M.O.T.: Member of the Tribe
Jazz enthusiast, food lover, and KPLU midday host Dick Stein. (Photo courtesy KPLU)
“I’m completely non-practicing and in fact a (polite) atheist with a very dim view of religion in general,” jazz radio host Dick Stein averred in an email when I contacted him for an interview. I assured him I couldn’t care less. What I wanted to talk about was that cultic Jewish practice — an obsession with food.
Stein, as he is called, has been rockin’ the jazz on KPLU-FM out of Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma since 1992. Every Wednesday he co-hosts and produces a short eating and cooking segment, “Food for Thought,” with Seattle Times food writer, Nancy Leson (profiled Jan. 29, 2010). For Thanksgivukkah this past November, Stein and Leson invited traffic reporter Sprintz Arbogast (profiled April 26, 2013) and Shabbos Goy Nick Morrison, to talk about foodie approaches to this unusual confluence of Jewish and American holidays. The result, Stein says, was one of
the show’s most popular segments, which you can hear at www.kplu.org/post/happy-thanksgivikah.
Growing up “a big jazz fan” in New Rochelle, N.Y., Stein missed out on early rock ’n’ roll “because I was such a jazz snob.” He would take the train to New York City to go to Birdland, “where they had an underage section,” sporting his tab-collar shirts and Slim Jim ties.
The Air Force brought him to Alaska, where he had a radio show. In 1976 he moved to Washington State. He worked as a freelance copywriter and voice talent on and off, and started a chimney sweep business before landing occasional work at KPLU which led, eventually, to a full-time gig.
“I’ve always been interested in food,” he says, and when he left home for college, and wherever else he lived, “I set myself a goal of learning to make the things I couldn’t get…that I had grown up loving,” meaning those New York delicacies like bagels and Chinese food, pizza, rye bread, even celery soda. There’s one exception. Stein has never made pastrami.
“My impossible dream,” he calls it.
When not on the radio or in the kitchen, you might find Stein at the casino. He’s been a serious poker player for many years, he says, and turns a profit every year. But you won’t find him hiking, skiing, boating or climbing. “Everything sedentary” are his hobbies, he says. “I don’t own one thing that contains Gore-Tex.”
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A few months ago I was flipping through my Money Mailer coupons, when a familiar face stopped me. “Hey, I know that guy,” I said.
That guy is David Calderon, Seattle native and owner of Kenmore Auto in Kenmore.
David grew up in Seattle’s Seward Park neighborhood where his family went to Ezra Bessaroth. His dad was always fixing things, and that inspired him. “Whatever he fixed, I was always there, just watching,” David recalls, adding that his brother had cars and enjoyed working on them, too.
“I just took an interest in cars…especially the older cars.” He currently has a 1957 Chevrolet two-door hard top “in really nice shape.”
David started doing car repair in 1981 at a used car lot, eventually branching out into his own business in Skyway. When cars became computerized, he got computer-shy, sold the business, and took a few sales jobs. One involved using an automated shipping system and he began to learn his way around computers.
“I really enjoyed it and understood it,” he says. Eventually, he realized, “I knew computers, I knew cars, it could be a good mix.” He started Kenmore Automotive in 2001 and slowly built the business, including hiring a manager who is still with him today.
He just began his 14th year in business, which he discovered is recession-proof.
“Instead of buying,” he says, customers “were fixing their cars,” a trend that has carried into the recovery. If David has a complaint, it’s that auto technicians are hard to find. The loss of auto shop in high schools and vocational training in general is “a big challenge for this industry.”
Before he went into the business, he and his wife Jeannette agreed he would not be “married to the shop.” He’s always operated Monday to Friday, taking a couple of vacations a year with Jeannette and their college-age kids, Aaron and Rebecca.
With many long-time clients, David is rightfully pleased with his good reputation.
“A lot of my business comes from word of mouth,” he says. “You can see the reviews online.” (Do that at www.kenmoreauto.com.) Customers tell him how much they appreciate an honest mechanic.
“I’m just a straight shooter,” he says.
Robin Wehl Martin rolls out a batch of football-shaped cookies just prior to the Seahawks’ trip to the Super Bowl. (Photo: Joel Magalnick)
Robin Wehl Martin couldn’t talk to me on Friday morning last week. “Fridays are my crazy days because I make challah that day (18!!! of them),” she wrote me in an email. She does this at Hello Robin, her bakery on the east side of Seattle’s Capitol Hill, and those loaves fly out of the store.
“We’re a cookie bakery, but I have to make challah,” she says.
The Mercer Island native grew up baking cookies with her grandmother and has won a number of local baking competitions. (Read more at the store’s web site,
“Hello Robin is supposed to feel like you’re in my kitchen,” where customers sit at the counter and watch the bakers work, she says. “It’s a lot nicer than my kitchen at home.”
The store features Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream by the pint, with the ice cream store serving by the scoop from May to August. In fact, Molly Moon Neitzel herself, and her husband Zack, suggested Robin open the bakery.
Robin’s counter offer was that she’d do it if it included an ice cream counter. So a yummy marriage was born.
“It’s great, it’s really great,” Robin says of her business. She lives in the neighborhood, so work is like visiting friends, and seeing “happy people all day long.” The small cookies are priced “so you can [try] more than one flavor,” ranging from the traditional to the more exotic, including the popular and spicy habañero-orange.
Robin’s three young children, 4, 6 and 8, “really like the idea of their mom owning a cookie shop,” she says, and they think they are involved in running the place, trying to go behind the counter and generally causing “a ruckus.”
Growing up on Mercer Island, Robin attended Herzl-Ner Tamid Conservative Congregation and Camp Solomon Schechter. Her kids are at, or have attended, Seattle Hebrew Academy and her family belongs to Temple De Hirsch Sinai. When she’s not baking, she likes to cook healthy foods, including “lots of vegetables.”
Hello Robin has started holding Monday night cooking classes, some taught by neighbor and cookbook author Leora Bloom (profiled in MOT on Aug. 16, 2013). The first three sold out quickly. Check their Facebook page for information about future classes.
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The all-local cast of Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theater production of “Monty Python’s Spamalot” sings a number in the second act informing King Arthur that he can’t produce a Broadway show without a Jew. It got me wondering, aside from the theater’s esteemed producing partners, Maureen and Kenny Alhadeff, could there be a Jew in the cast?
The folks at the 5th rustled up Sarah Rose Davis, a member of the ensemble (which provided fabulous singing and dancing). Sarah grew up in Bellevue and started singing “when I was pretty young,” she says, in two different girl choirs. Each year, those choirs would put on their own mini-musicals, which sparked her dramatic interest. Sarah had most of her youth training at the Village Theater Kids Stage drama school in Issaquah, and after graduating from Newport High School she studied musical theater at the Boston Conservatory.
“Spamalot is my 12th show at the 5th Avenue,” she says. Later this year she returns to her roots — dramatic and cultural — playing Fanny Brice in the Village Theater’s production of “Funny Girl,” which will “definitely…be the biggest role I’ve ever played.”
While a theater career doesn’t leave her a lot of free time, Sarah says that she uses hers to take dance classes, play tennis, and do crafts, making greeting cards or decorating jewelry boxes.
This Spamalot production features the choreography, sets and many of the costumes from the original Broadway show. Those in the opening night audience were treated to an appearance by the show’s author and lyricist and original member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Eric Idle.
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Short takes: Ellie Hess of Mercer Island and Noah Sarkowsky of Seattle were recently inducted into the American Hebrew Academy Honor Society. The international society recognizes exceptional 8th- and 9th-grade students who have demonstrated excellence in academics, athletics, the arts, leadership and community service. Students compete for acceptance into the Honor Society and for merit-based scholarships to attend the American Hebrew Academy, a Jewish college prep boarding school in Greensboro, NC.
Two temples have announced new rabbis: Temple Beth Am announced that Rabbi Ruth Zlotnick will become its senior rabbi effective July 1. On the same day, Rabbi Yohanna Kinberg, longtime associate rabbi at Temple B’nai Torah, will ascend the bima at Congregation Kol Ami in Woodinville. Kol Ami’s current rabbi, Mark Glickman, has accepted an adjunct position in Seattle University’s school of theology and ministry.
Josh Friedes, who took over at J Street as its director of regional operations and strategy. (Photo courtesy J Street)
Joshua Friedes says he’ll be able to use a lot of what he learned championing marriage equality in this state in his new job as director of regional operations and strategy at J Street. The pro-Israel organization supports a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians (www.jstreet.org).
The former executive director of Equal Rights Washington, Josh has spent most of the last 15 years campaigning for the rights of same-sex couples to marry first in Massachusetts and then in Washington.
“It wasn’t too long ago that people said, ‘I’ll never see marriage equality in my life,’” he points out, which makes him “more optimistic about a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
“The truth of the matter is that things change,” he says. “You have to live not in the past, but in the present and the future.”
Marriage equality moved quickly into law these past few years, Josh says, because it had “far greater support than people realized.” He thinks the same applies to American Jews’ thoughts about the two-state solution. “We see from polling that people are with us,” he says. J Street’s role is to listen to the poll numbers and “urge the administration to play a leadership role…and not pull back.”
The organization is growing, he says, especially on college campuses. “People are listening to our message.”
Josh grew up in East Brunswick, N. J., and took his first trip to Israel with United Synagogue Youth. He was very active in Hillel at the University of Rochester and took a semester at the University of Tel Aviv. After the Peace Corps in the Philippines, he returned to law school in Colorado to study environmental law.
“It bored me silly,” he says.
Turning to civil rights, after law school he worked for Common Cause in Massachusetts on campaign finance and political ethics reform, becoming a volunteer in the early “organized freedom-to-marry movement.”
An eight-week consulting gig for Equal Rights Washington brought him here in 2006, and he never left. Since then, among other things, he managed the Approve 71 campaign and helped set up Washington United for Marriage. Josh also sat on the board of Reform congregation Kol HaNeshamah in West Seattle.
This past year he began thinking about what he called his other passion, Israel, deciding the world had changed enough for an openly gay man to become involved in Israeli-Palestinian issues.
“In both America and Israel LGBT people can participate fully in civil life,” Josh says.
There is a more open discussion about the two-state solution in Israel, while “here in America…we have not had this vibrant conversation.” Those who question Israeli government policy risk being “portrayed by some as not being supportive of Israel,” he says. J Street’s message, he adds, is that “one can have a deep love of Israel and question the policies of the Israeli government.”
And despite the fact that Josh’s new job is in New York, he will bring a West Coast sensibility and awareness to his role. J Street’s Pacific Northwest office is in San Francisco, where the organization will host its 2014 national summit in June, its first on the West Coast. Josh invites members of our state’s “Pro-Israel, pro-peace community to attend and hopes people will get involved with J Street’s Seattle chapter.” There’s more information at the website.
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Nadine Strauss, who just celebrated 25 years with Herzl-Ner Tamid Conservative congregation.
By the time you read this, Nadine Strauss, executive director of Mercer Island’s Herzl-Ner Tamid Conservative congregation, will have already been honored by her congregation for 25 years on the job.
“It’s been a privilege,” she reflected recently, and “an unusual privilege to be able to work at a job that one loves for so long and to continue appreciating it.”
The congregation was much smaller when Nadine started. “There were still a lot of typewriters in the building,” she says.
Rapid changes — cultural and technological — meant adjusting along the way, but staying “tethered to the values and traditions” of Conservative Judaism.
A native of Houston, and graduate of University of Texas, Nadine had been in town only a few years when she applied for the job. Although her background was in education, through some coincidences she “made my way into synagogue life,” she says, and the congregation took a chance with someone different from the norm at a time when most synagogue directors were men from a business or non-profit background.
“Adrenaline,” Nadine quips, when asked what keeps her going, “and a lot of Diet Coke.”
But seriously, she gets energized “because no one day is the same as the other.” She is quick to point out that she doesn’t do it alone. “I have a terrific group of people in my work,” she says. “Nobody works these jobs alone; it takes a whole community to succeed.”
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On a list of presidential appointments from the White House last month you’ll find Suzan LeVine of Seattle, a cofounder of the Kavana Cooperative and former president of Hillel at the University of Washington, as a nominee to become “Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Swiss Confederation, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Principality of Liechtenstein.”
Tamar Boden, left, and Luminita Gruia, right, show off Luminita’s jewelry with Jim O’Heir, known as Jerry (or Larry) on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation.” (Photo courtesy Luminita Jewelry by Design)
Once in a while, even a reporter likes to be interviewed confesses KIRO radio human interest reporter Rachel Belle, whose “Ring My Belle with Rachel Belle” airs weekdays during the Ron and Don Show — for which she is also an on-air personality — and as a one-hour weekend show. (Find her at www.mynorthwest.com)
Rachel, 34, remembers playing disc jockey as a kid growing up in Pleasanton, Calif., and went to California State University at Chico thinking she would make movies. An internship at the local news station changed her mind.
“I was able to get on the air right away,” she recalls, finding herself drawn to “snarky” news people with their “dark sense of humor.” After producing a morning news show in Sacramento, which required her to get up at 1 a.m., she became a news reporter at Seattle’s KIRO radio in 2005.
Rachel took a break in 2009 to do stand-up comedy and teach English in Japan, then returned to KIRO in 2010 to her current job.
“My dad is from Israel and my mom is from Brooklyn, so I feel like I’m SuperJew,” Rachel says of her upbringing. She’s very open about being Jewish on-air and on Facebook. This hasn’t brought any negative repercussions that she can see. In fact, listeners “get very excited about it,” she says. “People invite me to Shabbat dinner. [They] feel like they know you.”
“A big Scrabble nerd” and cat-lover, Rachel is a foodie who “reads cookbooks in bed.” She’ll frequently grab some friends and make a day trip to Vancouver, BC, to “eat in seven or eight restaurants and drive home.” She’s very funny and was in a comedy improvisation group for a few years.
“To get on stage is my risk taking,” she says. Standup comedy is “the scariest thing I’ve ever done.”
You can meet Rachel on Feb. 8 at the Stroum Jewish Community Center on Mercer Island, when she emcees “A Stage is Born,” the inaugural event of the J’s newly remodeled auditorium (see more at www.sjcc.org).
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They didn’t walk the red carpet at this month’s Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, but for jewelry designer Luminita Gruia, and her sales director Tamar Boden, getting a coveted spot at the Golden Globe Celebrity Gift Lounge was even better.
For the two days before the Hollywood awards event, the business partners showed Luminita’s handcrafted bracelets and necklaces to entertainment industry celebrities who streamed through the exhibit space in the L’Ermitage hotel (see celebrity photos at www.luminitajewelrybydesign.com). Plus, Cosmopolitan Magazine picked Luminita bracelets for its Golden Globes Swag giveaway.
“Our Twitter account is [still] going crazy,” says Tamar (@LuminitaJewelry).
Luminita, who weaves each beaded piece by hand most nights in front of the television, was familiar with many of the stars and says, “we didn’t expect them to be so nice.”
A native of Romania, Luminita trained as a chemical engineer and came to New York in 2000 as a consultant. She met and married her Romanian-Israeli husband and had two sons, which got her interested in education. Returning to school for a second BA and a master’s in math, science and technology, she taught at Bayside High School for a few years before the family came to Seattle in 2006 for a short-term job opportunity.
“We thought we’d be here for just a little while because of the weather,” Luminita recalls, “but then we just fell in love with the JDS [Jewish Day School] community...and coffee.” She has made jewelry since childhood, she says. Her mother was a macramé artist and her grandmother an expert needle worker.
Both women are parents and very active volunteers at the school and in the community. Tamar, a Mercer Island native and UW alum, knew Luminita casually through JDS. Their friendship developed when they ran into each other traveling home from a Hawaiian vacation about four years ago.
“We talked the whole time,” Tamar remembers.
In 2011 Luminita had put up a website gallery, but hadn’t sold much and Tamar was looking for a new work opportunity. Last April Tamar went to Luminita’s to buy a gift and by the time she left, a partnership was born.
Luminita’s signature line is “Candied,” rows of tiny square beads woven on eight strands of silk with an innovative magnetic clasp. Offered in shiny and matte beads, they have a pleasing smooth, but textured feel. Matte beads sell better around Seattle, while the shiny styles are more popular in Southern California and the East Coast. A hamsa bracelet with black beads has sold well locally. Luminita continues to expand and a list of West Coast retailers carrying her pieces is on her website.
Michael Goldberg, right, undergoes dialysis on a machine at his home while his family, Elizabeth, Asher and Jonah, hang out. (Photo: Quinn Russell Brown)
Here’s some interesting trivia: Kidney dialysis was invented in Seattle. (I was reminded of this during a visit to the new Museum of History and Industry in Seattle’s burgeoning South Lake Union neighborhood.)
Dialysis — now available pretty much everywhere — is particularly important to these two MOTs featured here.
As Rachel Vaillancourt tells me, “it’s a family gene” that has caused the deterioration of her kidneys. Her “brothers, nephews, sisters…they all went through that,” she told me. So Rachel, who lives in Seattle’s Seward Park neighborhood, wasn’t surprised when her creatinine levels became elevated about five years ago, indicating kidney failure.
For three and a half years, the native of Morocco was very careful with “diet and exercise,” but her creatinine levels continued to increase and she began dialysis late last year. About a month ago, she was approved for the transplant waiting list.
Eager to find a donor, Rachel is running an ad in this paper, which is how we learned of her plight. As with most kidney transplants, a live donor is preferred, but “anything that I can get” is fine, she says. Some of her neighborhood synagogues are also running notices in their newsletters and Rachel plans to reach out to other local synagogues for help.
Rachel has lived in Seattle for 46 years. She met her American husband in Morocco when he was serving in the military and they settled in Seattle. Although Morocco’s Jewish population is dwindling, she still has a cousin there, but most of her extended family ended up in Israel.
Andrew Weiss, MD, medical director of Virginia Mason’s kidney and pancreas transplant program, says there are no studies that show a higher likelihood of a donor-recipient match between those born Jewish. But he did note that “we use the Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA) located on chromosome 6 for histocompatibility matching between donors and recipients. Donors and recipients of like backgrounds may have closer HLA matching and subsequently a better opportunity for improved long term graft survival.”
Potential donors can call the Virginia Mason donor hotline, 1-800-354-9527, ext. 11201 for more information and testing.
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Most dialysis patients are treated at a center three times a week, but Michael Goldberg, a professor of American Studies at the University of Washington, Bothell, is one of the 10 percent to choose home dialysis.
“It’s challenging [and] takes up a lot of time…but outcomes for the body are much better,” he says of the procedure he undergoes five days a week. His wife, Elizabeth De Forest, puts on a sterile drape and mask, inserts the needle, then Michael hunkers down, sometimes with his two sons, Asher, 14, and Jonah, 12, to watch a movie or play video games while the dialysis machine does its work.
Members of Temple B’nai Torah in Bellevue, Michael and Elizabeth joined the “small, supportive community” when it was still on Mercer Island. Michael almost missed Asher’s Bar Mitzvah last year. He’d had “a very sudden decline” in health at that time, and even left the service at one point to lie down.
A native of Southern California, Michael was diagnosed with Type I diabetes when he was just 15. The auto-immune disease often leads to serious health problems, including kidney damage.
As a teen, Michael admits he did not care for himself. He started minding his health in college at UC Santa Cruz, but damage had already been done — he had a kidney and pancreas transplant in 1995. “The pancreas is fine,” he says, but the illness he suffered before Asher’s Bar Mitzvah turned out to be his transplanted kidney failing. “Scarring from anti-rejection drugs damages kidneys,” an irony of treatment, explains Michael. He started dialysis last spring.
Michael, who got his doctorate from Yale, uses an interdisciplinary approach to teaching history that includes the use of a lot of film.
“My focus has been to teach about history as a process that you learn from,” he says.
Ultimately (and appropriately), he says, “I teach complexity.”
For now, Michael stays positive waiting for the right donor to come along.
“It’s a weird process,” he reflects. “I hope to live long enough” to be a recipient. Although donation is something “you don’t even want to suggest…it would be extraordinarily helpful to my family.”
Michael is registered with the Swedish Benevolent Community Donor program at 800-99ORGAN (800-996-7426). You can also visit www.swedish.org and type “donor program” into the search bar. There’s more information on his Facebook page, www.facebook.com/
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Short Stuff: Rabbi Daniel Septimus announced he’ll be leaving his position as director of congregational learning at Temple De Hirsch Sinai to lead Hillel at the University of Texas, Austin.
The Jewish Day School has a new head of school starting this coming summer. Hamutal Gavish will move to the Seattle area from the Brandeis Hillel Day School in Marin County, Calif.
Dee Endelman, left, sitting at the gates of Auschwitz with Genjo Marinello Osho, Abbot of Seattle’s Dai Bai Zan Cho Bo Zen Ji, Plum Mountain Zen Buddhist Temple. (Courtesy Dee Endelman)
When the head of her temple announced he was going on a reconciliation journey to Auschwitz, Dee Endelman found herself saying, “‘I’ll go with you’…although at the moment I wasn’t sure why.”
The temple in question is Dai Bai Zan Cho Bo Zen Ji, or Plum Mountain Temple, Seattle’s Rinzai Zen Buddhist congregation. A practicing Buddhist for more than 14 years, Dee was born Catholic and says she’s been “part of a Jewish family for 40 years.”
The trip was sponsored by Zen Peacemakers (www.zenpeacemakers.org). The international and multi-faith group of 95 included a gentile Polish woman who had been a child prisoner, and two Palestinians involved in peace work. They learned about Nazi atrocities, held meaningful dialogues, then gathered at the tracks each day to read victims’ names aloud and meditate. At a special ceremony on the last day, yahrzeit candles were lit.
The trip began in Cracow, Poland, with a vegetarian Shabbat dinner and service that included young people from the local Jewish community, part of “a small revival of Judaism,” there, says Dee. Over the weekend they toured the Jewish quarter and ghetto, and on Monday bused to Oświęcim, the town outside of Auschwitz, where they stayed.
Her first day in Auschwitz, Dee viewed the museum there with its display of human hair and discarded glasses. Describing it to me, she began to cry, although says at the time, “I was so overwhelmed I couldn’t feel anything.” It was the visit to the women’s barracks later that week “that really cracked my heart open” as participants imagined the normal life activities those prisoners were denied.
“You really begin to feel the human suffering that occurred there,” Dee says, calling her grief “a blessing on so many levels… [It brings] a little deeper understanding...both in order to honor the dead and to understand what it means for today,” and influencing, “how I have to live now.”
Zen Peacemakers, founded by Bernie Glassman, encourages “practice and action for personal and social transformation,” according to its website.
“Before I left,” Dee says, “I didn’t want to put myself in the spotlight,” but is now ready to share her experience as “part of the loving action that arises from bearing witness to suffering.”
Asked her opinion of the “Jew-Bu” phenomenon — the many Jews drawn to Buddhism — Dee says Buddhism draws adherents from many Western religions, which often create “a spiritual hunger,” but fail to feed it. Buddhism is “not an exclusive religion,” she notes, so it could be “compatible…to recite the Shema and go sit Zazen (meditate).
“There is a contemplative practice in almost every religion…I don’t see any reason why contemplative practice and Judaism wouldn’t work.” Although, she jokes, “in Buddhism you’re not supposed to be attached to your opinions.”
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He might have just bought The Fearey Group (www.feareygroup.com) — one of the leading independent public relations and public affairs firms in the Pacific Northwest — but Aaron Blank is equally dedicated to being the dad of three.
Aaron grew up in Holbrook, on New York’s Long Island. His mother is Israeli, so “I’m first generation,” on her side, he notes. It also meant he got to have two Bar Mitzvahs, one at his synagogue and a second at the Western Wall.
At Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., Aaron met “my girlfriend, now wife,” Mercer Island High School alumnus Lacey Yantis. He was a reporter for CBS radio when the two came to Seattle for a 10-day August trip, which featured “unbelievable weather,” and eventually returned to settle. An employee of The Fearey Group since 2006, he became an expert in healthcare communications who worked on the launch of the Allen Institute of Brain Science.
Aaron has two daughters, 7 and 4, and a 1-year-old son recently adopted from Ethiopia. The adoption led to additional work with Children’s HopeChest, raising money to support basic needs for 150 other children in Wolisso, Ethiopia, where their son was born.
“We are also doing some foundational support there,” around clean water and toilets, he told me (www.hopechest.org/community/woliso/sponsor).
The whole family visited Wolisso in April.
“My life is forever changed…[by] what we saw,” says Aaron. “It’s mind boggling” that simple things like water are unavailable. He adds it was important that his kids be “aware that there is a larger reason for us [to be] here.”
Aaron admits to a lack of activity in the local Jewish community, but looks forward to adding that to his family’s activities, which includes being “huge football fans” and attending local sports events. Members of YMCA’s Adventure Guides, they do a lot of outdoor activities, and January will find Aaron camping in the snow with his daughters.
Jack Fleischmann plays Oliver Twist in alternating performances of “Oliver” at the 5th Avenue Theatre. (Photo: Mark Kitaoka)
“This is the first time I’ve been the main, lead part,” notes Jack Fleischmann, 12, one of the two boys playing of Oliver in The 5th Avenue Theatre production of “Oliver!” which opened in Seattle last week.
Speaking to him a few hours before opening night, Jack showed all the enthusiasm you’d expect for such a momentous occasion. His family, including grandparents, had been there for the final preview the night before and his mom and sister would be attending opening night.
“A lot of people are coming,” he said.
Jack demanded to start acting at the age of 3. His sister Hannah was appearing in a Broadway Bound drama school production and he insisted on the same. At age 4 he debuted in “How to Eat Like a Child” and “Jungle Book” and credits the program’s director, Jimmy Nixon, for encouraging him and getting him a successful audition for the movie “Switchmas.”
That “got me wanting to be in more professional things in theater,” he says.
After appearing in the chorus of “Elf: The Musical” at the 5th Avenue last year, he learned the theater was presenting “Oliver!” this year. He went into study mode, watching the movie, learning the music.
Oliver and Fagin’s gang are double-cast, and Jack shares the role with Mark Jeffrey James Weber. Divided into two teams, they perform three days on and three days off. Jack performed opening night and Jeffrey will perform closing night.
Having just started as a 6th grader at Seattle Academy this year, Jack says keeping up with schoolwork has been “a bit tougher than I imagined.” He’s keeping up with most classes, but will have much make-up work when the show ends on Dec. 31. The school has been supportive and even featured a notice about his role on its website.
When time permits, Jack enjoys playing soccer and basketball, “my favorite sport.”
The Jewish community is well represented among this kid-heavy cast, including Jasmine Harrick (featured in this column on Feb. 8, 2013 for her role in “Music Man”) and Eliana Harrick, Boaz Malakoff, Amalya Benhaim, Eliana Coe, and Sophie Poole. For more information on the show, visit the theater’s website at www.5thavenue.org.
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Uncle Bonsai bandmembers Arni Adler, left, Andrew Ratshin, center, and Patrice O’Neill. (Photo: Maria Camillo)
Meanwhile, on a stage on another shore, Seattle’s unique folk band Uncle Bonsai has begun its annual holiday tour. Starting in Framingham, Mass., and finishing in Tacoma on New Year’s Eve, the band is touring with Christine Lavin and singing songs from their “Just One Angel” and “Just One Angel v2.0” CDs.
Band leader Andrew Ratshin, originally from Tarrytown, N.Y., describes the two albums’ selections as “alternative” and “songs you wouldn’t hear on an elevator.” They include Uncle Bonsai originals, such as the sardonic “Doug’s Greatest Christmas Ever,” and other artists’ work. (“Doug,” the fictional subject of an ongoing series of songs and an album of that name, is Jewish.)
Uncle Bonsai formed in Seattle in the mid-1980s when three Bennington College grads — Andrew, Arni Adler and Ashley O’Keeffe — got together to sing Irish music. They busked outside the gates of Bumbershoot, Andrew recalls, made enough to get in, and the next year they were a featured act, opening for Fireside Theater.
After a few years, the band took a break and Andrew went solo as the Electric Bonsai Band (“it’s not electric, and it’s not a band”), and formed another singing group, The Mel Cooleys. In 1998 Uncle Bonsai reunited for a “one-off reunion concert.” The new songs Andrew wrote for that concert turned “into an album called ‘Apology,’” he says, which led to more reunion concerts. The band started touring regularly again about six years ago with Patrice O’Neill, replacing Ashley, who had moved away.
Uncle Bonsai’s unique sound blends Andrew’s high tenor with the two female vocalists. Their quirky, clever and sometimes poignant original songs are written primarily by Andrew, who sometimes collaborates with Arni on lyrics. A concert a couple of years ago at Salem, Oregon’s Temple Beth Sholom let them trot out all their Jewish-themed songs for an audience who got all of their jokes. They have even written a bedtime storybook for grownups, “The Monster in the Closet” (www.unclebonsai.com).
Andrew is married to classical guitarist Hilary Field. They live in Maple Leaf with their daughter Emma. When not writing, producing or performing music, Andrew says, “I wait to pick up my daughter and drive her someplace else.”
Stroum JCC personal trainer Lisa Kutzke with the recipient of one of her kidneys, Gary Kukes, at the Mayo Clinic in June. (Photo courtesy Thellea Leveque)
After her brother Mark Koller died from kidney cancer in 2011 at age 51, it set Lisa Kutzke on a quest “to do something in memory of him.”
One day the long-time Stroum Jewish Community Center fitness trainer spotted her client, Thellea Leveque, sitting on a bench at the Mercer Island facility. She was “visibly upset,” Lisa recalled. When Thellea revealed that her father’s kidneys were failing, Lisa offered on the spot, to donate one to him.
“Something came over me,” she says. “It was an amazing feeling.”
Remembering the moment, Thellea says, “It was like a light went on in her face.”
Thellea was “devastated” that day, having just learned she could not be her dad’s kidney donor. A carrier of the BRCA mutation, she had too high a risk of developing cancer.
Moved by Lisa’s offer, but wanting to be certain Lisa was not just reacting impulsively in the moment, Thellea says she contacted Lisa repeatedly to assure her she could change her mind.
“But the answer kept being ‘yes’,” says Thellea.
With her husband Jerry Kutzke’s blessing, Lisa proceeded with initial testing.
“Thellea is an opthalmologist,” says Lisa, and “her father is a retired pathologist, so we had tons of information.”
Lisa spoke to other doctors and donors, and began a correspondence with Thellea’s dad, Gary Kukes, in Long Beach, Calif.
After extensive physical and psychological testing at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., Lisa came home to wait.
“I should have been his sister, I matched so well,” she says. Emotionally, she was thrilled “to do this for my brother.”
Both women report a providential feeling surrounded the process. “I knew…everything was going to work out,” says Lisa. “I don’t even know how to explain it.”
For Thellea, Lisa’s offer was “a spiritual experience” the likes of which she’d never had “in regards to a human action before.” She’d been moved by “a sunset, or in synagogue,” but never by the actions of an individual.
“It was a miracle,” she says.
It was October 2012 when Lisa made her offer. In early November she spoke to Gary and later that month Mayo called with its approval. Lisa remembers the call vividly. “House of the Rising Sun” was playing on her car radio, “a song my brother played in his band…and it was even played at his funeral. I pulled over to the side,” she says, “and I just lost it.”
Finally, in December, Lisa and Gary met in person for a happy dinner with Thellea and all their spouses.
After a few postponements, the surgery was finally scheduled for June 18 this year, adding that significant number to Lisa’s sense that things would be okay.
Transplant recipients are allowed to help donors with certain costs, and Lisa is grateful that Gary was in a position to cover the cost of her and Jerry’s flights and their hotel expenses in Minnesota. Lisa’s parents came from Wisconsin, too. And while anonymous donors are kept completely separate from recipients, Gary and Lisa were on the same floor and saw each other after the surgery.
Originally from the small Wisconsin town of Spring Green, Lisa and Jerry came to Seattle in 1985 for a family wedding. The next year, after graduating from the University of Wisconsin, Lacrosse, they moved here. After working “odd jobs, teaching PE, gymnastics,” she says, Lisa applied in 1988 to be a fitness specialist at the JCC, and got the job. After three years she began seeing clients at her home. For part of the 1990s she only had her home business and had a lot of Jewish clients. Eventually she returned to the J and in 2006 became the health, fitness and wellness director, stepping down to “just fitness director” four years later. Now she’s back to being “just a personal exercise trainer.”
Lisa is not Jewish but calls the local Jewish community “amazing.” Recalling her first Hanukkah at the J, to which 600 people showed up, “it just blew me away.” She has always found “a helping hand there for me and my family,” she says, “so what a great way to give back.”
Fully recuperated, Lisa has returned to triathlons and gardening. And while she and Thellea had a long trainer-client relationship before, Thellea says “our friendship blossomed.”
Meanwhile, Gary is doing great with his “Lutheran kidney,” also known as the “Koller-Kutzke-Kukes kidney.” To say thank you, he set up a charitable annuity in Lisa’s hometown to benefit For Pete’s Sake (www.4Petesake.com), which helps sick or unemployed residents with expenses. It’s “an amazing gift,” says Lisa, bringing it “full circle.”
Author Laurie Frankel puts in her writing time when her son is at school. (Photo by Charis Brice)
I was intrigued by Laurie Frankel’s second novel, “Good-bye For Now.” When Laurie’s protagonist Sam, a brilliant computer programmer, is fired from his job, he begins casting about for something to do. Seeing his girlfriend Meredith so bereaved by her grandmother’s unexpected death, Sam devises a way to virtually recreate and communicate with her.
This book is very much about death, so I fully expected some form of religion or spirituality to pop up, but Laurie cleverly skirts the issue throughout.
It didn’t start out that way, the author told me. “Originally, Meredith and her family were Jewish,” she shared, “but I took it out.” It started to make certain plot elements too complicated in a book already dealing with complex issues.
“In my brain, my heart, I think their family is Jewish,” says the Seattle author.
“A lot of things had to fall away to talk about the things I wanted to keep,” she reflects, calling it “the painful cutting part.”
The Seattle author points out that she got to make the characters in her first novel “Atlas” Jewish.
The former University of Puget Sound writing and literature professor grew up in Columbia, Md., near Baltimore, and comes from a long line of Baltimoreans. She moved out here because “I met a boy,” she laughs, who she eventually married.
“I was teaching in Baltimore” and would spend summers in Seattle, which “caused me to believe that Seattle was a sparkling, light-filled city,” she says. “And then there was February.”
That said, she adds, “I love it out here.”
The mother of a 5-year-old son, Laurie now writes full time.
“It was hard to teach full-time, and raise a child full-time, and write full-time,” she observes.
Laurie uses the five-and-a-half hours her son is in kindergarten to “sit down and write, write, write, write.” She is hard at work on her next novel.
• • •
Issaquah author Jane Isenberg received a WILLA award recently from Women Writing in the West. Jane won in the original softcover fiction category for her Seattle-centric historical novel “The Bones and the Book.” The competition seeks out the best of published literature concerning women’s or girls’ stories set in the North American West.
A retired professor who also penned the Bel Barrett mystery series, Jane maintains a blog of appreciation for other writers called Notes to My Muses (www.notestomymuses.wordpress.com).
• • •
A new edition of David Volk’s “Cheap Bastard’s Guide to Seattle” is out with “a new cover…a new introduction…[and] 40 new listings in the first four chapters alone — theater, film, music and comedy,” the author tells me. Plus, he adds, “it comes fully loaded with rack-and-pinion steering.”
Okay, he made that last part up, but this guide to everything cheap or free in the Seattle area does come fully loaded with David’s quirky sense of humor.
David maintains a blog of daily deals at cheapbastardseattle.com. He suggests the book will make a great Hanukkah present, too. If you want to see David in person, check out upcoming readings at the Mercer Island Library at 7 p.m. on Thurs., Nov. 14 and at the Bellevue Library at 1 p.m. on Sat., Nov. 16th.
• • •
It was a strange coincidence.
This summer the Seattle Times published an article on Soap Lake, the small Eastern Washington town known for its medicinal mud. Ten days later I got an email from retired Hollywood screenwriter Michael Druxman, saying a screenplay he’d written about Soap Lake was going to be performed there this coming summer.
“The Summer Folk” is a “slightly fictionalized account of the summers that our family spent in Soap Lake” in the late 1940s to early ’50s, the Seattle native wrote.
It now turns out the play won’t be produced, but Michael is continually publishing his screenplays on Amazon.com and producing promotional videos. He’s also just written his second memoir, “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Hollywood.”
“The first 25 percent is all Seattle,” he told me, and his play about Carole Lombard was produced earlier this year in Ft. Wayne, Ind., her hometown.
Find these, audio plays, and more of Michael’s work at www.druxmanworks.com.
Elisheva Goldberg, who works as an analyst for an Israeli NGO and as a writer for Open Zion. (Photo by Tomer Goldberg)
Since graduating from Northwest Yeshiva High School in 2006, Elisheva Goldberg has achieved her goal of living and working in Israel.
