It’s always great when families get along, and more so when blended families do. Stepbrothers Raphi Schuster and Daniel Kaplan are doubly, maybe quadruply, blessed: They enjoy the support of an array of parents and stepparents, and shared interests in sports, school, synagogue and scouts.
Members of Chief Seattle Council Boy Scout Troop 662, Raphi and Daniel were inducted as Eagle Scouts together last month during a shared court of honor held at their synagogue, Temple B’nai Torah in Bellevue. This highest scout rank is only attained by a handful of scouts.
Both young men turned their attention to the Jewish community for their required community service projects.
“I built a drainage ditch on the corner of the temple property,” Raphi told me.
Last winter, rainwater flowing down a hill purportedly flooded a neighbor’s basement. Raphi worked with troop members to remedy the situation, providing planning as well as execution.
“It’s more about the leadership…than carrying out the physical labor,” he explained.
Daniel’s project was “re-striping the [Jewish Day School] parking lot,” he said, because he’d repeatedly “noticed people couldn’t figure out where the stripes were.” (JDS and TBT share a parking lot.)
He also improved some outside stairs with railings and lights.
“It wasn’t a very safe staircase,” he said.
His work also involved management and planning, including constructing templates so volunteers could place stripes correctly.
Daniel is the son of John Kaplan and Carol Schuster, stepson of Brian Schuster and stepson of Michelle Kaplan, all of Bellevue. Raphi is the son of Brian Schuster and Terri Schuster of Bellevue and Carol’s stepson. Family and friends shared reflections on the boys’ lives at the court of honor, which concluded with a blessing from Cantor David Serkin-Poole.
Raphi called the event “exciting… Everyone who helped me get there was there…celebrating.”
The boys have deep roots in the Seattle area. Their grandparents are Rabbi Arlene Schuster of Bellevue and the late Dr. Joseph Schuster; Pauline Stusser of Seattle and the late Richard Stusser; Sharon Carmody of Seattle and John and Shar Carmody of Edmonds; and Dr. F. Alan and Margie Coombs of Salt Lake City.
Juniors at Bellevue High School, Raphi and Daniel run track and cross country and are involved in clubs and activities. They are active in their temple youth group and the Reform movement’s local National Federation of Temple Youth chapter, for which Raphi is the merchandising and fundraising vice president.
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By his own admission, landing a job with a “West Coast airplane manufacturer” was the furthest thing from Albert (Bert) Goldstein’s mind in 1974. But land here the Brooklyn native and retired Boeing engineer did.
Back then, “I was never much of a volunteer,” he says. “Work was everything.” So on retiring in 1995, “it was time to give back.” He joined the Boeing Bluebills, Boeing retirees who volunteer in the community, mostly helping seniors with repair projects (www.bluebills.org).
In 1998 he helped found the Olympic Peninsula Bluebills when he and his late wife Libby lived in Port Ludlow. When her illness brought them back to the Seattle area, he helped found a Bluebills Eastside chapter. That group decided to become active in the local Red Cross.
“We started working in emergency shelters,” he says. “I wound up being trained as a manager for shelter operations.”
Shelters are most commonly activated during severe winter weather — we’ve had none so far this year — and for fire and flood. Volunteers were ready, for instance, to deal with massive flooding from the breaching of the Howard Hanson Dam, but that never happened.
Bert is always supplementing his training. His current local emphasis is on preparing for “the big one,” a probable major regional earthquake. Despite feeling the recent financial pinch, Bert says the Red Cross continues to train and deploy volunteers to deal with disasters.
Bert had an eye-opening cross-cultural experience running a South Seattle shelter recently. An apartment fire “displaced about 60 families, mostly Somalis,” and mostly Muslim. Noticing the group would pray facing north, he learned that the closest distance from Seattle to Mecca is over the North Pole, so local Muslims pray that way.
Bert and Libby raised three children here. They, and their three grandkids, remain “within 10 minutes” of Bert, he says. The family belonged to Temple B’nai Torah when their kids were young, but “we became [more] secular” when they grew up. The couple helped start a chavurah in Port Ludlow and had also formed one when they lived in Houston.
“Now that I’ve become a widower I’ve…reconnected with the Jewish community” through the Seattle Jewish Seniors, he says, a Temple Beth Am program that is open to everyone.