It’s a purple garden in a purple house.
The purple house is real. It’s Ruz Gulko’s home in Bellevue and a local landmark.
The purple garden — Gan Argamam in Hebrew — is a metaphor and the name of the Jewish lab, or experimental school, Ruz has started in her home.
Purple has resonance for Jews, she explains. “It has associations with royalty, but the word in Hebrew shares a root with ‘palace.’
“I see every Jew as royalty. My job is to rekindle that spark and remind people of their royal heritage of knowledge. There is so much richness [in Judaism], not just religious, but how to live your life, how to be whole in your heart…. Most of us have not had the opportunity to learn it.”
Gulko taught for many years in Seattle and Bellevue at Temple De Hirsch Sinai, the Jewish Day School and Herzl-Ner Tamid Conservative Congregation. For 16 years she’s led Herzl’s overflow High Holiday services at the Stroum Jewish Community Center.
Gan Argamam will provide post-B’nai Mitzvah study, plus classes for adults. She already provides Bar and Bat Mitzvah preparation, “but the piece that will be new and experimental…is to take some post-Bar and Bat Mitzvah kids and create a spiritual lab school where you can immerse yourself in Torah.”
Gulko pictures classes with “some Torah, some reading, some meditation,” to help students “grow their Jewish neshamah (soul).”
Most kids don’t understand the import of their Bar or Bat Mitzvah, Ruz observes, but “older kids are ready. No one will be making them do it…and it gives them tools to build [a] rich, practical, spiritual life.”
Ruz worked in drug rehabilitation before she fell into teaching two decades ago when she moved to the States and found her Canadian credentials useless. The Montreal native grew up steeped in Judaism. Her father was director of the Jewish National Fund of Canada for 25 years and her grandfather, a rabbi, helped her with her Hebrew.
“My parents made unbelievable sacrifices to put five girls through Jewish day schools,” she notes.
In the rare moments she’s not working, Gulko reads science fiction and stays in touch with family, including her grown children, Bess Lovejoy and Joshua Lovejoy. She lives with her husband and technical advisor, Jeffrey Meyer in the aforementioned purple house.
For more information about Gan Argaman, call or e-mail Ruz at email@example.com or 425-747-9338.
Heike Malakoff was diagnosed with cancer almost four years ago. While undergoing treatment, she asked friends about breast cancer prevention.
“I would talk to my friends, who are well-educated, and ask them if they checked their breasts,” says Heike. “We’re so supportive of ‘pink’ and the breast cancer walk, but when it came to checking our breasts, we didn’t know anything.”
Heike admits that she herself didn’t perform the recommended monthly self-check. “I thought it was a problem for older women.”
She saw a lack of education in the community. “There was education at the hospital level, with a breast health class. But who in a healthy population would go to that class?” she questioned.
So Malakoff decided to promote “fear free” breast education, founding the non-profit organization, Check Your Boobies (www.checkyourboobies.org) and creating in-home breast health parties. “It’s like a Tupperware party…in people’s homes with a bunch of girlfriends.” The organization provides a health educator and a breast cancer survivor as speakers, the hostess provides the space, food and participants.
“We want to demystify the process,” explains Malakoff. “They’re your breasts. It’s okay to touch them. We need to know what our breasts feel like so we know when there’s a change.”
Heike is the sole employee of the organization but hopes to see it expand. Classes are now offered in partnership with Swedish Medical Center, and Heike is starting to approach minority and lower-socioeconomic populations in the Seattle area.
“We can’t prevent breast cancer, but the most important thing is early detection. We highlight that at all the parties. As long as you find it early you have a lot of options and it’s a manageable disease,” she emphaisizes. CYB also provides a free breast check e-mail reminder for women who sign up at the Web site.
Heike is married to Mercer Island native Edward Malakoff, and they live on the island with their three young children, daughter Maia, and twin sons Max and Elias. The family attends Herzl-Ner Tamid Conservative Congregation.
There is no fund raising at CYB parties, but the organization is having a fund- raiser on October 20 at the Mercer Island Community Center featuring food, wine and live music. For more information on any of these programs, check the Web site or contact Heike directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.