Doctor shows doing plus dreaming makes good things happen


True confessions: I have great admiration for visionaries. Not the talkers, but the doers. The ones with the dreams who make their dreams reality.

Like Lamar Marchese and Bob Forbuss, featured in recent columns.

I'm adding Dr. Lawrence Copeland to that list.

Last Saturday, I went to the Temple Sinai gala honoring him. I wanted to show my respect for the doctor who has cared for my mother for about 13 years.

I met his delightful 92-year-old mother, Frances Copeland, and watched as she wept as he was honored for being the visionary behind the creation of Temple Sinai, a Union of Reform Judaism congregation.

His mom said proudly that her son comes from a family of temple builders. Her grandfather built a temple in West Virginia. Her father and uncle built a temple in Baltimore. And now her son is the visionary behind Temple Sinai.

Since the late 1980s, the dream of Copeland and his wife, Linda, was to have a Union for Reform Judaism temple on the west side of Las Vegas.

Today, Temple Sinai is at 9001 Hillpointe Road in Summerlin, serving 350 families and 150 preschoolers who attend the Shenker Academy on the temple's campus.

At Saturday's dinner, Richard Hollander, the new president of Temple Sinai, told the story of the Copelands' "perpetual dream."

Hollander, a capital manager, said it succeeded against the most improbable odds and using the worst financial business plan he had ever seen. "Temple Sinai's survival is the biggest miracle I've witnessed in my adult life."

When Copeland came to Las Vegas in 1982, he had joined Temple Beth Am, the city's only Reform congregation and one without a building of its own. Later, the Copelands were among 15 families who left Temple Beth Am and formed the Adat Ari El congregation. Temple Beth Am started in the Summerlin location but faced financial woes.

In 2007, the two groups merged and became Temple Sinai. All total between the various congregations, he has been a temple president for 12 years. But when he became Temple Sinai president in 2007, expenses were about $70,000 a month, and the temple's bank account was $300,000. Things looked grim.

The story is a long and complex one, but cutting to the chase, a friend of Copeland's who prefers not to be named had about $1 million left in a foundation and wanted to help sustain Copeland's dream.

Copeland's friend took a big gamble. When Las Vegas Sands stock plummeted to under $2 a share in 2009, the friend invested the money into the Las Vegas Sands stock at its low point. His gamble paid off; the stock value went up, providing enough to save Temple Sinai from foreclosure and pay off the mortgage.

When asked why he did it, Hollander recalled the friend answered "for Larry and Linda and their selfless service to this temple now and before, and for their commitment to doing something for others."

As for why Copeland was driven to found a temple, he will explain to anyone who asks that it is all about educating the next generation and carrying on ethical traditions.

Quirky is the word most often used to describe the doctor. He is constantly moving while talking, a bundle of energy. But that energy and quirkiness accomplish much. At the same time he was working to fund the temple, he was a full-time doctor active in Las Vegas' medical world.

To put it simply, Dr. Copeland wants to make the world a better place through his religious beliefs and his medical skills. That makes him one of the good guys who dream, then do, by inspiring others to pitch in and help.

Jane Ann Morrison's column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call her at (702) 383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/Morrison

 

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