At 88 years old, Phyllis Lewkowicz is as independent, self-sufficient, generous, and inspiring as I have ever known any person to be. She is also humble. When I asked her what Tikkun Olam means to her, she answered simply,
I’m here. I can be good, or I can be bad. I think it’s a lot easier to be good.
When Phyllis first moved into the Hechtman community, she was determined to meet new people and begin fostering a connection with the other residents. So, she decided to have luncheons. To quote a gentleman who attended one of these luncheons, “Phyllis has truly done the biggest mitzvah anyone could ever hope for. Look around you. Everyone is smiling.” During the end of the year holidays, Phyllis likes to make lunch for the entire Hechtman staff, just to thank them for everything that they do for the residents.
Phyllis has accomplished a great deal — an extensive bookkeeping career, presidencies of the Sisterhood of Livonia’s Congregation Beit Kodesh and Hadassah, making kiddush at Beit Kodesh and B’nai Moshe, serving on the Hechtman Resident Council, and making greeting cards for Jewish Senior Life community — despite her visual impairment — to raise money for the Hechtman Resident Council Flower Fund and the West Bloomfield Police and Fire Departments.
However, she is most proud of her beloved family: her late husband, Steve, a Holocaust survivor and their three children. At 15 years of age, her daughter Bonnie, suffered a tragic accident that paralyzed her from the neck down. Bonnie had to learn to adapt to life with her disability. Phyllis stood by her daughter every step of the way, incessantly pushing, and encouraging her. She was constantly inventing new things for Bonnie to use. Phyllis worked closely on the campaign for Barrier Free Design in Lansing, a bill that would later become known as the Americans with Disabilities Act.
There are plenty of good people in this world, countless who give to charity, do volunteer work, and take on leadership roles, but getting to know Phyllis has made me realize how rare it is to find a person who will take risks for you, who will think only about what they can give to you and how they can make you happy, instead of calculating what they could get from you in return. Very seldom do you meet a person who loves so selflessly and completely, a person like Phyllis Lewkowicz, who I will forever be privileged to know.