If ever you’re feeling sad or lonely, Ruben Collazo has a knack for providing kind words or just a smile to help pick you up.
A member of the Anshe Emet maintenance team since 1993, Ruben often arrives before most of us are out of bed. His work includes all facets of caring for the school and synagogue campus from landscaping to repairs to equipment set-up and tear-down. Over his more than 25 years, he has seen vast improvements in the physical spaces and the equipment that keeps the building humming, and credits the hardworking team that he’s a part of.
Born in New York, but raised in Puerto Rico where much of his family still resides, Ruben came back to the United States as a teenager and bounced around from New York to Florida before ultimately settling in Chicago, and for the last 20 years he and his wife have called the west side neighborhood of Humboldt Park their home. They have two children and seven grandchildren.
Ruben’s cheerful demeanor is felt by the members of both Anshe Emet Synagogue as well as students, parents and faculty at Bernard Zell. “It’s a big community,” he said, “and I love being a part of it.”
That community embrace is clear, as Ruben has gotten to know families, has participated in the synagogue’s Melton adult learning courses and distinctly remembers an occasion years ago when he got the opportunity to meet Holocaust survivors—an event that he said was both amazing and life-changing. All of this stems from his deep appreciation and interest in religion; in fact, Ruben serves as a pastor at Centro De Restauración Hosana, a Christian, Spanish-language congregation in Bensenville, Illinois.
While grateful for his own big family, many of them are in Puerto Rico. Getting to see Bernard Zell students grow up and getting to know their families has been a source of happiness over the years. Those same families are equally grateful for Ruben’s warmth and good humor—his consistent presence is a reminder of what makes this community so great.