows like Donahue and
Good Morning America. "No one else
was doing this," he says.
. Soon, people suggested he write a
book about children and loss. And he
did. In 1992, A Candle for Grandpa
came out. In 1999, he produced the
Emmy-award winning documentary
Generation to Generation — Jewish
Families Talk about Death by Sue
Techner says he's pleased when peo-
ple tell him, "You took me around
when my grandfather died. Now I'd
like you to take my grandchild
His warmth and easy-going manner
have aided generations of people in
and outside of the Jewish community
in times of crisis. This work and much
more led Council to choose Techner
for their third annual "Activist of the
"David has touched the lives of so
many families," says David Gad-Harf,
Council executive director. "His
expression of humanity has focused on
people of all ages and backgrounds —
from young children battling cancer to
those who are in the final stage of life.
He personifies the highest ideals of the
Jewish community through his exten-
sive community service."
On a more personal note, Rabbi
E.B. "Bunny" Freedman, executive
director of Jewish Hospice and
Chaplaincy Network, who has traveled
on many occasions with Techner to
Israel, adds, "David's career at the
Kaufman Chapel involves such serious
issues. Yet everything he does, he does
with such elan, spirit, humor and posi-
tiveness. He has an amazing way of
bringing people in."
The Other David
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Techner's family, however, including
wife, Ilene, 50, and children, Avi, 24,
Chad, 22, and Stephanie, 17, — his
most avid supporters — want the
community to know another side of
their husband and father.
"I've always known all my father's
done for the community," says Avi
Techner of Corvallis, Ore. "People
have come up to me on numerous
occasions and said, 'So, youre David
Techner's son. I don't know what I'd
have done without him during this
difficult time ... 1
"He's a wonderful man and very
selfless, but I want everyone to know
that he's never neglected — not in the
slightest — his family. He's always
there for me. He's the first person I
call for advice. I try to emulate him."
His wife, Ilene, agrees, "I don't
know how he does it. He's giving his
wonderful creative talents and lots and
lots of time. He receives a sense of sat-
isfaction and has wonderful relation-
ships with communities around the .
world that have enriched our lives as
She says her husband also has been
very supportive of her work, from the
free aftercare service she provides for
families at the Ira Kaufman Chapel to
running her own business doing
remodeling, additions and new con-
Some of David Techner's other
involvements include serving on the
boards of York Children's Foundation,
the Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy
Network, Partnership 2000 of the
Jewish Federation of Metropolitan
Detroit and the Jewish Sports
Foundation. He has also been a mem-
ber of the boards of Children's
Hospice of Michigan, Temple Israel,
the Anti-Defamation League-
Michigan Region and Jewish Family
Service. In 1989, Techner became the
youngest president of the Michigan
Funeral Directors Association.
Lessons From Hardships
Things have not always been easy, says
Techner, and he's not complaining.
Growing up in Oak Park, he got his
sense of involvement in high school by
working, he says. "My parents weren't
wealthy and in the summers when
many of my friends went to camp or
traveled, I was working. And when I
wasn't working I was involved in extra-
curricular activities. I always had -a
sense of involvement."
His involvement deepened while
working at the Ira Kaufman Chapel,
he says, when he had the opportunity
to meet the Detroit Jewish communi-
"This is an amazing community that
taught me a sense of cohesion, and I
learned a lot about Judaism and the
gifts we have in this town," he says.
"We're the gold standard in giving."
A most difficult time for the
Techners was the loss of their first
child, 8-month-old daughter Alicia, 25
Yet, even here, they have found
important life lessons that not only
strengthened them but initiated a gift
to the community.
"Alicia taught us the biggest lesson,
the gift of being a parent," Techner
says. "When you lose that privilege to
a sudden death you never take parent-
ing for granted again."
In tribute, the Techners established
the Alicia Joy Techner Memorial
Parenting Conference at Temple Israel,
dedicated to improving parenting
skills and family life. One of the many
speakers included well-known baby
doctor Benjamin Spock, who gave his
last speech at a Techner conference.
Ilene Techner says David's honesty
helped get her through difficult times.
She says he is honest to their relation-
ship, the community and to himself.
For example, she says, when he had
testicular cancer, it was therapeutic for
him to open up about it, and he
would do things like talk to high
school boys as a result of facing things
"He was a model for me that helped
when our daughter died," Ilene says.
"And that deepened our relationship
by developing a good way to commu-
nicate with each other."
Love Of Israel
With all of Techner's involvements,
Israel is clearly a priority. When asked
his most memorable experience, he
says, "The first time at the Western
Wall with my family."
Since then Techner has been to
Israel on numerous missions, and on
Partnership 2000 trips to the Central
Galilee to help develop the Milton
and Lois Shiffman Home Hospice of
the Valleys there.
"David is a great visionary," says
Rabbi Freedman, who attributes his
own "significant career change" as
head of Jewish Hospice and
Chaplaincy Network to Techner.
"Here's how he works," Rabbi
Techner wanted him to see first
hand the good work done at Alyn
Hospital in Jerusalem, so he planned
an extra day to their visit to tour it.
Since then, the rabbi says he's become
a great friend of the hospital.
"If David calls and says, 'Bunny,
we're going to see something today.'
I'm going! I know I'll be very interest-
The Jewish Community Council
will present David Techner with its
Activist of the Year Award at 7:30
p.m. Wednesday, May 21, at
Temple Emanu-El. Guest speaker
is Gov. Jennifer Granholm. No
charge and open to the communi-
ty; RSVP to (248) 642-5393.