Edmonds resident Judi Gladstone has been selected by the Secular Jewish Circle of Puget Sound to be their representative to the national board of directors of the Society for Humanistic Judaism.
A founding member of SJC, Judi stepped down a year ago from chairing the 65-member-family group, a position she held for a decade.
'I saw it through its infancy,' she says. 'Now it's in toddlerhood.'
Gladstone grew up in a largely Jewish neighborhood in Detroit, in a not-particularly-religious home, and came to the Seattle area in 1978. Accustomed to being around lots of Jews, 'I always felt like I didn't need to do anything to connect,' she says.
However, as is often the case, once she and her husband, Allen Otto, began to have children, she realized she needed to do something to give her kids a sense of identity. (Their kids are Aaron, 20, Daniel, 18 and Libby, 7.)
'I consider myself more cultural than religious,' she explains, saying the rituals and prayers of conventional Judaism didn't reflect her beliefs.
'I organized a secular Rosh Hashanah observance and met a woman who gave me the book by Rabbi Sherwin Wine,' founder of the humanistic Judaism movement.
'This made sense to me.'
That first gathering drew 80 people, so Gladstone and some others began organizing events.
Now the SJC holds monthly Shabbat dinners, which include cultural and scholarly programs, as well as blessings. (Humanistic Jews say 'Baruch ha hayim haolam,' or 'Blessed are all the living things of the Earth,' in case you are wondering.) Their annual seder draws a crowd of 120 and their Sunday school has 51 students in grades K'8.
Humanistic Judaism's liturgy 'is something that resonates for those who really don't believe in God,' Gladstone further explains. 'They can appreciate the ritual that Judaism is rich in, without compromising their philosophical views.'
For more information about the circle, visit their Web site, www.secularjewishcircle.org, or call 206-528-1944.
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Two Washingtonians received honorary doctorates from the Reform movement's Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles in May. Rabbi Bruce Kadden from Tacoma's Temple Beth El, and University of Washington professor Debby Kerdeman received recognition for the 25 years of service they have given to the Jewish community during commencement ceremonies there.
Rabbi Kadden has served Tacoma's only synagogue for the past two years. Before that he was rabbi at another Temple Beth El ' the one in Salinas, Calif. ' for 20 years. He is married to Barbara Binder Kadden, the director of the Jewish Education Council.
Professor Kerdeman is an associate professor in the College of Education and member of the Jewish Studies program. She has a master's in Education from HUC and worked as a regional youth director for the National Federation of Temple Youth in Boston before going to Stanford for a doctorate. She came to Seattle in 1991. A member of the board of the Seattle Jewish Community School, she and her husband, Dave Tarshes, are active members of Congregation Beth Shalom in Seattle.
Both honorees remarked on the lovely ceremony. '[It] takes place during graduation, so that was really meaningful,' said Kerdeman.
'It gives you an opportunity to see some of your classmates who you may not have seen,' observed Rabbi Kadden, 'and to reflect on 25 years, which goes by faster than one can imagine.'
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Sue Leavitt, who was elected president of the board of the Intiman Theater in March is, of course, delighted about the Tony Award bestowed on the Seattle theater company a few weeks ago.
'I'm thrilled to death, like everybody else,' she says, explaining that she and her husband, Bill Block, have been subscribers for more than 25 years. 'The Intiman has really been our favorite theater.'
Leavitt says she joined the board as a 'long-time fan' six years ago and that the Tony is well-deserved.
'It's a special theater that has a special place in the city. It's been doing exceptional work with exceptional community outreach....It's nice to get recognition,' she says. 'It's overdue.'
The staging of Light in the Piazza, which premiered here and is now in a successful run in New York, also helped. Sue calls managing director Laura Penn and artistic director Bartlett Sher, 'quite the team,' with a shared vision of what the theater can do.
Leavitt, an oncology social worker at Swedish Medical Center, spoke to me about the fundraising challenges of the theater community that relies on contributions to cover at least half its costs.
She compares her job, where she works with low- and no-income patients, to her volunteer work, saying they are 'not dissimilar. I spend a lot of time asking for money.'
She has always been a social worker, and says she used to believe the arts were secondary to social services, 'but I've come to believe that was na've on my part,' she says. 'People creating art'happens in even the poorest communities.'
When her kids, Andrew, 23, Aaron, 20, and David, 17, were younger, Sue spent a lot of time volunteering in their schools. A member of Temple B'nai Torah, she is the coordinator of a havurah (group of friends) that has been together for 15 years.
Although she says she spends a great deal of her time on Intiman-related work, she still finds time to be in some book groups and to play tennis.