The resident of Jerusalem’s Abu Tor neighborhood (and former JTNews intern) wears two professional hats: She is an international relations analyst and editor for Molad: The Center for the Renewal of Israeli Democracy, and a freelance writer of Open Zion, a blog on The Daily Beast. (Find her work easily with your favorite search engine.)
Molad, where she primarily does research, is “an incredible place,” says Elisheva, “an Israeli progressive policy institution,” or “think tank,” modeled on American counterparts like the Center for American Progress.
Open Zion is where she can express her opinions. The blog, which takes “a solid two-state editorial line,” is “a great place for me to explore Israeli politics when they intersect with American politics.”
She recently wrote two pieces that became quite popular — they explored a political balance between why young Diaspora Jews don’t like conservative Israeli politician Naftali Bennett and a “parallel piece about why young Israeli Jews do like Naftali Bennett.”
She wanted to understand Bennett’s appeal, even when he says things “that are hard to hear…especially for American Jews,” she says, and translate “in some part” for American readers.
Like “many Modern Orthodox kids,” Elisheva spent a year in Israel after high school. Even then, “I wanted to be in that political world,” she says.
During that year she went on a tour that included spending a day with Palestinian peers in Hebron, which drove home the importance of being able to communicate with them. She began studying Arabic at Penn (class of 2011), has been on a summer program in Egypt, spent a semester in Morocco, and is currently in “an advanced spoken class” at Al Quds University in Jerusalem.
Living in New York before moving to Israel, Elisheva says she “grappled with issues of egalitarianism,” studying with Rabbi Ethan Tucker at Yeshivat Hadar. It was while living in New York that Elisheva met journalist Peter Beinart and helped him start the Open Zion blog.
A basketball player in high school and college, Elisheva continues to play in Israel “with a group of middle aged men,” mostly American, “and they’re very, very good.” She’s also learning to play accordion, an interest she shares with her dad, Dr. Sheldon Goldberg (JTNews, “Singing for a cure, March 22, 2013).
• • •
Susan Amira Weinstein with one of her purse designs. (Photo by Alan Weinstein)
It was good news and bad news when purse designer and artisan Susan Amira Weinstein found she’d lost her job earlier this year. The good news? She could finally throw herself full-time into launching Susan Amira Designs and to building inventory — which she does herself, one bag at a time.
“I love to sew,” Susan says. “I’ve been sewing since I was 12 years old” — starting at Sharples Junior High School in Seattle with teacher Mrs. Cushion. Really. She still has the apron she made in that class, she told me.
After getting a speech and hearing degree at the University of Washington, Susan decided against teaching and enrolled at Seattle Central Community College for a degree in apparel and design services. She then worked for Nordstrom where, by coincidence, her husband Alan also worked, though they met at the Stroum JCC. Susan often consults her grown daughters, Sari and Tori, on her designs.
While she is building her own website, you can see her bags at www.etsy.com. Each design bears a Sephardic woman’s name, reflecting her heritage. (I like “Estreya” in the big polka dots, although “Rachel” has practical appeal.)
Susan enjoys the creative process and fabric is her passion.
“I get bored if I make the same thing [repeatedly],” she says. “I really like prints,” but customers need “basic colors” that go with everything.
Susan grew up and she and Alan married at Seward Park’s Sephardic Bikur Holim. They are active members of Herzl-Ner Tamid, but maintain “a strong Sephardic influence” in the home, says Susan, noting that her grandmother and namesake, Amira, also sewed.
You’ll find her bags at the Grow Washington artisans’ cooperative in Snohomish and she’ll be at a number of upcoming crafts fairs, including Pickering Barn from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2 in Issaquah and at the Bellevue Club holiday bazaar Nov. 9. (Reminder, Hanukkah begins on Nov. 27!)
• • •
Thumbs-up to the entertaining and thought-provoking documentary, “CowJews and Indians,” which screened at Seattle’s Social Justice Film Festival a couple of weeks ago. I’m hoping it will screen again in Seattle, perhaps at a Jewish venue.
Financial adviser, author, and new JTNews columnist Aaron Katsman. (Photo courtesy Aaron Katsman)
1 With the addition of Aaron Katsman to our stable of JTNews columnists, we can truly say we are a world-renowned organization.
A Seattle native, the son of Rabbi Phillip Katsman and the late Tzivia Katsman, Aaron attended Seattle Hebrew Academy, Northwest Yeshiva High School (class of ’88) and Yeshiva University, but has lived in Israel since graduating college. He’ll be writing, for this paper’s bimonthly seniors’ section, which debuts in this issue.
“My plan was always to work on Wall Street,” he confessed, but he promised himself if he got a job in Israel he would stay. He got an internship at a financial firm “and it stuck,” he said. “I lost a bet with myself.”
With his 17 years of Jewish education, Aaron says he arrived in Israel “able to conjugate verbs,” but unable to carry on a conversation. Entering the army fixed that fast. He then met and married his wife Yael, director of the aliyah program Nefesh b’Nefesh, and worked his way up in the financial community, eventually becoming head of private banking for Citibank there.
As a licensed financial adviser, he’s had his own firm for almost five years. He has “a global clientele,” he says, including “a lot of Israelis, but also Americans or Anglos who have come on aliyah,” plus clients in Europe and Asia.
This past August, McGraw-Hill published his book, “Retirement GPS: How to Navigate Your Way to A Secure Financial Future with Global Investing.” Aaron writes regularly for The Jerusalem Post, Seeking Alpha (a financial website), and the Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch website.
Outside of work, he’s often busy with his five kids and is active in his central Jerusalem neighborhood’s council. As a volunteer he helps people in debt, and as a sports-lover he plays on a softball league. Yes, softball, and Aaron reports there are a handful of leagues there, for adults and kids. His own team and his son’s team both won their recent respective league tournaments and Aaron reports that while 65 percent of his son’s team is made up of kids whose parents made aliyah, “the rest are Israelis who go to school with [those kids] and think it’s kind of cool.”
• • •
Jason Schneier in one of his five gardens. (Photo by Betsy Schneier)
I don’t think I’ve ever done a second-hand interview of an MOT, but that’s what happened inadvertently when I reached out to Jason Schneier to learn more about the vegetable garden he started and tends to at Congregation Beth Shalom in Seattle’s Wedgwood neighborhood. The congregation donates the produce to the Jewish Family Service food bank.
Jason was tending one of his five gardens at the Magnuson Park p-patch — where he is a founding board member — when I called, so I spoke to his wife Betsy. Jason is a gastroenterologist with a full-time practice and Betsy wisely suggested she might be easier to pin down than her husband.
Jason started gardening about 30 years ago, Betsy recalls, around the time they bought their house and had identical twin girls.
“He just wanted to mess around in the yard,” she says. “I think he started as a kid…he just loved digging.”
That house now has two vegetable gardens, one in the front and one in the back. Jason maintains the synagogue garden almost entirely on his own, with some help from congregants. Then there’s the Magnuson garden and another p-patch on Decatur Island, where the couple has a second home.
“It’s a good outlet for him,” observes Betsy, a Seattle native. She attributes some of his success to his scientific approach to dirt.
“Chemistry has always been his thing,” she says. “Dirt has always been his thing.”
Jason and Betsy met when he came to Seattle to do his residency at the University of Washington. Growing up in Middletown, Penn., home of the infamous Three Mile Island nuclear facility, Jason went to Harrisburg Yeshiva and earned money for college at UPenn doing construction on the nuclear plant. He studied medicine at University of Pittsburgh and after his residency the couple moved to Boston while Jason completed a fellowship. After that, Betsy says, she offered him “a choice between Seattle and Hawaii.”
Jason confirmed all this in a later conversation, and says gardening for the food bank adds a dimension to charitable giving.
“In Jewish life, everyone is asked to open up your checkbook,” he says, “but sometimes it’s nice to just live it a little.” Gardening has a spiritual component, too, observing that “nothing works according to plan.”
It’s like “a Tibetan Buddhist sand painting—you do it and it blows away,” he says. “It makes you humble.”
Ben Belur, in golf attire, played on the U.S. team at the Maccabiah games in Israel this past summer. His sister Jaci is on the left and his wife Brittany and sister Bri are on the right. (Photo by Debbie Zurn).
Some expert JTNews sleuthing has turned up yet another Maccabiah games medalist from the greater Seattle area.
Just kidding. Ben Belur’s grandfather, Jack Belur, sent an email telling us that Ben had been part of the U.S. Men’s golf team competing in Israel this summer. They earned a silver medal on a Pete Day-designed course in Caesaria, which Jack calls “probably one of the toughest golf courses anywhere.” Ben had “four excellent rounds,” and the team missed the gold medal by just two strokes out of 1,200. “As proud grandparents, we were privileged to see the entire games from the beginning,” he adds, referring to Ben’s grandmother, Bernice.
Actually, it was quite the family affair, with Ben’s wife Brittany, his parents Jerry and Nancy, sisters Brianne and Jaci, his grandparents, and mother-in-law Debbie Zurn watching Ben play. In a separate email, Ben wrote of the emotional highlight of walking out of the tunnel at Teddy Stadium and being cheered by 35,000 screaming Israelis — something all our state’s Maccabiah athletes agreed on.
“The common bond and interest that I had with all of my teammates…was incredibly powerful,” wrote Ben, and “being able to visit the birthplace of our religion is something that I didn’t know if would ever do in my lifetime. I’m so grateful for the opportunity,” adding later, “it was really cool.”
The Temple B’nai Torah member comes from an athletic family. His dad Jerry ran track for the University of Washington from 1972 to 1976. He was part of a national championship mile relay team that in 1975 “ran the fastest time in the world that year for a collegiate team,” Jerry wrote. “The record held up for 30 years and was broken by one tenth of a second” only recently. He was inducted into the Husky Hall of Fame in 1988. You can read more about him in the Jan. 23, 2013 issue of this paper.
• • •
As the child of Holocaust survivors growing up in Israel in the 1950s, Yaffa Maritz observed different attitudes among survivors. She wondered why “people like my father came out of this horrific experience…positive in a sense, more appreciative of life…more compassionate.” Others she saw, even among her parents’ friends, “came out very angry, very bitter, very depressed.”
While getting her master’s in clinical psychology, she studied what psychologists call “resilience,” the ability to cope with life’s vagaries that varies from person to person. From her research she surmised that differences came from early infant-parent attachment, “that sense of love you had from the beginning.” Other research supports this, too.
Yaffa came to the States about 30 years ago with her husband when he took a high-tech job in California. Expecting to stay a couple of years, they moved to the Seattle area and never left.
Her interest in resilience carried over to her professional life.
“Often when I worked with adults…I was looking back to their early childhood,” she says, “even to pregnancy.”
She began to suspect that even prenatal experiences could contribute “to some of the angst we have in life,” she said, and “decided to move to prevention rather than intervention.”
The result is a lifetime of interest in compassion and kindness and the co-founding of Listening Mothers. An organization of mothers’ support groups that encourages patience and attention to instincts, Listening Mothers is a part of the Community of Mindful Parents (www.mindfulparentscommunity.com), which includes the group Reflective Parenting/Discipline From the Heart.
“We have a lot of expectations of ourselves,” observes Yaffa. “People have even more pressure and [are] feeling more guilty.”
Listening Mothers encourages a compassionate acceptance of oneself.
More recently, this mother of three and grandmother of three has joined the board of the Compassion Network, which takes up a lot of her time. The network is a global movement “inspired by the charter for Compassion International,” she says, a group dedicated to inspiring caring and kind behavior. Its organizers helped bring the Dalai Lama to Seattle a few years ago and as of this writing is sponsoring a “compassion games” to encourage helping others.
Yaffa has also been involved in bringing the Lytle Center for Pregnancy and Newborns to Swedish Medical Center on Seattle’s First Hill. The one-stop clinic and resource center will be similar to the Tipat HaLav — “drop of milk” — centers found all over Israel, which Yaffa called “a walk-in clinic for mothers and babies, for everything.”
Peter Ringold, left, with his brother David at their restaurant Satay. (Photo: Felicia White)
After chatting with Zach Grashin about hummus for half an hour, I had to go home and make myself a batch.
It wasn’t Garbanzo Bros.’ chef David Babani’s recipe. That is a top-secret component of Garbanzo Bros., the business Zach and David founded last year.
Garbanzo Bros. makes more than just hummus, offering “prepared kosher food…in time for Shabbat,” which they deliver on Thursdays and Fridays and sell at the Stroum Jewish Community Center on Mercer Island on Tuesday afternoons, too.
Born six days apart in different states, these “brothers” have been friends since kindergarten and attended Seattle Hebrew Academy and Northwest Yeshiva High School together.
Both spent a year after high school in Israel, with David “on kibbutz, pressing grapes and bottling olive oil,” explains Zach. David studied at the Jerusalem Culinary Institute then returned to the States, where he became a partner in Amba, a vegetarian kosher restaurant in Oakland, along with other projects in the Bay Area.
David returned to Seattle last year and worked at RN74 in downtown Seattle, making hummus on the side, “for people in Seward Park,” says Zach. “People just loved it… Someone said, ‘You guys should sell it.’”
That’s morphed into a “well-over-full-time” business for both men.
“I’m in charge of moving the product,” says Zach. “Dave does production.”
Depending on the week’s orders, “we can be working 20-hour days,” he adds.
Zach, who graduated from the University of Washington and is currently working on a master’s in screenwriting from Goddard, lived in Australia before returning to Seattle last year. Garbanzo Bros. “started in my family’s house,” but has since moved to an Eastside production facility.
“We’ve filled a unique niche,” says Zach, delivering “everything but the fish and the meat.”
They hope to add more wholesale or bulk business as they look “to spread the beans.” Speaking of which, “we don’t use canned beans.” David employs a “unique and not easy” process to cook the beans that “actually takes talent.”
They’ve even earned a seal of approval from some local Israelis. Israelis usually disdain hummus outside of Israel “on principle,” says Zach, but many here give the product a thumbs-up, including some Israeli kids who worked at the J this summer, who thought it could sell in Israel!
Find more, including a cute promotional video, at gogarbanzo.com.
• • •
It may seem unusual for two nice Jewish boys to run a restaurant featuring food from a Muslim country, but Peter and David Ringold are the owner-operators of Satay in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood, one of only three Malaysian restaurants in the city.
They were first inspired by their Aunt Maimun, a Malaysian who married their Uncle Steve and came to live in the Seattle area many years ago.
“Growing up…Maimun would cook satay and mee goreng [fried noodles],” says Peter, 27.
“We grew up eating the food,” adds David, who describes their family as multi-cultural, so it seemed quite normal.
The brothers’ second inspiration — and these guys are actually brothers — were their travels in Southeast Asia and India, where they “loved the food,” says Peter, “particularly the street food,” on which Satay’s menu is based.
Peter and Patrick McCredie, his original partner, opened the restaurant in December 2010. Aunt Maimun provided some recipes and cooking lessons, of course. Patrick since returned home to L.A., so David, 24, who graduated from Vassar in 2011, came on board in November last year.
Peter and David do much of the work, from greeting guests to “cooking, mopping the floor,” says David. They serve the eponymous satay (a grilled meat skewer served with peanut sauce), mee goreng, red curry, Malay-style fried chicken, and sell their house-made peanut sauce by the jar. (See the menu at www.satayseattle.com.)
Peter, an Occidental College alumnus, describes business as “pretty solid,” and David adds, “we’re always trying out new things and trying to introduce people to Malaysian food.” They have many Malay, Indonesian and Singaporean customers who can be skeptical when learning the owners are American. But, says Peter, “they try the food and appreciate it.” They’ve even catered events for UW’s Indonesian student organization, a ringing endorsement.
Peter and David, who grew up at Seattle’s Congregation Beth Shalom, are enthusiastic about working together. Being brothers, it gets a little complicated sometimes, observes David, “but…we are both working towards the same goal.” While they don’t share living quarters, they share many friends and a love of dining out.
Maccabiah medalist Terry Robinson stands between fellow runners Jason Karp, left, and Michael Gross. (Photo by Rachel Rosen)
Our state sent three competitors and one coach to the Maccabiah games in Israel last month. Since reporting two issues ago that tennis player Bill Cohon came home with two medals, I learned that both our state’s other athletes medaled, too.
Half-marathoner Terry Robinson, profiled in the Aug. 27, 2012 issue of JTNews, alerted us that he was “ecstatic to return with a silver medal…from competing in the World Maccabiah Games in the Half Marathon!”
He calls the race one of the toughest he’d ever run, due to the humidity. (I never knew Israel was humid in the summer.) Two of his teammates required brief hospitalization for IV fluids after the race and, in retrospect, Terry says he should have done the same.
“I did spend a week in Scottsdale training,” in 110 degree heat, he said, “but it’s a different type of heat, it’s a dryer heat.”
Competitors and spectators reported that the humidity increased as the race went on. Still, Terry finished in just over 1:20 and came home with his medal.
The last time Terry was in Israel was for his Bar Mitzvah 27 years ago, and he was thrilled to be back. The opening ceremonies were a distinct highlight, entering Teddy Stadium with the 1,100 other Americans and 7,000 athletes from around the world — including some, like Cuba and Mongolia, bringing delegations for the first time.
“To fill up a stadium of all Jewish people not only [puts] tingles down my spine but tears in my eyes,” he says. The Jerusalem stadium holds 34,000 and the games, the third largest Olympic-style competition in the world, are hugely popular in Israel.
A Seattle native and member of Sephardic Bikur Holim, Terry is an alumnus of Seattle Hebrew Academy, Mercer Island High School and University of Washington. His parents were very active in, and worked in, the Jewish community, which he says inspired him. He spoke at Camp Solomon Schechter last year about his preparations, and hopes he’ll get to go back next year to relate his experiences.
• • •
David and Joseph Munden with their Maccabiah team medals. (Photo by Avi Azoulay)
Buckley’s David Munden, head coach of the karate team, expressed a common sentiment among our state’s competitors. “Aside from the competition, the trip itself was amazing,” he told me. “We got to see and do some amazing stuff, and learn a lot of history.”
This was the first trip to Israel for both David and his son Joseph, 16, a member of the team. The U.S. karate team came away with 18 medals and Joseph earned two: A bronze in sparring and a silver in team kata — a “series of pre-set movements,” explains David, that mimic a fight. And witnessing his son earning the silver medal was also “amazing.”
Among the trip’s many highlights — too numerous to recount — was that David and Joseph became Bar Mitzvah together. In a tradition that dates to the 1989 games, the U.S. delegation arranged for two large groups of athletes who had never experienced the Bar or Bat Mitzvah ritual to enter adulthood.
David singled out Yad Vashem as a significant moment in his visit, but even more important is that his son loved Israel and wants to go back. Then there are the national and international friendships that were made.
“I saw what [those connections] did for the kids, seeing the kind of bonding and friendships that went on,” he said. “Hopefully they’ll stay involved.”
Both David and Terry said transportation logistics were the biggest problem they encountered. Buses were generally late, and sometimes they were early. They didn’t let that spoil things, though. “We had to realize…if we were going to enjoy ourselves we couldn’t let that get to us,” says Terry.
David hopes to return for the 2017 games and hopes to see more west coast representation in our country’s delegation. “With the exception of California, there’s very little participation,” he observed.
• • •
Cookbook author Leora Bloom, featured in the last issue, wrote to clarify some errors in my piece. She only writes a couple of design articles for the Seattle Times each year, rather than being their main design writer (apologies to the Times, too), and says they have “a staff and two amazing writers” who cover most of the design features. Also, each recipe featured in her book, Washington Food Artisans, was tested by Leora four to five times, plus “at least two friends” made the recipes, too, to ensure consistent results. Apologies for the errors.
Food writer and blogger Matthew Amster-Burton. (Photo by Jim Henkens)
After reading only the first three pages of Matthew Amster-Burton’s memoir, “Pretty Good Number One: An American Family Eats Tokyo,” I was overcome with the need to visit that city.
The food writer, humorist and finance columnist, his wife Laurie, and daughter Iris spent last July living in a Tokyo suburb, the subject of the book. Matthew originally planned to fill a gap in English-language guides to Tokyo, but with its marvelous descriptions of food and local food culture, it became much more than that.
Matthew came to Seattle to attend the University of Washington in 1996. Born and raised in Portland by culturally Jewish former New Yorkers, “I’ve certainly inherited their sense of humor,” he says. “And their love of food.” In particular, he said, Chinese food. The long-standing “connection between Jews and Chinese food,” he muses, fed his love of Asian cuisine.
I wondered about sushi’s popularity in Japan, but Matthew calls it “an American obsession.” A “whole diverse selection of Japanese food…doesn’t even exist in the U.S.” One he describes is bonjiri, a skewer of grilled chicken tails, that scrumptiously fatty bit of flesh that once held tail feathers.
Happily, Matthew lives on Seattle’s food-centric Capitol Hill, close to Uwajimaya, his favorite supermarket.
“I love to discuss things to death,” he admits, and has created many outlets for food discourse. He’s published two books, blogs at www.rootsandgrubs.com, and co-hosts two podcasts: the R-rated www.closedforlogging.com with Becky Selengut (who appeared in this column Apr. 5, 2013), and the more family-friendly www.spilledmilkpodcast.com with Molly Wizenberg, known for her Ballard pizza restaurant Delancey and the popular food blog Orangette.
“Pretty Good Number One” became an independent publishing project — and learning experience — for Matthew when he received “the nicest rejection letter” from his first book’s publisher, Houghton Mifflin. He assumed “Pretty Good” would have a limited market, but is “blown away” by its success, selling about 100 copies a month.
Matthew, whose “day job” is writing a personal finance column at www.mint.com, created a Kickstarter campaign to fund the editing, design and production of the book, which is distributed on Amazon.com. He was left with enough for a follow-up trip to Japan this winter, and to get started on a new writing project.
It’s not just Asian food in the Amster-Burton kitchen. “I made enchiladas last night,” he told me. “I like to cook eclectic … [to] rifle through cookbooks for the next thing.”
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Locavore and author Leora Bloom. (Photo by Neil Black)
Also living the foodie life on Seattle’s Capitol Hill is Leora Bloom, whose cookbook, “Washington Food Artisans: Farm Stories and Chef Recipes,” was published by Sasquatch last April.
A pastry chef who was an undergraduate poli-sci major and worked in advertising and marketing after college, Leora took up food writing after cooking school.
“I’m a huge fan of the farmers markets,” she says.
She began shopping at them when she lived in California and has shopped at the University District farmers market since moving with her husband Paul to Capitol Hill in 2000. Getting to know the vendors, and to generate interest in supporting the market, “I thought it would be good to write the stories of some of these farmers,” she says.
After traveling our state visiting the farmers, she solicited recipes based on their produce from chefs also from around Washington. She worked on the book for two-and-a-half years, starting when her twins Leah and Sadie were 1 and son Harry was 4, collecting and testing almost 300 recipes.
“I made 95 percent of them,” she says.
Friends volunteered to make the others, and “the easiest to follow” were selected for the book.
Born in Capetown, South Africa, Leora’s family moved to the U.S. when she was 7. She was raised mostly in Delaware, where her parents still live, and got the idea to move to Seattle from family friends.
“My whole family comes originally from Lithuania, both sides,” she says, and it was the Ashkenazi food of her childhood that she first cooked when she got interested in food. When she first brought her husband home to meet her family, they headed straight to her grandmother’s, who “fed us roast chicken, homemade pickles and rye bread with schmaltz,” just like Paul’s grandmother, would have made them in his native Toronto.
Leora owned and operated the Linger Longer bakery in Bellevue for two years in the late 1990s and still runs into people who remember her challah.
“That was the last pastry chef job I had,” she says.
She writes about food occasionally for the Seattle Times, but is now the main design writer for the Times’ Pacific Northwest magazine.
Simon Hamlin, creator of the new Seattle-based TV show “Locally Grown.” (Photo: Susan Doupé)
Actor, writer, and now television producer Simon Hamlin says Seattle’s Pike Place Market was always one of his favorite places. He has fond childhood memories of shopping there with his mother and, as a member of the Behar family, and “related in some way to half the Sephardic community here,” he quips, he’s certain that his grandparents and maybe even great-grandparents shopped or worked there.
“I grew up in the restaurant industry,” he says, adding, “I do love good food.”
His father owned or operated 30 restaurants, including Simon’s in Tukwila — named after him — and the Brooklyn Café in downtown Seattle.
About a year ago, Simon observed that farmers markets had all the compelling elements for television: “Musicians, interesting vendors, [colorful] fruits, vegetables…people walking around” with kids and pets, he says. Talking to the people who worked there he knew “definitely, there were lots of great story lines, a lot of potential.”
In the confluence of these influences it makes sense that the Jewish Day School and Mercer Island High School alum, 39, should be involved with creating “Locally Grown,” a satirical comedy TV show about life at a farmers market. Working with his partners at Abundant Productions, Simon says they chose it from about 10 potential projects as “the one that had the most mass appeal.”
Set in Seattle — watch the two-part pilot at www.locallygrowntv.com — the show features the multi-generation Granger family and their struggle to “maintain their unity and their livelihood through every awkward situation” at the fictional Ballmont market, according to the information packet. You might recognize the Ballard Sunday market in the crowd scenes, but the close-ups were staged on a local parking lot.
Calling it a “mixture of ‘Modern Family,’ ‘Arrested Development,’ and ‘Portlandia,’” a 12-minute pilot has been produced along with a series of one- or two-minute vignettes they call “bonus sprouts.” Now comes the job of “getting interest from potential investors and buyers,” a process that can be “indefinite…you hear stories of scripts sitting in someone’s drawer for 10 years.”
In the meantime, Simon, who graduated from UCLA and lived in L.A. before moving back to Seattle a few years ago, balances a variety of jobs to support himself. He’s appearing in Intiman’s production of “Lysistrata” and works with Effective Arts, helping to lead improvisation workshops for corporate leadership training.
• • •
Taylor Halperin, who is spending his summer interning with Sen. Maria Cantwell. (Photo: Todd Green)
When our Senator Maria Cantwell speaks publicly this summer, Taylor Halperin writes down every word she said.
At least that was one of his duties as a summer press intern in her Washington, DC office. His duties are different from other interns, although he sometimes leads tours.
“My favorite thing is the daily clips,” he said last week while on the job. He culls news items relating to Cantwell, selecting the most important and distributing them to her listserve and local offices.
About to be a senior at Williams College in Massachusetts, Taylor says he applied for “a bunch of internship opportunities in DC and New York City” in January, before he left on a semester abroad program in Marseilles, France. Cantwell’s office responded first. That program in France required participants to speak only French and gave Taylor the chance to study some Arabic, which “is probably equivalent to my Hebrew at this point,” he says.
The unpaid internship, is “helping me determine whether I want to go into law or politics,” says Taylor.
He could have had his previous paying summer job in Seattle as music director for the student drama program Broadway Bound, “but it…didn’t have any relation to the career I wanted to pursue,” he says.
A piano student since age 6, he performs with the jazz big band and another small ensemble at school. Among his other interests is baseball, and he spent most of 2011 blogging about sabermetrics (statistical analysis of the game) for ESPN.
He grew up in Seattle, where his family attends Temple Beth Am, and graduated from Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences. He’s enjoying seeing the sights, some family and his friends in DC, although “it’s kind of humid here,” he says.
He does shoot some hoops as well, but the opportunity to play with President Obama hasn’t surfaced.
“That would be awesome,” he says, though he allows, “He would probably school me.”
Taylor’s internship ends next week and he will spend three weeks working in Williamstown and studying for the LSAT before school starts.
Shaul Judelman at his home in Bat Ayin, Israel
A third Washington State athlete will represent the U.S. in Israel’s 2013 Maccabiah Games beginning July 18 (see “Singing for a Cure,” Mar. 18, 2013, for more on the other two). Bill Cohon of Shoreline will play grand masters tennis in the international games that are second in size only to the Olympics, joining over 9,000 competitors from 80 countries.
A retired school orchestra director, Bill, 64, was both a tennis pro and a professional violinist in his younger years before turning to teaching. He returned to competitive tennis in retirement, and was ranked number one in the Pacific Northwest’s over-60 age group last year.
No matter what the competition in Israel, he knows “going there is the prize.” He has much to look forward to, like laying on clay at the Israel Tennis Center in Ramat Hasharon outside Tel Aviv, visiting the Kotel with his doubles partner Barry Brahver, and seeing sights he missed on his first visit there in 2009.
Used to summer heat from tournaments in central Oregon and California, Bill still assumes “it will be hot as hell” in Israel. He’s thrilled to be marching with his 1,200 teammates in the opening ceremonies — cheered by 60,000 screaming fans and seen on national TV — but suspects the atmosphere at his first match will be quite different.
“I think it will probably be Rebecca [Ringer, his wife] and the other guys’ wives watching,” he says. There won’t “be any trouble finding a place to park.”
Bill’s goal is “to do as well as I can,” he says. “If I win or lose is secondary to that.” Competing in Israel as a Jew is much more important to him. For many years he felt his Jewish roots were in Brooklyn, but that changed on that first Israel trip. Seeing the Temple Mount, where in ancient times only priests (kohenim, the origin of his last name) could go, “was truly going back to my roots, and it was profoundly moving,” he says.
The 19th Maccabiah Games run July 18 through July 30. Those interested in following Bill’s exploits on this trip will find his writings at Williamcohon.blogspot.com.
His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org — yes, you can contact him there — so right off the bat you get Shaul Judelman’s angle.
“It’s safe to call me a progressive Orthodox rabbi, settler/peace activist,” he wrote in an email, a slightly different description than when we last chatted seven years ago (“Our Washington Israelis,” Feb. 16, 2006).
Shaul (Stefan) visits Seattle July 18–August 5 to speak at Congregation Beth Shalom, where he grew up, and elsewhere, about his efforts to bring environmental awareness and organic practices to Israel. He made aliyah now and lives with his young family “across the green line” in Bat Ayin.
The Seattle Hebrew Academy and Garfield High grad once thought “being born Conservative was like being born Ashkenazi; I didn’t think it could change.” Now he’s a long-haired Orthodox rabbi who’s worked for years to illuminate the relationship between Judaism and environmentalism in his new home.
Shaul first traveled to Israel in 2000 for his degree requirements in international studies at Pitzer College and was “completely blown away” by Judaism's connection to the land. Having spent time as a political activist among the Navajo, he found it reminiscent of the way Navajo “religion and culture were so tied to the land.”
Speaking to me on July 4, Shaul reflected on modeling participatory democracy for Israelis. “Feeling empowered to make change [is]…something Americans bring here.”
For example, he’s been involved with “halachic activism,” creating change and awareness by asking environmental questions of Israeli rabbis who interpret Jewish law. One query was, “Can tzedakah money be used to buy low-flow faucets?”
“These are important questions,” a lot of rabbis noted. But they admitted that “They didn’t have the background” to decide, Shaul says.
Shaul also works for JIVE, part of a larger Israeli environmental organization called Teva Ivri (www.tevaivri.org.il).
Many in his settlement want to improve relations with Palestinian neighbors, says Shaul. There was even an Israeli-Palestinian cooperative organic farm for a while, but political pressures ended it. He wishes there was more reporting on collaboration and says older Israelis and Palestinians still remember back when there was more cooperation before the second intifada.
“We as Jews have so much fixing to do inside of us,” he says, “but can’t do it without working outside.”
Ellie Rudee of Mercer Island participated in a panel discussion on the future of Jewish leadership at the Presidential Conference in Israel in June. (Photo by Sarah Schuman)
1 Just a couple of weeks ago, Eliana Rudee was part of a panel on the future of Jewish leadership at the Israeli Presidential Conference in Jerusalem.
The Mercer Island High School grad, who friends and family call Ellie, was already in Israel. She is on a five-month Career Israel internship through Masa, a program of the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency for Israel. Speaking at the annual conference, which was founded by Shimon Peres in 2008, was not originally on her agenda.
In early June, “I spoke at an informational session for future Birthright group leaders, telling them about my experiences on…Masa,” she wrote in an email. After the session, both a Masa director and a conference representative requested her bio.
“A couple days later, someone from the PC called me and said I had been nominated by multiple parties” to speak on a panel, she wrote.
While she was surprised at first at being sought out, she was less surprised on learning the panel topic. She knew it was vital “for a panel about the future of Jewish leadership…to have [the] perspective of…a future Jewish leader,” she said.
As president of the Israel club at Scripps College in California, where she will be a senior in the fall, and a board member and employee of Hillel, Ellie is already an experienced Jewish leader comfortable with public speaking.
The three-day conference’s theme was “Facing Tomorrow” and included a 90th-birthday bash for Peres, Israel’s ninth president. Ellie reports the conference was multi-disciplinary. “Scientists, psychologists, politicians, actors and actresses, economists, environmentalists and Jewish leaders” offered perspectives on “problems and solutions in the Jewish, Israeli and world community,” she wrote.
In Jerusalem for a five-month internship at the Institute for Terrorism Research and Response, Ellie is also researching women’s involvement in terrorism and their motivations compared to men.
Growing up at Herzl-Ner Tamid Conservative Congregation, Ellie says her involvement in Judaism is driven by passion and a sense of responsibility.
“I connect to faith…through loving and helping my community,” she writes, “and in my opinion, one of the most important things as a human being is to be responsible for other human beings. I cannot accept that there are problems facing our community that are not worth solving, or unsolvable.” And, she adds, “it is simply fun for me!”
Describing herself as athletic and close to her family, since being in Israel she’s taken up healthy cooking and buying fresh food from the shuk (market) and cooking for her friends.
• • •
Joel Sacks, the director of Washington State’s Department of Labor and Industries. (Photo courtesy L&I)
In the mid ’90s, Joel Sacks was working for Joe Dear at the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) in Joel’s home state of New Jersey. Dear is a Washington native and in 1996 newly elected governor Gary Locke asked him to come home and lead our state’s L&I.
“Just on a whim,” at Dear’s going away party, Joel asked him if he could get a job out here, too. In 1998 there was an opening and Joel and his wife, Stephanie Hoffman, came to Olympia for what they thought would be a few years’ “overseas posting,” Joel joked. Fifteen years later, they’re still here; and in January Joel took on the leadership of Washington State’s Department of Labor and Industries.
“We just fell in love with the Northwest,” says Joel and the “much healthier lifestyle,” kept them here along with their daughters, Gabby, 9, and Samantha, 6. Plus, two of Joel’s siblings have moved here, too.
The family belongs to Olympia’s Temple Beth Hatfiloh, where Joel served a term as the congregation’s vice president.
“TBH is just great,” he says. Its Reconstructionist affiliation “aligns with our values.”
Growing up in a Conservative synagogue in Bellmawr in southern New Jersey directly influenced his choice of career in public service, Joel says. His parents were both very active in synagogue and “growing up in that Jewish environment…grounded [me] in a really strong belief in giving back” and convinced him “to spend my life in public service.”
While he enjoys exercising and reading, most of Joel’s free time is spent doing things with the kids. On Father’s Day the family drove to Paradise on Mt. Rainier, where the piles of snow tempted Gabby to climb higher and higher.
“I kept reminding her that we had to get down,” which they did, Joel says, but it involved “a lot more sliding than walking.”
• • •
A correction: In my last column, I misidentified which college Julia Snyder attends. Julia is a student at List College of the Jewish Theological Seminary and Columbia University.
Susan Monas, who calls her daughter, Shoshana Wineburg, right, an inspiration. (Photo courtesy Susan Monas.)
Susan Monas was inspired by her daughter.
Shoshana Wineburg, the daughter in question, spent nine months on a service-learning project in Israel sponsored by the Israeli organization Yahel. Yahel places participants in Gedera, Israel, for nine months to live and work with its Ethiopian-immigrant population. Shoshana tutored English in the high school, helped start an after-school program for youth, and she tutored English to some adults to help their professional development.
Susan says that on the program, Shoshana “developed confidence, leadership skills,” learned about social justice, and acquired the “ability to love Israel and criticize Israel at the same time.”
Her family has “a long-standing relationship” with Israel, says Susan. Her husband travels there frequently for work and she often joins him. During one of those trips she was studying at the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem and struck up a conversation with Rabbi Gail Diamond, another Yahel board member. Rabbi Diamond invited Susan to join the board.
“I said ‘of course,’” Susan recalls, “because I believe in it.”
There’s a lot of work to be done in the relatively new organization.
“There’s board development work… marketing and [a] media presence” to establish and it’s much harder than being on the board of a more established organization, says Susan, a past president of Congregation Beth Shalom in Seattle. Yahel’s board is also small and international, and she wishes there were more opportunities to meet face to face.
As an at-large member, “I do my little bit,” she says, mostly getting the word out about Yahel’s programs. Those now include spring break and summer service learning for college students. The programs are open to Jews “of all stripes,” from all over North America.
Meanwhile, Shoshana — a graduate of Stanford and the Pardes Institute — is back in Israel working for Yahel as co-facilitator of a six-week summer program for college students in Beer Sheva. Learning from her will be another Seattleite, Julia Snyder, a student at List College of the Jewish Theological Seminary and Columbia University.
