Irit Umani: Toward Humanity

By Michael Barnes

Austin American-Statesman

If Hollywood made a movie of Irit Umani’s life, Dame Judi Dench would play the Israeli-born Austinite.

The executive director of the Trinity Center, which helps the homeless downtown, shares with the Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire the short, white hair, the creased brow and the alert eyes. Both employ warm, deep voices to convey fluent, carefully connected thoughts.

True, Dench is 78 and Umani is a mere 62, but the actress would be fascinated by the journey of the sabra, born just after the birth of the Jewish state, who studied education and psychology, completed her national service inside a frontier kibbutz, escaped a harrowing marriage, started a women’s shelter, pushed for peace in her native country, embarked on a pilgrimage that included time in a New Mexico monastery, then eventually devoted her life to the spiritual, emotional and physical needs of Austin’s homeless at St. David’s Episcopal Church’s center.


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