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The Wallen Family

The Wallen family are a rare breed. While so many of us struggle to cope with the changes in our lives, Adam and Olivia shared with Rabbi Shulman in a recent interview, “we like change.” Born to Army and Air Force families, Adam and Olivia each moved from community to community as children, creating and investing in Jewish life wherever they went from Frankfurt to Colorado Springs. Then when Adam joined the Air Force out of West Point, they began a wandering Jewish journey of their own with their four children, Yael, Isaac, Talia, and Leila. 

But when the family came to Denver after Adam retired from the Air Force, they discovered a new kind of home at HEA from which they were not eager to depart. “Hey, can we stop moving?” their kids inquired of Olivia and Adam one day, “Can we just stay here?” Indeed, they have since 2014. Olivia and Adam recall how meaningful it has been to have all four b’nai mitzvah of their children in the same place and to be able to watch them grow up at HEA. 

Olivia and Adam inherited a passion for supporting Jewish communities from their parents. Just as their parents served as active lay leaders and Jewish educators on the military bases in which they lived, so too do Olivia and Adam serve the HEA community with their hearts, souls, voices, and leadership. In 2018 Olivia joined the HEA Board of Directors while also continuing to serve as a member of the Shir Hadash davening team. 

“We want our children to also identify as Jewish in a way that is meaningful and authentic to them,” Olivia told Rabbi Shulman. How do they meet that aspiration? “We model it,” Adam explained, “you have to show up in community even when life is busy.” The Wallens have made a commitment as a family to go to HEA for services, for Jewish learning programs, and for other rituals, and in turn, their children have found their place and their Jewish identities through their experiences at HEA and beyond as they enter college and the next phase of their young adult lives. “We also talk about Judaism in our family life. We prioritize Shabbat dinner, and we share Jewish perspectives on current events with our kids,” Olivia added.

As their kids get older, Olivia and Adam face more changes ahead. In fact, the other night, the couple experienced lighting the Shabbat candles alone for the first time, as they still have a high schooler at home. “I cried when we lit the candles alone,” Olivia shared, “and now we need to rediscover what our Judaism is going to look like when our house is empty.” Judging by the Wallen history of adapting to change so seamlessly, they will no doubt welcome new traditions into their home with meaning and commitment, just as they always have.

Sun, September 24 2023 9 Tishrei 5784