Outside of Yahel, Susan is a licensed clinical social worker who enjoys gardening, reading and writing in her spare time. She recently completed a four-year Mussar training under the direction of Rabbi Ira Stone, formerly at Beth Shalom and a founder of the Mussar Leadership program, which brings ancient Jewish wisdom and tradition to character development and improvement.
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Oncologist Saul Rivkin, founder of the Marsha Rivkin Cancer Research Center, has been called “a tireless advocate for his patients” by those he has treated. (Photo courtesy Marsha Rivkin Center.)
One of Seattle’s best-known medical doctors, Saul Rivkin, will retire on July 1. Swedish Cancer Institute, the oncology arm of Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, made the announcement. The77-year-old oncologist is best known for his committed, tenacious approach to fighting cancer and the personal connection he has established with the thousands of patients he has cared for over the years.
Saul’s wife, Marsha, died from ovarian cancer in 1993. Out of personal tragedy came a renewed commitment to cancer investigation and he founded the Marsha Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer Research, housed at Swedish–First Hill. Under his guidance, the center has become a leader of national and international efforts in all fields of ovarian cancer research.
“My life’s work has been committed to healing and helping people with cancer, and Swedish has supported me in every step,” says the father of five and grandfather of seven. “Finding a cure for ovarian cancer is my dream and I will continue to work toward that goal for as long as I am on this earth. I am forever grateful to those who have supported me on this journey.”
A graduate of University of Washington School of Medicine (1964), Saul joined Swedish in 1971 as one of the hospital’s first medical oncologists and became a leader in establishing clinical research at its cancer institute. He helped the institute get its first National Institutes of Health grant, which has provided 36 years of continuous funding. Saul has been recognized repeatedly for his landmark work in Adjuvant Treatment for early-stage breast cancer.
“While Dr. Rivkin may be retiring from Swedish, he will remain an essential part of the Rivkin Center team, providing critical guidance to everyone involved,” says Clint Burwell, executive director of the center.
The Rivkin Center is honoring Saul by creating the Saul Rivkin Innovation Fund and hopes to raise $1 million to support emerging research projects and develop opportunities that lie outside the scope of traditional grant-making programs.
Hebrew Hoops camp founder Sam Fein. (Photo courtesy Sam Fein)
When I last spoke to Chelsea Garbell in early 2012, she had been named one of New York University’s most influential students. Now she’s garnered another honor: She was student commencement speaker at the all-school graduation ceremony at Yankee Stadium on May 22.
The Northwest Yeshiva High School alumna will graduate summa cum laude from NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development with a B.S. in media, culture, and communication, and minors in public health and policy, and Hebrew and Judaic studies
The dean of each of NYU’s five schools nominated commencement speakers, submitting the students’ CVs and transcripts with letters of recommendation. A review committee narrowed it down to five finalists who each submitted a draft speech and were interviewed.
It’s “a little overwhelming,” said Chelsea, who has been hard at work on her speech, and “such a huge honor. My Facebook kind of exploded,” with the news, she adds.
Last year, Chelsea was part of an American Jewish Committee delegation that attended the “Women as Global Leaders” conference in Abu Dhabi. I asked what that was like.
“Excellent,” Chelsea responded, who wasn’t sure what to expect of travel to a Muslim country, but “nobody batted an eyelid,” at her passport with its Israeli stamp.
“Whenever I mentioned I was Jewish, especially to Emirati women [at the conference], they were surprised, but not negative,” she said.
She was probably the first Jew many delegates had met, and she managed to keep Shabbat there by staying with a friend on NYU’s campus there.
Chelsea also enjoyed a summer internship in Patty Murray’s office in the “other” Washington and, given her interest in reproductive rights policy and advocacy, “everything I learned about the Hill and politics [made it] the perfect summer.”
With plans for the next year still evolving, Chelsea couldn’t give me specifics, but she’s hoping for opportunities to travel and volunteer before returning to graduate school. While she has no specific plans to return to Seattle, “I’ll always be a Seattle girl at heart,” she says. “The only time I care about sports is when Seattle is playing.”
• • •
I told Sam Fein that he ought to be called Mr. Basketball.
“I agree with that,” the University of Southern California senior replied.
This past year, Sam has been busy integrating his love of basketball into his life and he’ll be bringing that love to the Seattle area next month with Hebrew Hoops, a weeklong basketball camp for 5th through 9th graders to be held at the Jewish Day School in Bellevue. It will be a place, he says, “for Jewish kids to meet other Jewish kids…and interact with Jewish role models who happen to be athletes as well.”
Sam grew up in Seattle’s Laurelhurst neighborhood. He attended the Seattle Jewish Community School and then Lakeside Academy, where he played basketball. He has been a camp counselor and head of basketball instruction at Camp Solomon Schechter and last summer interned at A PLUS, an after-school education program that uses sports for education and “character development necessary for student-athletes to succeed in life,” according to its website, www.aplusyouthprogram.org.
Last year, Sam, a political science major minoring in business and entrepreneurship, reached out to the Boys and Girls Club closest to the USC’s L.A. campus, and started coaching there.
“I tried to implement some of the things A PLUS does,” he says, like requiring a minimum GPA and instituting a mandatory study hall after school for team
members. He’s seen results already in at least one student, and remarked to me that many of these inner-city students do not own the calculators they need for high school math.
Sam brought in friends to be assistant coaches and tutors and also joined the local chapter of Coaching Corps, an organization that supports young people volunteering as coaches in underserved communities. He was recently elected president of the USC chapter and says that “learning to lead meetings [and] take other people’s advice” has been invaluable.
“I’m really excited” about Hebrew Hoops, says Sam. If you haven’t seen the posters at Wedgwood’s Grateful Bread, at Island Crust Café on Mercer Island, or your synagogue, you can get information at www.hebrewhoops.com.
Joshua Kriesberg at the book launch for his new children’s book, “Horatio’s One Wish.” (photo by Diana Brement)
At the book launch party for “Horatio’s One Wish,” held at Seattle’s Mockingbird Books, newly minted children’s author Joshua Kriesberg related that he’d written voraciously as a child. In writing “Horatio’s One Wish,” a book for middle-grade readers (ages 8 to 12) he tried to capture the free and unhampered writing of those years.
Growing up in Bethesda, Md., Josh remembers “math and creative writing were the subjects I was most interested in,” finding that “one helps the other. Doing math sometimes brings out the creative side.”
After working for Microsoft for 16 years, he left last year to focus on promoting the book, most of which he wrote in 2007 and 2008.
“I was at a crossroads,” then, he says, “not doing what I really wanted to do,” and decided to return to his dream of writing. During that year he came home from work and wrote for two to three hours a day with the support of his wife, Jane Lichty, and their twins, Max and Ben, who were 11 at the time.
Once complete, Josh sent the book to some publishers, but found the adventure, with its heroic hedgehog named Horatio, didn’t fit with current publishing interests. He put the manuscript away for four years, but once he left Microsoft he decided to publish it on his own, a popular route for authors these days. He found an illustrator, James Bernardin, hired a book designer and used CreateSpace (Amazon) for production.
Now he is gearing up for what many authors find most daunting — marketing his book. In addition to Mockingbird, he’s made one school appearance and hopes to appear at other schools, libraries and bookstores. He is doing some consulting for tech startups, “but a lot of my attention is on the book,” he says.
He has a website, www.joshuakriesberg.com, and an Amazon page where all but one reviewer has given the book five stars, but finds that in the “virtual world you’re reaching out to a lot of people, but they’re not hearing you,” he says. “The physical world goes a long way.”
• • •
Betsy Dischel uses song, American Sign Language and both Hebrew and Spanish in her PJ Library programs. Here she is signing and guitar playing at a Musikal Magik class at the Phinney Neighborhood Center in Seattle. (Photo by Diana Brement)
I went to Mockingbird Books another time last month to see Betsy Dischel in her monthly PJ Library appearance there.
PJ Library is an outreach program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation that sends interested families a Jewish-themed children’s book or CD each month, in partnership with philanthropists and local Jewish organizations. In the Seattle area it is administered by our Jewish Federation, which hosts storytelling events around Seattle.
Trained in special education, Betsy brings an additional dimension to the two to five PJ Library events she leads each month.
As “a special-ed teacher in California,” she explains, “I was working with students with disabilities, who spoke Spanish and also American Sign Language, all passions of mine.”
After moving to Seattle she was inspired by a preschool music class her son Diego attended. She started Musikal Magic, creating classes for preschoolers that she brings to schools and organizations around the Seattle area.
“It’s become popular,” says the New York City native, and there is a waiting list. “People want Spanish, they want American Sign Language, they want live music,” which Betsy provides on her guitar.
She also took Diego to a “tot Shabbat” at Temple Beth Am and was further inspired by the synagogue’s song leader Shoshana Stombaugh, a kindergarten teacher at Seattle Jewish Community School.
“I wanted Diego to go to school where she worked,” says Betsy.
A school administrator “suggested I become a storyteller,” Betsy told me, and connected her with Amy Paquette at the Jewish Federation, who invited her to be a PJ Library teacher.
In her classes and PJ Library events, kids are getting “a professional level of instruction, [including] brain development…language development,” says Betsy, and visual development as well as fun. The day I saw her at Mockingbird, there was a deaf toddler and mother in the audience. Betsy is quick to point out that she welcomes kids of all capabilities to her programs with “a joy and a heart for sharing language and stories with people of all abilities.”
Lauren Simonds, Rosehedge/Multifaith Works’ new executive director
1 I suspected Seattle-area traffic reporter Sprince Arbogast was Jewish because I assumed “Sprince” was a variant of the Yiddish name Shprintze. Then one really messy traffic night this winter I heard her mutter on KPLU, “Oy vey, the traffic,” and I was sure.
Sprince, it turns out, is a childhood nickname based on her maiden surname that’s stuck with her into adulthood. Born and raised on Seattle’s Eastside, she went to Sammamish High School and the University of Washington. She became a Bat Mitzvah at Temple De Hirsch Sinai, where her grandparents and parents were married.
She became a professional dancer and arts promoter, first in New York and then employed by a modern dance company in Grenoble, France for a few years. Hired by a performing arts center to increase attendance, she contacted local radio stations, she recalls. One station hired her, first to produce an arts show, and eventually to be a reporter and translator for the news department.
“I was there at the right time,” she says.
When she stopped dancing and returned to the States, she was ready for a second career in broadcasting. Back in Seattle, she started as a producer at KING Broadcasting and has done a variety of work in the Seattle area, including reporting for public radio station KUOW and running her own media and communications company.
“I knew I wanted to be an at-home mom, but keep my feet wet,” she says. So when pregnant with the oldest of her three children, she “knocked on the door” of Metro Traffic (now Total Traffic, part of Clear Channel) and they hired her.
While she reports under her own name now, “back in the day I [had] three different names,” says Sprince, and multiple on-air personas. “On a rock and roll station I had to banter with the DJ,” she says, and a news station required “a news delivery…[and] you had to remember who you were on which station.”
The challenge of traffic reporting is getting information out quickly.
“Traffic is reactive,” she says, but new technology is speeding up reporting and response time.
Still freelancing as a producer and reporter, she is thrilled that KUOW submitted one of her recent pieces for an Edward R. Murrow award.
Sprince occasionally appears on TV, substituting for Adam Gehrke on Q13 in the morning.
“It’s fun,” she says, but “TV means waking up at 3:50 [a.m.]…and hair and makeup have to be perfect.”
• • •
Lauren Simonds became executive director of Rosehedge/Multifaith Works this past January, ready, she says, to return to a leadership role and drawn to “the human services, direct services” that the organization provides. The former local director of NCJW (National Council of Jewish Women) and NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League), and program director for StandWithUs Northwest says she’s “honored that this organization chose me [to follow] in the footsteps of such great leaders” as previous director Rabbi Anson Laytner and founder Rev. Gwen Beighle.
Rosehedge/Multifaith Works provides housing, compassionate health care and psycho-social support services for people living with HIV/AIDS who are homeless and struggling with chemical dependency and mental health issues. It began in 1988 as two separate organizations, Rosehedge AIDS Housing and Multifaith AIDS Project of Seattle (which later changed its name to Multifaith Works).
When those organizations were founded, patients were dying quickly, “often ostracized and alone,” explains Lauren. “What we hear now…in the news is very little, except that [patients] are living.”
She feels like AIDS is on the back burner, but people need to be reminded that “the safety net is being cut due to the economy.” Her role is to help lead “the agency forward in a strategic planning process” that will determine “where we will go over the next three to five years.” Understanding insurance changes brought by the Affordable Care Act is part of that job.
The south Florida native graduated from Boston University and decided to move to Seattle after seeing local scenery in the movie “Immediate Family.” She has a master’s degree in social work from the UW. Lauren, her husband and son attend Congregation Kol HaNeshemah in West Seattle.
Before NCJW, Lauren worked at Temple B’nai Torah and helped their social action committee form a “CareTeam,” which worked with Multifaith Works.
“Currently there are no synagogue-based CareTeams, and I’m excited to reconnect the Jewish community with our work,” she says.
A CareTeam training is scheduled for April 27, and June 2 is the organization’s 25th anniversary celebration and fundraiser at Temple De Hirsch Sinai. Find information at the website, www.rosehedge.org.
The Seattle Jewish Homeschoolers’ Hanukkah party featured local musical group the Sababas, who are hiding in the back row. (Photo courtesy Deb Harrick)
The words “Jewish” and “homeschooling” are not frequently seen together, especially outside of the Orthodox community, but the idea appealed to North Seattle resident Deb Harrick the moment it was planted in her head.
“It was such an unusual thing…I was always explaining [it],” says Deb, adding there is no one way to homeschool. Homeschoolers are like Jews, she jokes, with three opinions for two people.
Deb and Tod Harrick’s kids, Jasmine, 9, and Eliana, 7, have never attended a conventional school. When Jasmine was a baby, they joined a cooperative preschool at North Seattle Community College. Deb was getting a teaching certificate (which is not the case for all homeschooling parents).
“I loved being a mom [and] being with the kids so much” that Tod suggested it, she says. “I never even thought about it or knew about it.” But it made sense. “We had always done things a little bit different anyway.”
She discovered Seattle Homeschool Group (SHG) with a couple hundred families, an active listserve, regular meetings, and classes for kids at a community center. She has been actively involved for eight years. “It’s the only secular game in town,” explains the North Seattle native, an alumna of Hale High School and the University of Washington. Most homeschoolers belong to faith-based communities.
A different issue arose around the kids’ formal Jewish education. “It felt really hard to make the homeschooling choice,” especially with the Seattle Jewish Community School in the neighborhood.
“I’m leaving community behind,” Deb remembers feeling. “It was sort of bittersweet.”
Having worked for Jewish federations, United Jewish Appeal and active in Judaism since her teen years in BBYO, Deb yearned for a Jewish component to education. She also currently teaches music at Kadima’s Sunday school.
By chance, the family went to a Congregation Beth Shalom event where she learned of another liberal Jewish homeschooling family.
Deb says she was “in heaven,” and she quickly started the Seattle Jewish Homeschoolers group, which includes a number of SHG families, several of whom had not been actively Jewish before.
The Harricks have hosted a number of holiday-related events, including a homeschool seder and a Hanukkah party. Deb estimates there are 35 to 40 families involved. Twenty came to the last event. “It’s still a small group,” but it is outgrowing their house.
The whole family enjoys acting, and their flexible schedule allows for weekday afternoon rehearsals. Jasmine appeared recently in “The Music Man” at the 5th Avenue Theater (see the MOT column “We love our music and we love our food,” Feb. 8, 2013), and you can see the whole family this summer in Kitsap Forest Theater’s spring-summer musical, “Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.”
For more information, contact email@example.com
• • •
Joseph Abolafia, left, with his dad, Jack. (Photo courtesy Joseph Abolafia)
“What should we talk about, business or charity?” Joseph Abolafia asked me when I called him last week at Salon Joseph, his hair salon. Since the Seattle native had just finished running the annual City of Hope (COH) fundraising Mah Jongg tournament, we started there.
The tournament, held at Bellevue’s Temple B’nai Torah, raised $8,000 for diabetes research at the California charitable hospital.
COH has been an Abolafia family affair. “My mother [Betty] was involved in City of Hope,” before her death from cancer, says Joseph, and he and his two sisters, Marilyn Shulman and Vicki Lynn Babani were inspired by her. Even Joseph’s dad, Jack, is a member.
The tournament “is my big project every year,” Joseph adds.
The Franklin High graduate grew up at Sephardic Bikur Holim and has been a member there in his own right since the age of 20.
“I feel a real connection to my community,” he says. “My family all grew up there.”
Going directly to beauty school from high school, Joseph says, “I knew I wanted to be a hairdresser.” He opened his first salon at age 23 in downtown Seattle and his current salon in 1985.
Still at the same location, Salon Joseph will be doubling in size in its first-ever expansion and will be ready to open in about two weeks. They were able to take over the space next door and “the timing with the economy is good,” Joseph says, explaining that, “truthfully, the hair business is fairly stable in bad times.
“People need their hair done,” whether they’re working or job hunting. Plus, the salon’s clientele is “a little more established,” better able to weather the vagaries of the economy.
You can read more about Joseph and his employees at www.salonjoseph.com, and more about City of Hope at
Julie Morris, who was recently appointed to the board of the Hadassah Foundation. (Photo courtesy Julie Morris)
When I called Spokane resident Julie Morris just before Passover, she was hands deep in matzoh ball batter and revealed she makes two recipes in advance, half fluffy and half “bombs,” to suit the whole family’s tastes.
A long-time member of the national board of Hadassah, Julie was recently appointed to the board of the Hadassah Foundation, something she’s very excited about. On the national board Julie developed expertise in fundraising and strategic planning that she brings to the foundation.
“I love the idea [of the foundation] because it allows Hadassah, in a different way, a different system, to provide opportunities to young girls and women,” she says.
She’ll attend her first meeting is in New York in June.
Hadassah primarily supports Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO), the two-campus research and clinical hospital in Jerusalem. Half of all Israeli medical research originates from HMO, Julie points out.
The foundation “improve[s] the status, health and well-being of women and girls,” according to its website (www.hadassah.org/foundation), mostly in Israel. They might support “a foundation that deals with bullying” or the status of Orthodox women, explains Julie. Foundation fundraising is separate from Hadassah chapter fundraising and its board is half Hadassah members, half from the wider community.
“It gives us wider exposure to what is going on in the world,” adds Julie.
Julie grew up on Seattle’s Beacon Hill, a member of the extended Brenner Brothers Bakery family. A graduate of Cleveland High School, she met her husband Jeff (a Franklin alum), when they were active in the AZA and BBG Jewish youth groups. Moving to Spokane about 40 years ago for Jeff’s work, they assumed they would return, but “we settled in and we love it.” Plus, she adds, “we can get to Seattle whenever we want.”
Spokane has “a wonderful…[and] very active Jewish community where everyone pulls together,” Julie says. The main synagogue is Temple Beth Shalom, with its close-knit intergenerational community, “and there is a small but active Hadassah chapter,” she says. Julie was active in the synagogue when her three sons were growing up and is more active again as her grandchildren begin to attend Hebrew school.
• • •
Chef and new cookbook author Becky Selengut. (Photo by Clare Barboza)
My conversation with private chef Becky Selengut was so entertaining that I wasn’t surprised when, at the end, she revealed she is branching into stand-up comedy.
Becky was raised in New Jersey and says that although she was a picky eater as a child, she was open to new tastes. One of her favorite childhood food memories is the Hillel sandwich — matzoh, charoset and horseradish — of the seder table. She also recalls fondly “the spread” of smoked fish, bagels and knishes picked up at Russ and Daughters Deli and eaten at her grandmother’s lakeside house with her home-grown tomatoes.
“This is where I found my love of fish, I think,” says the author of “Good Fish,” her first cookbook about sustainable seafood, which is about to head into its third printing.
“I wanted to be a surgeon,” says Becky, who spent some time in medical school. Always “interested in health and nutrition and how food makes people feel,” she says, she made a hobby of cooking lavish dinner parties. Much to her family’s chagrin, she dropped out of med school and went to culinary school.
She finds some skills are transferable, especially when she does food styling.
“I have my forceps and my tweezers,” to precisely arrange food for photography. “It’s kind of like surgery,” she observes wryly, “for one-64th of the money.” Plus, as a chef, she adds, “no one is unhappy to see me.”
The recession convinced Becky to branch out and now she’s added restaurant consulting, recipe development, and writing for Edible Seattle magazine to her repertoire. She teaches cooking at Bastyr University, PCC and other local schools and just signed a contract for her second cookbook on mushrooms.
“Fish and mushrooms are my two areas of expertise in cooking,” she says.
By the way, “don’t eat raw mushrooms,” Chef Becky advises. They all “have a small level of toxins when they’re raw.”
And about that comedy: She and food writer Matthew Amster-Burton have started a comedy podcast — rated R — called Closed for Logging, which you can find on the website of that name. It has a talk-show format and they’ve had a lot of Jewish guests.
“There seems to be something with Jews and comedy,” Becky observes.
You can find more about Becky and her book at www.cornucopiacuisine.com.
Joe and David Munden, who are on their way to the Maccabiah Games in Israel this summer as part of the U.S. karate team. (Photo: Lisa Munden)
A friend with cancer says her doctor is “the singing oncologist.” Recently, he sang the Misheberach (prayer for healing) with her.
Intrigued, I called Dr. Sheldon Goldberg of Minor and James Medical in Seattle to ask if he sings to all his patients. He does if he thinks they’re receptive. He’d sung to a patient that morning, he said, “a song from the ‘70s called ‘Baby It’s You.’” The choices are “relevant to the occasion…Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead,” but not exactly up to date. “My repertoire ends with Stevie Wonder,” although an occasional Adele song might creep in.
Jewish patients may be serenaded with the 23rd psalm (“The Lord is my shepherd”) and he’s sung in Hebrew to religious non-Jewish patients. “I think they’ve liked it,” he says.
In a video on the Minor and James website, Goldberg explains that he sees patients as friends, taking his cues more from Maimonides than Hippocrates. In the twelfth century, Maimonides advised that the patient was not a “vessel of disease,” but a human being.
Growing up in the East Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, Sheldon went to Stuyvesant High School, Brooklyn College, and NYU medical school. He met his wife, Seattle-native Karen Trieger, when they both worked in Washington, D.C. “My wife brought me to Seattle,” he explains.
The two met at a party on the auspicious 15th of Av, a lesser-known Jewish holiday of love — the Talmud says on this date “young people are supposed to meet.” The couple was recently honored by Seattle Hebrew Academy where Karen went to school and where her family has been involved for generations.
A board member of Bikur Cholim Machzikay Hadath, Sheldon, better known as Shlomo among friends, leads a weekly Shabbat Talmud class there, teaching in Yiddish, his first language.
“My parents were Holocaust survivors,” he explains, “people who came directly from the shtetl.” Sheldon’s father was one of 60 survivors of the Treblinka uprising and met Sheldon’s mother while they were hiding in the woods. Teaching the class gives him the chance to preserve a little of that shtetl heritage.
Sheldon’s passion for his profession is palpable. “My great interest is in helping people and using every resource that I have to do so.”
• • •
Until about seven years ago, David Munden hadn’t practiced karate since childhood.
Now he is coach of the Maccabi USA karate team. Along with almost 1,100 other U.S. participants, he is headed to Israel in July for the international Maccabiah games.
David’s kids led him back to karate, he explains. His older son Benzion had expressed an interest back then, and David asked his younger son Joseph to come along. Joseph agreed only if Dad came, too.
It was Joseph, though, who took to the sport and now he’s on the Maccabiah team.
Both father and son have competed locally and nationally, and David was approached by Maccabi USA (www.maccabiusa.com) four years ago to compete. That didn’t work out, but he knew Joseph would be the right age for this year’s games.
Now 37, and nursing a couple of injuries, David told Maccabi USA he couldn’t compete this time, but wanted to be involved. The organization suggested he apply to coach. He did and was named head coach.
That got Joseph, almost 16, “even more pumped up about the whole thing.”
A Buckley resident, David had never heard of the Maccabiah Games until four years ago. Father and son train with the Japan Karate Federation Northwest at the Auburn Valley YMCA. “Our karate friends and family have been extremely supportive.”
He’s now reaching out to the Jewish community, in part to raise awareness and excitement, and to meet fundraising goals. He’s set up a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/mundenmaccabiah) to communicate with supporters and a benefit concert is tentatively scheduled for April 7 at Louie G’s Pizza in Fife.
The Seattle native who attended Camp Gan Israel as a child is eager for his first visit to Israel. “It’s been one of the things on my bucket list,” he says, “and to do it coupled with a sport that I love,” and with his son, adds to the fun.
Teams will be in-country from July 10 to August 1, spending the first week touring and participating in community service. “Part of it is a pilgrimage, connecting young Jews back to Israel,” he observes.
JustCity administrator Aliyah Vinikoor. (Photo courtesy Aliyah Vinikoor)
As a new member of the Jewish Theological Seminary’s administrative team, Aliyah Vinikoor is looking forward to implementing the school’s JustCity social justice summer program for high school juniors and seniors “who have demonstrated a commitment to social change,” according to its website.
The Seattle native took the post of assistant dean of List College, the university’s undergraduate college, last year, directing the Fellowship for Jewish Social Entrepreneurship.
This is the first professional Jewish organization position for Aliyah, who grew up at Congregation Ezra Bessaroth and taught in its religious school. With a BA from Barnard and MSW from Hunter College, she worked for many years running shelters for homeless LGBT youth in New York City.
Aliyah says she’s excited about JustCity, which launches this summer. The school had always offered an academic summer program, but the social justice curriculum is new.
“High school students are already involved in this kind of social change work,” she says, and the program can give them the leadership tools they need. Plus, she adds, “New York in the summer is such a fun place to be.”
It’s a hybrid program, combining learning and action at the core of “Jewish tradition,” says Aliyah. “You learn in order to do.”
While she misses Seattle and the work-life balance she sees here, New York is “a really exciting place to be.”
“A huge swath of diverse communities” allows for an increasing grassroots movement in interfaith work and there is increased environmental consciousness.
“I’m part of the Jewish Greening Fellowship,” Aliyah notes. She also goes to concerts and a lot of gallery openings, and is active in the Jewish meditation community in Brooklyn, where she lives.
“It’s easy to get booked up,” she says.
• • •
Bonnie Rochman reads the Time Magazine with her cover story. (Photo: Joel Magalnick)
The cute baby on the cover of the Dec. 24, 2012 issue of Time Magazine may have caught your attention, but you probably didn’t know that the author of the cover story is Seattle’s Bonnie Rochman.
Bonnie writes a daily blog for Time called “Family Matters,” which she calls “a mix of research and culture, pop culture, society, current events” on parenting and related issues. She’s blogged since 2010, but this was her first cover story.
It came from an on-line series she did on genome sequencing in children, she explains, a five-part series that appeared on Time.com. The cover story was slated for November, “but then the Petraeus story broke,” she says, and it was bumped.
It was really exciting when it finally came out, Bonnie recalls, despite “a fair amount of stress involved with the whole production,” but she got a lot of great feedback from family and friends who saw the magazine in gas stations and airports around the country and sent her pictures.
A news correspondent for many years, Bonnie has reported from the Middle East, Myanmar and Vietnam for the Boston Globe, and for the Jerusalem Report and Fortune. She was at the News Observer in Raleigh, N.C., about eight years ago when they assigned her a new parenting blog.
“Newspapers were starting to realize that [they had to] stay current,” she says.
She wrote about her kids, “but not in a ‘my kids are so cute’ kind of way, more in a ‘trying to connect with other parents and talk about universal challenges’ way,” she says.
Bonnie was already a Time freelancer when the magazine launched its Healthland website and asked her to write about parenting. She blogs daily, which can be stressful, but still fun.
“I learn lots of new things [and] I get to talk to lots of very smart people, that’s my favorite part,” she says.
Growing up in a tight-knit Jewish community in North Carolina, Bonnie met her husband, Dov Pinker, when she studied at Hebrew University for a year. Dov, Bonnie and kids Aviv, Shira and Orli moved to Seattle in 2010 when Dov took a job here. They’ve become active members of Congregation Beth Shalom, where Bonnie coordinates the synagogue’s annual family camp. The weather’s been the biggest adjustment.
“We understand why people drop everything when the sun comes out,” she says.
They’ve been bitten by the Pacific Northwest camping bug, too.
“We moved here with no gear whatsoever and now we have Therm-a-Rests galore,” laughs Bonnie. “We didn’t even know that word when we moved out here!”
Sandy Kraus (Photo courtesy Sandy Kraus)
“If you have [a] passion, which I do in politics, then it’s not a job, it’s wonderful,” says Sandy Kraus, the volunteer state public affairs (SPA) chair for the National Council of Jewish Women’s Seattle section.
NCJW, a national women’s political advocacy organization, has surprisingly deep local roots. The Seattle chapter was formed in 1900 by “Mrs. Bailey Gatzert” (Babette) with Dollie Degginger elected president. NCJW also founded the immigrant-aid organization Settlement House, which became the now-independent Neighborhood House.
An SPA chair is the liaison between local NCJW members and the national office, which provides information about political issues. Sandy communicates with members through regular emails, urging them to write to newspapers and contact state and local officials about their concerns. She was appointed to that job almost 10 years ago after serving as president of the Seattle section and then as a national commissioner.
Reducing gun violence is a hot button issue for NCJW, as are women’s reproductive rights, she says. “Issues that relate to children’s welfare, domestic violence, safety for families,” and welfare reform are topics that “speak to our mission of helping women, children, and families,” Sandy says.
Sandy also keeps tabs on local politics and reports to the national office. She and other NCJW members serve on political coalitions with similar interests, and she sits on the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle’s government affairs committee.
With no paid staff currently, volunteers handle all the work for the Seattle section, which serves the whole state.
Newly retired from a project management job at the City of Seattle, Sandy is looking forward to traveling more with her husband. In addition to her political activism, the Pittsburgh native organizes and runs the monthly birthday parties at the Caroline Kline Galland home, for which she’s always looking for entertainment. If you’d like to volunteer or have ideas, please contact her at 206-232-2591. There’s more NCJW information at
• • •
Attorney Marc Mayo at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. (Photo courtesy Marc Mayo)
The third presidential debate pushed Marc Mayo over the edge.
As an attorney, Marc had been recruited by a friend to be an election observer, but he hadn’t made a decision about it.
After watching Mitt Romney in the debate, “I decided that I can’t let this guy win.” Having been a prosecutor, Marc says, “I can tell, usually, when someone’s lying and…he was lying through his teeth.”
Marc volunteered for the Obama campaign’s Organizing for America, and after training was sent to Palm Beach and Broward Counties in Florida.
There, his duties included poll watching, where he witnessed the much-reported long lines of voters waiting to cast ballots — the result of reduced polling hours, removal of Sunday voting, and complicated ballot initiatives. Observers, who are required to be attorneys, and voters stood in the sun for hours. Marc wasn’t complaining about the weather, a welcome relief from winter, but many voters were elderly or infirm.
What impressed him most was “the willingness of people to stand in line.” He expected many to give up, but most voters waited patiently in the heat. “I think there was a backlash,” against reduced voting opportunities, he said. “People said, ‘you’re not going to stop me from voting.’” Marc notes that post-election research shows that up to 50,000 people may have been discouraged from voting by the lines.
In addition to addressing legal issues and documenting problems, volunteers helped “with cheerleading [and] helping people stay in line,” which sometimes involved getting chairs or water for voters.
Marc also observed ballot counting in the election commissioner’s office, where “I saw the actual ‘hanging chad’ room,” he says. Because of a printing error, about 30,000 Palm Beach County ballots had to be re-marked by election workers. One employee would complete a fresh ballot and another would verify it. A Democrat and a Republican volunteer observed workers, “making sure they were acting in an ethical and legal manner.” Observers couldn’t talk to the workers or each other.
Of hundreds of ballots, Marc only saw two errors. “It’s very secure” and “very tedious,” he says, and he has new respect for election workers. And he says he won’t vote for write-in candidates again. It creates “a lot of extra work.”
Marc, who has worked for the criminal division of the Seattle City Attorney’s office since 1990, says, “it was really fascinating, I’m glad I did it…I would do it again.”
Nine-year-old Jasmine Harrick, sitting front and center, is part of the cast of the 5th Avenue Theatre’s production of “Music Man.” (Photo: Jeff Carpenter)
When you see “The Music Man” at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theater (starting Feb. 7), keep your eye on 9-year-old Jasmine Harrick. The North Seattle resident plays Gracie Shinn in her first professional stage production. Getting the part first involved an open audition with 400 other kids, plus two callbacks, a process that took so long she was sure she wouldn’t get the role.
“I was really surprised,” she says.
Jasmine started acting lessons when she was 5 and this is the third musical she’s appeared in. She played Pepper in "Annie" in drama school Broadway Bound’s production last year, and this past summer her whole family — mom Deb, dad Tod, and sister Eliana — were in Kitsap Forest Theater’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof.”
Jasmine’s favorite parts of “Music Man” so far are the dances for “Shapoopie” and “76 Trombones,” and her favorite song is “Iowa Stubborn” (me, too!). Jas, as her family calls her, took up tap dancing this year, and in her free time she enjoys climbing “just about anything,” and, she adds, “I really love art.”
As a homeschooled student, Jasmine has an easier time fitting her schoolwork into the demanding rehearsal schedule than the other kids in the production, which includes Josh Feinsilber, who was featured in this column in November.
The Harricks are members of Temple Beth Am, but as Deb teaches at Kadima, the sisters go to religion school there.
“We have a rich Jewish life in our home,” says Mom, and, no surprise, “we’re always singing.”
• • •
Adam Gold and the object of his expertise: Turkey. (Photo: Katherine W. Kehrli)
I ended my interview with Adam Gold craving Thanksgiving dinner with all the fixin’s.
The long-time Woodinville resident and I talked turkey, specifically about Gobble, his all-turkey-all-the-time restaurant in the Woodgate Mall there. Gobble opened just in time for Thanksgiving last year, and though you can always get turkey with trimmings, Adam says it’s about more than just that holiday.
“For those who aren’t into [Thanksgiving], we’re doing a whole Italian thing,” he told me the week we spoke. “Yesterday we did a turkey cacciatore,” and a turkey “osso bucco” sold out quickly.
It’s all, he says, “about the bird.” Whole Foster Farms birds, provided by Costco, are slow roasted on-site daily and are the basis of most of what is served there, which depends on the day and either Adam’s or the chef’s whim. Diners order at the counter, watch their meals prepared, then sit at communal farmhouse-style tables. Turkey sandwiches are a permanent fixture and Adam spoke glowingly of the turkey potpie made on premises, and delectable desserts, including chocolate cake, bread pudding and, of course, pumpkin pie.
Adam does like to cook — link to his YouTube cooking videos at the restaurant site www.gobblerestaurant.com — but he’s discovered that restaurant ownership is about much more than food. The day we spoke he was working on an employee manual, “86 pages of bureaucratic fun,” he says. The experience has been “an adventure and an education.”
The Southern California native moved to the Northwest about 30 years ago because he liked the seasonal weather. A former marketing executive, he worked in the television industry on production and market research and “spent a lot of time on airplanes.” After working for the Food Network, “I got tired of telling people what to cook and tried to do it myself,” he says, and gave catering a shot.
“People would say, ‘You ought to open a restaurant,’” so he did.
When he’s not working at “the store,” he does enjoy cooking for family and friends, and spending time with his kids, ages 20, 16 and 13. And no, they don’t work at the restaurant.
• • •
At Congregation Beth Shalom a few weeks ago I found myself talking to two people about whom I had made errors in this column. The first has already been corrected on the contents page of a previous issue, but winemaker Stan Zeitz pointed out that I’d made him a World War II, rather than a Vietnam War, veteran. “I’m not that old!” he said. And I meant no slight to his wife, Nancy, and his daughter, Deb Lawson, or any other friends or family members, all of whom spend many hours helping when the grapes come in!
Arik Korman and The Brain
1. Although executive directors of radio shows usually stay behind the scenes, you can often hear Arik Korman on air during the Bob Rivers morning radio talk show on KJR-FM in Seattle (and on the web). He describes his on-air persona as “traveling philosopher, walking encyclopedia.”
Arik (pronounced “Eric”) worked his way up at KIRO radio before the show moved to KJR in 2011, but he got to radio in a roundabout way.
Originally planning to be a doctor, he headed to University of California, San Diego after graduating Redlands High School. Once there, “the areas I really enjoyed were visual arts and French,” he said. “So I just did a reboot,” and he left school.
Heading to Seattle to visit family and see Expo 86 in Vancouver, B.C., he was blown away by the beauty of “the South Sound, and the islands and the mountains and the trees,” that he saw from the airplane. It was not the gray, rainy place he’d been told it was, and he decided to move here.
