“If there had been no Lou Fruitman, there would be no Reena,” –Eleanor London, Past Chair Reena Foundation  

An accountant and developer, Lou Fruitman z”l became involved with Reena through his relationship with Rabbi Joseph Kelman z”tl at Beth Emeth Bais Yehudah Synagogue. According to his daughter, Lisa Fruitman, her father was Rabbi Kelman’s ‘go to’ person. “It was who he was…if anybody ever came to him for anything he was always more then willing to get involved, to help, to do what needed to be done.” Rabbi Kelman wanted to help the developmentally disabled community, says Fruitman. “The rabbi had a great idea to help this population, but he had no way to put it into action. How do we do this? Where do we find the funds? And he went to my father (Lou) because he was always that person that would help solve these problems and figure it out. It was my father who said ‘this is what we need to do and how we need to do it’; Lou orchestrated the whole thing and led the group, according to Fruitman. 

His work managing Reena’s books is also quite renowned. “Often, they would come up short or need more money for something…and Lou would just look at the books and say its all fixed. He would just top it up. All the mistakes always went away…He would just open his chequebook and fix the problem,” says Fruitman. 

Lou Fruitman, however, was a very low-key person. Despite his role as Founding President and Treasurer, records of his contributions are hard to find. “He never stood out in front; he was always behind the scenes,” says Lisa Fruitman, “…he was a strong believer in Tikkun Olam (repairing the world)  and was anonymous and did it just because it is the right thing to do…which is why there is little record of him in Reena’s books.” 

“Reena was just always part of our life,” says Lisa Fruitman, who explains that growing up there was an understanding and awareness of individuals with diverse needs. Lisa admits her exposure to Reena is probably part of the reason she ended up going into healthcare, working with kids with special needs. “It’s a community that welcomed and embraced everyone from day one. And that is what Rabbi Kelman and the men at Beth Emeth all embraced,” she says. 

While not a part of the ‘boys club’ at the shul, Betsy Fruitman z”l was a supportive wife participating and helping with all the events her husband helped organize.  After Lou passed away, Betsy was looking to do something in his memory. Realizing the group homes did not provide enough capacity for the developmentally disabled population she understood the need for a community residence.  

When she made the donation for the building, she was adamant to say it was all Lou. “It’s humbling to have his name on a building,” says daughter Lisa, “But it reminds me to continue moving forward in his footsteps and continue in his legacy of Tikkun Olam, helping the community and making the world a better place.” 

The tradition of Tikkun Olam continues with Lou’s grandchildren who both are involved in charity work as well and started early. Lisa recalls the time Lou took his 2-year-old granddaughter Amanda to a Judy & David concert where they happened to be selling Reena raffle tickets for a new car. Of course, Lou bought several tickets to support Reena and lo and behold, Amanda’s ticket won!  

Fruitman family traditions also played a part at the ground-breaking for the Lou Fruitman Reena Residence. In accordance with their tradition when moving into a new home, a wood box, hand-made and decorated by Reena individuals filled with sugar: for a sweet life, salt: to add a little spice to life, a candle (also made by Reena individuals): to always have light and vision, and a loaf of bread (baked by Reena individuals): so that you always have food on the table, were buried in the foundation of the Fruitman building. 

Unfortunately, Betsy, who always believed a red cardinal represents a loved one who has passed, herself passed before the building was completed. However, Lisa recalls on the day of the building opening, despite the rain, there was a red cardinal flying around the building. “I feel like my parents are watching and they know and are proud and still have a hand in things and make things happen.” 

The Lou Fruitman Reena Residence opened in 2021 and is home to 137 adults and seniors of diverse needs, including those with developmental disabilities, mental health challenges and physical disabilities.