This past August found Henry Butler turning 90, and this past Purim found him pouring shots of schnapps, whiskey and other spirits at Temple Beth Am in Seattle. An active member of the congregation since the late 1950s, he’s handled that particular job for “many, many years…15, 20, I don’t know.”
Henry and his wife Olga were among some of the earliest members of the North Seattle congregation, socially “part of the group that started it,” but not among the original founders.
“At the time we were members of Herzl…[and] “not quite ready to go to Reform,” he recalls. “I had wanted [Beth Am] to become Reconstructionist.” But joining soon after, the couple each served a subsequent term as president and Olga was the congregation’s first woman president.
Henry was a refugee from Wuerzburg, Germany in 1938 when his parents had the foresight to send him to join a cousin in New York just after Kristallnacht. He was raised Orthodox, “you might say neo-Orthodox,” he says, the only option in his hometown. Just 16 when he arrived in stateside, he landed a job selling cameras, went to night school and ended up back in Germany in the army during World War II where his German was put to use in intelligence and prisoner interrogation.
Henry had a long career with the Brillo company, which sent to him California early in his career. It was there he met and married Olga.
After decades in Seattle’s View Ridge neighborhood, the Butlers now enjoy retirement at Mirabella Seattle in the hip and happening South Lake Union neighborhood. They moved there in ’09 and the residence’s newsletter marked Henry’s 90th with a long profile. The Butlers enjoy the location, “walking distance from downtown,” and with easy access to the number 70 bus, which Henry rides to the University of Washington to take Access classes — the program that allows state residents over 60 to audit courses on a space-available basis and with instructor approval.
A regular lap swimmer at View Ridge Swim and Tennis Club in the summer, Henry can now swim all year ’round at the Mirabella. The Butlers were founders of VRSTC, established by Jewish families who were banned from Sandpoint Country Club at the time. Their two sons, daughters-in-law and two grandkids all live in the area.
2 Tireless Jewish community volunteer and former board chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle Iantha Sidell will receive the Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award at the International Lion of Judah conference in New York in September. She became a Lion of Judah — a woman who has donated $5,000 or more to her local Jewish Federation — in the 1990s after being terribly moved by a story of Ethiopian Jewish refugees.
“We don’t know what struggling and needs are,” she said, and having travelled to many places around the world where Jews are struggling, she appreciates knowing her gift helps internationally and locally.
Awardees have also “welcomed new voices to the table,” she says, and while Iantha “won’t take credit,” she notes that Shelly Bensussen, the Federation’s current board chair, is her niece and they have “talked a lot, a lot,” over the years.
With what she calls a “historic memory of the community,” this full-time Jewish community volunteer says she is good at helping people and organizations to get connected. Stating emphatically that previous award winners “are awesome,” she feels “privileged and humbled” to receive the award at a conference her Denver-based daughter-in-law, Leslie Sidell, is presiding over.
“My volunteer work brings meaning to my life,” says Iantha. “To have it recognized nationally with my daughter-in-law chairing the event is pretty cool.”
3 Another tireless volunteer is Hal Marcus, whose long-time efforts on behalf of Technion, are being rewarded with an honorary doctorate from the school June 11. Professor Peretz Lavie, president of Technion — the Israel Institute of Technology — writes of Hal’s “unstinting dedication and generous support to the Technion and the State of Israel.” Hal was profiled in these pages a year ago, Apr. 7, 2011.
Lev Marcus prepares to vault at a recent track meet. Photo by Don Borin.
4 Nathan Hale High School pole vaulter Lev Marcus (no relation!) earned a mention and photo in the Seattle Times last month for soaring 15 feet, one inch at a recent competition against Cleveland High School. This was a career-best for the junior, beating a prior personal best of 14’-7”. His mother, Wendy Marcus, isn’t surprised at his bounding around.
“All his life he’s been jumping off roofs, jumping out of trees,” she says.
She’s just glad to see that “energy and fearlessness” channeled into athletics.