Debbie Sopher and Daniel Markowitz were still delighted about being honored by the Seattle Jewish Community School when I spoke to them a few days after the school’s annual gala dinner, at which their contributions were celebrated.
“We are both very moved that they would think of us,” said Debbie. “We work pretty hard for the school, and believe in the school, and think that it’s an incredible place for kids.”
They are sharing the wealth, however. “At the same time, we see so many people who are putting in that same kind of energy and effort [into the school], that we were touched,” she added.
Daniel and Debbie both grew up in the same small Modern Orthodox synagogue, Congregation Beth Israel, in Berkeley, Calif.
“It was an interesting community,” he says. With no Conservative synagogue, and no Reform Hebrew high school, Beth Israel’s school hosted kids from all three denominations.
Both sets of their parents were very active in the congregation, and, Daniel observes, “we both learned that community isn’t something you inherit, it’s something you build. We wanted that for our kids, too,” which they’ve found at SJCS.
Funnily enough, Debbie and Daniel were not friends as kids.
“We were fairly different,” he says. After reconnecting as young adults, they married and moved to Seattle when Daniel started his residency in oncology at the University of Washington. “Seattle had some of that openness and community feel that we grew up with in the Bay Area in the ’60s and ’70s.”
They joined Congregation Beth Shalom and are now the parents of Aviv, a 4th grader at SJCS, and Elan, an SJCS alum, now a 6th grader at Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Daniel works for Puget Sound Cancer Centers and Debbie is a computer programmer at the non-profit Cancer Research and Biostatistics, where she is managing data for cancer clinical trials. Both have been resolute in bringing technology to the school.
“I enjoy mixing new technology with tradition,” says Daniel. “We’ve tried to bring technology into the classrooms as well as administrative functions.”
Both parents coach a mostly SJCS student basketball team as well.
“There’s a basketball play called give-and-go,” observes Daniel. “This is a different play called give-and-get. You get so much more out of it when you don’t just accept what is, but say you’re going to give back.”
Long-time Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle volunteer Neil Ross has just been appointed to his second three-year term on the board of governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel (usually just called the Jewish Agency).
“It’s a big deal,” Neil told me, “because I’m the only person from the West Coast that sits on the board.”
There are 36 JA board of governors from the United States (out of about 120 members total). They are appointed through United Israel Appeal, a subsidiary of the United Jewish Communities, the parent body of all the Jewish federations in North America.
Neil also serves on the Seattle Federation board, and has done so for most of the last 30 years. He is very active in fundraising for the annual campaign. Roughly 30 percent of those funds go overseas, mostly to Israel, and most of that supports programs of the JA — which includes aliyah support for Russian and Ethiopian immigrants, summer camps in the former Soviet Union, and many other activities. By serving on the JA board, Neil gets to vote on the allocation of those funds.
It also means that the Temple De Hirsch Sinai member goes to meetings in Israel four times a year.
“It’s a very expensive hobby,” he says.
Born and raised in Seattle, Neil graduated from Mercer Island High School and the UW. “I come from a family that has always been oriented toward the organized Jewish community and tzedakah,” he explains. “I do what I do because I have a covenant with the 6 million murdered in the Holocaust.”
An insurance broker for 32 years, he has his own agency, Neil Ross Insurance.
You can learn more about the work of the Jewish Agency in Israel and the former Soviet Union at www.jewishagency.org/JewishAgency/English/Home.
Anya Tudisco won a soloist award at the Bellevue Community College Jazz Band Festival earlier this month. The 13-year-old clarinetist (who wails just like Benny Goodman!) is an 8th grader at Eckstein Middle School in Seattle. She’s in her third year of senior jazz band there, having gone straight into the upper-class program as a 6th grader.
The daughter of Aline Parker and Tony Tudisco, she also plays alto sax, studies tap dance, and is a member of the Seattle Youth Symphony. For fun, “I like doing drama and spending time with my friends and watching movies,” she says, and she also enjoys spending time at Temple Beth Am, where her family belongs. She and her friend Wayana Dolan (also an 8th grader at Eckstein and a Beth Am member) recently started a klezmer music duo called the Dead Sea Squirrels.