After a variety of jobs — in retail, as a bank teller, and a political canvasser — Arik realized that he enjoyed talking to people and wondered how to get paid to do that. “It dawned on me: I should do radio,” he said. He enrolled in the now defunct National Broadcasting School, which netted him exactly one job interview. It was in Wenatchee, in winter, and required him to rent a car and buy chains to get over the pass.
He didn’t get the job.
Eventually he did get a temporary position there. That led to a weekend job in Seattle screening calls for advice shows on then-KING 1090. Bored during downtime, “I started grabbing newspaper or magazine articles and rewriting them for broadcast,” Arik says. He continued to get more duties — including on-air stints when anchors were ill — eventually landing at KIRO radio working with Jim French. He stayed nine years, becoming executive producer of all talk programs.
His association with Rivers began with KIRO’s effort to attract younger listeners. Arik invited Rivers, a KISW DJ, to come over and eventually he did.
The Bob Rivers Show features seven on-air personalities, including news anchor Jodi Brothers (featured as an MOT, “Radio personality not afraid to say she’s from New Jersey,” Jan. 23, 2009), Bob Spike and “Downtown” Joe Bryant. Spike heads the station band “Spike and the Impalers.” Arik recently took up the bass guitar and has been able to play a few gigs with them.
The show is a big supporter of World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization. All staff members sponsor children (Arik sponsors five) through the international charity, and run an annual on-air fundraiser. “Our listeners are contributing $1.8 million per year,” he says, funding agricultural development, healthcare, school supplies, and microloans in Africa and India.
“We have a physical trip to the field every year,” says Arik, who has been to India and Senegal and is thinking of going to Africa again.
When he’s not working, Arik and his wife Monique keep busy with their 3-1/2-year-old son. When time permits, he enjoys playing tennis, and he says, “I love Washington wine.” Arik says he’s also very community driven. “When I meet someone, I want to leave them better off than when I found them,” he says. “It’s one of my driving mantras.”
You can read about Arik’s recent India trip at www.BobRivers.com under the “blogs” tab.
2. On the visual side of broadcasting is Seattle-native Steve Bunin, who has graced these pages before. Steve was a basketball coach and good friend of Ari Grashin, of blessed memory, a Northwest Yeshiva High School and Seattle Hebrew Academy student who died of leukemia in 2002. (The gym at Seattle Hebrew Academy carries his name.) When Steve married his wife, Viviane, in Brazil in 2005, we heard about Viviane’s discovery of, and return to, her Jewish roots (“A story of love, loss, and recovered identity,” Apr. 29, 2005).
Now, after nine years as a host on ESPN, Steve, Viviane and their 3-year-old, Gabriela, have moved to Houston where Steve has joined Comcast SportsNet. He will be lead anchor for the 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. editions of “SportsNet Central” and also report for “CSN Houston.”
Steve has continued his passion for coaching and mentoring at-risk teens, and will take this up again in Houston. He received a Presidential Service Award in 2012 for his volunteer work.
“It started over a dinner conversation a few years ago,” recalls Jeffrey Kay. “We were talking about…[taking] virtual communities and somehow [creating]…real community,” and then taking “advantage of it for the Jewish community.”
Jeffrey wanted to see if he could make this work, so the Microsoft programmer and Herzl-Ner Tamid member set up a Shabbat dinner Facebook community for greater Seattle. But that effort, he says, “didn’t work out.”
Then inspiration struck and the Shabbat Dinner Crowd (www.shabbatdinnercrowd.com) was formed.
Its success comes from being a “self-perpetuating community,” says Jeffrey. Many synagogue or Jewish Community Center programs fail, he observes, because they need a dedicated organizer.
“For a long-running thing, it’s not necessarily the right model,” he says.
It’s easy to subscribe on the website, which puts you on a closed-loop email list that provides privacy. Instructions are clearly posted on the site. Hosts initiate dinners by posting the date and providing paper goods, challah, wine and drinks. RSVPs are essential, dress is informal, kids are welcome, and food is usually dairy or parve, as a small minority keep kosher.
“We’ve had everything from pizza to elaborate fish dishes,” says Jeffrey, who adds that hosts lead the Shabbat prayers, “but we don’t bentsch [say grace after meals].”
There can be three dinners in a row, or fewer than one a month, and the community continues to expand. Right now, it’s primarily Eastsiders, but Jeffrey is hoping Seattle, Bellingham or Tacoma contingents will grow.
A profile of Jeffrey in these pages a few years ago focused on his interest in motorcycles and another Jewish community, The Tribe motorcycle club. The Virginia native, who admits he’s still getting used to Northwest weather, is also an avid bicycle rider and CrossFit enthusiast.
“I believe it’s very important to provide places for Jews to get together around common interests” both in and outside of the synagogue or community center, he says. A lot of the Shabbat Dinner Crowd participants never set foot in a synagogue, so this gathering also provides an alternative to our area’s vast unaffiliated community.
“For the kids that attend, who knows how many Shabbat dinners they go to otherwise?” asks Jeffrey. “To bring a little candle lighting and kiddush into someone’s house…it’s a huge, huge win.”
• • •
It’s a JT Bar Mitzvah for Stuart Fitelson, a.k.a. “Seattle Stu.” Stu first appeared in this paper’s pages 13 years ago in a feature about the active athletic life of the then 67 year old. Back then, the one-time tennis pro was playing tennis, basketball, baseball and hockey in local leagues and competing frequently, sometimes nationally.
Not much has changed for the father of four and grandfather of two, although he admits to a bit of slowing. At 80, he plays all those sports and sells insurance from his downtown office, which is decorated with sports memorabilia.
Stu’s longest involvement is with basketball. He started playing in junior high and now plays in the over-50 league at Seattle’s Washington Athletic Club. He took up ice hockey when he moved here in the mid-1990s, although he did play on “a pond in Rhode Island” as a kid.
A jazz aficionado, Stu peppered our conversation with songs, although by his own admission he’s not much of a singer. When I asked if he went to synagogue, he answered with a few bars of “Give Me That Old Time Religion.” A regular at Seattle’s New Orleans Restaurant, he says he once auditioned informally for late bandleader Lionel Hampton, who was playing at Jazz Alley. (“Hamp” rejected him.)
In addition to his “four-and-a-half sports” — the half being the 100 meter race he runs annually in the Northwest Senior Games — Stu took up playing the drums about five years ago and has even played a few paid gigs with some local musicians.
“I was looking in the ‘Seattle Weekly’ to see who was playing in the clubs, and I see this two-line thing, ‘expert drum lessons.’” he says. “A day or two later, I’m taking my first lesson.”
Stu is a model for technology use in his age group, too. He has a website (www.seattlestu.com) where you can read a lot more about his long and active life, and he tweets from @StuFitelson.
1 Comedian and actor Adam Ray says he tells people he’s from Shoreline because if he says he’s from Lake Forest Park he’s accused of making the place up.
The native of that small Seattle suburb went to Shorecrest High School, where “I quit football to play Danny Zuko in ‘Grease,’” Adam says. “My coach was not too happy.”
He continued his drama education at University of Southern California, and spent a year in London studying and performing Shakespeare.
Now based in L.A., Adam spends much of his time writing material for and performing his irreverent comedy stand-up act, but “I always consider myself an actor first,” he says, auditioning whenever possible. “I’ve auditioned for probably thousands of things for the last four years.”
That landed him a part in “The Heat,” the new Sandra Bullock–Melissa McCarthy buddy cop movie coming out April 5. He plays a bad guy, “a douche-y club owner.”
Adam does a lot of ADR, Automated Dialog Replacement or dubbing, used to modify a film’s soundtrack without having to bring in the original actor (removing cursing from TV adaptations of movies, for example). He regularly dubs for Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck and others. Voiceovers for animation, video games and commercials keep him busy, too.
“I recorded a Toyota commercial today,” he told me.
He maintains his website (www.adamraytv.com), produces videos, and says, “I’m always writing.”
When not working, he unwinds by playing basketball. If he needs a break, “I fly up to Seattle and play with my nieces,” and visits his mom and stepdad, actress Carolyn (Puddin') and George Cox, “an incredible support system.”
Adam misses the Pacific Northwest “for many reasons,” he says. “I try to book shows up there every few months.”
Catch him back home this weekend when he’s a special guest at Brad Williams’ show at Bellevue’s Parlor Live Comedy Club in Lincoln Square.
2 Sipping a lovely white wine in a friend’s sukkah a couple months ago, I was pleased to discover that I was chatting with the winemaker. Stan Zeitz, retired physician and dedicated Congregation Beth Shalom volunteer, has been part of a wine-making club since the late 1960s.
Born and raised on a poultry farm in Toms River, N.J., the army brought him to Ft. Lewis during World War II. After his residency, he and wife Nancy moved to Seattle for his fellowship at the University of Washington.
“We never left,” he observes, raising three kids in their Lake Forest Park home.
He and Nancy first made wine with a friend in 1966 and had so much fun they started their club the following year.
“We started very rough, just getting grapes, putting in yeast, letting it ferment,” he says.
Back then, it would take all day just to do a small batch of grapes with a hand wine press. Good fortune led them to an electric press being sold by a small local winery, and after that they could crush and de-stem a truckload of red grapes in about two hours.
While membership has waxed and waned, a core group has been there from the start, Stan says, including quite a few from our local Jewish community. Currently there are approximately 35 members, about a quarter of whom are original members’ offspring (including Stan’s son-in-law Craig Lawson).
“We’re waiting for the first grandchild to become a member,” says Stan.
The group meets twice a year, once when they decide which grapes to buy, and second for a dinner at which they serve their wine. In the fall they gather in the Zeitz’s garage to meet the truck delivering the grapes and start the crushing, stemming and fermenting process. The juice goes into carboys (very large jugs) and members takes their wine home to finish fermenting however they choose.
“It’s been a fun hobby and I’ve met some really nice guys,” Stan says.
(Even though women are members, and wives, girlfriends and daughters help with the winemaking, it’s the men who maintain a long-term interest.)
“These are some close friends,” he adds, from “all walks of life.”
Stan and Nancy, as you might guess, like to eat well. Their vegetable garden benefits from the must, or wine leavings, which makes great compost.
“I do the grilling,” says Stan, while Nancy handles the baking. They keep busy with home repairs and enjoying their sailboat. They also have nine grandchildren to keep track of.
“We have a policy for visiting each grandchild in college and going back for their graduation,” he says. So far, he adds, “we’re keeping up.”
Robin Rogel-Goldstein, who just won a second term as a vice president for the Women’s League of Conservative Judaism. (Photo: Briana Roberts)
It’s hard to have a phone, or even a Skype conversation with someone in rural Nicaragua, so my interview with Mercer Island High School grad Talia Langman, currently a Peace Corps volunteer in Nicaragua, was by email.
Talia is no stranger to travel. Born in California, her family moved to four different states, settling in the Seattle area when she was 13. She attended the Jewish Day School and spent a semester at the Alexander Muss High School in Israel, her mother’s home country.
Originally intending to be a doctor, Talia headed to Brandeis, but took a semester abroad with the School for International Training in the Brazilian Amazon. This “gave me direct exposure to the environmental and social issues affecting Brazil’s Amazon,” she wrote, and shifted her focus to international development.
After college she spent a year in Spain teaching English to at-risk youth, then travelled to India for a one-year fellowship with American Jewish World Service.
“I felt in order to make strides in development work I needed to be closely connected to the people and issues whose lives and situations I was attempting to improve,” she wrote, and the Peace Corps seemed like the logical next step.
A year between AJWS and the Peace Corps gave Talia the chance to live in New York City for a year, teaching English as a second language, interning at the Social Science Research Council, working in a restaurant kitchen, and tapping into one of her first loves, theater.
Now she works as a community health volunteer with the Ministry of Health in Pueblo Nuevo, Nicaragua. She helps educate youth about HIV/AIDS and sexual disease prevention, women about maternal and child health and the general population about sanitation and disease prevention.
“My daily interactions with community members” are her favorite part of the job, Talia writes. Her time is flexible, “which gives me freedom to explore and learn a great deal about my community.”
She adds, “a stint in the Peace Corps will inevitably push you out of your comfort zone,” but says even the challenges lead to “valuable growth and experience.”
Talia has met a few Jewish Peace Corps volunteers, but the tiny Nicaraguan Jewish community is primarily in the capital, far from her. Most of the villagers she meets have never met a Jew, and she enjoys the opportunity to share her religious and cultural heritage.
Talia will be in Nicaragua until March 2014, and while that’s a long way off, she admits she’s already thinking of the future. She plans to return to the states and “continue pursuing theater and development work.”
• • •
Earlier this month Bellevue resident Robin Rogel-Goldstein was installed for a second term as a vice president in the Women’s League for Conservative Judaism at its 2012 biennial convention. The league is the umbrella organization for women’s groups (read: Sisterhoods) at Conservative synagogues in North America, Great Britain and Israel.
Robin, whose family has lived in the Seattle area for 100 years, got involved in Herzl-Ner Tamid sisterhood when her kids started Hebrew school in the 3rd grade.
“I didn’t want to be one of the parents who [just] drops their kids off,” she recalls. “I wanted to show the kids that this was something I valued.”
Eventually she was asked to present a program at a regional conference and went on to become involved in many capacities both locally and regionally. After serving as membership chair of the region, she was asked to become an international board member and subsequently an international vice president, a position she’s held for two years.
“My portfolio is ways and means,” she explains, helping the region with fundraising and planning for the future, all things “necessary to keep our organization viable.”
This recent biennial convention was held in Las Vegas and Robin says “listening to the speakers and being inspired by the speakers” was one of the most exciting things about the meeting. She also enjoyed connecting and networking with women from “all over North America, England and Israel” to “share our stories and be part of a greater whole.”
When she’s not busy with the Women’s League, Robin is a B’nai Mitzvah tutor for Temple De Hirsch Sinai and a jewelry designer.
“The opportunity for connection and growth are really important to me in this organization,” says Robin of the League, “to build bridges, to build understanding, to support Israel and each other.”
Runners Amir Feinsilber, left, and Sabina Honig, center, with support person Becki Chandler at the “finish line” of the surrogate New York Marathon they ran in Issaquah after Hurricane Sandy cancelled the race. (Photo: Henry Honig)
Hurricane Sandy wreaked destruction in the Northeast, but in Issaquah it caused two neighbors to meet.
Growing up in Kew Gardens, Queens, Sabina Honig had dreamed of running the New York Marathon since she was 10. She didn’t start running until about 2001, trying to get back in shape after her son was born.
There are a few ways to get into the world’s most famous marathon, but the most common way is through a lottery. She had entered that lottery unsuccessfully a few times when she still lived back east. Then she tried again this year and secured a spot.
The Microsoft employee learned she wasn’t going even before the race was cancelled because her flight — and all flights — was cancelled first.
“ I was really upset,” she says. In addition to running, she was anxious to see her family. “There was a lot of emotion around this trip… I trained for so long. It was such a huge letdown.”
Then she wondered, “What would make me feel better?”
And that, she realized, was “to run the marathon, and do it in such a way that it would have some tie to New York,” said. “To help people.”
She decided to run the marathon here as a fundraiser for the American Red Cross hurricane relief efforts. She solicited pledges and donations, and her friend Becki Chandler offered to be her support person, carrying water and other supplies on her bike.
Becki, who works at the American Jewish Committee, is a Northwest native who grew up in Bothell. She and Sabina met at a Shabbat dinner soon after Sabina moved here. She says that a 26-mile bike ride is average for her.
“I was glad I had the opportunity to help out a friend who had set this goal …and wasn’t able to get there,” reflects Becky. “She took lemons and made lemonade.”
Looking for company, Sabina posted a notice about her run on the Issaquah Highlands Facebook page. Amir Feinsilber stepped up.
Israeli-born, Chicago-bred Amir is a former video game programmer who founded The Force Realty (he once worked with George Lucas). He, his wife Stacey and three kids, Hannah, Joshua and Benjamin, moved here from Las Vegas about three years ago. A serious runner who clocks eight to 10 miles each day, and runs one to two marathons a year, Amir says Sabina’s notice touched him because he was also concerned for his own friends and family in the Northeast.
“The devastation…[was] really disheartening,” he says, and he adds, “I’m a sucker for a challenge as well.” He only committed to running 10 miles of the route, because he had not trained for a marathon.
On Nov. 4, the scheduled day of the New York race, Sabina, Amir and Becki started out from the Issaquah Highlands, heading through downtown Issaquah, along Lake Sammamish into a bit of Bellevue, and looping back to downtown Issaquah.
At 13 miles, Amir had the option of peeling off and heading to Temple B’nai Torah where his kids were in Sunday school (and where Sabina’s husband Henry Honig teaches) and Stacey could get him. But he kept going and completed the 26 miles.
• • •
Josh Feinsilber, front right, onstage in the Village Theater’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” (Photo courtesy Village Theater)
Speaking of Issaquah, fans of its Village Theater may recognize the name Feinsilber. Josh Feinsilber, Amir’s middle son, is currently in “Fiddler on the Roof,” which is getting rave reviews.
Amir says Josh showed an early and natural ability for the stage, taking direction well and engaging the audience. “I’m not just saying this because I’m his father,” he laughs.
Josh got the theater bug when the family still lived in Las Vegas, appearing in a “KidShine” show and singing in their synagogue choir.
Josh says his favorite part of Fiddler “would have to be” the wedding scene because “there’s dancing and a lot of action.”
The budding young actor, a 6th grader at Pacific Cascade Middle School, says his favorite subject is Language Arts. He works hard to manage his schoolwork and get good grades even while he is in a show.
Josh is also excited about his upcoming role at Seattle’s Fifth Avenue Theater, when he will play Winthrop in their 2013 production of “Music Man,” reprising a part he also played at the Village Theater.
Fiddler plays in Issaquah through the end of December and in Everett through the end of January. More information is at www.villagetheatre.org.
Mike Halperin and Jodi Green. (Courtesy Jodi Green)
I only recently noticed that the children’s section of my local Northeast Seattle Public Library branch was designated the “Jodi Green and Mike Halperin Children’s Area.”
My curiosity piqued, I tracked down Jodi who says she and Mike “love words, books and a lifelong pursuit of learning,” calling themselves “library groupies” who visit libraries wherever they are.
“I’ve always been a very strong believer and supporter of public libraries,” she told me, as “a free community resource offering a quiet place for the pursuit of knowledge where everyone is welcomed equally.” So when the Libraries for All campaign was underway in the late 1990s, she and Mike were asked to make a donation.
“We ended up doubling our gift,” says Jodi. To acknowledge it, the library put their names on a space of their choosing. (Jodi thinks their names are a tad large, but I had never noticed them before last month.)
They were living on Capitol Hill at the time, but the couple chose to be honored at the Northeast branch which they frequented when their kids were little. Those kids are now in high school and college, but Jodi says she “still brings home library books for the entire family.”
An “equal opportunity library visitor,” Jodi checks out books from branches around the city, whichever is closest. “I’m a totally wanna-be librarian,” she adds.
Currently she’s reading the Steve Jobs biography and Mike is reading a book about the Norwegian explorer, Nansen.
Growing up in Sheepshead Bay, N.Y., Jodi was a regular at the Kingsbay Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. Mike grew up in North Seattle, went to Nathan Hale High School, and the couple met at Brown. After he decided to finish college at the University of Washington, she “followed him out here.”
The couple are active volunteers. Jodi serves on Seattle Public Library Foundation, University of Washington Foundation and Seattle Parks Foundation boards. Mike sits on the boards of Seattle JazzED, an after school community jazz education program, and is president of the board of Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences.
They agree that Andrew Carnegie’s words really explain their feelings about libraries: “There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration.”
• • •
Kayla Levin Braverman collected pajamas for New Beginnings homeless shelter for her Bat Mitzvah mitzvah project. Her project is featured in “The Mitzvah Project Book,” which came out last year. (Photo by Elizabeth Braverman)
As the title suggests, Liz Suneby and Diane Heiman, authors of The Mitzvah Project Book: Making Mitzvah Part of Your Bar/Bat Mitzvah...and Your Life, want to help kids put the “mitzvah” into their B’nai Mitzvah. The book offers practical ideas with real-life examples, which Diane told me they gathered through contact with rabbis, Jewish educators, family, and friends around the country.
A few kids from Seattle’s Congregation Beth Shalom, all of who attended the Seattle Jewish Community School, have projects in the book.
Beth Shalom doesn’t require kids to do a mitzvah project says Elizabeth Braverman, mom of Kayla Levin Braverman (p. 24) — it’s more of a tradition. Kayla collected new and gently used PJs to donate to New Beginnings homeless shelter, inspired by a talk that tzedakah maven Danny Siegel gave at her school.
Sophie Rittenberg (p. 141) also tied her project to homelessness, inspired by her Torah portion Lech Lecha, in which Sarai and Avram are told by God to leave their home. She tried, says her mom Elizabeth Davis, to imagine what it would be like for children to suddenly become homeless, and decided they might lack school supplies. She collected those for students of First Place School, which provides education and “wrap-around” social services for families in crisis.
A spaghetti feed for 118 was how Justin Coskey (p. 41) chose to support MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. “That day my mother, sister and I boiled 32 pounds of pasta, warmed 15 loaves of garlic bread, mixed six tubs of salad, and baked over 200 cookies,” wrote Justin in a 2010 issue of his congregation’s newsletter. He raised over $2,000.
“I had hoped to raise $500,” he added in an email. The money helped victims of the Haitian earthquake, which happened shortly before the dinner.
Can a sandwich be an M.O.T.? This one might. It’s Fat Ducks’ Reuben, hold the cheese. (Photo: Diana Brement)
That funky part of The Ave — Seattle’s University Avenue — above NE 50th St., has some fun restaurants, including Jaclyn Roth’s Fat Ducks Deli and Bakery in a converted house at 5509. Open for about a year, Fat Ducks has gotten high marks for corned beef, but the pastrami is delicious, too.
An energetic dynamo who baked, served and made sandwiches while we talked, Jaclyn learned about food working in her dad’s restaurant. He opened Don’s Drive-In restaurant near her Livingston, N.J., hometown, turning it into a 250-seat popular “gourmet deli restaurant” that earned a “best hamburger in the state” award.
“He was a great, great man,” says Jaclyn of her recently deceased dad. “He meant the world to me.” She got a lot of recipes from him and from his mother, a “typical Jewish mother” who thought her son was crazy, of course, to open a restaurant.
Don’s six kids all worked in the restaurant, but none took it over. After studying business at the University of New Hampshire, Jaclyn worked in the airline industry and moved to Seattle about 25 years ago. Eventually, she left the skies for cooking. She started working at another local restaurant, Blazing Bagels, when it was just a “hole in the wall” in Redmond — much like Fat Ducks is now. There she cooked and baked for owner Dennis Ballen, doing “the fun stuff,” so he could go out and sell.
Dennis is her “best friend,” Jaclyn says, a huge support, “an intricate part of this establishment [who] has helped me like you wouldn’t believe.” She uses his bagels and his pastrami supplier, and when Dennis visits his mom in California, he can’t show up without a batch of Jaclyn’s rugelach.
Speaking of rugelach, I sampled three flavors, including late food writer Eileen Mintz’s recipe from “Yesterday’s Maven’s, Today’s Foodies,” the Washington State Jewish Historical Society cookbook. Jaclyn also bakes black and white cookies (oh, Brooklyn, I can hear you calling!), hamentaschen, blondies, thick lemon bars, savory bagel chips and more. She doesn’t corn her own beef, but seasons it and re-bakes it on premises.
Jaclyn often works 12-hour days at this, her first business venture. She admits it’s risky, but she’s happy to take the chance. “I just jumped into this,” at the urging of friends, she says. “Life’s too short, so I just did it.”
With little time for hobbies or breaks, the self-confessed “workaholic” says when she gets too burned out she’ll jump on a plane to visit East Coast family, or to Hawaii, and “sleep and veg for a whole week.”
• • •
Mercer Island Councilwoman Tana Senn. (Photo: Tara Gimmer)
Ten months ago, Tana Senn was appointed to the Mercer Island city council. “It’s so great,” she says. “I love being able to see the tangible difference.” The L.A. native says she gets involved in the community wherever she moves.
When she was a new island resident, she “was amazed to see” that there were no women on the council. Concerned about some poor policy decisions, she helped get a new council member — a woman — elected. She volunteered on the city’s youth and family services department board, too, before she was appointed to the council.
From 2008 to 2010, Tana was the marketing and communications director at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle. She left to stay home with her kids, Ben, 10, and Rachel, 7, and calls this part-time job “a perfect combination.”
Some projects she”s worked on with the council are “repairing sidewalks, repairing the roads, no smoking in the park.” Island Crest Way, the island’s major arterial, now has wider sidewalks and a wider shoulder between cars and pedestrians. “Just walking my kids to [the local public] school I can see the difference [in safety],” she says.
Tana sits on the council’s utilities committee, too — “kind of wonky,” she says, but “I actually really enjoy it.”
Before the Federation, Tana worked for Pyramid Communications and volunteered on the Federation’s government affairs committee. With her master’s degree in public policy and administration from Columbia University, she feels she brings a “good combination of communication and policy experience” to her constituents. She will run for the office in 2013.
Tana and her husband Kevin Flaherty belong to Temple De Hirsch Sinai. When she’s not busy with work and family, “we have a dog, Buddy, a big black lab, [who] takes up a lot of free time.”
Max Alcabes relaxes on one of the products from Sleepers In Seattle, recognized by Inc. Magazine as one of the nation’s fastest-growing small businesses. (Photo: David Feldhammer)
As a recent UW graduate, Max Alcabes was barely 20 five years ago when his parents, Carlos and Meryl, brought him in to help run the family business. Sleepers in Seattle is a sleeper sofa specialty store located in West Seattle. Max went to Northwest Yeshiva High School for two years and switched to Running Start, which allows high school students to take college classes and graduate early.
Max had grown up in the business which the family bought in the early 1990s. His parents met 40 years ago at a Sephardic Bikur Holim Purim party. They lived around the U.S. and in Carlos’ native Spain before moving back to the Pacific Northwest, closer to Meryl’s (nee Solonsky) hometown of Eugene. That’s when they bought what was then just a small local furniture store.
Now Sleepers is on Inc. Magazine’s 500/5000 list, one the fastest-growing private companies in America. Many of today’s most successful U.S. companies received their first national recognition from Inc., including Microsoft, Intuit and Zappos.com.
Clearly Max is doing more than selling sofas. After he knocked around the store for that first year, he saw the need for a better website.
“My first day we got a call from a gentleman in Chicago who saw [our] website and wanted to order a sleeper sofa,” recalls Max. He had to be turned down. “I thought, ‘this is crazy,’ other companies sell furniture on-line.”
Now SleepersInSeattle.com is a “build-your-own” site where customers select, design and order a sofa, with customers around the world.
This 21st -century business model also allows Max to live in New York.
“I live in Williamsburg,” he says, although, “I’m not a Hasid or a hipster.” He also brought his good friend and Yeshiva classmate David Feldhammer in as director of operations, “a big part of the team.”
Wherever he is, Max is in contact many times a day with David and his dad, who still works at the store.
“He’s my dad.” Max says, “my partner and my best friend.”
Carlos, who sounds like actor Antonio Banderas, says their father-son business relationship “works very well.”
“I’m still in the 18th century” as far as technology goes, he adds, but “with small business, you either change with the times or you go out of business.”
In its effort to grow, the company recently launched a new site, Savvy Leather Sofas.
• • •
Rebecca Piha cuddles with two of her new best friends. (Photo: Paul Amato)
“I’ve always loved animals,” says Rebecca Piha. As a girl she would bring home “little animals,” a baby possum or baby bird she had rescued.
She began fostering for PAWS in college, caring for abandoned dogs and cats until permanent homes were found. Buying food and supplies at Animal Talk, the Roosevelt Avenue pet store in Seattle she’d frequented since childhood, she learned they were also the nonprofit Animal Talk Rescue.
Twelve years later the Roosevelt High School and University of Washington Dental School alum is president of ATR and their adoption and foster coordinator. She was especially attracted to ATR’s no-kill policy — publicly run or funded shelters euthanize animals, especially to deal with overcrowding. One of Rebecca’s earlier ATR volunteer efforts involved driving around the state picking up animals from over-full kill shelters and abusive breeders.
Recently she chaired ATR’s annual auction, Nine Lives Gala, hosted by Pat Cashman, “a wonderful way to bring the community together” to support homeless animals, she says.
Although spay/neuter awareness has increased, there are still high numbers of abandoned and mistreated animals. Rural areas have the biggest problem with overpopulation and disease. An unspayed female cat can conceive a first litter at five months and bear up to four litters in a year!
“Each adoption through animal talk,” says Rebecca, “allows us to make room for an animal from a kill shelter or one living on the streets.” ATR gets “a ton of calls every day,” but turns away many animals due to space and funding limitations.
Rebecca’s husband, Paul Amato, estimates that Rebecca has fostered and adopted out 1,000 cats and dogs. The couple currently has three foster cats, a feral cat she’s trying to socialize, and two that were returned to the shelter as adults where they became ill, a common occurrence.
Rebecca is an associate at Distinctive Dentistry. She’s due in March with twins, but will continue to volunteer and educate the public about the importance of rescue work.
There’s more information at ATR’s website at www.animaltalkrescue.org and on its Facebook page.
Stephanie Schriger, co-founder of Whidbey Island Painting Retreats, paints from the patio of her island retreat. (Photo courtesy Stephanie Schriger)
“I studied painting in college and got away from it when my kids were growing up,” explains artist and businesswoman Stephanie Schriger. About 10 years ago, she and her husband Stan bought a cabin on Whidbey Island and “I started painting there [again].” She imagined offering that experience to a wider circle of women and this spring she and her friend, Peg Elefant, co-founded Whidbey Island Painting Retreats (www.whidbeypaintingretreats.com). Their first day-long retreat was in May and “we’ve had about one or two a month…since then.”
Complete novices to completely experienced painters are welcome at the women-only retreats, which focus on oil painting en plein air, or outdoors.
“The whole idea is to be creative in a very beautiful place,” says Stephanie.
The day begins with coffee, goodies and introductions. After giving “techniques or pointers that relate to the location,” participants paint for three to four hours with breaks for feedback and instruction. Most finish their paintings and pizza boxes are provided to transport the wet canvases home.
The group then reconvenes indoors to sample local wine and cheeses. A member of the Whidbey Island Grown organization, Stephanie tries “to keep it local” in support of other island businesses.
The Schrigers, both native Californians, moved to the Seattle area in 1997 after living in Israel for 15 years. Growing up in a Zionist household, Stephanie always planned to make aliyah once she had a profession. With a graduate degree in design from Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design in Los Angeles (and undergraduate degree from UC Santa Cruz), she moved to Israel, where she worked for the Jerusalem Post and started a graphic design business with a friend.
Here she founded Design & Graphics (www.designandgraphics.biz), a design, print and mailing business, and Stan works with her.
Stephanie says the Northwest is “a beautiful and picturesque place,” but “I will always live a dual identity. I will always miss Israel.”
The next painting retreat is the first weekend in November with an optional overnight at the Captain Whidbey Inn. Stephanie has plans for cooking and jewelry-making retreats and there’s more information on the website.
• • •
Yoav Duman was collecting data in Spain when the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE) announced that he had received a $15,000 Schusterman Scholar Award for his doctoral studies in political science at the University of Washington. It’s his third award from the foundation.
The Ra’anana, Israel, native told me the town, near Tel Aviv, is home to “a lot of Anglos,” including many South Africans. Yoav did his military service in the office of the IDF ombudsman and holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science from Ben Gurion and Tel Aviv Universities. He founded a Hebrew-language academic journal that publishes high-quality political science work in both the original Hebrew and in translation. (Find it at www.public-sphere.com, but non-Hebrew readers will need Google translator.)
“I really wanted to work with Joel Migdal,” of the UW’s Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, says Yoav, which brought him to Seattle.
His research is on immigration and Israeli politics, especially the “relationship between the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians and the issue of labor migration.”
Israel has a huge number of migrant laborers, legal and illegal, and has now become a sanctuary for about 70,000 Eritrean and Sudanese refugees (mostly Muslim), though not without controversy. It faces similar immigration issues as the U.S., but intensified by its smaller size and population.
“In societies that receive immigration, it always causes a lot of complexity,” he observes. When they “have an acute demographic problem these issues become even bigger.”
Catalonia (Spain) and Quebec are also included in his studies as regions that desire independence, but rely on immigrant labor, creating “demographic issues [and] competition between groups.”
Yoav says “it’s a great honor” to receive the Schusterman award, which allows “people to do field work in Israel, to study Israeli politics.” The award brings professional validation, funds travel for data collection, and puts him in a select group of scholars. “I’m proud to be part of the project,” he says.
Yoav and his wife are beginning their fourth year in Seattle, and while they appreciate the high quality of life in “a beautiful city,” he admits that when it’s still “raining in June,” the weather can get to him. (Present dry spell not included, of course.)
If you’ve been to a San Francisco 49ers football game in Candlestick Park, then you’ve heard Matt Crevin’s voice as he calls the plays in the stadium.
“I’m up in the press box,” he explains. “I’m the voice up there.”
Matt riffed on that part-time professional sideline when he named his business, Voice of the Box, which he started a few years ago. As a consultant and career coach, he helps college students and young adults enter sports careers, not as players, but in the panoply of jobs working with and around professional athletes. It is “the hidden side of sports,” he says, working in team organizations and in clothing, nutrition, marketing and more.
While he grew up in the east bay area of San Francisco and attended San Jose State, Matt comes with local cred. His dad Larry grew up in Seattle and attended Temple De Hirsch (pre-Sinai), Garfield High and the University of Washington.
“It’s funny that I am in my father’s hometown,” he says.
Matt’s career reads like a guide to what he now teaches others. Twenty years ago he started with an unpaid internship at the 49ers. That turned into a paying PR job, which turned into corporate jobs at FedEx and Microsoft, which landed him in the Seattle area.
During those years he started interviewing people in sports as a hobby, videoing interviews and posting them on the web. As those generated interest, people in that field began asking for help and advice.
“I had a parallel career,” he says and his interest in corporate life began to wane. “My light bulb finally” went on. With his qualifications in sales and marketing he launched the business.
“What makes this fun for me,” is combining “real world, practical, fresh insight” with “20 years of sports industry knowledge and connections,” he says.
Matt recently published a book, “Get in the Game.” Information is at his website (www.voiceofthebox.com), where you’ll also find career tips and some of those video interviews. He’s developing a radio show, “Beyond the Game,” which can be heard at www.spreaker.com, and he often speaks publicly and attends career fairs.
Now a member of Temple De Hirsch Sinai in Bellevue, Matt says he’s busy “raising two Jewish boys, which is going to be a lot of fun.”
“It’s like an addiction,” says Seattle attorney Harvey Grad.
That would be the Wheels of Love fundraising bike ride he’s done in Israel for nine years. The ride benefits ALYN Hospital, Israel’s only pediatric and adolescent rehabilitation facility for children with a wide range of congenital and acquired conditions, from cerebral palsy to accident or terror injuries (www.alynride.org).
“It’s kind of hard to explain,” he continues, “especially to people who have seen me peeled off the street” after two bike accidents.
Harvey, 64, has done at least part of the multi-day November ride for the past nine years, except the year he broke his femur and convinced his son Ben to ride instead of him.
There are three events. Harvey does the road ride, about 20 to 40 kilometers a day with fewer hills than either the “road challenge” or the off-road ride. Those are done by “elite riders. I am a sort of lite rider,” he joked in an email. On the final day, up to 600 bikers ride up the hill to the Jerusalem hospital, where they are greeted by the patients and staff.
“We wait to see them and they look forward to all of us showing up,” Harvey says.
A 1987 Seattle-to-Portland (STP) ride got him started on long distance riding. The Cascade Bicycle Club’s STP, and other similar rides, often involving 100-plus miles a day, continue to be part of his training.
Although he says he first attempted the ALYN ride in 2004 for adventure and chesed (kindness), he got hooked on the cause and the kids in the hospital. He became a board member of American Friends of ALYN Hospital last year, and he has built connections both locally and around the world.
“I have made incredible friendships,” he says. “I could list so many people who I keep in touch with and each trip to Israel is still magical.”
The hospital is “a feat of peace,” he says. Funds raised by the ride pay for extra therapists for the kids, who come from all over Israel and the territories.
There’s a lot of information about the hospital at www.alyn.org, and you can help Harvey with fundraising at www.WOLUSA.org/HarveyGrad.
Alan Rammer holds his award for being named the National Marine Educator of the Year. (Photo: Macleod Pappidas/The Daily World )
You might say Janet Varon has stayed the course as she navigated her career. The founder and director of NoHLA, Northwest Health Law Advocates (www.nohla.org), has always worked, through legal and legislative means, to right societal wrongs.
Growing up in Riverdale, the Bronx, she attended Harvard for undergraduate and law school, making her, I guess, one of those Harvard lawyers.
Before law school, “I worked for a couple of years in a hospital,” the Bronx Science grad told me, and “got interested in health policy.” After law school she turned to representing low-income clients, moving to Seattle to work for Evergreen Legal Services, which became Columbia Legal Services and Northwest Justice Project.
Janet Varon, founder and director of Northwest Health Law Advocates. (Photo: Ed Munoz)
Janet returned to healthcare issues in the mid ’90s when “there was an attempt at healthcare reform on the state level,” she says.
While she did some consulting when her daughters Rebecca and Laura were young, she had long dreamed of forming an organization like NoHLA. Close friends pushed her — and helped her — fulfill her dream.
NoHLA “represents the interests of consumers in health care,” explains Janet, particularly low- and moderate-income consumers struggling to afford and acquire health coverage and care. “People are balancing rent, food and basic needs against insurance premiums.”
It also provides legal representation, support to other organizations, community information, lobbying and policy analysis. “We are a voice for consumers in policy discussions,” she says, “focusing on the impacts of both health reform and budget cuts,” and now, how the Affordable Care Act helps uninsured Washingtonians.
Janet assumes she’s not related to other local Varons. She hasn’t met anyone in the Seattle area whose ancestors came from her grandfather’s birthplace of Gallipoli, Turkey. Admittedly, she’s “been working a lot lately,” she says, but makes time for yoga, biking, and travel, “when I can.” She and her husband Ed Munoz are members of Temple Beth Am where she’s served on the synagogue’s tikkun olam (repairing the world) committee, which has identified “health care reform as an important issue” that “relates to the Jewish value of healing the sick.”
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In June, Aberdeen resident Alan Rammer received the National Marine Educators top prize for his Tidepool Discoveries organization that brings marine-life education to kids in classrooms and beaches on our state’s western edge.
The Central Valley, Calif., native came to the University of Washington to study marine biology in the 1970s. He then landed a series of temporary jobs with the Department of Fish and Wildlife in the Aberdeen area, but never thought he’d stay.
“I thought it was dreary and bleak,” he says. “I couldn’t wait to get out.”
But that ol’ Northwest magic took hold.
“People here are warm, they’re caring,” he says. Starting full-time in 1980, he was asked to develop a marine education program, focused on clamdiggers.
“I learned a lot of four-letter words in lots of combinations” at community meetings designed to teach conservation and stewardship, he says. He also learned not to take it personally. Eventually the program expanded to include finfish and crabs, and visiting schools and county fairs.
Alan worked 30 years for the department, and is proudest of his efforts with Asian and Pacific Islander communities, using patience and youth involvement to reach groups that were resistant to authority.
When budget cuts killed the program three years ago, he formed Tidepool Discoveries, bringing marine biology to schools. We’re still losing the clean water and conservation battles,” he says, “but I won’t give up.”
When not educating, Alan enjoys visiting “places people usually leave alone.” He’s camped in Mongolia, boated down the Yangtze and seen Korea’s Demilitarized Zone.
He’s also done extensive genealogy, discovering that his parents were second cousins — making him and his brother third cousins. (He says they look remarkably alike.) As treasurer of Aberdeen’s Temple Beth Israel, he laments that it is losing members from age and attrition. There are “no jobs here,” he says. “Young people have all fled.”
Aside from an upcoming trip to Paris, Alan is greatly anticipating the movie version of “The Highest Tide.” Author Jim Lynch job-shadowed Alan extensively when he wrote his first novel, and based the Professor Kramer character on Alan. The film is rumored to be going into production soon.
So who does Alan think should play him? Richard Dreyfuss, Hollywood’s most famous marine biologist character, would be Alan’s first and most obvious choice — not that anyone is asking.
Ariel Vardy, upper right, spent time volunteering on an Israeli Army base last year. Now the recent high school graduate is on his way to spend a year among indigenous peoples in Senegal. (Courtesy Ariel Vardy)
1 As you read this, Ariel Vardy is on his way to a seriously big adventure. The recent Skyline High School grad from Sammamish will spend a gap year — a non-academic year between high school and college — as a fellow of the Global Citizen Year program. After seven weeks of training, first at Stanford and then in Dakar, he’ll spend seven months in a remote Senegalese village. He won’t find out which one until he gets to Dakar, but expects “a rural and possibly undeveloped village” with minimal electricity and other conveniences. Senegal’s national language is French, but Ariel — who speaks decent Spanish and passable Hebrew — will likely need to learn some Wolof, the typical tribal language.
Ariel decided to take a gap year when he didn’t get into his preferred college. He was influenced by three weeks volunteering for the Israeli army last year, living on a base “overlooking Syria and Lebanon” with volunteers “from all over the world.” He says it “made me more interested in seeing other cultures.”
He thinks the Israeli approach to college, in which most students have completed military service and travelled abroad, results in a more mature student who is eager to learn. He hopes his gap year will have that effect on him.
“If I am more experienced living in the world I will make better choices,” Ariel says.
Global Village Year was started three years ago by Abigail Falik, who looked to create a Peace Corps-style program for high school students. Ariel admires Falik and her attempts to change the fact that only 1 percent of Americans come in contact with our planet’s more than 1 billion people living in poverty. (The World Bank estimates 1.4 billion live on less than $1.25 a day.) The point of the program is primarily just to live in that world, though students can help with projects if asked.
A pianist and singer who plays in a rock band, Ariel went to the Jewish Day School, where his mother, Nancy Cohen-Vardy, is a teacher. An alum of Young Judaea leadership camp Tel Yehuda, he’s also been to Israel a few times. His family attends Herzl-Ner Tamid Conservative Congregation, where Ariel got to deliver a d’var Torah before he left.
An aficionado of endurance sports, Ariel recently rode his bike from Sammamish to Vashon Island and back in one day. “I’ve been on 16-hour bike rides, 12-hour walks…I feel like this trip is one big endurance activity.”
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Is it good news or bad news that Kevin Brashem and the 12 bachelors featured in the “Mensch of the Month” calendar got to keep their shirts on? (Photo by Elizabeth Margarita Shapiro)
Speaking of mensches (menschen, really), Kevin Brashem has earned himself a page on the “Mensch of the Month: Chosen but not Taken” calendar, featuring eligible Jewish bachelors from the San Francisco area. Kevin was nominated by a friend as the “perfect example of a Nice Jewish Boy” and was chose from a pool of 50 nominees.
Last we featured Kevin, a.k.a. Mr. February, it was 2005 and he was a high school student at Bellevue’s International School, receiving his Eagle Scout badge for a youth literacy project.
Even back then he had a combined love of helping and adventure, and had logged 700 hours with King County Explorer Search and Rescue. Now he’s a trained paramedic-firefighter in Santa Clara, Calif., where he stayed after graduating from Santa Clara University in 2010 with a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering.
Right now he works part time in his field and volunteers at his local fire department while looking for a full-time position in that competitive profession. It’s important, he says, to “put in your time and prove to firefighters and crews that you’re a good hard worker and they want you around.”
The not-for-profit calendar is available for $20.13 at www.menschofthemonth.com. It benefits SMART, an educational non-profit, which helps high-achieving, low-income children attain academic and personal success (www.thesmartprogram.org).
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Runner Terry Robinson, who will spend next July competing for Team USA in Israel’s Maccabi games. (Courtesy Terry Robinson)
Terry Robinson, who won the men’s division of the Seafair Torchlight Run 5K with a time of 17:23, has won or placed in a number of local races recently. Team USA Maccabi has been keeping tabs on his results and recently “sent an acceptance letter [asking him] to run for Team USA in the half marathon in Israel for the 2013 games July 17th-30th!” He adds, “I hope to bring home a medal, we’ll see!”
Intel science contest finalist Kurtis Carsch. (Photo: Courtesy Kurtis Carsch)
Earlier this year, Kurtis Carsch, 18, became a finalist in the Intel Science Talent Search (Intel STS), which seeks out and recognizes pre-college contributions to science by students and their schools. Initially he was one of 300 competitors selected from 1,839, and went on to become one of 40 invited to Washington, D.C. for final judging. Finalists were competing for $1.25 million in awards (of which everyone got some).
While he was born and raised in Bellevue and started school at the Jewish Day School, Kurtis’s family moved to Texas about 10 years ago. He graduated from Texas Academy of Math and Science, a high school program at the University of North Texas on the outskirts of Dallas.
The family retained its connection to the Pacific Northwest, says his mom, Leslie Mickel Carsch, and they returned to Bellevue. Kurtis’s sister, Lillianna, attended Camp Solomon Schechter for many years and the family returned often to visit Leslie’s parents, Jack and Margrethe Mickel. “Oh, and yes, we have had a subscription to the JTNews” sent to Dallas for many years, Leslie added in an email.
Kurtis will attend CalTech in the fall, and while classes haven’t started, he’s already there doing research in computational chemistry. Working under Dr. William A. Goddard III and Smith Nielsen in the Materials and Process Simulation Center in the chemistry department at Caltech, Kurtis is “researching theoretical fuel cells that use natural gas more efficiently than their commercial counterparts.” He’s the youngest person to participate in this research program.
In SoCal, Kurtis is enjoying the sunny weather and some sightseeing. In his free time he enjoys weightlifting, hanging out with friends, and multi-player video games, with Super Smash Bros. Melee a current favorite.
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Rebecca Hoff and her daughter Ilana take a backpacking trip by the ocean. (Photo: Henry Boyer)
There was a bronze medal of a different sort awaiting Rebecca Hoff, who traveled to Washington, D.C. this spring to accept an award. It was from her employer, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
An environmental scientist in the Northwest Region of the Office of Response and Restoration, Rebecca leads the Duwamish Team, which was recognized for its work planning natural restoration areas along that industrial Seattle waterway.
These plans are tied into the Lower Duwamish Waterway Superfund Site cleanup. Rebecca and the team worked with Boeing and other businesses to plan naturalized areas along the bank of the Duwamish that will be put in place when the work removing contaminants from the waters and river sediment is finished.
“We had a cooperative settlement with the Boeing Company,” says Rebecca, “and also, we are working with a private company…to create [another] restoration bank in the Duwamish area.”
Most people are familiar with the Superfund law and the EPA, the primary site cleanup agency, says Rebecca. But another part of the law “designates agencies to be trustees for natural resources… [providing] the option after they do the cleanup to make the environment whole by creating restoration,” she said.
“Our piece is NRDA, Natural Resource Damage Assessment,” Rebecca explained, adding, “It’s hard to explain this without a lot of acronyms!”
And “NOAA doesn’t work alone on the Duwamish,” she points out. The agency — part of the Department of Commerce, in case you didn’t know — works with the state, the Department of the Interior and the Suquamish and the Muckleshoot tribes. Representatives from each organization work as a council, and Rebecca is lead trustee for the council.
Hailing from Oakland, Calif., Rebecca got her undergraduate degree in environmental science from UC Santa Cruz where, she says, “I was interested in marine science as an undergraduate.” She spent two years in the Peace Corps working on a fisheries project in Sierra Leone.
“I wrote my grad school application on the porch of this mud house I was living in,” she says, “with goats running around.”
She got into the fisheries program at the UW and began working for NOAA part time while still in school in the late 1980s.
“The restoration part is what’s satisfying for all of us,” she says of the Duwamish project. “If you go to the Duwamish, it’s a very busy place [with] lots of heavy industry,” she says. “The vision is not to go back to a pristine river… It’s still going to be a shipping river, [but] we feel it also can support healthy fisheries.”
Lynn Chapman, the local coordinator for the Council on International Education Exchange’s high school program. (Photo: Mitchell Albala)
“I enjoy connecting people to one another,” says Lynn Chapman, explaining one reason she became a local coordinator for the Council on International Education Exchange’s (CIEE) high school program, matching Seattle-area host families with overseas students.
“The reason [these programs] exist is for diplomacy,” she says, noting that CIEE, while a non-governmental organization, is recognized by the State Department as an “Exchange Visitor Program.”
As a member of Congregation Eitz Or, Lynn would like to find more Jewish host families. In addition to teaching the world about America, she feels Jewish hosts can change “how Jews are viewed in the world.” Most foreign exchange students are not Jewish and the few Israeli students “are snapped up” by hosts.
Lynn interviews prospective families — of any denomination — and does a home visit. She has monthly contact with students who stay one or two semesters, attending public or private school. With students arriving in August, Lynn is recruiting this month without the benefit of reaching PTAs or students in classes.
She’s encountered some reluctance among Jewish families she contacted and isn’t sure if it reflects concerns about anti-Semitism.
An enthusiastic Seattle mom and daughter who have hosted numerous foreign students are Kassie Koledin and Nasni, 14, a rising Franklin High School freshman. Kassie says that during her first exchange experience — hosting a group of German teachers many years ago — she was concerned about how their Judaism would be perceived. But it led to “a moving discussion” and they have had “no problems in all the years” they’ve done this.
More common is “total ignorance and total confusion,” Kassie says, particularly for Japanese students from small towns “where they’ve never encountered someone who wasn’t a Buddhist.” But “anybody who’s interested enough in going abroad…comes with some sensitivity,” she observes.
While most host families have kids, says Lynn, single adults, couples without children, and families with younger children are welcome to apply, although the experience is often easier with another high school-age host in the home.
A life coach and a health educator, Lynn also works part-time for Eastside Friends of Seniors, which helps keep seniors in their homes.
If you’re interested in hosting, call her at 425-501-1777, and read more at www.ciee.org/highschool.
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Courtesy Suzanne Mayer
Foreign exchange works both ways. Last year, Seattle math teacher Suzanne Mayer was awarded a Fulbright teacher exchange in Ghaziabad, India, about 30 minutes outside Delhi. She traveled there from August to December with sons, Jacob, 17, and Andy, 13, although Jacob returned to Seattle in September to complete his junior year of high school.
The Ohio native and Temple Beth Am member teaches math at Aki Kurose Middle School, one of the city’s most diverse and economically challenged student bodies.
In traveling abroad, she wanted to see for herself how American students are holding up in math. “Mathematics education in the U.S. is under a great deal of scrutiny,” she says. “We’re being benchmarked against mathematics instruction all around the world,” with “the perception that we’re not as far ahead.”
In India she found things were different, rather than better. Indian schools — with classes of 48 students — employ rote learning. Students don’t use calculators until college, so they are good at memorizing formulas, whereas American education emphasizes reasoning and principals so “the calculator is a tool” to the solution. Indian students “found it frustrating that I always wanted to explain why,” she says.
The school had no Internet, but classrooms had electronic “smart board” projectors — which became unusable during the many rolling blackouts. This forced Suzanne to learn to use chalk on a blackboard, which she’d never done, having taught for only eight years.
Cultural differences were striking. Staff meetings were very formal and if the principal attended, the teachers stood up when he entered the room.
“Cultural expectations in the classroom are completely different,” too, she says. Students apologize for misbehaving, don’t hesitate to tell on one another, and “it’s a badge of honor to be thought of as smart.”
An attorney for 20 years, Suzanne worked for GE Financial Services around the country. She met her now-former husband Dan in law school and eventually they returned to his hometown of Seattle. When GE closed its Seattle office, Suzanne used it as an opportunity for a career change, returning to school for an education certificate from the University of Washington in Tacoma in teaching special-needs children. She was inspired by her parents, both of who were teachers.
She had an epiphany at her dad’s funeral many years ago when “all these 50-year-old” people were lined up around the block relate the impact her father had on them, and she thought, “my tombstone is going to say, ‘She was an adequate lawyer,’ and that was a defining moment for me.”
Suzanne, who also teaches in Temple Beth Am’s religious school, kept a blog during her journey which is still on the web at www.mayersbigadventure.blogspot.com.
Leslie Fried, curator of the Alaska Jewish Museum. (Photo: Courtesy Leslie Fried)
After 26 years in Seattle, Leslie Fried has moved to Anchorage to be curator of the Alaska Jewish Museum.
Founded in 2004, the museum is just now becoming a physical reality. An inaugural exhibit opens this November in a small building in a larger complex known as the Alaska Jewish Campus. In addition to the museum, the complex includes a cultural center, a Chabad preschool and synagogue. Although the museum was spearheaded by Rabbi Yosef Greenberg of Chabad, it is “a separate non-profit entity run by our own separate board,” says Leslie, adding that “one of my goals is…to bring together all the different members of the community.”
The museum will introduce Alaskans to Jewish culture and history, celebrate it, and provide a safe place for the Jewish community’s cultural artifacts. As a heritage museum, similar to many around the country, it will also promote “diversity and tolerance.”
Leslie spent many of her years in Seattle working as a scenic artist for a number of local theaters and was the head painter for Intiman for five seasons from 1993 to 1998. She also ran her own painting and design company, doing special finishes and murals for architects and interior designers.
In 2003, she was diagnosed with heavy metal poisoning, forcing her to change careers. She returned to school to finish the Fine and Applied Arts degree she’d started in 1978 at the University of Oregon, and went “immediately into graduate school at the University of Washington,” getting a Master’s in Library and Information Science and a graduate certificate in Museology.
While at the UW she worked on the Samuel E. Goldfarb collection (Goldfarb was music director at Temple De Hirsch Sinai for over 30 years), and helped write a report for the Washington State Jewish Historical Society on Jews of Southeast Seattle. Stored in the City of Seattle’s archives, it can be found at HistoryLink.org.
Leslie calls her current position “a fortuitous melding of influences,” in which she can use all of her skills. Being “in the arts for years, working in theater, working in exhibits, getting my library degree…[and] graduate certificate,” all dovetail nicely with her “interest in Judaica, my family, and in the arts.”
Leslie is very excited about the first two exhibits, which include “Ruth Gruber, Photojournalist,” created by the International Center of Photography, which will be hosted by the Anchorage Museum. The second will tell the story of Operation Magic Carpet, the airlift of over 47,000 Yemenite Jews from 1948-1950, who were flown to Israel by Alaska Airlines pilots.
That second exhibit had personal resonance because Leslie’s father was a pilot and part of the “Machal Boys” who airlifted airplane parts and other supplies into Palestine before Israeli independence. He then served in the Israeli Air Force and became an El Al pilot after that, which took the family from Israel, where Leslie was born, to England and finally back to New York, where she was raised on Long Island.
Leslie says winter has proven to be one of her biggest challenges. She landed in Anchorage at the “beginning of one of the worst winters for a long time,” and “had to learn how to drive again.” She had to get studded snow tires for her car and cleats for her shoes in order to get around, but adds that up there, “there’s a feeling that whatever you want to do can be done.”
If you’re heading to Alaska and want to visit the museum, or would just like more information, email Leslie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Speaking of Samuel Goldfarb, we’ve received word that his great-grandson Alec Goldfarb is following in Sam’s musical tradition. Alec won Downbeat Magazine’s Outstanding High School Music Performance Award for his original sheet music composition, “Pendulum.”
A resident of Mt. Laurel, New Jersey, Alec, 16, is the son of Keith and Linda Goldfarb and will be a senior in high school. He plays jazz, and a little Motown and R&B with his group, The Alec Goldfarb Trio.
Great-grandpa Sam may be best known as the composer of “The Dreidel Song,” (you know, “I have a little dreidel, I made it out of clay”) and many other liturgical pieces still used in synagogues today, some of which were composed and arranged in partnership with his brother, Israel.
Crossword master and game creator Mike Selinker. (Photo: James Ernest)
If you didn’t know it already, the crossword puzzle that appears in this newspaper also appears in life size on the wall at Capitol Hill’s Eltana bagel café in Seattle.
The Eltana version is a weekly moveable sculpture (to match your moveable feast), made of white crossword tiles fitted over colorful permanent wall tiles. Every week a restaurant employee climbs a big ladder and moves the tiles around to fit the new puzzle written and/or edited by Mike Selinker.
Mike explained that the idea for the wall puzzle came from Stephen Brown, Eltana’s owner. The two were introduced by a mutual friend and Mike knew it was the right job for him, plus, “Stephen has one of the biggest ladders I’ve ever seen,” says Mike.
Mike grew up not far from the restaurant and has been writing crosswords since he was a kid. Games magazine published his first when he was 13. He has appeared in the New York Times (that dreidel-shaped diagram-less puzzle you did in December was his) and still appears regularly in Games and also in Wired.
After graduating from Garfield High and Northwestern University, Mike worked as a political reporter in Chicago for seven years before deciding to “retire at the ripe old age of 27 [and] came home” to devote himself full time to games. Working for Wizards of the Coast, he helped develop the modern versions of Dungeons and Dragons, Risk, and, he says, “different games like that.”
He started his own custom game design company, Lone Shark Games, in 2003 and quips that it “seems to be very successful.” Lone Shark’s specialty is “making large puzzle objects,” usually for special events and conventions.
“Rather epic stunts is what we do,” says Mike, giving examples like “a Mexican jungle city for the game Uncharted,” at the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) or a large to-scale model of the solar system that occupied the grounds of a Microsoft picnic.
Unlike all of his other projects, the crossword on a wall was “an opportunity for a permanent fixture…where people could come and see our work and have a really great meal,” he says. “That has been particularly satisfying.”
Each puzzle, if completed, gives you a message “about practical wisdom,” providing a suggestion or imperative that will improve you or your world.
“Know what you eat,” for example, or “speak out against prejudice,” have been titles that adorn the wall and the pages of this paper.
Mike and I agree, by the way, that Eltana makes some of the best hummus in town. You can see a photo of Mike and his wife, Evon Fuerst, hanging crossword tiles at Lone Shark Games’s Facebook page, and you can learn more about the company and see some of their projects at their website, www.lonesharkgames.com.
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State Representative Marcie Maxwell (D-Renton) received the Washington Education Association’s highest honor last Saturday at the organization’s 2012 Representative Assembly in Spokane.
The proclamation that accompanied Maxwell’s Friend of Education award acknowledged her work as a prominent figure in addressing critical issues facing public education and for her work aimed at ensuring a better life for public school students in Washington state.
A former Renton school board director, Maxwell is a tireless advocate for improving the public education system in Washington. While serving in Olympia, she has led efforts to pass education-funding reform bills that put the state on the right track toward providing a quality education in our public schools.
Rep. Maxwell represents the 41st Legislative District communities of Bellevue, Beaux Arts, Issaquah, Mercer Island, Newcastle, Renton, and Sammamish. She serves in a legislative leadership role as the Deputy Majority Leader for Education and Opportunity, and co-chairs the Quality Education Council. In 2011, she earned the Washington State PTA’s highest honor, the Friend of Children award.
Josey Fast, the owner of the only art gallery in Yakima. (Photo courtesy Josey Fast)
She was born and raised on the wet side, but Seattle native Josey Fast is now enjoying life on the dry side of the Cascade curtain as the owner of the only commercial art gallery in the Yakima Valley.
The Franklin High and Western Washington University grad first headed east in 2005, living for a while in La Grande, Ore.
After deciding that was too far away from her grown daughter and other family, she moved to eastern Washington for a short-term opportunity to do marketing for the arts community in Tieton, Wash., known as “Mighty Tieton,” as well as a bookkeeping post and other odd jobs.
“I never had a retail business,” she told me, but she had run her own business in Seattle as a freelance assistant and organizer. When she learned last fall that the owner of Oak Hollow Custom Frames and Gallery in Yakima’s West Valley neighborhood was retiring, Josey jumped on what “turned out to be a really, really good opportunity.”
Josey has kept Oak Hollow’s business model of custom framing, fine crafts and art gallery intact, which has pleased local artists and the community. She exhibits a new artist every month and, “I’m booked all the way through the middle of 2014 with shows.” You can learn about current shows and read Josey’s blog at www.oakhollowframes.blogspot.com.
The work is fun and “challenges everything I like to do,” she says, including business details, problem solving, “the creative part” of cutting mats and frames and, most of all, “not sitting behind a desk.” Josey cuts every mat and frame, and hangs every show herself.
“People accuse me of being artistic,” she says dryly.
When not at the store (Tuesday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.), she walks her dog in the orchards near her house, gardens, and takes advantage of the areas cultural offerings, including symphony and theater.
“It’s beautiful, it’s peaceful,” she says.
Josey has found a synagogue home at Yakima’s Reform Temple Shalom, which meets Friday evenings, some Saturdays, and holidays in an old house in town. A student rabbi visits once a month and currently the congregation is served by Molly Plotnik, who grew up in the Seattle area.
2 Gary S. Kaplan, M.D., chairman and CEO of Seattle’s Virginia Mason Medical Center, was ranked No. 2 in Modern Physician and Modern Healthcare magazine’s annual listing of the “50 Most Influential Physician Executives.”
This is Gary’s seventh time on the list and he placed 12th last year. More than 17,000 reader votes were cast for 2012’s 2,700 nominations. The votes counted toward half of the final outcome, with the magazine’s editors providing the remaining input.
Gary was singled out for his use of the Toyota production system to reduce costs and improve quality. The magazine noted a “shift in culture and re-engineering of core practices” under his leadership.
The University of Michigan alum has been chairman and CEO of Virginia Mason since 2000. He is a University of Washington clinical professor who gives a lot of time to service organizations in his field. He was recently elected chair of the board of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.
3 Registered Rep, a print and digital magazine for retail finance investment professionals, nominated broker George T. Cox of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney’s Seattle office as one of its top ten “Advisors with Heart” this year.
George is the founder of the Alexander Hamilton Friends Association. He was nominated for his work with that organization, which annually helps 35 talented, financially needy high school juniors develop character and leadership skills. Many of these students are from broken homes, as was Hamilton, who went on to help write the Constitution.
In other Cox family news, George’s wife Carolyn (Puddin) has a small part in the Seattle International Film Festival selection, “Ira Finkelstein’s Christmas.” The movie, part of which was filmed in this state, has its final festival screening on Sat., June 9 at 11 a.m. at Pacific Place in downtown Seattle. Members of the cast — including Elliott Gould — will be at that screening, Carolyn informs me, and tickets are still available at www.siff.net.
You can read more about both Gary and George in their previous MOT appearances, which, coincidentally and conveniently, appeared in the same issue, Oct. 29, 2009, online at bit.ly/KETR60.
George’s Registered Rep profile can be read at www.registeredrep.com.
Brett Alkan, second from right, will be receiving a new kidney from Kari Alexander, left, his daughter’s former scout troop leader. Alkan’s son Nick, second from left, created the match through Facebook. Brett’s wife Ellen is on the right. (Photo: Michael Behar)
Brett Alkan found a kidney donor through Facebook and it appears he is on the, ahem, cutting edge of a trend (sorry!).
The day after I interviewed the future transplant recipient, NPR aired a story on trends in organ donation. These include adding donation status to your Facebook profile and an increasing public interest in compensating live donors, which is currently illegal.
Brett’s page was set up by his oldest son, Nicholas, a Northwest Yeshiva High School senior.
Diagnosed with congenital Polycystic Kidney Disease at age 12, Brett knew he’d need a kidney eventually.
“I got on the transplant list two years ago,” he explains, but an initial handful of volunteer donors didn’t qualify. “We just weren’t getting anybody across the finish line.”
Then in January a local news story told of a Seattle man who found a kidney donor through Facebook.
“I toyed with the idea,” says Brett, “but I just didn’t want to be known…as the kidney disease guy,” preferring to be known as “a good father…or husband, or… citizen.”
It’s also awkward to ask for such a demanding gift.
Nicholas, however, “went ahead and did it without asking me.” Brett confesses he was more relieved than mad.
The page got a “huge response,” including one from Kari Alexander, his daughter’s former Girl Scout troop leader who wasn’t close to the family, but she knew them.
“Most donors want to know who the recipient is,” explains Brett.
Kari got tested and she was an excellent match!
As he awaits surgery, Brett says his main goal is to stay off dialysis, which has “a significant impact” on the life of a kidney. These days he feels “more like my 80-year-old father” as he contends with the joint and muscle pain, fatigue and anemia that come with kidney failure. He does work limited hours in his family’s property management business and, while he and Nicholas climbed Mt. Rainier four years ago, he’s happy now if he can walk the dog once a week.
“I’m blessed with a father and brother…and a good crew,” supporting him at work and wife Ellen and two younger kids, Lauren, 14, and Jonathan, 16, supporting him at home. Those two are awaiting their own trip up our state’s iconic mountain.
“If everything goes well, I will be climbing Mt. Rainier next summer,” Brett says.
Nicholas and Jonathan — members of the Jewish Federation’s teen tzedakah J-Team group — advocated successfully for J-Team to take part in and raise money for the Oct. 9 Seattle PKD walk. (None of the Alkan kids have been tested, but each has a 50 percent chance of having PKD.)
And, dear readers, if you have not yet done so, please designate yourself an organ donor on your driver’s license, and let your family know of your wishes.
• • •
Jon Wells, author of "Shipwrecked," left, talks with Mariners second baseman Dustin Ackley. (Photo: Matt Brignall)
Seattle Mariners fans, those die-hard loyalists, are probably familiar with Jon Wells’s independent program “The Grand Salami,” sold outside the stadium on game days.
Now he has written “Shipwrecked” (Epicenter), a book that chronicles years of management decisions that have led the franchise from distinction to mediocrity — from having Buhner, Rodriguez and Griffey on one team in 1999 to a 20-25 record as of this writing.
Jon always wanted to write a book.
“My hope was someday the Mariners would make it to the World Series and I’d write about [it],” he says. “But how long could I wait for that?”
The Mariners haven’t made that objective despite many great players, “because their owners’ relentless passion for the bottom line has repeatedly undercut chances for success on the field,” he believes.
Released on April 1, Shipwrecked has had a positive response from reviewers, sportswriters and the public. Jon is already a veteran of numerous appearances at book signings and readings, as well as on TV and radio.
“I’ve had some great conversations” with fans, he says, and there are “a lot of passionate fans in this area, even if our team hasn’t been doing well.”
Raised in upstate New York, Jon has lived in New Jersey, Manhattan and California, where he worked as an entertainment lawyer in the music industry. After the Northridge earthquake of 1994 he decided he’d had enough of California. “I was doing a lot of travelling” and saw a lot of nice places, but thought Seattle “was incredible.”
Aside from going to all Mariners’ home games, plus a few away games, Jon is a red wine enthusiast and a football fan who retains an interest in independent music. He lives in West Seattle with his wife and their two dogs.
Jon will be at the at Renton’s Fairwood Library June 7 at 7 p.m., the West Seattle Barnes & Noble June 16 at noon and the Northgate Barnes & Noble on June 30 at 11 a.m. More events are listed at
Hilary Stern oversees the bustling office at Casa Latina in Seattle’s Central District. (Photo by Joel Magalnick)
When I asked Hilary Stern how she was inspired to work for Casa Latina, the immigrant aid organization, she offered “the Jewish answer,” explaining, “my grandparents were immigrants and…if they hadn’t made that decision, my life would have been completely different. I’ve really benefitted from their struggle and their decision to come to the United States,” giving “my parents and me much better opportunities.”
She always related to her grandparents’ hard work, Hilary says, and heeded her grandmother’s advice to get an education.
“They can’t take that away from you,” she says, quoting her grandmother’s advice.
With a Master’s degree in teaching English as a Second Language, Hilary lived in the “other” Washington in the 1980s, teaching Central American immigrants, and was “inspired by their struggles,” she says, and also inspired by Nicaragua’s Sandinista revolution, which in its early days encouraged and created education for all. She went there to teach “during the
idealism of the first 10 years after the
After a few years she returned to Seattle with her oldest daughter — “I decided I needed my mother,” she says — and continued her work here.
While running adult education programs at the YMCA, she met a new wave of immigrants who “were really very lost here,” she says. As mostly single adults looking for work and without community support, many became homeless. Hilary and some friends decided to start the support organization that became Casa Latina, where Hilary has served as executive director for 17 years.
The organization continues with its initial goal of serving day laborers, “a huge focus,” she says, but they now serve families and women who are domestic workers. Casa Latina educates and empowers these workers so they can control working conditions, safety and pay.
“We give them basic personal protective equipment, too,” Hilary says, and they hold English classes so clients can better communicate with employers.
Casa Latina markets its services primarily to homeowners, many of whom are Jewish. “Right before Pesach is one of the most busy times,” Hilary says, adding that the organization is supported by numerous Jewish volunteers and donors.
She further notes Casa Latina’s increasing role in providing in-home help for the elderly and its role in “the care crisis coming down the pike as the population ages,” she says. Its clients provide an “interesting intersection between [an] older, aging, mainly white population and a younger immigrant population.”
The organization differs from most social service agencies as it is “very accountable to the workers” and functions more like a union. Workers meet weekly to talk about “a whole variety of issues,” Hilary says, including transportation, politics, and the organization itself.
“For instance,” she told me when we spoke earlier this month, “this week they’re preparing to meet with the mayor.”
While more involved with fundraising than direct service, Hilary gives updates at the meetings, particularly about the construction of the organization’s new building at 17th and Jackson in Seattle. She goes to Olympia to testify before the state legislature and travels around the country to Domestic Workers Alliance conferences and others.
Hilary grew up in Seattle and attended Nathan Hale High School when there were few Jews there. Both her grandmother and her mother went to Garfield and her son will graduate from Roosevelt this June. Hilary’s parents, the Sidels, were founders of Congregation Beth Shalom and in 1973 Hilary was the first girl to become a Bat Mitzvah there on a Saturday. She is still a member there. (B’not Mitzvah were on Fridays for the first years of the congregation’s existence.)
“My job is really fun and I spend most of my time at work,” Hilary notes, adding that she loves to spend time with her kids, but “I’m going to be an empty nester soon, so I’ve got to get a life.”
Henry Butler serves up adult beverages during Purim at Temple Beth Am in Seattle. (Photo by Alysa Rosen)
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.
Carolyn Bernhard, second from right, during a healthy kids event at Nathan Hale High School in North Seattle. (Courtesy Seattle Public Schools)
I easily spotted Carolyn Bernhard’s mass of gray curls on the TV monitor at my gym early last month. She and other volunteers from Prevention WINS were making an appearance on “New Day,” a Seattle daytime talk show on KING-5 TV. (Conversely, Carolyn wanted to know why I was watching daytime TV, but that’s my peripatetic freelancing life!)
Prevention WINS (Works in Seattle) was started about six years ago as the Northeast Seattle Coalition to Prevent Underage Drinking. The Washington State Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery offered funding to 12 high schools, two in North Seattle, because of underage drinking rates higher than the state average. At the time, Carolyn’s youngest daughter was a 6th grader at Eckstein Middle School, where the group met and focused some of its early efforts. Funds now come from a federal Drug Free Communities grant.
“I have been involved since its very first meeting,” says Carolyn, who served as co-chair for three years. Having noticed a culture of drinking “when my older daughter was in high school,” she says, she hoped “to change that culture so kids could grow up safer, smarter.”
Many parents “don’t think it’s that bad,” but the coalition stresses that “the longer…before a kid drinks, the healthier they are going to be.” Research clearly shows alcohol negatively affects brain function and development in young people.
Additionally, Carolyn notes, teens “don’t always make the best decisions,” even when sober. Risks are even higher for girls, who don’t process alcohol as well as males, and intoxicated girls are at more risk of assault, Carolyn says.
School surveys show decreasing drinking and drug use at Nathan Hale and Roosevelt High Schools in North Seattle. Carolyn hopes Prevention WINS has had an impact, although, she cautions, “I can’t prove it.”
The organization partners with Children’s Hospital to offer life-skills training for middle schoolers and parenting classes for adults, “about setting boundaries…learning to be a better parent.” They’ve also held programs at neighborhood elementary schools.
Carolyn, who grew up on Mercer Island and attended Herzl-Ner Tamid, now belongs to Congregation Beth Shalom with her husband Dan. She enjoys the gym, reading and traveling, and is an active drama booster at Roosevelt.
The coalition includes marijuana use among its concerns. It’s “just as much of a problem as drinking these days,” she says, and easier to obtain than alcohol.
“The earlier you start” drinking or taking drugs the more likely you are to have substance abuse problems, says Carolyn. “That’s a fact.”
There’s more information at
Inga Manskopf, the coalition’s staff organizer, tells us that Carolyn’s participation has been a strong contribution to the success of Prevention Wins.
• • •
Ben Starsky works with teens in two different roles.
Ben Starsky got to Seattle in 2009 to begin a doctoral program in Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of Washington. But the veteran of many years of JCC work in Pittsburgh, where he grew up on Squirrel Hill, missed working with kids, so he got a job at our own Stroum Jewish Community Center on Mercer Island.
“I wondered what I could do to get re-engaged with the Jewish community,” he recalls. He ended up directing the summer camp program the last two summers.
In August 2011, he learned of “a new hybrid position,” that combined advising and managing the BBYO youth organization program already on site, and being the teen coordinator for the J.
He got the job and now “I wear two hats,” he says, although some programs overlap.
With training in education policy, leadership and human development (BA, Arizona State and M.Ed., Temple) he likes to “help out with all kinds of different things,” he says. “I try to be a generally involved guy.”
Also on his plate is J-Serve, the national day of service for Jewish teens coming up on April 29.
A resident of North Seattle, he’d “like to see more [youth] programming directed at the North Seattle community,” particularly for the 8 to 12 set. “I want to make sure there are programs for them…when they become teens,” he says.
Ben continues to work toward his doctorate. “I have completed my coursework and now I’m studying for comprehensive exams,” he says.
A lover of all things technological, he calls himself “a huge dork” and says much of his free time is spent thinking about which gadgets he covets.
As an avid reader, these days he’s mostly reading scholarly tomes, but “the most recent book I read was ‘The Hunger Games,’” the much-talked-about popular young people’s novel that’s now a movie.
“It’s good for me to keep up” with what the kids are reading, he says.
NYU junior Chelsea Garbell, one of the school’s 15 most influential students. (Courtesy Chelsea Garbell)
Recently named one of New York University’s 15 most influential students, Chelsea Garbell was nominated primarily for her work with Bridges, a Jewish-Muslim dialogue group sponsored by the Bronfman Center at the school and an official school club (www.bridges.bronfmancenter.org).
The Seattle Hebrew Academy and Northwest Yeshiva High School alumna acknowledges “interfaith work is certainly a huge passion of mine.
“We’ve had women’s dialogue events, panel discussions on conversion and Jerusalem [and] film screenings,” she says. She hosts Friday events where Jewish students go to Jumah (Friday prayers) and Muslim students go to Shabbat services and dinner. Over winter break, 16 Bridges members volunteered in Birmingham, Ala., with Habitat for Humanity, and recently Bill Clinton mentioned the group on The View.
“College is one of the few times when people who are different can interact with each other,” she explains. Politics are avoided for program topics, but “the idea is to build relationships” so members can then talk about touchy subjects, “and still be friends.”
Chelsea — who seems to function on very little sleep — “bakes a lot” and recently prepared 30 shaloch manot (Purim goodie bags) that included homemade marshmallows, a venture that involved schlepping all over lower Manhattan in search of kosher gelatin.
“I like giving gifts. It makes me happy,” says the 22-year-old junior who is majoring in Media, Culture and Communication and minoring in Public Health and Policy.
The Sunday after our talk, Chelsea headed to Abu Dhabi, UAE, to attend the Women as Global Leaders conference at Zayed University and spend a few days at NYU’s campus there.
Despite her interfaith work, she’s planning a career in healthcare policy and has earned a fellowship and Capitol Hill internship with NYU’s John Brademas Center for the Study of Congress.
Chelsea was active in USY at Herzl-Ner Tamid, and did a gap year in Israel through the Conservative movement’s Nativ program. Her family attends Shevet Achim and she describes herself as Modern Orthodox. Outside of school she’s an “active advocate for Planned Parenthood,” and her down time, she says, is the quintessential New York experience: “I see shows…I hang out with my friends and we drink wine and talk about religion a lot.”
• • •
Bob Herschkowitz speaks frequently about his Holocaust experience, usually to students or church groups. But he brought his story to work recently, addressing the Boeing Everett Service Engineering Twin Aisle Group at their “Diversity Lunch and Learn Program” on January 26.
It was standing-room only, with an audience of more than 80 overflowing into the hall, said Bob. Some, he reported, walked 25 minutes across campus to attend. He subsequently received a Boeing Recognition Award from the Diversity and Inclusion Team, acknowledging exceptional performance.
Bob spoke of his childhood in Belgium, escape to France, and finally his crossing of the Swiss Alps on foot to freedom with his mother, father and baby brother.
A Boeing employee since 1967, Bob has “worked on every airplane since the 707.” He retired in 2000 to teach high school, but a contract job with a Boeing supplier brought him back into the workforce. When that assignment ended, he was hired back at Boeing’s Everett facility as a service engineer, meaning he’s part of what might be thought of as the “help desk.”
“It’s like when you call AAA, or for help with your computer,” he says, although considering the complexity of the machines involved, “it’s not that simple.”
A past president of the Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center, he is an active member of their speakers bureau. Bob also teaches history at Hebrew High, with modern history and the history of anti-Semitism being his favorite subjects.
• • •
Adm. Herb Bridge (Ret.) was honored on Feb. 4 at the 90th annual banquet of the Seattle Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League for his and his family’s long-standing support of that organization. The event program contained a nice profile of Admiral Bridge, including a short list of his many, many civic involvements, his role in founding Seattle’s Better Business Bureau, “countless hours” devoted to United Way and his work for low-income housing with the Seattle Housing Resources Group.
Longtime patron and current exhibit curator Frieda Sondland has visited the Frye Museum every day nearly a decade. (Photo by TJ Johnson)
I arrived at Seattle’s Frye Art Museum to interview Frieda Sondland, finding her in the lobby getting the rock-star treatment from a handful of admirers. Frieda has received much notice, including a feature in the Seattle Times, for being a citizen curator of one of the museum’s three new shows, “Beloved: Pictures at an Exhibition.”
“I’m floating,” says the petite 90-year-old, adding wryly, “I don’t know if I’m a celebrity or notorious.”
She is pleased the exhibits’ opening festivities attracted a record 542 members, but gives credit to the museum staff, particularly director Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker, who says Frieda “has added something to my life.”
Frieda and her late husband Gunther began daily visits to the museum in 2004.
“He could spend hours here,” says Frieda.
After his death, she moved to The Summit at First Hill Jewish retirement home and began daily walks to the
Frye. As she grew intimately acquainted with its permanent collection — the legacy of Charles and Emma Frye — she became known to the staff. So when the museum founders’ full-length portraits were
stored away, Frieda boldly asked, “Where are the Fryes?”
When informed, she told Jo-Anne, “maybe you should clean out your storage.”
Jo-Anne and Frieda escorted me around the 23 paintings that Frieda selected from 232 in the permanent collection. Visitors will find the usual detailed descriptions of the works along with Frieda’s thoughts. It’s a different approach that raises the question of who “owns” the art: Trained professionals or museum patrons?
Divided into three sections, religion, landscape and portraits, some paintings evoke childhood memories for German-born Frieda. Oils of two Bavarian lakes, Königssee and Chiemsee, remind her of family vacations. Otto von Bismark
warrants a spot because he was “a great statesman,” she says, presiding over one of the freest social, cultural and religious atmospheres in European Jewish history. (That legacy left many German Jews unable to predict the destructive power of Nazism.)
Frieda’s parents did have foresight and she was 16 they fled in 1937 — aided by her father’s Russian passport. She married Gunther before she left and was pregnant when she arrived in Montevideo, Uruguay, where she became a clothing designer and seamstress. It was eight years before they were reunited. In 1952 they joined relatives in Seattle, eventually opening Fauntleroy Cleaners.
You’ll find some Christian-themed works in Beloved, but those reflect the plight of the weak.
“Religion is not the most important thing, sweetheart” she tells me. “Be a decent human being…I had to learn to be tolerant at an early age.
“I thank God I’m still alive,” she says, “enjoying my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren” (that’s two, five and four, respectively).
• • •
Michael Spektor has been busier than usual since being elected president of the dental fraternity, Alpha Omega International (AO). The volunteer position involves a fair amount of travel to monitor the organization’s many local chapters. (There’s that upcoming trip to Paris, so no complaints there.)
Founded to combat discrimination in dental schools, AO has grown into an international, multi-cultural organization, with about 6,000 members worldwide. It “started as an organization to fight prejudice and now does tzedakah,” Michael explained by phone from Mercer Island, where he’d just had dinner at Stopsky’s Deli.
AO provides education, leadership training, and mentoring to members, and even some political détente. Recently, it co-sponsored a meeting in Israel of dentists from Israel and Ramallah. Working with the Alliance for Oral Health Across Borders and Dental Volunteers for Israel they are using a healthcare model “to break barriers [between] people who don’t want to talk to each other,” Michael said.
Both of Israel’s dental schools were founded by AO.
Our local chapter focuses on fundraising, donating money to charities that include Jewish Family Service, DVI and the Israeli dental schools.
A Chicago native and former professor of periodontics at the UW, Michael practices three days a week with his wife, Wendy. The couple has two grown sons.
He’s a past president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and remains active in AIPAC, DentPAC (Washington Dental Association’s political action committee) and the Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Committee. A child of Holocaust survivors, he helped start the Second Generation group with Henry Friedman that has become the Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center.
Michael laments that fewer Jewish students are going into dentistry, and fewer college students overall are going into health care.
“One of the things we’re [AO] doing is try to encourage all students to get back into sciences,” he said.
University of Washington professor Barbara Henry, who specializes in Yiddish and Russian literature. (Courtesy Barbara Henry)
Nineteenth and 20th-century Yiddish and Russian literature and drama is her field, but UW Professor Barbara Henry is not Jewish.
Yiddish was in the water where she grew up in New Jersey, she explains. She loved klezmer as a child and “wanted to know what the songs were about.” Career-wise, it became “a natural extension of my interest in Russia.”
Barbara just published her first book, Rewriting Russia: Jacob Gordin’s Yiddish Drama. Gordin (to crib off the jacket notes), “the first major playwright of the ‘Golden Age’ of New York’s Yiddish theater,” was “best known for translating or adapting classic literature for the stage.”
Studying at Oxford, Barbara learned of Gordin while researching her dissertation. A sometimes-controversial figure who kept his ties to Russia, he was often accused of being “too Russian” and “not Jewish enough.”
“I just wanted to know what his deal was,” Barbara says.
He was a curious guy, she pointed out, with a different story than the familiar Jewish immigrant one.
Most American Jews with roots in the Russian Empire, including Poland and the Pale of Settlement, are “convinced that their families…were persecuted and suffered,” says Barbara, but it’s not necessarily true. Jewish residence in Russia was restricted to “useful Jews” like Gordin, and there were plenty who were comfortable and safe, usually urban dwellers and mostly merchant class.
“It’s not all that movie about the mouse,” she laughs, referring to the animated children’s film American Tale.
Barbara is an avid runner and likes to do things with her 14-year-old son, like “stand out in the freezing cold and watch him play soccer.” Calling genealogy her “crazed passion,” she spends hours on Ancestry.com.
“Skullbook: Facebook for dead people,” her husband calls it.
“The crazy stories you hear from your family” are often true, she has learned, “and the ones that everyone accepts are generally not.”
She’s worked this passion into her teaching, and includes an assignment on family history in her intro to Russian culture class. Many of her students are Russian immigrants and this makes them talk to their relatives.
She has similar assignments for the Jewish community.
“Buy books about Yiddish theater,” she quips (her second book is coming soon) and, more importantly, “talk to your grandparents.”
• • •
“I have a bad habit of giving 110 percent,” jokes Jacquie Bayley, president of Pacific Northwest Region of Hadassah. Often called “Madame Hadassah,” she’s been active in many local organizations, including the Federation and the Jewish Day School, but the women’s Zionist organization is getting her attention now.
Born and raised in Vancouver, BC, the Bellevue resident grew up at Congregation Schara Tzedek. She met and married husband Björn in Vancouver and they moved here in 1986 after eight years in the Philadelphia area.
They enrolled their kids at JDS, which became “my first Jewish community” here, she recalls.
In 1998 Hadassah tapped Jacquie for a new leadership training program. She was one of 15 who completed the original year-long program that included a trip to Israel. She chaired a gala honoring the late Althea Stroum, and then served as Seattle chapter president before taking her current position.
“I’m a big believer that when you get something, you give something back,” she says.
Last year Seattle Hadassah put on Breast Cancer Exposed, a successful fundraiser that helped educate the local community about Hadassah’s role in breast cancer treatment, prevention and research.
As a volunteer organization, Hadassah shares a problem common to all organizations: Attracting and keeping volunteers. Time is what keeps people away, Jacquie observes. There is also the “Hadassah Lady” stereotype to overcome.
“They think it’s their mother’s or their grandmother’s organization, [but] I can tell you it’s ours and our daughter’s organization,” she says.
So she is excited about a local program, “Live, Laugh, Love,” the region is putting on in March designed for “Jewish women with passion and with focus and with cause,” as well as those interested in “laughing, drinking wine, eating chocolate,” she says. (Visit www.newhadassah.com, and for full disclosure, it’s an event I’m involved in marketing.)
When time allows, Jacquie plays golf.
“I used to play tennis but my knees said no,” she says, and once a month she ushers at her shul, Congregation Beth Shalom. She also loves spending time with her kids and with friends.
“I have met some of the smartest, most creative and passionate volunteers,” she reflects, “many whom I would not have met if not for Hadassah.”
Audrey Fine, third from left, in Cuba with a local salsa band. (Courtesy Audrey Fine)
Jamie Peha gets to do what she loves best — work with food and wine.
Jamie started Peha Promotions, her food and beverage marketing and PR business, seven years ago. This former hospitality major at WSU managed restaurants for 20 years before becoming marketing director for the Washington Wine Commission, back when there were only 80 wineries in our state.
“I got to wear many hats,” she recalls, while watching the industry grow.
From there she took a position at Seattle Magazine, where she produced events — about 150 just in her first year.
“All those things together.” She says, “media, restaurants, marketing, all came together to create Peha Promotions.”
The “lifelong foodie” grew up on Mercer Island. Her father owned Ness Florists, so family life was event-oriented, but he also enjoyed eating out and Jamie was “introduced to great food at a young age.”
The day we spoke, Jamie was focused on the Seattle Wine and Food Experience, a tasting event that benefits the Giving Grapes Foundation. The Feb. 26 event at Seattle Center is open to the public and even includes a mashed potato bar (www.seattlewineandfoodexperience.com).
While serving on the boards of Les Dames d’Escoffier (a philanthropy of women in food, beverage and hospitality) and the Washington Wine Industry Foundation, she calls the Auction of Washington Wines that funds charitable care at Seattle Children’s “my favorite event.”
Jamie joins “chef-in-the-hat” Thierry Rautureau for a twice-monthly radio show, “Table Talk” on KKMW-AM 1150 the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month at 8 a.m. You can listen anytime, and read Jamie’s blog at www.tabletalkradio.net.
The Mercer Island High grad is married to Benson Grinspan. They like to travel, going “to New York as often as we can,” she says, as well as cook and entertain — especially family. In the kitchen, Jamie makes what she likes to eat.
“I love Jewish food,” she says.
Her matzoh ball soup is “awesome” (oh, I think the gauntlet has been thrown down) and she’s mastering Sephardic pastelies, savory meat pies, a link to her Rhodes heritage.
• • •
For 20 years, Steve Katz and Audrey Fine and their kids have vacationed with Steve’s extended family in December. At first, Audrey says, these were sedentary trips where parents could plunk down somewhere and watch the little kids play.
As those kids got older, now aged 14 to 25, more adventurous trips were planned. This past December, the family journeyed to Cuba on a religious mission.
U.S. travelers to Cuba need a license and a purpose for the trip. License categories range from cultural to journalistic to business-related, as well as the religious visa.
The family — three of four Katz siblings, spouses and kids, plus Steve’s parents—flew out of Miami on a charter. The 16 constituted a tour group and rode on a state-sponsored guide and bus the entire week.
“There is tourism,” just “not many American[s],” and their guide was “fabulous…candid and open and talkative,” she says.
The family visited four Jewish communities, including two in Havana where they attended a Hanukkah party and Shabbat services, and viewed a Holocaust exhibit.
Often on vacation, “you meet people who work in the tourist industry, but not real people who live there,” Audrey says. “[We] really got to meet Jewish Cuban people.”
Bringing aid was part of their licensure, including “toys, craft supplies, vitamins, over-the-counter medications, office supplies, clothes,” says Audrey. (Basic goods are lacking because of the U.S. embargo and collapse of the Soviet Union.) Their two younger kids, Mitchell and Sophie, collected items at the Northwest School. Their oldest son Adam brought baseball hats and baseballs to give away, which proved popular.
About 1,200 Jews remain in Cuba, down from 15,000 before the revolution. A few young people occasionally leave for Israel and on occasion a Cuban young adult participates on a Birthright Israel trip.
The Katz clan visited a congregation outside Havana in the process of building a small synagogue, “about the size of an average American living room,” Audrey told me, and met members of another congregation with no building. Only one Cuban congregation is affiliated (Orthodox) and none have a rabbi. An Argentinean or Chilean rabbi comes about twice a year to perform necessary rituals for the community.
Audrey’s favorite part of the trip was music, which was “everywhere…live jazz, salsa.” Saddest was the beautiful but crumbling buildings surrounded by scaffolding, but unrepaired because of lack of supplies. Most bizarre, she says, was the two-currency system with special tourist money.
PNBConditioning program director Marjorie Thompson, standing, works with a Pilates student. (Photo by Angela Sterling)
Even though her performance career in ballet didn’t last very long, Marjorie Thompson still feels the influence of her early years dancing with the New York City Ballet, “when George Balanchine was artistic director,” she says.
“I was there at the right time,” reflects the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s conditioning program director and faculty member. “I got to work with Stravinsky, too…It was wonderful, a privilege.”
Marjorie grew up on Long Island, studied at the School of American Ballet and joined Balanchine’s corps when she was 15. Professionals that young are rare these days.
“It’s not good for the body,…for education,” Marjorie says.
She completed high school at the Professional Children’s School in Manhattan, counting Marvin Hamlisch and Liza Minnelli among her classmates.
After six years of performing, however, an injury compelled her to turn to teaching. To aid in her recovery, she started a form of exercise called the Lotte Berk method.
“I loved doing the exercises,” and she left dance instruction and started teaching exercise instead.
Eventually, she became the director of the studio, learning “how to run a business and work with clientele,” she says, which included “influential…eastside New Yorkers and movie stars.” After giving birth to her daughter, she says she found that method “didn’t feel as healthy to me anymore,” and she returned to the Pilates exercises she had done as a dancer, and began to teach that too.
Most dancers do Pilates, she explained, and did so long before its current popularity with the general public.
“It strengthens without creating bulk,” Marjorie says, and helps injuries heal. “Some of the dancers at PNB who I work with are super strong” because of Pilates. They may look fragile, she adds, but they’re not.
Marjorie returned to teaching dance, too, and in 1995 she was offered a teaching job at PNB. For extra income she would teach Pilates at a studio across the street.
“I would run back and forth between the two facilities!” she says.
So many PNB dancers attended her Pilates classes that she was invited to teach in-house. “It started out in ’96 as something we offered the dancers in the company,” she says. “Then it was offered to students, then opened up to board members.”
Now anyone can take the classes.
Except for a short stint in Pittsburgh, Marjorie has been at PNB since then, teaching ballet, conditioning and Pilates.
• • •
As a National Merit Commended Scholar, Dena Phillips is one of 50,000.
It doesn’t sound like much, but since 1.5 million students take the PSAT college readiness test upon which the commendation is based, it puts her in the top 3 percent of college-bound students.
This math-loving senior at Northwest Yeshiva High School hopes to attend Stern College at Yeshiva University in the fall (Stern is the women’s college). She was hard-pressed, when asked, to think of a school subject she didn’t like, finally admitting that writing is not a favorite, although she loves to read.
She credits NYHS for her achievement.
“I think my school…provide[s] us with good study habits and study skills. They make learning enjoyable,” she says, adding, “I know that sounds corny.”
An athlete who plays volleyball and basketball for the school, Dena hopes the girls’ basketball team makes it to the state finals. The volleyball team did make it to the state championships this fall, but the Shabbat-scheduled game could not be changed and the team had to forfeit.
“There’s a huge interest” in girls’ sports at NYHS, Dena reports, even though only about half of the 100 students are girls.
Dena is finance chair of the school’s student council and has made the dean's list every year. She and her family attend Bikur Cholim Machzikay Hadath, where she helps out with the Shabbat youth programs.
“I babysit a lot,” she says. “I like working with kids.”
She expects to study something science-related in college.
When we spoke, Dena had just been accepted to a seminary program in Israel, which she will attend next academic year, before starting college. She’ll study at Midrasha Harova, “just a couple of minutes’ walk from the Kotel.”
Raphi Schuster, left, and Daniel Kaplan, stepbrothers whose individual community service works during a board review in which they both earned the title of Eagle Scout. (Courtesy Carol Schuster)
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.
• • •
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.
Kenny and Marleen Alhadeff with former Seattle Mayor Norm Rice, now head of The Seattle Foundation, at National Philanthropy Day on Nov. 18. (Photo: Kim Doyel/Team Photogenic)
Kenny and Marleen Alhadeff are always happy to be honored, as they were Nov. 18, receiving the Outstanding Family Philanthropists award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Washington Chapter, for their work with the Foundation for Early Learning.
On accepting the award, Kenny stressed to those gathered at the local Philanthropy Day luncheon — and to me on the phone last week — that they aren’t doing this alone.
“I know it sounds trite,” he said, but “we weren’t standing on a podium receiving an award, we were standing on the shoulders of our parents and in the shadow of our children. We are part of a legacy, a chain of giving.”
It’s one of the reasons the couple recently changed the name of their foundation from Kenneth and Marleen Alhadeff Charitable Foundation to the Alhadeff Family Foundation. “We felt strongly [that] our children’s involvement, and the generations that came before us, was so important that we changed the name,” Kenny said.
The Alhadeffs’ philanthropic reach is broad. They are passionate about the arts, the importance of philanthropy, drug and alcohol rehabilitation and social justice. They support a long list of organizations including Cascade Land Conservancy, The Children’s Museum, Senior Services, the University of Washington and Washington State University, Pacific Northwest Ballet, 5th Avenue Theater, Jewish Family Service, and The Northwest School for Hearing-Impaired Children.
“The work these two have done to contribute to the success of organizations all across our region touches the lives and work of so many people,” said Jenna Barrett of the Foundation for Early Learning.
As for their passion for early learning, Kenny says there are basic skills that parents can use with their children from birth to age 5 — and all parents can learn them — which pave the way for school success. Without them, by 1st grade “there’s already a separation,” says Kenny, “measured 12 years later” by excessive high school dropout rates in Seattle and nationwide.
• • •
The Granite Curling Club of Seattle is no secret and it’s not tucked away in some remote corner of town. It sits on North 130th St., just east of Aurora Avenue, and Seattle native Ariel Krasik-Geiger says that as a kid he had driven by it “thousands” of times, just like many Seattle north-enders. (I certainly have, and just expressed surprise that there’s curling outside of Canada, and let it go at that.)
But Ari, now 25, had a different response. In 8th grade he decided to find out more and attended one of the club’s many open houses.
“It just clicked with me,” he recalls. “I just loved it,” and had a “natural affinity” for this sport which requires a high level of strategy.
He became a competitive junior curler, joining a team and competed at the state level, and even went to nationals one year.
Curling is “a good workout,” says Ari, who grew up at Congregation Beth Shalom, and “as physically challenging as [what] you put into it.” It’s mentally challenging, too, and is often called “chess on ice.” He also admits that “curlers have a good sense of humor…we know that it’s an obscure sport; we love it nonetheless.”
Ari continues to curl, “more on a social level,” with the guys he grew up playing with. His busy school schedule doesn’t allow the level of practice required to compete. The graduate of Occidental College is in the process of applying to graduate school in mechanical engineering and completing his prerequisites for that program. He has a handyman business as well, and he stays in shape at a CrossFit gym.
The club still has open houses and “doubters” are particularly welcome. Information is online at www.curlingseattle.org.
• • •
It’s time to say goodbye to “My Mieko’s Minyan.” That’s what I call my workout companions who show up at that Northend Seattle gym on weekday mornings. Sometimes there are enough of us (a liberal minyan) to daven shacharit — say our morning prayers. No, I’m not going anywhere, but Mieko’s is under new ownership, and once the old signs come down, “Vision Quest Minyan” won’t have quite the same ring. Here’s a shout out to some of the self-employed, part-time, flextime, work-from-home, and homemakers who are getting to the gym: Debbie Dick Shuster, Steve Katz, Elizabeth Davis, Elizabeth Braverman, Phillip Levin, Mitchell Hymowitz (also a curler!), Rhona Feldman, Amee Sherer, Michael Sherer, Marcy Porus-Gottlieb, Karen Iglitzin, and apologies to anyone I missed.
Brenda Luper at this year’s PanCAN run with her family: Husband Steve and kids Nathan and Jessica. (Photo: Scott Masuda)
Columbus, Ohio native Brenda Luper (“go Buckeyes!”) was a relatively new arrival in the Seattle area in 2007 when she learned her mom had pancreatic cancer.
“We had no idea what that meant,” she says.
Sadly, her mother died four months later and “we spent much of that time trying to figure out what we were up against.” Finding the right answers was hard.
In 2008 her son Nathan raised $2,000 for pancreatic cancer research for his Bar Mitzvah service project. By donating the money to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (www.pancan.org), Brenda first learned of the organization. In 2009, her dad organized a fundraising walk in Tempe, Ariz., where her parents had been living.
“If my son can do this, if my dad can do this, I can do this,” Brenda thought.
When she found out there was no local walk, “I said, ‘Let’s get a walk started.’”
With volunteers and staff from PanCAN’s Puget Sound affiliate, she helped plan the Nov. 2009 event in only eight weeks. Expecting 50 participants, the committee was amazed when 500 people registered “five days before the walk,” Brenda says. And last month’s walk attracted 1,500 participants, raising $150,000.
Because of her mom’s death, Brenda also got involved in the daily minyan service at her synagogue, Herzl-Ner Tamid Conservative Congregation.
“Right after mom died I started to go say Kaddish,” she says. The Herzl minyan, she said, provided much-needed support.
By the way, research shows a connection between pancreatic cancer and Ashkenazi Jews. “Out of the regular minyan-goers at Herzl,” Brenda says, “I have met 12 people…who are directly connected with pancreatic cancer.”
Though the minyan was welcoming, as a newcomer she found it difficult to make a strong connection with the rest of the congregation. Also, she says, the minyan was struggling with mostly older participants and dwindling attendance.
“So I decided, being the renegade that I am, that I was going to change things,” she says. After approaching Bob Zimmerman, who runs the services, Brenda started writing a brochure called “The top 10 reasons not to go to minyan,” and introduced a different type of service one Sunday a month called the Minyanaire’s Club. It’s “more interactive,” she says, with more English and “more ruach-y, upbeat tunes,” followed by a brunch.
Brenda works at Franklin Moves, which specializes in managing business moves, and enjoys spending free time with husband Steve, and kids Nathan, 16, and Jessica, 13. The family enjoys skiing and traveling, and visiting synagogues at their destinations.
Next up? “We’re going to Australia in December and we’re going to The Great Synagogue,” she says.
• • •
The Balkan folk music ensemble Dunava. (Photo courtesy Dunava)
If you glanced at our arts section first, perhaps you were surprised to see a listing for a Dec. 10 concert of Balkan folk music performed by Dunava, a women’s choral ensemble.
In fact, three members of Dunava — Bulgarian for “Danube” — are Jewish, and there is more of a Jewish connection than you would think.
“Some of the Balkan melodies are reminiscent of Eastern European Jewish folk melodies,” wrote Meredith Selfon in an email, “and so they feel like home to me.” Meredith met her husband Scott through Hillel at the University of Washington’s former a capella group and observes, “though I am not religious, singing…[gives me] a spiritual connection to fellow singers, audiences and the universe.”
Israeli-born Hila Lenz, a founding member of the group, says she didn’t realize the music and folk dance of her youth had Eastern European roots until she joined Dunava, but finds that connection “was very cool.”
Hila’s family moved to Boise when she was 9, where she sang in Ahavath Beth Israel’s choir, which her parents directed for a while. She sang in choirs at Seattle University while getting her Bachelor’s degree, and is just finishing a Master’s in Middle Eastern studies at the UW.
Jill Cohen’s involvement in the choir grew out of her connection to dance.
“I grew up doing Israeli and international dancing and the music is integral to that,” she says.
She first heard Balkan women’s music on the radio in the mid-1980s, and found it “unearthly beautiful.”
She got a chance to dance and sing folk songs as a member of Radost, the Balkan folk dance troupe, and was delighted to have the chance to sing more complex choral pieces in Dunava.
“The music in the style of the female vocal choir is heart-wrenchingly beautiful, incredibly complex,” says Jill, who is also president of Seattle’s Congregation Beth Shalom.
All Balkan peninsula countries had Jewish communities, and all were decimated by the Holocaust. Jill and choir director Dina Trageser are interested in finding Balkan Jewish women’s songs that the choir can sing. If you can help, please contact Jill at email@example.com.
Bronfman fellow Anya Tudisco (Photo courtesy Anya Tudisco).
About two months ago my family and I visited Whitman College in Walla Walla. We arrived Friday afternoon and headed to the student union to buy challah from Challah For Hunger (which we wrote about in April) before our tour. Later, we joined about 30 students in the “spiritual activities room” for the Fridays at Five Shabbat gathering of the Shalom Hillel group.
Sharon Kaufman-Osborn, from the college’s counseling staff, is the group’s long-time faculty adviser. She and her husband, Tim Kaufman-Osborn (“we’re known as SKO and TKO,” she says), moved to Walla Walla in the late 1970s when he began teaching political theory at Whitman. They planned to stay only a few years, but gradually fell in love with the place, staying and raising their sons Jacob and Tobin there.
Initially Sharon, who has an MSW from the University of Wisconsin, worked part-time at the college. There was little Jewish activity on campus and the local Congregation Beth Israel (one of the state’s oldest) had a small, mostly elderly population.
“We really didn’t do much for a while,” she says.
In 1992, some students approached her about starting an official Jewish group. Despite not having a strong Jewish education she says, “I’m a great organizer…and I felt strongly there should be something there.”
The group was originally called “Shalom,” but in 2001 they affiliated with the national organization Hillel, combining names.
Today there are over 120 students on the Hillel listserve. The admissions office estimates the student body at about 8 percent Jewish with Jewish student enrollment increasing. This year’s entering class had 35 Jewish students. Sharon says more students now come from California and areas with larger Jewish populations.
Some students do become active at Beth Israel, too, where monthly services are held. Jacob Kaufman-Osborn’s Bar Mitzvah in 2001 was the first there in 10 years and the next one after that was his brother’s three years later.
In addition to Fridays at Five, Shalom Hillel hosts a Passover seder, and the school’s coordinator of religious and spiritual life hosts an annual Shabbat dinner.
“One of the things we do every year,” Sharon adds, “is to bring a Holocaust survivor to Whitman.” It is a very popular event and one that as the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, “I am deeply committed to.”
• • •
Our readers are most likely familiar with the Bronfman Foundation’s Birthright Israel trips for young people. The foundation also sponsors the Bronfman Youth Fellowships in Israel, bringing 26 high school students to Israel for six weeks the summer before their senior year, all expenses paid. The fellows — American kids from wide ranging Jewish backgrounds, Orthodox to agnostic — are joined for part of the time by 26 Israeli students.
Seattleite Anya Tudisco went this year, attracted by the opportunity to explore Jewish diversity.
“I couldn’t be a true Jewish leader or representative of the Jewish people without having ventured beyond Reform Judaism or Reform Jews,” wrote the Roosevelt High School senior in a recent paper assigned by the program.
“Bronfmanim” as they are known, continue to meet, read and reflect on their experiences during the year following the program.
“You have to be willing to read, write, think and talk,” says Anya.
In Israel, the Temple Beth Am youth group president says she had to form opinions “pretty quickly” regarding things she hadn’t known much about, noting that she knew less than her peers about Israel, traditional Judaism and “even just current events.”
As a public school student, Anya feels she brought a different perspective to the group. Most Bronfman fellows attend Jewish schools or private schools in major Jewish population centers.
“I sometimes stepped into discussions to bring attention to an issue or opinion that came from outside the Jewish community,” she says. “I felt it important to bring my experience with the secular world.”
Like other seniors, right now Anya is busy with college applications and preparing for a number of jazz performances — she plays sax and clarinet in her school’s award-winning jazz band. In December she’ll fly to New York for a working meeting with this year’s American and Israeli BYFI participants — and she’s of course excited to see her friends.
“I never would have found my way to these lifelong friends without this program. These friends are now my teachers,” she says. “BYFI is in every way a priceless experience.”
Writer Susan Szafir has just published a short work on her father’s life available at Amazon.com. (Courtesy Susan Szafir)
Diana Brement JTNews Columnist
1 A confluence of events brought Susan Szafir to electronically publish “Bohemia: An Essay,” a brief memoir of part of her father’s life.
“I was getting my certificate in non-fiction from the University of Washington,” she says, and needed a final assignment topic.
“I had always known my father’s [childhood] stories,” Susan says, “and I’d found them fascinating.” Her dad, Daniel Offer (born Thomas Hirsch) is an internationally recognized psychiatrist and expert on adolescence. His family fled to Palestine in 1936 and his parents brought their unconventional, Bohemian lifestyle to Jerusalem. What young Daniel learned about that life is the crux of Susan’s work.
Susan’s writing group encouraged her to submit the piece to the Pacific Northwest Writers Association annual contest.
“To my surprise, it was a finalist,” she says, and then, “to my even greater surprise, it won.”
With a husband who works for Amazon’s Kindle division, it’s no surprise that he “kept pestering me and pestering me” to put it online. Finally she accepted the challenge, “to experience what was involved.”
Electronic publishing proved fairly easy and an ideal format for the essay. She did it mostly herself using CreateSpace, Amazon’s self-publishing program.
Susan is also the author of Dialysis without Fear: A Guide to Living Well on Dialysis for Patients and Their Families, co-written with her dad and her mom Marjorie. Daniel has been on dialysis for over 17 years. (Susan’s family and her parents all live on Mercer Island.)
Originally from Chicago, Susan, her husband and two kids moved to the Seattle area from Austin about three years ago. She has an MBA from Duke and had worked at Dell computers in marketing. But “I decided I was interested in writing more” when the dialysis book came out in 2007.
Growing up in a Reform congregation in Chicago, she worked for the Chicago Jewish Federation for a while after college.
“I grew up in a very Zionist leaning household,” she recalls, and still has family living in Israel.
She recently started a part-time freelance job, juggling that with family life while “percolating” some other creative projects.
“I have a lot to bring to the table,” in the business world, she says, but “I have so much more fun with the literary writing.”
You can find her essay on Amazon.
• • •
Artist Janet Miller (Photo by Mary Locken)
Be sure to see Janet Miller’s encaustic paintings hanging at Mioposto Caffé in Seattle’s Mt. Baker neighborhood until the end of December. They are created using beeswax, often colored with pigments.
“Beeswax is amazing because you can do so much with it,” says Janet. “You can use it as adhesive for collage, you can carve into it and make it a sculptural process.” Plus, it “has a lovely honey-like smell.”
The Seattle native and Garfield High graduate, who became Bat Mitzvah at Temple Beth Am, lives on Seattle’s Capitol Hill in a “car-free household” with her partner. She maintains a studio downtown, although she recently had to move — along with all the building’s occupants — out of the historic 619 Western Avenue building in Pioneer Square. The building was deemed too unstable to withstand construction of the waterfront tunnel that will be built nearby (although it will now be retrofitted).
Janet, 31, attended Antioch University for a year after high school before setting off on a few years of travel, studying Spanish and teaching self-defense at a Seattle organization called Home Safe (recently closed). She spent “quite a bit of time in Mexico and Guatemala,” where she helped rural farmers with land rights issues and attended classes at the Escuela de la Montaña social justice program in Guatemala.
Through those self-defense classes she learned she loved teaching, and recently completed her B.A. at Antioch in Seattle, with teaching endorsements in language arts and visual art. She’s is now a part-time language arts teacher at the Seattle Girls School, and teaches art classes privately.
“I always have loved to draw and paint and do art since I was a little kid,” says Janet. She began studying with local artist Karen Kosoglad at age 9.
“When I met her, all I wanted to do was draw cartoons. She encouraged me to go beyond that,” Janet says. “I really credit everything I know about painting, print making, collage and book making” to her.
You can view and buy Janet’s work, sign up to get info on classes, and read more about her at www.planetjanetart.com.
Cellartracker founder Eric LeVine in his personal wine cellar. (Photo courtesy Eric LeVine)
1 It’s just happenstance, I promise, but readers will see that our featured M.O.T.s have names that inadvertently, but suitably, fit their occupations.
People sometimes assume Eric LeVine changed his name to match his work, but his great-grandfather changed it a long time ago.
Eric founded and operates the website Cellartracker.com, where wine enthusiasts track their collections and post wine reviews.
It all started with a 1999 bike trip in Tuscany taken by Eric and his wife Suzi. They “fell in love with wine” and started collecting. The former Microsoft project manager, with a background in computer programming, says tracking that growing collection on a spreadsheet “seemed wrong,” considering his abilities. In 2003, he wrote a program and shared it with a few friends who immediately wanted to use it. Eventually it became his full-time job.
Originally intending only to create a community where “people could see what other people were drinking,” the site now has 1 million visitors every month with 170,000 registered users, and 90,000 more actively using the site around the world. Cellartracker lists 1.2 million wines and users post “about 2,000 different wine reviews” every day, Eric says. The site is free, with subscription options that give users higher levels of service.
Eric arrived in the Seattle area in 1992 figuring, “I’d be here about three years.” But then he met Suzi at a Microsoft
“The more we’ve lived here the more settled we’ve become,” says Eric. “When I go back to Boston [his hometown], I say, ‘why are you people so stressed?’”
