2020 Honoree: the music of Osi & Selma Sladek
Osi and Selma Sladek are two of Denver’s most respected Jewish Community professionals, cultural and educational leaders, who have impacted this community for nearly six decades. They share their musical talent and passion for Judaism and Israel with adults and children. They have been honored by Temple Sinai with the 2018 Cultural Arts honor. Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper proclaimed May 5. 2018 as Oscar and Selma Sladek Day for their significant and enduring contributions to the civic and cultural philanthropic vitality of our state.
Osi and Selma continue to be active in the Denver Jewish Community while enjoying the love and admiration of their children Ron, Adena, Daniel and Michael and their spouses. They take great pleasure in being grandparents and great-grandparents.
The Colorado Hebrew Chorale and Kol Nashim are honored to name Osi and Selma Sladek Honorees for the 2020 Raisins and Almonds Celebration.
OSCAR (OSI) SLADEK
Oscar (Osi) Sladek is a child survivor of the Holocaust. He was born to a musical family in Czechoslovakia, and was a child prodigy before the war. He and his parents survived the war hiding in the frigid Tatras Mountains. Osi was one of the first Holocaust survivors to tell his story publicly, and he continues to do so. He has reached thousands of audience members young and old in countless venues. Most recently, he has performed and told his story at the Colorado Hebrew Chorale’s “Essential Music of the Holocaust: History and Hope” program. (See links to YouTube recordings of Osi’s story below)
The Sladek family immigrated to Israel in 1949. Osi served in the IDF where he composed, performed and recorded many songs including Shir Hatzanchanim (the Israeli Paratroopers’ Hymn). Some of Osi’s recordings are stored in the Israel National Museum Archives. In 2016, the Israel Association of Musicians and Composers honored Osi’s musical contributions to Israeli society, and D.U.’s Lamont School of Music staged a workshop production of a musical, “Far Beyond Rubies, which Osi composed in 1981.
Osi’s family moved to Venezuela and then to Los Angeles where he met and married Denverite Selma Rosen. The couple moved to Denver in 1960 where Osi and Selma launched independent careers in the local Jewish community, sharing their passion for music, Judaism and Israel. The couple returned to LA from the late 1980’s until 2001, when they returned to Denver.
In Denver, Osi worked as an educator and youth director at several synagogues, taught adult education at Temple Emanuel, and introduced the first adult Hebrew class in the city. He was the first executive director of fledgling Temple Sinai and ran pre-Shabbat musical programs there.
He also worked in the publicity and cultural program departments of the JCC, and was their first camp director, planned numerous Israel Independence Day Festivals, founded an Israeli dance troupe, and performed in a Colorado Folk Festival with Judy Collins, Odetta and other famous artists.
Selma Rosen Sladek is a third generation Denverite, born and raised in the West Colfax Jewish community. She is an accomplished composer, lyricist and pianist, known for her own skill and fine accompaniment of other artists. She has accompanied Cantors from HEA, Beth Joseph and BMH congregations as well as her mother, vocalist Clara Rosen, who often performed with local orchestras. She accompanied the Shir Ami Singers which her husband, Osi, conducted.
In addition to her musical talents, Selma is a deeply respected Jewish community professional organizer and activist. While a student at D.U. in 1958, she participated in a mission to Israel as president of the Denver Chapter of Junior Hadassah. She devoted over thirty years on staff at the Denver Jewish Community Center where she served as regional director of the Young Judaea Zionist youth program, was in charge of the young singles program, served as membership director, and for many years, was in charge of the popular seniors program.
While living in Newport Beach, CA from the late 1980s until 2001, Selma served as the assistant director of the Orange County JCC and as director of the JCC Arts and Culture Department. Back in Denver, Selma served as Assistant Director of the Denver Jewish Book Festival.
Osi’s Story -Part I & II: