Temple honors longtime resident for volunteer work
NASHUA - Temple Beth Abraham will be taking time Sunday to honor 55-year resident Earl Prolman with a Community Service Award for the volunteer work he has contributed over the last half-century.
After growing up all over the Northeast, Prolman has lived in Nashua since 1958, working as an insurance agent for New York Life, raising a family and spending endless amounts of time volunteering and stumping for worthy causes.
Over the last 10 years, Prolman introduced anti-bullying programs to more than 2,000 kids in the district, helped raise the millions of dollars needed for a new YMCA building, helped Russian Jews emigrate and settle in America, and helped his temple renovate and expand.
"Earl has been a leader in both the Nashua community and Temple Beth Abraham for over 50 years," Temple Board Vice-president Bill Barry said. "He has been generous with his time, wisdom, and resources in so many ways to so many people and so many organizations. He is an invaluable resource, cherished by all in Nashua."
Prolman said all of his good deeds stem from a childhood dream of being a benevolent stranger, a man you don't have to know who somehow makes everything better.
"It didn't take me long to realize that I wanted to be that stranger, someone who can do something for someone else and not even have them know. One of the great things about being a part of New York Life is I could manage my time in a unique way to do the things I wanted to do," Prolman said.
He added, "It has been the thrill of my life to do that, I've been rewarded more than anyone I've helped because it just feels right."
Temple Rabbi Jonathan Spira-Savett called Prolman "a man who does everything. He can sit on board but can also work as a volunteer. He has a compassion for people with all different kinds of needs."
Spira-Savett said Prolman, who has been a member of the temple since he moved to Nashua, has also counseled as a wise person of the temple, "someone we turn to for advice."
The rabbi went on to explain that the Community Service Award, which is now in its sixth year, is not designed to recognize members of the synagogue or those of the Jewish faith only, but anyone in the community who makes a concerted effort to make the world around them a better place.
"Earl does that," he said.
Prolman, who said he primarily works in business and insurance planning, said his job with New York Life, which he has had for 51 years, has also aided him in helping people as the benevolent stranger he strives to be.
"Wouldn't it be nice if tomorrow you could wake up and do exactly what you want to do? That is what I have, that is what I do, and that is what I work for people to have," he said. "I want a meaningful life."
The impetus for wanting that meaningful life might have been growing up without roots.
"When we were kids, we moved all over the place. We were innkeepers in Maine, so if you ever saw "Dirty Dancing," that was a pretty good example of my life as a kid. If my father didn't make enough money by Labor Day we moved to make more."
As part of his tour of New England as a child, Prolman said he spent some time in Nashua. "Nashua became a great place to establish roots and bring a family up. I owe a lot to it. My brother followed me here, came in 1964, and I had three kids with my wife, Marilyn, two boys and a girl. They all graduated high school here."
Prolman said the feeling he gets from helping people is where his motivation comes from, not to be acknowledged for his work.
"It always felt good to help people. It is the right thing to do, I never wanted to want the glory of it, and I only took on one mission at a time. For many years, 30 years or more, I helped fill the pantry up for the local soup kitchen," he said.
Despite not wanting attention for his work, for many in the community it has been hard to miss.
"He was a key leader for us in the fundraising for the new Y. We raised about $2 million for the building, and Earl was a key leader and helped connect us to the community," Joe Manzoli of the Nashua YMCA said. "He is passionate for the work the Y does, and we couldn't have gotten the building built without Earl's leadership. The Y wouldn't be the same right now without Earl."
Temple member Donna Rosenstock said Prolman gets "such joy and pleasure knowing that he helps people. He is very unassuming and does not ask for publicity. It's humbling to know how honored he feels that we are doing this on his behalf."
Rosenstock added that as a surprise during Earl's award ceremony, the temple, which has about 300 members, will make a gift in Earl's name to a surprise recipient.
"It just feels good giving back. It is the right thing to do," Prolman said. "My life has been very blessed. Nice things constantly happen to me. That's how I live my life."