A Jewish Family Service board member for eight years, he and Suzi have been involved with Hillel’s Grads Plus program (now known as Jconnect) and are founding members of the Kavana Cooperative.“Everybody knows Suzi,” says Eric, who prefers to volunteer “behind the scenes.”
Cellartracker keeps him busy almost constantly: “It’s the curse of the entrepreneur,” says Eric, who earlier this year was named by Seattle magazine as one of Nine Nerds of Note. He unwinds by cooking for his family, including son Sidney, 9, and daughter Talia, 6. Wine, of course, remains an “active hobby” and “when the weather’s good” he likes to ride his mountain bike.
• • •
Cheri Singer Bloom, inside the Montlake Elementary School greenhouse. (Photo: Diana Brement)
It was a bit of controlled chaos when I visited the greenhouse at Seattle’s Montlake Elementary School this past June. The gardening program’s director, Cheri Singer Bloom, had invited me to the school’s annual Spring Harvest Lunch, a scaled-up version of Free Salad Friday — the weekly salad lunch at which student-grown produce is served, supplemented by greens from Full Circle Farm. Fifth graders zoomed around putting out food and organizing younger kids into lines, while Cheri doled out aprons and jobs.
In 2001 some parents approached Cheri about utilizing the greenhouse for education, rather than for storage. With degrees in horticulture from Michigan State, and special education from the University of Washington, Cheri welcomed this “goldmine” of opportunity. The Detroit native has extensive educational experience. She started her career teaching vocational horticulture to mentally ill adults first in New York, and then in Seattle.
She had recently closed her backyard business, the state’s “smallest organic farm.” Her kids were at another school, but she lives in the neighborhood and would jog by, noting the unused greenhouse. It was haunting her, she says.
She also wanted to be part of the school gardens movement started in the Bay Area by Alice Waters of restaurant Chez Panisse, and to be more involved in the community.
The greenhouse program dovetailed with a growing interest in eating locally grown food. Starting as part of the 2nd and 3rd grade science curriculum, she says, “within a year we were attracting grant money.”
Cheri credits Michelle Obama’s healthy eating campaign with amplifying “awareness and the support of the project within our community.” The weekly lunches are supported by Les Dames d’Escoffier, a philanthropic organization of women in the food industry, but parent support “really makes the difference.” The project is also linked to the school’s green team, part of the Washington Green Schools movement.
An avid swimmer who regularly dons her wetsuit to swim a mile in Lake Washington, Cheri, her husband Marc, and kids Sabina and Sam, are members of Temple Beth Am in Seattle.
Columnist’s note: check out the entertaining list of aptronyms, or aptonyms, at the Wikipedia page of that name.
Larry Kezner, or Captain Larry as he’s known, loves boats, and now he’s got a fleet. (Photo: Courtesy Larry Kezner)
No, this isn’t a series on the Kezner family. But if I hadn’t interviewed Larry Kezner’s cousin Llance last issue, Larry’s name would never have jumped out at me from a Seattle Times piece announcing Larry’s small-boat passenger ferry connecting Seattle’s South Lake Union and University Districts.
“Captain Larry” has piloted the Sunday “Ice Cream Cruise” around Seattle’s Lake Union for years (with hot chocolate and tomato soup in winter).
The 30-ton vessel, used for parties and charters the rest of the time, is busiest in December following the Christmas ships and with holiday parties.
The Seattle native mostly runs the business himself with a small crew and some administrative help. “Marketing and maintenance are the two big things,” he says.
Water transportation “catches people’s imagination,” he says. “People see that it doesn’t take roads, bridges, tunnels. The infrastructure is minimal,” reminding passengers of life 100 years ago.
Growing up in Seattle’s Madison Park, Larry’s family moved to Shoreline, where he attended high school. A ham radio enthusiast who built his own equipment, his first job was with the Coast and Geodetic Survey, the precursor to NOAA. A long career in marine electronics ensued, punctuated by Merchant Marine service during the Vietnam War and starting and selling a business building long-range radios.
In 1999 he felt finished with indoor work, asking himself, “What am I going to do that is fun?”
Acquiring his captain’s license, he worked for Argosy Tours, which was so much fun he decided he needed his own boat.
He found a cute one, he said, “but it was in Cleveland.” So he had it cut up and trucked here — “30 tons of steel down the road,” he said —and a business was born.
Larry’s new ferries, Mocha and Espresso, are small, open boats, so service runs from spring through early fall. You can see pictures and get more information at www.seattleferryservice.com. Ice Cream Cruise guests, by the way, are welcome to bring food and drink on board, and enjoy the ride while following dietary restrictions.
• • •
Insomniacs with a hankering for useless information rejoice! Bruce Caplan’s got you covered. (Photo: Courtesy Bruce Caplan)
Quick, a trivia question: what Seattle-area parking lot entrepreneur hosts a late-night radio show?
If this was (answer, please!) Bruce Caplan’s show, you would have heard this as an audio clip. Bruce says he’s learned to rely on audio trivia for “Radio Trivia” on KIXI AM, because trivia questions are so easily answered on the Internet.
The show, airing at 1 a.m. Sundays (or any time at www.radiotrivia.com), is a must for old radio buffs, as is his Crime Club in the prior hour. Both feature old-time radio shows with interviews, Hollywood anecdotes, and trivia contests.
Recording the show in a spare bedroom in his and his wife Esther’s home means he can sleep at night, but Arbitron ratings indicate about 2,000 listeners at air time.
“There are a lot of insomniacs out there,” Bruce observes.
A man of many avocations, Bruce is well known as a Titanic expert and author of The Sinking of the Titanic. The book, a compilation of interviews published three weeks after the ship sank, was in the public domain when Bruce got it as a gift. Finding it fascinating, but “sloppy,” he acquired the rights and rewrote it, correcting facts, removing archaic and racist language, and reissued it in 1996.
One year later, the blockbuster film Titanic was released. The next day the book “got 10,000 orders.” It’s now in its eighth printing.
Bruce is the resident expert at Titanic events and exhibits around the country and lectures on cruise ships (Caribbean routes) and at our own Stroum Jewish Community Center. The 69-year-old retiree, who still consults in the parking industry, is busier now than ever.
A Garfield High School grad — both his parents went there, too — attended University of Washington (Sigma Alpha Mu) and has a long family history in the area. One grandfather came for the Gold Rush and appears in Seattle’s 1903 Polk directory. His family includes B. Marcus (Benny) Priteca, architect of Chevra Bikur Holim (now Langston Hughes Arts Center) and the Alhadeff Sanctuary of Temple De Hirsch Sinai, where Bruce’s family belonged (he now goes to Shevet Achim on Mercer Island).
“I’m fascinated with…old radio,” admits Bruce, who is working to filter static out of old recordings he hopes to air.
“I even want to do the Jews of radio comedy,” he says. “It’s a great avocation, that and writing, then traveling.”
Llance and Lori Kezner in their kitchen with their awards and their award-winning products. (Photo: Liam Kezner)
Oftentimes the greatest ideas are discovered by accident. Take Llance Kezner and his wife, Lori Peha Kezner, the founders of Garlic It!, their new garlic condiments produced in five flavors, as a case in point. Their “Private Reserve Caramelized Garlic Finish” won a “Sofi” award for best new product from the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade in January. Things have been going gangbusters since.
Llance’s background is in high tech, and Lori is a kindergarten teacher at the Jewish Day School. They enjoy cooking and their product was born from the bottom of a jar, so to speak, after a Shabbat dinner.
“Lori was just cleaning up,” Llance says, when she took “a spoon and put it in the bottom of the jar” in which Llance had made salad dressing. She pronounced the marinated garlic clove she found there “incredible” and they decided the could sell the stuff.
Standardizing the taste was the biggest problem. Writing down a recipe “sounds easier than it is,” says Llance. It took “hundreds of tries.”
In 2009, Llance was laid off and he now devotes himself to the company full time. Their big break came when they signed up that year to demonstrate their product at the Taste Washington wine and food show.
“The most I’d ever made was 32 ounces in my kitchen,” he says. “Now we were talking about 40 gallons!”
It was a hit.
The caramelized product began in a similar way. Llance burned some garlic and Lori again tasted it and liked it. Llance was unconvinced that people would eat “burned” garlic, but they did, and they have.
As newbies in the food business, the Kezners found others in the industry open to sharing information. They also discovered that people are “extremely passionate” about garlic.
“I put it on the same level as coffee and chocolate,” Llance says.
Lori and Llance are Seattle-area natives who attended Rainier Beach and Inglemore High Schools, respectively. They have two kids and belong to Herzl-Ner Tamid Conservative Congregatoin.
Their products are available at almost 300 stores nationwide — and by mail at their website, www.garlicit.com — with the exception of the caramelized garlic, which is available only at specialty stores.
And since you were wondering, yes, Llance is spelled with two Ls.
“My dad’s lucky number was six,” he says. Llance’s last and middle names had six letters, the extra L was added to match.
• • •
Montreal native David Kogut is just starting his third year teaching at Seattle Hebrew Academy and his second as a fellow of the Yeshiva University “YUTeach” program. Part of the Institute for University-School Partnership, YUTeach places recent college grads as day school teachers across North America with funding from the Legacy Heritage Fund.
As one of 17 recipients of two-year teacher training fellowship, David will also receive a master’s degree at the end of the program.
At the academy he’s teaching first grade Judaic studies in the morning and “the rest of my day I’m the music teacher” for all grades. This lets him vary his approach, with the little ones learning Shabbat songs and the fifth graders making music videos. He’s also started a middle school glee club.
While attending Concordia University, David sang with a rock band and says music has always been an important part of his life.
“I was a hazzan for different synagogues in Montreal when I was living there,” he says, filling in when needed.
Growing up at Modern Orthodox Beth Zion in the Cote St. Luc neighborhood, he has been a youth director, Bar Mitzvah tutor and Hillel outreach director in his hometown.
“I’ve always been immersed in the [Jewish] community and surrounded by it.”
David and his wife, Danielle Ellbogen, moved here three years ago when Danielle took a job at Microsoft. They live on Capitol Hill in Seattle and they are active in the Capitol Hill Minyan, where David serves as chair of the board. The couple have a 3-and-a-half-year-old son who occupies most of their free time, although David says that as a hockey fan he tries to play once in a while (not a lot of opportunities in Seattle, sorry!) and attend the occasional game here or in Vancouver, B.C.
Nancy Uscher, new president of Cornish College of the Arts.
With one British and one South African parent, Tamara Gittelson grew up moving frequently from London to Cape Town and back, interspersed with “a couple of years in Israel doing ulpan and living on a kibbutz.”
By her own admission, she became a bit of a wanderer. There is “some kind of gypsy tendency in me — or was,” she notes. Now, three years into settling in Seattle and establishing her growing psychotherapy and psychoanalytic practice, she’s found a place to hang onto.
She graduated high school in the UK and did university and post-graduate studies in both England and South Africa, taking a circuitous route to her present career. She studied drama, generating an interest in psychodrama and drama therapy. That led to an additional degree in drama therapy with its “action-based methods and applicability to group work," which fostered her interest in psychoanalysis.
“It sounds compartmentalized,” Tamara says, but all these are about “communication and the facilitation of self-expression and feelings.” Psychoanalysis stresses expression of unconscious thoughts or dreams and drama involves both verbal and non-verbal communication.
“I love all of them in their own way,” but she says she finds psychoanalysis the most exciting with its “sense of never ending discovery and…profound and in-depth relating” to the self and others.
Having lived “the cultural divide,” Tamara has developed a professional interest in clients who, among others, come from mixed cultures or who have been, or are, refugees.
“One can feel like a refugee even if you haven’t been forced out of your country,” she says, an idea many Jews can relate to. “Being Jewish can dovetail with the experience of being stateless.”
Before she started her training at the Northwest Psychoanalytic Institute, Tamara taught English as a second language in England, Turkey, Chile and Israel, working with diverse clients including graduate students, corporate executives and refugees.
Tamara works with couples and individuals, and is drawn in particular to clients with infertility issues, other mental health professionals interested in getting to know themselves via psychoanalysis, and those suffering from depression and anxiety.
While she is just finishing her analytic training, Tamara already has established a practice. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-351-2655.
• • •
“Summer has finally come and I am just delighted to be here,” Nancy Uscher told me when we spoke last month. The new president of Seattle’s Cornish College of the Arts started her job Aug. 1, and while she admits she’s “climbing the learning curve,” she’s finding Seattle “cultured, arts loving…science loving and loving about learning,” qualities, she says, “mirrored at Cornish…an institution full of smart and good people.”
Nancy is a violist and holds a doctorate from NYU in music performance from that university’s Steinhardt School. Her career includes six “life-changing” years at the Jerusalem Symphony starting in 1978, during which she enjoyed getting to know the country and learning some Hebrew. She returned to Israel in June after a long hiatus, part of an arts college delegation reviewing opportunities for study in Jerusalem.
“I never stopped being a musician,” she says, but she joined the academic world in the early 1990s when she began teaching at the University of New Mexico.
In addition to teaching music there, she taught in the women’s studies department and helped found the law school’s Center for Arts and Society. After seven years she moved into university administration in the provost’s office. Before moving to Cornish she was provost at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), becoming acting co-president in her last semester there.
Raised in White Plains, N.Y., Nancy was confirmed at the Westchester Reform Temple. In Albuquerque she was active at B’nai Israel where her daughter, Alessandra Barrett, became Bat Mitzvah. She says she’s looking forward to getting to know Seattle’s Jewish community.
Nancy says she’s fortunate that “my hobby is my passion is my profession,” and hopes to have the opportunity to perform locally at some point in the future. By the way, Alessandra is also a violist, and a senior at CalArts, and one of Nancy’s “favorite musicians to perform with.” Of course you can find them on YouTube at http://youtu.be/HZAKFzhvCQ0.
Larry Kurofsky, founder of Purple restaurant, a part of what is now known as the Heavy Restaurant Group. (Photo by Hayley Young)
1 “We started Purple about 10 years ago — 10 years ago exactly,” Larry Kurofsky told me a few weeks ago about the well-known restaurant with branches in Seattle, Kirkland, Bellevue and Woodinville.
After graduate school, Larry and his wife Tabitha started a restaurant together in Las Vegas. After selling it, they considered moving back to L.A., where Larry is from, but made a vacation stop in Seattle. Of course, they “really liked it, got an apartment in Bellevue and did a little research.” That resulted in the first Purple in Woodinville. Diners familiar with the current venues, large restaurants with big furniture and grand architecture, may be surprised to learn that the original was a nine-table neighborhood place where Tabitha waited tables and Larry worked the bar.
It was “really fun” and a “great community” says Larry.
Purple is part of Larry’s Heavy Restaurant Group, which includes Barrio on Capitol Hill and Lot #3 in Bellevue. An event space will open in the fall.
The company has been visible in the Jewish community, too. In addition to carrying wine from Israel at Purple, they have hosted a few J-Pro events, been an AJC Seattle Jewish Film Festival sponsor, and were named best wine bar by this newspaper last year.
Larry is not a chef, as many assume.
“My role is conceptual,” he says, adding that if he “cooked in front of our chefs, they would laugh.”
He and Tabitha — who have two kids, Ethan, 12 and Olivia, 10 — enjoy trying other restaurants and named Walrus and Carpenter in Ballard and Lecosho in downtown Seattle as two current favorites. They enjoy travel and hope there will a trip to Italy in their future.
There is nothing like the restaurant biz to keep you busier than you want to be, but Larry says he tries to maintain a work- and home-life equilibrium.
“I try to balance my time,” and be “as hands-on as I can,” at work, he says, and credits “a good staff and management team” for helping things run smoothly.
While he loves the Northwest, Larry sometimes misses the California sun and the large extended family that he grew up celebrating the holidays with. But “it’s been great being up here for 10 years and having the growth that we’ve had,” he says.
“I feel really fortunate,” he adds. “It’s a lot of fun, it’s a people business.”
• • •
While one local restaurant institution grows, another says goodbye as Karen Binder retires from the Madison Park Café.
The restaurant, which started as a breakfast and lunch place before taking on fine evening dining, has been part of locals’ lives for 32 years.
“It’s been a really good life,” says Karen. “I’ve been really lucky” to have such variety. “I bake, I cook, I sweep the courtyard,” and both her children “have grown up at the café.
“The chronology of my life has been marked by time at the café,” and years catering local simchas, she says.
That chronology takes her on a new road as she travels to Hawaii to greet her first grandchild, due next month, courtesy of daughter Sarah Medwell Redican.
Sarah taught at the Seattle Jewish Community School for four years. Students knew her as Morah Meddy and they all “had their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs last year. I had the busiest year of my life,” Karen quips. Entrenched in the Jewish community, she estimates she’s catered “probably over 1,000” B’nai Mitzvah receptions.
Karen’s son Jake, a recent USC grad, was among a group of young L.A. entrepreneurs featured recently in Forbes magazine.)
Her kids are “the first great thing I’ve ever done,” she says. “The second great thing is the restaurant.”
The active Congregation Beth Shalom member caters that synagogue’s annual breakfast fundraiser. She was a sponsor of the Seattle Jewish Film Festival from its inception, and if you attended the recent multi-congregation Homeless to Renter (H2R) fundraiser, you might have tasted her smoked salmon appetizer. She’s taught cooking classes for JConnect and participated in Hillel’s recent kugel-off with her “sweet noodle kugel from my Hungarian mother-in-law.”
In the meanwhile, B’nai Mitzvah parents, don’t panic. Karen will still offer catering and is reachable at her e-mail address (email@example.com) and, for a while, at the restaurant phone number, 206-324-2626.
Karen is thrilled that after some remodeling, the restaurant will reopen as Café Parco under the ownership of Celinda Norton, formerly of 94 Stewart in downtown Seattle.
Michael Cory in his greenhouse with one of his prized orchids. (Photo by Diana Brement
It was a quiet evening at home when Arlene G. Cohen’s husband Steve turned to her and said, “Do you want to move to the South Pacific?”
Steve was a tax attorney in private practice and had seen an ad for a job in Saipan, U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Arlene had moved to Seattle from Los Angeles in the early 1970s and got her Master’s in Library Science from the UW in 1973. When Steve — they met here through one of the earliest Jewish computer dating services — posed that question, Arlene was a tech writer and editor at Boeing.
“When I married him I thought I would stay in Seattle the rest of my life,” she says, but she said yes and they left Seattle in late 1987.
In 1990, Arlene was offered a job at the University of Guam and spent a year and a half commuting between Saipan and Guam until Steve also moved to Guam.
“The university is the main educational institution for that area,” including Micronesia, Palau, American Samoa and the Marshalls.
“We would get students from all the islands and even the U.S., Philippines and Japan,” Arlene says.
As associate professor and head of the University of Guam Library Circulation and Interlibrary Loan Department, she was interested in library development in the region and co-founded the Pacific Islands Association of Libraries and Archives. After retiring in 2007, she helped establish a network of nine medical libraries among those Pacific Islands, funded by grants from the Robert Wood Johnson foundation, or, as she called them, “the Band-Aid people.” She did part of this work while being treated for, and recovering from, breast cancer.
Arlene — now back in Seattle — received the 2011 Distinguished Alumni award from UW iSchool (short for “Information School” as the school of library science is now known) in May.
“I’ve always been interested in resource sharing,” she says.
iSchool dean Harry Bruce presents Arlene Cohen with the Distinguished Alumni award on May 19. (Photo by Gavin Sisk)
In Guam, the couple found their Jewish community through the local military base. “The military had a multipurpose center. If you went in one door it was Jewish and if you went in another door it was Catholic,” she says. “The military would send rabbis for the holidays.”
Back home they are involved in the Kavana Cooperative (www.kavana.org), and are working to develop a bigger group of retirement age adults in the cooperative.
• • •
Like many of us, Michael Cory received an orchid as a gift. It came from his wife Sheila almost 25 years ago.
Most of us, however, don’t turn that little floral gift into a major hobby, but he did.
“I managed to get it to re-bloom,” recalls Michael. This can be challenging, as those of us who’ve received a store-bought orchid can attest.
Living in Chapel Hill, N.C., “we had a nice sun porch,” which first housed his collection and “then we built a greenhouse, a small greenhouse” as the collection grew.
Michael, a computational chemist who grew up in New York and California, retired in 2002 and Sheila, who worked in the University of North Carolina’s department of education, retired in 2006. They moved to Seattle five years ago to be near family.
Once here, they built another small greenhouse and Michael started a new collection from scratch. Being tropical, orchids don’t take to temperature extremes and don’t travel well.
There are also, I learned, some temperate orchids with “over 40 species” in this state. They are primarily low growing and tiny, and include some varieties of lady slippers. Michael says they have become almost impossible to find due to attempts by well-meaning folks to transplant them. This is almost always unsuccessful.
“You really have to be an expert to get them to grow outside their natural habitat,” he says.
Michael is an active volunteer with the Northwest Orchid Society (www.nwos.org), sometimes exhibiting at their monthly shows.
“I grow for fun, not for competition,” he says.
He volunteers as well at the Volunteer Park Conservatory, and the week we spoke, Michael was a counselor at a “plant camp” there, teaching kids about plants. (Visit www.volunteerparkconservatory.org, but really, you ought to visit in person — it’s one of my favorite places in Seattle.)
When not tending his orchids, which takes about an hour a day on average, the Temple Beth Am members enjoy hiking, spending time with their kids and grandkids, and, Michael says, “I walk Green Lake whenever I can.”
Jewish Day School teacher Margaret Chasan, who just completed Centropa Academy’s Holocaust education workshop in Europe.
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?
• • •
“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.
They’re out there at their keyboards, typing out their thoughts for you. Writing daily, weekly, or when they have something to say, these bloggers are hard at work on our home shores. (By complete coincidence, the three Jewish bloggers sampled here came originally from New Jersey!)
Blogger and longtime law professor Julie Shapiro. (Photo: Shelly Cohen)
When I spoke to Seattle University law professor Julie Shapiro, she was on her annual pilgrimage to Cape Cod with her partner Shelly Cohen and children Eli, 16, and Leah, 12. It’s where she spent childhood summers and is “the place I always came back to,” she says.
While she teaches civil procedure to first-year students, her specialty is in family law and law and sexuality. She does plenty of academic writing, but “I’d much rather reach the general audience…because of what I’m interested in,” she says, which is, “how we determine who is a legal parent.”
“Legal parentage is enormously important because the people who the law recognizes as parents have all sorts of … obligations,” she observes. “People assume that biology determines parentage, but that has hardly ever been true.” She tries to keep her blog, www.julieshapiro.wordpress.com, narrowly focused on two primary topics: Assisted reproductive technology and “the related fascination with DNA.”
Julie started blogging three-and-a-half years ago, and aims for three entries a week, turning to the daily papers for inspiration and subject matter. She’s had over 130,000 hits.
While it’s not in the blog, the Temple Beth Am member is always happy to comment on being a Jewish lesbian professor at a Jesuit university, which she calls “terrific,” adding, “Jesuits care enormously about dialog with people who are different… [and are] respectful of religious traditions.”
Ed Harris, second from left, with his kids Izzy, left, Sam, center, Gabriela, right, and future son-in-law Andrew, second from right. (Photo courtesy Ed Harris)
Over in Bellevue, Ed Harris (no, not the actor) is also blogging about family, but on a personal level. Ed explores the meaning of fatherhood at “Wisdom of a Jewish Dad”
In an ideal world, Ed would be a writer, “but my reality is that I’ve got a family to take care of” and he’s “never had the nerve to step away from” gainful employment. While writing is something he can only do in his spare time, the father of three managed to write a novel five years ago called Murphy’s Bed. An agent picked it up (an accomplishment in and of itself), but was unable to find a publisher, so Ed self-published through Amazon’s Create Space.
Writing is no problem, he observes, where volume is concerned. “I probably write 100 e-mails a day” in his day job as a technology company executive, but producing something that “has real merit is not something you can do quickly,” he says. He doesn’t want to just churn out copy. “Maybe it’s egotism: I want to have something of higher quality. I’ve only done 10 or so posts,” he says, but he hopes they are “book quality.”
Ed says he and his Dutch-born wife, Anne, who met in Israel, have an “Israel-centric” household. When we spoke, his middle son had just returned from the Alexander Muss high school program. They are members of Herzl-Ner Tamid and all three of their kids, Gabriela, 21, Sam, 17, and Izzy, 12, attended the Jewish Day School.
Like any good writer, Ed is also a reader who likes “chewy, meaty” books, calling Brideshead Revisited his favorite novel. He golfs a bit and rides his bike, but says his primary — and very dad-like — hobby is “driving somebody into Seattle or halfway across the Eastside.”
Mystery writer and new blogger Jane Isenberg. (Photo by Shilyh Warren)
Jane Isenberg is a successful author with eight mysteries, a novel and a memoir under her belt. But even with that track record, the retired English teacher’s agent is still looking for a publisher for her most recent manuscript, a historical mystery inspired by her adopted home and by the local history, A Family of Strangers by Molly Cone, Jacqueline Williams and Howard Droker. The former Florida resident set The Bones and the Book (working title) in Seattle, going back and forth from the Gold Rush to 1965.
Now the Temple De Hirsch Sinai member has started a blog that will make book-lovers’ hearts go pitter-pat. “Notes to My Muses”
(www.notestomymuses.wordpress.com) are fan mail from Jane to the authors who have most inspired her. So far she’s covered Philip Roth, John D. MacDonald, Bharati Mukherjee and Bea Kaufman on her site where she also provides links to other interesting blogs.
Adding entries when the spirit moves, the retiree says her life is “not too earth-shaking,” she says. “I write, I read, I babysit my grandkids, [who] are adorable, but not any more than other people’s.”
Anna Gottlieb of Gilda’s Club (Courtesy Gilda’s Club)
Remembering the “feeling of fear and isolation” that haunted her as a child in Rochester during her own mother’s battle with breast cancer, Anna Gottlieb became a fan and donor of the cancer support organization Gilda’s Club from its earliest days in New York. Visiting the original facility, named for the late “Saturday Night Live” comedian Gilda Radner, she “really fell in love” and decided to open a Seattle chapter.
“Being stupid and stubborn I thought: ‘I can do this,’” she laughs.
“I was fairly new to Seattle; I wasn’t the person who could write a $25,000 check,” she says. “It was a miserable, painful four years” of letter writing and phone calls.
A five-year corporate sponsorship from Sears with support from the oncology community really got things going. Now she’s been running the organization, with its own Capitol Hill building, for 10 years.
Anna and her husband, Charlie Schmidt — they met on a kibbutz in Israel — had moved to Seattle from the other Washington, where she worked for AIPAC, the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations and for then-Senator Joe Biden. Having attended grad school in Oregon, she was pining for the Northwest. Charlie, who works for Social Security, managed to get a transfer and they moved out here with their daughter, Talia (son Danny was born here).
What Anna loves about Gilda’s Club is that they serve and support everyone. She’s always fighting the misperception that it’s a women’s organization.
“We are for the whole family, any stage, any diagnosis,” she says, also serving survivors with support and education.
Now they are “taking cancer education program into the workplace and into high schools.” Twenty-five percent of cancer patients have a child under 18 at home, but you’re unlikely to find anything about the disease in school health curricula. Gilda’s Club also sponsors a teen essay contest, the results of which are on their website, www.gildasclubseattle.org.
“Grab a tissue,” Anna says.
Fundraising is a constant concern. The club is best known for the annual “Surviving With Style” fashion shows in Seattle and Tacoma, as well as for their golf tournaments.
This month brings a fun partnership with Seattle Chocolates and Majestic Bay movie theater. The chocolate company — owner Jean Thompson had a brush with cancer — has made special chocolate bars, some of which have “golden tickets” which entitle winners to a rare tour of the company. Then, on July 23 at 9:30 a.m., the Majestic Bay is donating its theater for a screening of the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory starring Gene Wilder, Gilda’s Club founder and Radner’s husband. The $20 admission includes the chocolate. There’s more information about the event and all of Gilda’s Club programs at their website.
• • •
Tee Sheffer has worked hard building his business, Signametrics, these past two decades. Now he will be working — perhaps a little less hard — over the next two years on closing the Seattle-based company.
Last year, the very successful multi-national precision instrumentation manufacturer was approached by Agilent Technologies. After what sounds like some gentle arm-twisting, “we got bought by…the world’s largest instrument company,” Tee says.
Signametrics is “famous, in a way, in those type of circles, in instrumentation…in the electronics industry,” Tee explained to me. I can’t pretend to understand the technical details, but suffice it to say that their distribution “is all over the world.”
Their product’s “applications vary widely from battery testing for the space shuttle, to weapons system testing, to component testing, to medical electronics, and aerospace such as Boeing and EADS (Airbus),” Tee says. “Any big-name company you have heard of is using our product, from China to India.”
Your iPhone was probably tested with Signametrics equipment.
“We didn’t look for anybody” to buy the company, says Tee, who holds a dozen test and measurement patents. “They came to Seattle [with] their VPs, their big guns, and talked us into merging with their operation.”
An Israeli native — he grew up on Kibbutz Ashdot Ya’akov on the shores of the sea of Galillee — Tee and his wife Michal arrived in Seattle about 40 years ago so he could get a master’s in electrical engineering from the UW. He then worked for Fluke for 20 years. Michal, who he says “more people know than me,” worked for Jewish Family Service for many years. More recently, she’s been Signametric’s CFO and operations manager.
Work is “slowing down now,” says Tee, by which he means he’s working 40 to 50 hours a week and not the usual 60-plus. This leaves more time for flying his “simple, four-seater Cessna,” which he takes up to the San Juan Islands at least once a week in the summer.
Supporters and clients of Jewish Family Service in Seattle are already aware of the construction project that has dominated the organization’s land at the corner of 16th Avenue and Pine Street for the past few months.
Ed Weinstein, architect of JFS’s new offices, just received the 2011 American Institute of Architects Seattle Medal of Honor, presented to him at the annual AIA Honors dinner in May.
AIA board president George Shaw recognized the “consistently exceptional quality of [Ed’s] firm’s work” as well as “Ed’s generous, open, engaging, down-to-earth personality [which has] has clearly made its mark on our profession and our community.”
“I felt very honored,” said Ed, noting that while the award is given for lifetime achievement, “in many respects I feel that I’m only mid-career.
“It was very much a surprise; I consider myself to be a young pup.”
Ed has been involved in the Jewish community both as a professional and a volunteer for many years. He and his wife Marcia Friedman are long-time members of Temple De Hirsch Sinai and of the Stroum Jewish Community Center, and he has served on the facilities committee of the former and the board of the latter.
Growing up in Aberdeen, Wash., in a merchant family, he was always interested in architecture.
“I enjoyed drawing and building models,” and his mother suggested the career over those more traditional “Jewish” careers of doctor or lawyer. She thought his clients might be happier. Ed shared this anecdote with the audience at the awards dinner to quite a bit of laughter — which you’ll understand if you’ve been on either end of a building or remodeling project.
Coming to Seattle in the late 1960s to attend architecture school at the University of Washington, he added two years of grad school at Harvard before returning to Seattle. He worked for others here for a short while before forming his own firm.
“We’re very experienced in working for not-for-profits,” he says of Weinstein A/U, which has taken on a wide variety of public and private building projects, including TDHS’s Bellevue building. Designing the JFS project was particularly challenging “because of the tight space and the need to keep them in business [on-site],” he says.
The staff has continued to use the existing Jessie Danz building and the food bank has been operating during construction, too.
What we remember as the parking lot provided the footprint for the new building. On its completion in December, staff will move in and renovations on the “old” building will begin. On completion, JFS will be almost double its current size, at 33,500 square feet.
• • •
We last heard from Jake Bobman four years ago when he graduated from Mercer Island High School and was on his way to the University of Washington honors program. As a National Merit Scholar, a Washington State Scholar and class valedictorian, we certainly had high hopes for this young man who said then that he planned to blend his academic interests with a desire to help others.
Back then he expected to double major in biochemistry and math. He achieved that goal, graduating with two degrees, a BS in mathematics with college honors and a BA in biochemistry, but bettered his predictions by adding minors in music, chemistry, and international studies.
With all that to his credit, it’s no surprise that Jake is the 2011 UW president’s medalist for his class, an award given to the graduating senior with the University’s most distinguished academic record. He was presented with the award by UW interim president Phyllis Wise at commencement on June 11.
While at UW, Jake worked in the Kim Laboratory conducting behavioral neuroscience research and wrote his honors mathematics thesis on cryptography research focusing on “a type of public key cryptography and how it protects patient privacy,” he explained. He studied abroad in Costa Rica, sang with the UW Vocal Jazz Ensemble and Men’s Glee Club, and held leadership positions within the honors program.
Jake is the son of Karen and Bruce and grandson of the late Rae and Jack Tacher and Marcia and the late Joseph Bobman. The Bobmans are longtime members of Temple De Hirsch Sinai, and Jake is a longtime active volunteer in our community.
As anticipated by Jake four years ago, he is headed to medical school, attending Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons on a full-tuition merit scholarship.
“It’s extremely exciting,” he says and he’s “looking forward to experiencing a new city.”
But for now he’s just hoping for “time with family and friends and having a relaxing summer before going to medical school.”
Rob Rose, center, and Gina Rose, to his left, with some of their many young friends with disabilities in Kathmandu, Nepal. (Courtesy Rob Rose)
In 1975 at age 16, and a student at Nathan Hale High School in Seattle, Rob Rose spent eight months in Calcutta, India as a Rotary exchange student. That “formative experience…opened up my perspective, my world view,” Rob says.
It also laid the foundation for his current avocation, helping disabled kids in Nepal through The Rose International Fund for Children.
“It gelled in my mind that I really had an obligation…to give back to those who don’t have…basic needs met,” Rob says.
While he’d always been an active community volunteer, in 1997 he read a Seattle Times travel article about the Nepalese Youth Foundation and its founder, Olga Murray. Inspired, he called Murray to volunteer as a photographer — his profession. It turned out they did need someone to document their work, so Rob took his oldest son, then 11, first back to Calcutta and then to Nepal. One very cold night he had an epiphany: “I thought, if I just direct my life in a way that’s focused on helping other people, I can really leave a footprint and have an impact,” he says.
Already a Rotary Club member, Rob knew grants were available for projects overseas. Olga introduced him to a Nepalese Rotarian and they started doing projects with Rotary and Rotary International.
That partnership — expanded to Rotary clubs all over Nepal — continues today with grants growing close to $1 million. There’s even a disabilities-awareness campaign designed to prod Nepalese into shedding their prejudice against the physically handicapped, often regarded as cursed or having bad Karma. Projects have included fixing a drainage problem at an orphanage or teaching disabled people to manufacture wheelchairs.
“Around 2003…I thought I wanted to have my own non-profit,” Rob recalls. He was collecting donations for TRIFC and wanted to be a legitimate charity, and “I didn’t want to monopolize my own Rotary Club’s funding.” (Thanks to his success, more and more club members were submitting projects.)
TRIFC got 501(c)3 status in 2006. While he continues to work on the Rotary projects, the “macro,” TRIFC focuses on the “micro.” Their best-known project is providing waterproof backpacks full of supplies for blind children, including a Braille watch and ruler, a folding cane and books. TRIFC has expanded into projects at a variety of institutions, and you can read more at their website, www.trifc.org.
Rob travels to Nepal about once a year, sometimes with his wife, Gina, and makes a point of visiting children they’re helping, many of whom, he says, are in need of attention.
Back home, he continues to run the family business, Brandt Photographers, the oldest continuously operating business in Bellevue. The studio has moved to his home and his mom, Arlene, still helps out a few hours a week. He belongs to Temple B’nai Torah where fundraising efforts have helped purchase Braille books for Nepalese kids.
• • •
If the name David Shuster rings a bell for readers, it’s probably because David ran the Federation campaign for a couple of years ending in 2006. In fact, he left the Federation three months before the tragic shooting there in March that year.
“I was a colleague with all the people who were there…I heard about it on television as the shooting was unfolding” he recalls, “I went straight to Harborview.”
Pam Waechter, who was killed in the attack, had worked alongside David as assistant campaign director, and took over his job when he left.
“She was very, very vital,” to the work of the Federation, he says.
Before working at the Federation, David was the major gifts relationship manager for United Way of King County. He left the Federation for private-sector work, first at Charles Schwab and now he’s started a new position as managing director for investment advisory services at IMS Capital Management. He notes some similarities between his work in the two sectors where he’s asked to “build relationships, establish credibility,” and to “make a cogent argument for what you’re asking for,” he says.
Born in Israel, David was raised in L.A. after age 5. He got much of his religious training attending Chabad camps in California, and while not affiliated with any particular synagogue, “I’m tied to the Jewish people,” he says. “I’m an advocate for the state of Israel, I give philanthropically to Jewish causes,” including, of course, the Federation.
“Wrestling with God” is what defines his Judaism — you won’t be surprised to learn that he has an undergraduate degree in philosophy from Antioch (and an MBA from City University). Married for eight years, he has two small children who basically occupy his free time.
Philanthropist Mark Bloome
There’s a new organization in town — and around the country.
