A native of our fair state, Sheila (Schain) Stuart, has just completed a term as mayor of Cambridge, England.
Born in Seattle, Sheila moved with her parents, Sid and Vicki Schain, to Yakima and then the Tri-Cities for a time, before the family settled in Oregon. According to Sid, Sheila always had an interest in politics and interned in the Oregon State Legislature for a time.
She moved to England in 1991 to work for Toby Churchill in his speech-aid business. They subsequently married and had a daughter, Lucy, before divorcing. She is currently married to Bruce Stuart, an architect.
Sid explained to me that Cambridgeshire has 42 councilors, or representatives, similar to our city or county councils.
“They have much more direct import,” on their constituents, he says and, in his opinion, “the political system there is much more satisfactory.”
After serving on the council in Cambridge’s Trumpington Ward since 2004, Sheila accepted the mostly honorary yearlong position of mayor for a term that began in May 2010. She kept her so-called “day job” as an accountant, performing her mayoral duties during the day and keeping up with her profession at night.
Sid says she took the job with the intent of making it fun, and from the photos I received, it certainly looks that way.
Among her official duties, Sheila has met the Queen and Prince Charles a couple of times, opened the 800-year-old Reach Fair, and rappelled off of ancient buildings.
As you can imagine, Sheila has received a lot of press coverage in her adopted hometown. You can search the Cambridge News site at www.cambridge-news.co.uk for articles and photos of Her Honor, the very photogenic mayor, or see her reviewing the Royal Anglican Regiment in a BBC slide show at bbc.in/qB6Pyn (typists should mind the capital letters).
As for her Seattle bona fides, Sid wrote me that she is descended from suitably illustrious lines of Seattle families, including “Maimons, Scharhons, Azoses, Adattos and on the paternal side, Benders, Kosins, Abrams.” Fitting for an English mayor, yes?
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“I never had such an interesting professional development,” says Jewish Day School teacher Margaret Chasan of the nine days she spent on Centropa’s Summer Academy Holocaust education European workshop.
Centropa (Central Europe Center for Research and Documentation) is a Vienna- and Budapest-based non-profit NGO that uses advanced technologies to preserve Jewish memory in Central and Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, the Balkans and the Baltics. Their interviews, photos, family trees and films are available to all on the Internet and through social media like Facebook.
Margaret first heard of Centropa when she received a last-minute invitation to attend their winter seminar in Los Angeles, along with her colleague Nance Adler.
“I went to…Vienna, Sarajevo and Krakow,” with a group of about 75 teachers from the U.S., Europe and Israel, Margaret says. Most of the European teachers were not Jewish and Margarate saw firsthand the need for Holocaust education in countries like Hungary, which are only beginning to publicly explore their Jewish history. Margaret noted a museum she visited in Budapest dealt with World War II but made no mention of the Holocaust.
Centropa’s work dovetails nicely with what Margaret is already doing in her classroom. “JDS is a technically sophisticated school and I am lucky enough to teach in a wired classroom where all my students have school-issued laptops,” she explained.
Her students have already done survivor interviews and made films, but she’s fired up to do more. Centropa volunteers conduct audio interviews with Holocaust survivors in a number of countries. The transcripts are posted on their site and accompanied by family photos and family trees. At www.centropa.org you can search the database by country, surname or city.
Margaret calls the workshop experience “incredibly rich.” Teachers learned from each other and the group heard from speakers from Polish, Austrian, German, Israeli and Bosnian embassies, as well as from survivors and rescuers. They even heard from the person who kept the Sarajevo Hagaddah safe.
“Every day was amazing and jam-packed,” she says.
In Krakow, Margaret was particularly moved by “ground-breaking” work being done in that country. Educational, reconciliation and grassroots projects are bringing Holocaust education into the schools and young people out to restore Jewish cemeteries.
Centropa is funded by a variety of private and government organizations including the Polish government and our State Department. JDS families will be able to read more about Margaret’s trip soon in the school newsletter.