I interviewed Rachel Berry by e-mail while she was en route to China to begin a round-the-world trip.
“This is a dream trip that my best friend from college and I have been planning for a number of years. We started off visiting my family in Seattle. We are visiting his family in Shanghai and then catching the Trans-Siberian railroad from Harbin to Moscow, with a few days at Lake Baikal.” (Learning the Jewish history of Shanghai “is a bit of a hobby,” she relates.)
Berry, who just finished her first year as a doctoral candidate in New York University’s joint history and Judaic studies program, was recently awarded a Schusterman Israel Scholar prize from the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise. This prize encourages students to pursue Israel-related academic fields by supporting their graduate studies with generous grants.
Rachel appreciates any effort that “cultivates the academic study of Israel in the U.S.,” pointing out that NYU is the only American university to offer a Ph.D. in Israel Studies. She received word of the award after she’d already planned her trip, financed mostly by frequent-flyer miles, and says, “I will now be less hesitant to pay for museum entrance fees and books.”
A graduate of Garfield High School and the University of Michigan, Berry’s mom is University of Washington professor Naomi Sokoloff, and her dad, Doug Berry, is a chemical engineer for Boeing. Sister Michelle will be senior at Lakeside High School next year.
“I love being a graduate student in New York,” she writes. I am very grateful to have the resources of the area’s universities, research centers, and cultural venues.”
The Seattle Jewish Community School recognized three important volunteers at its recent annual meeting.
Elizabeth Richmond is Volunteer of the Year for the many tasks she’s taken on, including chairing a class Shabbaton, spearheading staff appreciation week, and working on site beautification. She has served on the board of trustees and chaired the development committee, the annual fundraising campaign and the auction.
SJCS board president David Korch says Elizabeth “graciously offers” her time and is “the kind of volunteer you dream about.”
The school also presented Marci Greenberg and Michael Sherer with the Charles and Lillian Kaplan award.
Marci has chaired the parent association for two years, chaired the school’s gala fundraiser, and brings her professional skills as a marine biologist to the school’s science classes.
Michael took on the formidable task of managing SJCS’s move from Temple Beth Am to their new North Seattle location in only a few months, ensuring that students could begin school on time last September. He oversaw necessary improvements to the site, including new restrooms, walls, paint and security upgrades, doing everything on time and on budget.
Korch calls Greenberg “some kind of kosher Energizer Bunny,” and credits Sherer’s work with putting the school on the road to accreditation by the Pacific Northwest Association of Independent Schools.
Leah De Roulet has earned many honors in her years as an oncology social worker at Seattle’s Swedish Cancer Institute — including being designated her department’s Jewish Mother. Now she has been recognized nationally by her peers with the Lane Adams Quality of Life Award, which she received in Austin, Texas a few weeks ago.
“If I had to retire tomorrow I would feel like I was going out with a bang,” says De Roulet. “It’s the most prestigious award that a social worker in oncology can get. I feel extremely honored.”
The award recognizes those who have made a difference with excellence in compassionate, skilled care and counseling to people with cancer and their families.
De Roulet has been a medical social worker at SCI for 21 years, and is credited with envisioning and developing their active and robust support-group program. She was ttheir social-work supervisor for more than 13 years and currently — semi-retired and working three days a week — she provides individual and family counseling.
De Roulet moved to Seattle in 1962 and owned clothing stores before the devastating murder of her teenage son changed her life and career goals. Wanting to help others who were mourning, she returned to school and completed a Master’s in Social Work at the UW in 1982, at the age of 46.
“Working with cancer patients as long as I have,” she says, “I’ve learned a marvelous thing: it keeps right in front of my face how precious and short life is and how none of us knows what will happen to us.”
An original member of Bellevue’s Temple Sinai, which later merged with Temple De Hirsch, Leah says that Judaism’s practical and open approach to death has influenced her work.
“In talking to people I try to encourage them to look at what they’ve done in their life rather than what happens after we die. Judaism encourages us to look at life and find those things that are so important,” she says.
Do you know local Jews who should be profiled in Diana Brement’s Member of the Tribe column? Tell us about them at firstname.lastname@example.org.