Lifelong Seattle resident Saul Rivkin, M.D. received Bank of America’s Local Hero award in a ceremony at the Seattle Art Museum in October. With his 36 years as an oncologist at Swedish Medical Center and his 14 years dedicated to ovarian cancer research, Rivkin fits the bill.
The Garfield High School graduate received his medical degree from the University of Washington. Following residency, fellowship and Army service, he began working as a medical oncologist at the Swedish Cancer Institute in 1971. The institute’s executive director, Dr. Al Einstein, calls Rivkin “the most committed, passionate person I know in his dedication to curing ovarian cancer.”
Rivkin, 72, still arrives at Swedish Hospital by 6 a.m. most days, often staying until after 10 p.m. in order to see all of his patients. Patients often come to him after their own doctors give them only months or weeks to live, and he fights tirelessly on their behalf. According to long-time patient Barbara Bridge, “I am a 25-year breast cancer survivor. I attribute this to Dr. Rivkin’s never-give-up attitude…I feel so fortunate that I am his patient.”
In 1989, Rivkin’s wife of 29 years, Marsha, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. After she died in 1993, he dedicated himself to research in her memory, laying the groundwork for the Marsha Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer Research in 1994 while his five daughters went to work organizing a race to raise funds. The center now provides free screening to hundreds of women in the greater Seattle area and funds over half a million dollars in research every year.
In honor of its Local Hero Award, Bank of America makes a $5,000 donation to a charity of the awardee’s choice. Rivkin says his choice is “a no-brainer. I’m very grateful for this donation and the funds will help the Marsha Rivkin Center continue to unlock the mysteries of ovarian cancer.”
Steve Pruzan is poised to be elected a national vice-chair of the Union of Reform Judaism’s board of trustees at the organization’s upcoming biennial in December. Steve has served in a number of URJ leadership positions since the early 1990s. He was a long-time member of the commission on synagogue music, has served on the management and fundraising committees, and been an executive board member twice.
Steve’s involvement in the national congregational organization grew out of his involvement with Temple De Hirsch Sinai in Seattle.
“I was president of De Hirsch and then I got active in the regional end of things,” he says.
Back in those days, the Northwest was merely an adjunct of the Northern California region, but as the region grew, the Union created a Pacific Northwest office (run out of Seattle by Rabbi David Fine).
“The first time [URJ] finally gave a spot on the board to our region that wasn’t just the president of the region, I was selected for that position and have been on the board in various capacities ever since,” Steve tells me.
Although the number of Jews in the Northwest has been increasing over the past two decades, it didn’t hurt that Rabbi Lennard Thal, senior vice president of the URJ, originally the Union for American Hebrew Congregations, is a native of Bellingham.
“He has a particular interest in the region, which is also how we ended up with [Camp] Kalsman,” in Arlington, says Steve.
The duties of a national board member involve a lot of conference calls and two to four out-of-town meetings a year.
“I try to stay involved locally,” he adds. “As a national board member I’m a member of the regional board; I’m involved in Kalsman to a certain extent — I helped to raise money for that — and I was the chair of the 2005 regional biennial with Laurie Cohen [co-executive director of the Washington State Holocaust Resource Center].”
Steve is a practicing attorney with Miracle, Pruzan & Pruzan. He shares the practice with his dad, Howard, who still works part-time at the age of 85. A Seattle native, he attended Franklin High School. He has two kids, Amy and Alex, and he’s married to Dr. Janet Abrams.
The URJ serves over 1.5 million Reform Jews and over 900 congregations in North America with programmatic, management and spiritual support.
“When we gather for a biennial, as we will in San Diego in December,” says Steve, “there will be 5,000 Jews all together, certainly…an important part of the Jewish world.”
It’s About Time, a poetry and prose reading series, must be among the longest lasting spoken-word venues in Seattle. Founder and host Esther Altshul Helfgott has recently moved the readings to the Ballard branch of the Seattle Public Library, beginning on Thurs., Dec. 13 at 6 p.m., (which happens to be the series’ 18th birthday)!
One of that evening’s featured writers will be Emily Warn, who interviewed Peter Cole for a Nextbook event earlier this month. Two other writers will present their work and another will give the monthly talk on the writer’s craft. There will be an open mike, as time permits.
The series will continue every second Thursday of the month in its new location. Look for other featured readers from our local Jewish community in 2008, including Linda Clifton (January), Arthur Ginsberg (April) and Ken Shiovitz (November).