Founded by local philanthropist Mark Bloome, TAP-America — Tolerance, Americanism, Patriotism — inspires tolerance and economic viability.
Calling it “spiritual,” not political, Mark says TAP grew out of many years of his own spiritual work. Specific inspiration came last year when he participated in Call to Conscience, a celebration of African-American history and culture in Tacoma last year. As a speaker, and the first white person to co-chair the event, “the issue of tolerance certainly became clear,” he says.
Mark felt strongly that tolerance and patriotism had to be linked, something “all of America had to be engaged in.” Patriotism, he notes, has been used too often by extremist groups “to bash minorities.”
“We’re the first organization where tolerance and patriotism are equated,” he says. “A country divided cannot stand.”
Effective videos at the TAP website (www.tapamerica.org, Facebook and Twitter) show young people around the country stating why they love America and declaring, “I’m made in America!” In a public relations coup, TAP-America’s message is running hourly on CBS’ Times Square “Jumbo Tron” reader board through the beginning of July and TAP’s website will feature public reaction to it.
A second, more somber message from the organization is to “buy American” to revitalize our economy.
“From an economic point of view we are being hollowed out by the deliberate policies of the Chinese government through currency manipulation, through stealing our intellectual ideas, through [Chinese] regulations about doing business in China,” Mark says.
Although inexpensive Chinese products have created a vicious circle of affordability for many consumers, Mark says research shows “if consumers spend an extra dollar a day on things made in the USA…we can save a million jobs.”
A grassroots “buy local” movement is already in place, but “our ‘buy local’ says [local is] between the Atlantic and the Pacific,” Mark says. These efforts help businesses and also generate local tax revenue for police, education and programs for the poor.
Mark was a founder of Safe Washington, a partnership of local Jewish organizations that prepares our communities for all kinds of emergencies whether natural disaster or terrorist attack. He is also working with the Federation to oppose the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.
This grandfather of six, and an avid biker and skier, says his priorities are first local and then “my American community,” which has given him and his family so much, but freedom in particular.
“Whether it’s the Jewish people in the United States or the American people,” he says, “deep in my heart I want to preserve freedom. That’s one of the greatest gifts God can give us besides our health.”
• • •
Bernard Hazen jumps and juggles at a Teatro Zinzanni performance. (Photo by Alison Hazen)
If you’re going to Teatro ZinZanni any time soon — Seattle’s cabaret theater on lower Queen Anne Hill — pay close attention to the character Sheikh Zabier. French-born Israeli Bernard Hazen has the role in which he not only juggles, but performs Rolo Bolo, a balancing act involving numerous cylinders and boards stacked up almost to the top of the tent.
Bernard, 30, was entranced by circus programs he saw on TV growing up in Ashdod.
“When I saw [the shows],” he says, “I knew this was what I wanted to do.”
Active in an after-school youth movement, he started juggling at 15 and quickly turned to performing and teaching other kids. (He continues his love of teaching as an instructor in ZinZanni’s summer camps.)
Before leaving for his required military service as an IDF paratrooper, he tried to study with a Russian émigré circus performer, who continually rejected him. This stepped up the challenge for Bernard, who kept on improving his skills. Admittedly handy, “I would build props and practice downstairs” at home,” he says. “It’s one of the biggest reasons I got good, because he said it was crap.”
After his military service they finally worked together until his teacher declared him ready for Europe.
Europe and Russia take the circus much more seriously than Americans or Israelis do. Bernard constantly heard the complaint, “‘What are you, a clown? …Go be a lawyer or something,’” he says.
After studying intensely in France, including with famed juggler Italo Medini, and performing around the world, he entered an international competition where only 26 out of thousands are chosen to perform. He made it, and Teatro Zinzanni snapped him up right after.
He’s been performing here in Seattle and at the theater’s San Francisco tent since 2005. He and his wife Alison, a former waitress at the show, and their daughter Naomi live in Seattle.
From left to right, Ben Spear, Jacob Goren and Zac Zils, the DJs Benzacob. (Photo: Josh Voss)
“I covered the story from the beginning…in early 2007,” says “barefoot bandologist” Jackson Holtz. The Herald of Everett reporter just released his book, Fly, Colton, Fly, about “Barefoot Bandit” Colton Harris-Moore, the teenage Camano Island burglar who branched out into national and international theft before being arrested in the Bahamas.
The book draws on the 100-plus articles Jackson wrote working the paper’s crime beat. After the bandit’s 2010 arrest, Jackson felt there was a strong enough narrative, and certainly enough material, for a book. His proposal was picked up by Penguin’s New American Library.
He wrote the book in “just over a month” so it could come to market while interest still abounded. The pace was daunting, he says, but as a runner he compared it to “any endurance event…you have to pace yourself and work at it every day.” And, no, he hasn’t interviewed Colton. No one has.
A founding board member of West Seattle congregation Kol HaNeshamah, Jackson is “somehow…back on the board again after almost six or seven years off [it].” The 8-year-old congregation got its start when — after much talk — “a group of eight of us had dinner at Buddha Ruksa in West Seattle” and created the progressive congregation.
“We’re a synagogue that got its start over Thai food,” he says.
It’s a natural fit for Jackson, who grew up in Boston attending Temple Israel, where he and his dad were both active members.
He finds “a Jewish lesson” in Fly, Colton, Fly about community and community responsibility. “It’s a cautionary tale,” he says.
We’re captivated by a story about a modern American outlaw folk hero, “but it’s also a sad story about a child who was neglected and began stealing to survive.”
Jackson has moved to features reporting for The Herald, but he still covers the bandit when news emerges. He lives in Seattle with his partner, Jeremy Moser, and their cat Emily. “I love to cook,” he says, and last summer he and Jeremy started a pea patch. Find more information at www.jacksonholtz.com.
• • •
Jacob Goren, Ben Spear and Zac Zilz have been schoolmates, friends and campers at Camp Solomon Schechter for many years. Last summer that all coalesced into a business. They were emceeing the camp’s evening shows, and putting on skits. One night they asked if they could DJ a dance, and a new DJ business was born.
Back in the Seattle area, Benzacob — a mesh of their names — quickly began getting work in and outside the Jewish community. They’ve played for youth groups and schools, for Bar and Bat Mitzvah parties and family events, and organize independent dances for high schoolers using Facebook to publicize the events.
With Seattle residents Jacob and Ben graduating from Interlake High School in Bellevue and Northwest Yeshiva, respectively, and Zac from Mercer Island High, Benzacob will be on partial hiatus for the next few years. Jacob will attend the University of Washington and has access to the equipment if he’s needed; Ben will study at Derech Eitz Haim yeshiva in Israel; Zac is attending University of Redlands. Although the three will be at Schechter this summer, they can get away for bookings. (Ben will return to the UW next year.)
Aside from school and Benzacob, Jacob has been active in the business leadership organization DECA. He also plays “a lot of soccer and other sports,” he says. Ben plays on the Yeshiva golf team (yes, the yeshiva has a golf team!). A budding filmmaker, he finds similarities in audio editing and running a sound system.
Zac is involved in B’nai B’rith Youth and spent this year helping the Eastside chapter increase their membership. A “connoisseur of all kinds of music,” he also plays water polo. He says the best part of Benzacob is “all the new people we meet.” It’s been great, he says, to learn to “approach people and take risks,” all skills he expects he will be able to use in the future.
• • •
A correction: I transposed information about Inge Marcus in the last issue: She retired from Saint Martin’s University in Lacey as an assistant professor in biology in 2007 and only taught very briefly at Pacific Lutheran in 1985.
Jackie Rosenblatt and Judge Gary Johnson, at center, with their sons Josh, left, and Joseph, right. (Photo: Peter Serko)
A self-described “small-town kid from Vashon,” Gary Johnson feels like he’s come a long way to his recent appointment by Gov. Chris Gregoire to the Pierce County Superior Court, replacing Judge Gary Steiner, who retired Feb. 1.
He traces his success directly to the National Defense Student Loan (now Federal Perkins) that sent him to college.
“Everyone in this country contributed to my chance to get an education,” he says. “Now it’s my turn to pay back.”
Since 1987 Gary has been an attorney at Kram, Johnson, Wooster & McLaughlin in Tacoma. He’s has done a little of everything in his career, he explains, having started work when there were only a handful of attorneys in Kitsap County.
“I have about as broad a background as you can find for a lawyer,” he says. “I’ve been a prosecutor, defense lawyer, served as pro tem judge” for Kitsap County District and Port Orchard Municipal, and Pierce County Superior Court.
It’s an intense vetting process for judicial appointments in this state.
“This governor has done a terrific job of having a process in place,” he says, including a 50-page application, judges’ recommendations and interviews with minority bar associations.
“It really is a chance to do what I’m good at a different level.” He says he told the governor it was like being raised on Vashon, where “you don’t drive past someone with a flat tire.”
Of course, what the governor doesn’t know is that the day she called to give Gary the news, he was having an appendicitis attack and waiting for a call from his doctor.
“I was in considerable pain while she was talking very eloquently,” says Gary who was saying to himself, “this is unbelievable,” while at the same time, “I’m thinking, ‘I gotta get off the phone!’”
While an undergraduate and law student at University of Puget Sound, Gary first met the late Rabbi Richard Rosenthal of Tacoma’s Temple Beth El.
“This was before I met Jackie,” he says, referring to his wife, Jackie Rosenblatt.
The rabbi, an adjunct professor of religion, became a great influence. “He was exceptional” and “brilliant,” Gary says. “He was my rabbi and always will be.”
Jackie and Gary were married at Herzl, where Jackie grew up. Their two grown sons, Josh and Joseph, both work at the Stroum Jewish Community Center on Mercer Island and Gary says, “I’m incredibly proud of them.”
When he’s not working, His Honor is a “rabid” windsurfer and an equally “rabid” reader who enjoys historical fiction and current affairs.
Gary began work April 18, but his formal swearing-in is May 12 at 4 p.m. at the Pierce County-City Building (930 Tacoma Ave. South, Tacoma), and is open to the public.
• • •
Ronny Bell, whose grandfather founded Hebrew National, left college with three objectives: 1. Never wear a tie 2. Never create a resume 3. Never wear a watch.
Now 38, the founder of Pioneer Organics — he sold his interest a few years ago — has launched a “daily deal” site called Ideal Network, a group-buying website that raises funds for good causes. The company, founded with business partner Jon Ramer, is still small enough that when I called there, Ronny answered the phone. It combines group buying (like Groupon), crowd funding (like causes.com), social media (like Facebook) with “cause marketing” (buying things while helping people).
A recent example was a deal on Mighty-O donuts that benefitted the Moyer Foundation. The site showed met that a little over a dollar of my purchase would be donated to the foundation — or I could pick a different cause.
With Hebrew National such an integral part of his family’s life, Ronny says he learned “an early lesson that having a business [should be] meaningful,” not “just about buying and selling.”
People often tell him what an important part of their lives Hebrew National has been, “and I don’t think they mean the hot dogs,” he says. It’s the emotional relationship that’s essential.
Describing himself as a cultural Jew with Buddhist leanings, Ronny says he’s having fun with his 8-month-old daughter as well as with his business. In his free time, he says, “I cook and play hockey.”
And he’s managed to stick to the objectives stated above.
The company launched Feb. 1 and Ronny says things are going well. He’s interested in hearing from Jewish charitable organizations that might like to partner with the company. Contact information — and the deal of the day — are at www.idealnetwork.com.
Inge and Hal Marcus, who will be leading a trip to Israel and Paris through the American Technion Society. (Courtesy Hal Marcus).
The challenge of being a dietician, says Lorren Negrin, is how people perceive her profession as a bunch of people saying “we want you to go on a diet.”
But, really, she explains, “I’m all about moderation and no diets.”
The Seattle Pacific University grad who did her internship at Oregon Health & Sciences University in Portland, recently started her own business, Say I Do Nutrition Services with her partner Shena Washburn (www.sayidonutrition.com).
“I’m at the age where a lot of my friends are getting married,” she says, and she couldn’t help noticing that in their efforts to look “beautiful and gorgeous” in their wedding gowns, many of those friends were engaging in some, frankly, odd weight-loss techniques.
“One friend ate Doritos, but spit them out,” Lorren recalls. Another ordered Mexican dishes without chips, tortillas, rice or beans — “basically chicken and lettuce.” Another planned on fasting for three days before her wedding.
“I couldn’t have my friends doing this,” Lorren says, and started teaching them healthy weight-loss and maintenance methods (one friend lost 30 pounds). From there she jumped to helping “everyone, not just my friends,” she says.
Lorren also works part-time at Harborview Medical Center where she sees a range of patients with illnesses from diabetes to heart disease, along with obese children and babies who aren’t eating. Before Harborview, she worked at Kline Galland for a while.
The two dieticians have been giving a lot of talks recently. One is coming up on May 1, at the Eastside Torah Center’s “Spring Spa for Your Body and Soul” workshop (www.chabadbellevue.org). When not working, you’ll find the Newport High School alum doting on her Yorkie puppy and going to hockey games. She’s an active member of Temple B’nai Torah in Bellevue, where she grew up.
She and Shena practice what they preach, in case you wondered.
“Our philosophy is that you can eat anything you want…in moderation,” she says. “I still eat cookies, I still eat Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, but I don’t have five, I just have one.”
• • •
Don’t we all love Paris in the spring? Olympia residents Harold (Hal) and Inge Marcus do, and will travel there and to Israel on the American Technion Society Mission from May 29 to June 10. They will take in the splendors of Paris and the wonders of Israel all in support of the Technion Israel Institute of Technology, Israel’s leading science and technology university.
As vice-chair of ATS’ Northwest chapter (North Pacific region), Hal serves on the ATS international board of governors and the national board of directors.
An industrial engineer by training, he has a long commitment to bringing medicine and science together with technology and engineering. In 1995 he and Inge created the Marcus International Exchange in Industrial Engineering to foster interdisciplinary research between Penn State’s College of Engineering and the Technion.
“My husband and I admire the Technion for the critical role it plays in building Israel’s economy, particularly its high-tech industry,” says Inge, who retired from Tacoma’s Pacific Lutheran University as an assistant professor of biology. She is also in ATS’ North Pacific Chapter, and is a member of the President’s Council at St. Martin’s University.
“Technion’s laboratories are state-of-the art,” she notes, “its faculty boasts Nobel Prize winners, and its often-interdisciplinary approach is exhilarating.”
But back to Paris. Hal says the trip will be “very eye-opening,” especially “for first-time visitors to either Paris or Israel.” Along with the usual landmarks, the ATS group will “have access to important places and people that you would not have on your own,” including a dinner with Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë at City Hall (Hotel de Ville).
The trip visits the Marais, the old Jewish quarter, where Jewish sites, trendy boutiques and pastry shops now mix. The Holocaust Museum, a meeting with the chief rabbi of Paris and the Great Synagogue of Paris are all on the itinerary. The Marcuses can look forward to dinner at a 17th-century chateau and cruising the Seine on a private yacht.
The Israel portion includes a midnight walk to the Western Wall and celebrating Shavuot in the Negev. But for Hal and Inge, the visits to Technion are probably the most exciting part.
“To actually be in the labs with the professors and have them explain their research and demonstrate their advances is an incredible experience,” Hal says.
There may still be time to go, but the next best thing might be the video at www.ats.org, under the “events” tab, and you can learn more about the organization there, too. For more specific information, contact Jack Kadesh, North Pacific-Northwest Chapter director at 415-398-7117 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pacific Northwest Ballet Corps de Ballet dancer Barry Kerollis (center) with company dancers in Christopher Wheeldon’s Carousel (A Dance). (Photo: Angela Sterling)
Just a few months into her first year at Whitman College, Talia Rudee started a chapter of Challah for Hunger. Every Friday afternoon you can find her and another volunteer selling fresh-baked challah at Reid Hall — challah that volunteers have made over the previous two days.
She was inspired by Challah for Hunger chapters she’d seen when visiting the Claremont Colleges in previous years. Scripps and Pomona — where her brother, Alex, goes — have chapters.
Even before the club got official approval, “we started baking,” she says. She purchased the ingredients and asked a group of friends to assist.
“I got people who were very committed…so I would have a lot of help,” she says.
Most of the volunteers are not Jewish, but Talia sensed correctly that the type of advocacy work supported by the organization would appeal to Whitman students.
Baking starts on Wednesday, with three to five people making dough at Glover Alston Center, a house owned by the college.
“On Thursday we have a team of people that braid it and stuff it” with flavors including cinnamon and chocolate chips before baking the finished loaves. On Friday, another group bags the challah before the selling starts. The 50 to 60 loaves net about $250, which covers the cost of supplies and a percentage of which is donated to a local charity, in this case Helpline, a Walla Walla homeless aid group.
The Garfield High graduate had never baked bread before this.
“We’re still learning,” she says. “Every week our challah gets better.”
The daughter of Don Rudee and Gail Benezra Rudee, Talia grew up at Temple Beth Am in Seattle and is used to an active Jewish life, something that is limited at the small southwestern Washington school.
“There are a lot of Jewish people” on campus, she says, but for most, Jewish observance is something they practice “with their families at home.”
A small group meets to say Shabbat blessings on Friday evenings and the campus Hillel has about 120 people on its listserve.
Talia is active in her sorority, plays in the school jazz band, and races on the cycling team. She plans to be active in Challah for Hunger for her entire college career. Visit www.challahforhunger.org.
• • •
Toward the end of each season of Pacific Northwest Ballet’s iconic Nutcracker, the company turns one performance into a silly-fest.
“We do a Nutty Nutcracker,” confirmed a member of the corps, Barry Kerollis, who also confirmed that in one show he wore a kippah.
“I was dancing all the time,” explains the 27-year-old Downingtown, Penn., native about how his formal Jewish education ended at 13. Classes at the Chester Valley Dance Academy and performance dominated his free time. He has studied all forms of dance including jazz, tap, modern and Irish step.
Although he first started dance lessons at age 2, at 5 he turned to piano and Tae Kwon Do. As luck would have it, the dance studio next door to his dojo borrowed four boys to play soldiers in their annual Nutcracker. That became an annual tradition and, “slowly…I fell in love with dance,” he says.
Barry leaves PNB at the end of his seventh season, having “reached a point where I need to expand,” he says. “Dance is such a short career that if you feel slightly stagnant you need to make a change.”
He’s auditioned for other companies, but if he doesn’t get a position he and his partner plan to move to New York where he’ll pursue choreography, “something I am pretty passionate about,” and other dance opportunities. He’s even open to some Broadway show work.
While he’s choreographed for advanced students at PNB’s school the past few years, his public choreography debut was in last fall’s Men In Dance showcase, with a piece called Cypher.
Barry augments a schedule packed with classes and rehearsals with a little hot yoga and flute practice when he can. He occasionally still plays the piano and clarinet. Travel is high on his list of fun activities. He went to Israel last summer on a Birthright trip, and Japan, too.
He’ll wrap up the season appearing in Giselle in early June and in the season “Encore” show on June 12 (www.pnb.org). You can watch Barry on YouTube on either the PNB or his own channel at www.youtube.com/user/BKerollis, where you’ll find his new piece, It Gets Better, which he created in honor of the gay rights project of the same name.
The original lineup of Breaking Down Mechitzas, featuring Zach Grashin and Reuben Antolin. (David MacArthur/I Do Weddings)
Our region has been in a hubbub over radiation leaks from the earthquake-ravaged Japanese power plants and, it turns out, when you need to know if and when the radiation is going to hit Washington, a local atmospheric scientist is the go-to guy and he was rapidly burning through his 15 minutes of fame the week we talked.
“I’ve spoken to about 20 reporters today,” Dan Jaffe told me the afternoon of March 16.
The UW-Bothell professor has studied pollution carried to North America from Asia for almost 15 years. This isn’t his first go-round with a big media story.
“When we first reported we could detect pollution coming from Asia…in ’98 or ’99, that was a huge story,” he says.
He was surprised by media interest at the time, but now he’s used to it, adding, “I don’t really study radiation, but I know a lot about the transport.”
Unconcerned about radiation here, he points to bigger pollution worries: “The two biggest concerns are ozone and mercury,” he says, with Asia’s cars and factories being “the largest source in the world.”
Don’t point fingers though. It’s “a global problem — it all starts at home,” and American pollution drifts over to Europe, too.
“Scientists from Europe, China and Asia get together and try to understand what’s going on out there,” he says.
Dan does his part by riding his bike to work every day from North Seattle.
Growing up in Boston, Dan went to M.I.T. and majored in environmental engineering. After a stint teaching high school he resolved to get a doctorate in order to teach college, and “get to the West Coast.” With a Ph.D. from the UW he landed a teaching job in Alaska in 1987. He moved back to Seattle in 1997 to be the first atmospheric science professor at UW-Bothell, where his lab and his research assistants are still located, working as The Jaffe Group (www.atmos.washington.edu/jaffegroup).
It appears, from photos at the site, to be an outdoorsy bunch who look like they’re having fun collecting data.
“Most of our work is [done] at field sites,” including one 9,000 feet up Mt. Bachelor, he says.
“They open the chair lift for me,” even off-season, explains Dan, who adds that he collects a lot of data while flying in aircraft.
Raised Conservative, Dan says he lost interest in religion after his Bar Mitzvah and although he has many relatives in Israel, and his wife, Barbara Bender, and their now-17-year-old twins Lena and Mac celebrated a few holidays, he did nothing religious until 12-year-old Mac asked, “when is my Bar Mitzvah?”
They are now members of Temple Beth Am, where he says the rabbis are doing a much better job of keeping Judaism relevant than when he was growing up.
• • •
An e-mail a while back clued us into a couple of local singers making music under the appellation “Breaking Down Mechitzas.”
Reuben Antolin (friends call him Ruby) and Zach Grashin have been re-mixing current popular music and parodying those songs with original lyrics on Jewish themes. They chose their band name to be Jewish and “kind of controversial.”
A mechitza is a wall or curtain that separates men from women in Orthodox places of worship, but, Reuben says, “we meant it as breaking down mechitzas between the sects of Judaism.”
They hope listeners find their songs educational. The most-listened to one on MySpace (www.myspace.com/breakingdownmechitzas) describes a Shabbat dinner, and Reuben is working on one about Passover.
The band doesn’t perform much these days, with Reuben in the middle of his junior year at Western Washington University, and Zach living in Melbourne, Australia. They did perform at Zach’s recent wedding there, “making us an international band,” Reuben jokes, as well as on Purim with Phil “Harmonic” Gorbman stepping in to take Zach’s place at a Chabad UW event.
With a major in Political Science and an interest in Japan and international relations, Reuben, 24, still plans to study in Tokyo this fall and currently serves as a liaison to a group of Japanese exchange students who arrived at Western shortly before the recent earthquake. (All were able to contact their families.)
Studying in Japan will be a homecoming of sorts. He spent most of his early childhood there with his family. After high school he spent a year in Israel, “a blast and very eye-opening,” a couple of years pursuing music and a year teaching preschool at Congregation Beth Shalom before going to university. He has his eye on law school in the future with an interest in intellectual property law.
The Jewish Day School’s Nance Adler, who will soon be headed to Israel to study. (Photo by Dani Weiss)
Seattle glass artist Roger Nachman in his studio with one of the “raindrops” from his “Joyful Rain” installation that will head up to Harborview Elementary School in Juneau. The artwork is upside down, as an image would be when seen through the lens of a raindrop. Former Seattleite and architect Stuart Gerger connected Roger with the project. (Photo by Diana Brement)
When film director Eran Riklis (The Human Resources Manager) receives his AJC Seattle Jewish Film Festival “Reel Difference Award” on opening night, March 12, he will get not just accolades, but an original kiln-cast glass sculpture by local artist Roger Nachman.
From his Fremont studio in Seattle, Roger told me he was a long-time volunteer at the festival, which “always happens on my birthday,” he says. “I treat myself and lavish in [it].”
Last year he decided to be a sponsor, but festival director Pamela Lavitt had a better idea. First she asked him to make mezuzot for the volunteers. Then, when the Reel Difference award was created, she asked him to make a piece for that, too.
The long-time Bet Alef Meditative Synagogue member created a plaster silica mold in the shape of the festival’s hamsa logo [hand-shaped amulet].
“Instead of the eye, I put the film reel with the piece of film coming out the [thumb],” Roger says.
The crystal sculpture has unusual dichroic glass inside, which looks blue, but reflects yellow. Roger also added glow-in-the-dark powders, something only the winners will be able to appreciate.
He puts “a lot of subtle things” in his works that observers often don’t discover for years. “I really strive for…keeping the glass and the art work really alive,” he says.
As a kid, Roger moved a lot — 10 schools in eight states before the age of 14 — but finished high school in Pueblo, Colo. and college in Boulder. He was studying business when he applied for a seminar in religion and the arts in Japan.
“I came back and changed my major” to religious studies, he says.
Learning stained glass while working as a sign painter, he returned to Japan with a small green leather box with pieces of colored glass in it. He stayed in that country for many years, teaching glass art and helping to start a glass program at an arts and crafts school, which was pivotal in launching a Japanese glass movement.
After moving back and forth from Japan to the States, he came to Seattle in 1985. At first he found “I was a little fish in a big pond,” but Seattle also proved easier to be connected to the art world precisely because of the size of the art community.
The day we first spoke, he and his assistant Megan Wittenberg were starting to pack up a fascinating commission piece, “Joyous Rain,” a series of teardrop-shaped hanging glass works for a school in Juneau.
When he’s not in the studio, you can find him playing softball on three different teams, including the championship Temple De Hirsch Sinai team and another over-50 men’s team that earned a national championship.
Roger works exclusively on commission but photos of his work are on his Web site, www.nachmanglass.com (check out the cool insects), where there is also contact information.
• • •
Jewish Day School teacher Nance Adler has secured one of only five spots in a summer program for Jewish educators at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. The curriculum workshop is for novice educators and being in her fourth year, she says she just scooted in under the wire.
“I wanted to study at Pardes for a long time,” says Nance, and a “program specifically for teachers was really appealing.”
She had already planned to be in Jerusalem this summer, and she received a $1,000 scholarship from the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle’s Jewish Education department as well.
She expects the workshop will really augment her masters in Jewish Studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary, which she got through a distance learning graduate program that no longer exists. Before teaching, she worked for 15 years managing medical practices.
Her biggest challenge applying to Pardes was conveying that “you need their help, but look good enough for them to want you,” she says.
Nance and her husband Steve have also been engaged in a dramatic weight-loss effort that they have spoken openly about. Both had lap band surgery — Steve last March and Nance in July — and have lost a combined 300 pounds.
“The two of us now weigh less than when he started,” and they’ve inspired four others to have the surgery.
Doing it together has helped, says Nance, and their communities at Congregation Beth Shalom and the day school “have been particularly supportive.”
Life is not too much different, she says, except Steve exercises every day and “traveling is so much easier.”
From left to right: Isaac Cordes, Saudi Arabian student Mohammed Ashgan, and Sam Cordes. When not busy with school, sports and extra-curricular activities, the three teens enjoy speaking the universal language of Xbox. (Bob Cordes)
It sounds like the start of a bad joke. A Saudi Arabian student comes to Seattle to attend a Catholic high school and live with a Jewish family that keeps kosher.
But it’s true.
Mohammed Ashgan is the student from Riyadh, and he is living with Hannah and Bob Cordes and their teenage boys, Sam, 15, and Isaac, 13 (and their dog, and their three chickens). Mohammed is a senior at Blanchet High School, where he has acquired the fine American art of playing football, while Sam attends Roosevelt High School and Isaac is at Eckstein Middle School.
U.S. State Department-sponsored program called AFS brought Mohammed here, and more specifically, a special AFS program called YES, which brings students from Muslim countries to live with American families for a school year.
It isn’t a common thing for Saudi students to do, says Mohammed, who speaks fluent American English with barely a trace of an accent. Few of his friends chose to participate in this competitive program for which students had to demonstrate language as well as social skills.
He was inspired to travel by two things. “My brother was leaving for college,” he recalls and “I didn’t want to stay home [without him].” Additionally, “my best friend was leaving” for an exchange program and asked Mohammed to help him with paperwork. That proved the inspiration Mohammed needed.
“I thought, ‘why not?’” He looked AFS up on line, gave the coordinator a call, and then asked his dad what he would think. With his father’s approval he went ahead with the application.
As one of the first of this year’s applicants to be accepted, he learned right away that he was going to a Catholic school (Blanchet selected him). About two months later he heard he’d been placed with a Jewish family.
“I thought they were kidding,” he says when the program coordinator began the call with “Don’t freak out….”
Mohammed’s dad asked for a few days to think about it and then decided it would be a good choice because Mohammed would be eating kosher food, which is accepted as halal by many Muslims.
“'‘There’s no difference between families,’” Mohammed said his father decided. “‘It just depends on what kind of people they are.’”
By the way, neither of Mohammed’s parents speak English, but decided their children should, so all of their entertainment and media growing up were in English.
Mohammed describes his time here as nothing short of life changing, especially compared to home where he says life changes very little. Now, “I’m doing something every day that’s different,” he says. In addition to football, he says the academics are more rigorous here and he’s taken up skiing and snowboarding. “I’d never seen snow before.”
When the three teens aren’t busy with homework and extra-curricular activities (Sam is in orchestra and Isaac is involved with drama), they indulge in the universal language of Xbox. “Madden,” the virtual football game, is their favorite. Mohammed calls home often via Skype, which helped stave off some early homesickness.
Mohammed is the fourth foreign exchange student that Hannah and Bob have hosted, but the first from an Islamic nation. Hannah says they consulted with their kids about having him.
“I thought it was great,” says Isaac, who also hopes to study abroad one day. “I love hosting students.”
Sam was excited to have a boy closer to his age in the house, as other students have been older. “The religion didn’t matter,” he said.
“People are really friendly around here,” observes Mohammed, noting that his English is so good he has trouble convincing people he’s not American. “Sometimes they don’t believe me.”
The Cordeses attend Congregation Beth Shalom and Mohammed has been to synagogue a couple of times, getting his first exposure on Simchat Torah! He attended “regular” services soon after just so he’d know that not all Jewish worship involves such wild revelry.
“AFS has opened our family up to the world [and] to what family is,” says Hannah, who is the chef at Hillel at the University of Washington.
Bob’s family was involved with AFS when he was growing up, so for him hosting continues a family tradition. The Cordeses maintains close relationships with all their exchange students.
“It’s a great way to grow our family,” says Hannah.
Since many of us associate travel with food, I asked Mohammed his favorite American food, expecting him to name a fast food restaurant. His answer surprised me.
“I like what Hannah cooks,” he said.
The family rarely eats out, and then it’s usually vegetarian or fish. There’s no need for fast food: “In Saudi Arabia we have most of the fast food restaurants,” Mohammed says.
What he does miss are the “big feasts we’d have at home” for special occasions, something he hopes his return will warrant when he returns home this summer.
For information on AFS, visit www.afs.org.
It happened, as these things often do, at a conference.
“It,” being Boundaries of Jewish Identity (University of Washington Press), a new collection of essays on Jewish identity edited by UW Professors Susan Glenn, the Howard and Frances Keller Endowed Professor in History, and Naomi Sokoloff, Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Professor of Comparative Literature.
The essays that make up the book began as papers presented at a 2007 conference organized by the two professors.
“I was interested in two things,” Susan explained to me, “how social scientists were trying to put a public face on Jewish [culture] and Jewish identity [and] the relationship between what they were doing and…popular culture.”
The conference was a “huge success,” she says. “People were so fascinated.”
Both Susan and Naomi singled out the keynote address — and the book’s first essay — as among the most interesting works. “Are Genes Jewish? Conceptual Ambiguities in the New Genetic Age” is by Susan Martha Kahn of Harvard’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies.
“The lead article in the collection,” observes Naomi, “about changing genetic research and assisted reproduction…strikes me as a very contemporary issue that will affect many different communities…on deciding on identity issues.”
That article “generated the most amazing conversations,” says Susan. “It highlights the importance of a book like this,” and “the many different forms this conversation can take.”
Prof. Glenn’s work in the book centers on the intriguing and entertaining practice or game by which Jews have tried to identify who is Jewish on the basis of their looks. This goes against social scientific writings, which attempted to undercut the notion that you could tell who was a Jew on the basis of physical features.
“There’s this intense curiosity among Jews to try and find other Jews,” she says.
Haven’t we all done that? Susan calls this “Jewhooing.”
I asked Naomi if she thought the interest in Jewish identity is stronger among unaffiliated Jews than affiliated, and she disagreed.
“Jews move in and out of identities a lot,” she says, depending on a variety of factors. “Every generation finds itself in some way,” she adds. “We didn’t put this volume together to specifically speak about groups at the margins.”
A member of Temple De Hirsch Sinai, Naomi says her Yiddishist-Socialist grandparents might be shocked that she attends synagogue.
“I came from a secular but highly Jewishly identified home,” she says.
Prof. Sokoloff’s piece in the book, “Jewish Character? Stereotype and Identity in Fiction from Israel by Aharon Appelfeld and Sayed Kashua” examines the use of Jewish stereotypes in defining Jewish identity in two specific works by those prominent Israeli writers, one a well-known Holocaust survivor and the other an Israeli Arab. Naomi will continue this discussion with the general public at an April 12 lecture at the Stroum SJCC, part of the Israel 360 lecture series organized by the UW’s Stroum Jewish Studies Program.
Susan’s scholarship and teaching have focused on 20th-century cultural and social history and she says anti-Semitism, particularly in the 20th century, is an enduring interest of hers and the subject of one of her UW classes.
“Everyone thinks they know what it means, but it’s used very elastically,” she says.
She has also taught — although not recently — “a really fascinating course on Jews and blacks in the United States.”
Both Susan and Naomi say that most of the students in their classes are not Jewish, with the possible exception, Naomi says, of advanced Hebrew.
I couldn’t resist asking Prof. Glenn if she thought there was a difference between East Coast and West Coast Jews.
“It depends on context,” she responded, illustrating her point with an anecdote: Growing up in L.A. she felt quite Jewish, but while doing research at the YIVO Institute in New York, “I was fascinated by how un-Jewish I felt in that context.”
Gad Barzilai of the UW’s Jackson School and the Lucia S. and Herbert L. Pruzan Professor of Jewish Studies, has an essay in the book, too, titled “Who is a Jew? Categories, Boundaries, Communities, and Citizenship Law in Israel.”
Dr. Mindy Blaski, after decades as a physician, has hung up her stethoscope from private practice. (Courtesy Mindy Blaski)
It’s become harder and harder to be a physician in private practice these days, especially in primary care, as Dr. Mindy Blaski can attest. We chatted on the phone last month about her recent retirement. It wasn’t just about the challenges of the current health-care environment — she admits she’s reached retirement age.
Mindy didn’t always plan to be a doctor. Born into an Orthodox family in Budapest just after World War II — her parents survived Auschwitz (separately) — she struggled against their expectation to marry young to become the first in her family to go to college. She was majoring in Poli-Sci at Brooklyn College with “only one basic science class” on her transcript when she decided to go to medical school, adding two years of pre-med courses to her education.
“Sexism in medical school was still strong” in the 1970s, she remembers, but she forged ahead, fueled by idealism and “the feminist idea that women needed to be treated better in the health care system.” Twelve years of yeshiva education at Beth Jacob schools in New York also shaped her sense of justice.
After medical school at SUNY Buffalo, and a three-year family medicine residency at the University of California at Irvine, her husband’s love for the Pacific Northwest brought them to Seattle. Like many, “we came for a visit, saw Mt. Rainier on a beautiful sunny day,” and bought a house.
It was hard, she says, getting her career on track in a new town, and after a few years working for other practices, she decided to open her own in 1985.
Mindy loved seeing patients and helping people, but her practice became overwhelmed dealing with multiple health insurance companies and competing with larger organizations for staff recruitment.
“I tried to find alternatives to retiring, but I really couldn’t,” she says.
Hospitals and larger practices can hire full-time administrators to handle insurance paperwork “but most small groups can’t.” She calls this insurance company-imposed burden “way out of line… It’s all about their huge executive salaries,” and stock-holder profits, she says.
She points out that health insurers made their largest profits ever last quarter while primary care doctors are working harder to treat patients in less time.
“The American public is paying more and getting worse outcomes than other industrialized countries,” she adds.
Mindy’s unwillingness to give up the time she needed to spend with patients to provide the best care, “often caused long waiting times for patients and late nights for me.”
Although the doctor is “out,” Mindy is not completely retired. It takes time to close a practice and paperwork is still being processed. She serves on the board of the Western Washington chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program (www.pnhpwesternwashington.org) and continues to advocate for a single-payer system. She’ll do fill-in work for other doctors, too.
From the perspective of retirement, Mindy marvels at the trajectory of her life.
“From the ashes of Auschwitz,” she says, “that’s how I’m thinking of it.”
Although she left the ultra-Orthodox lifestyle in which she grew up, she says it was a “grounding” Jewish experience. Despite her father’s authoritarian nature, she was inspired by his determination to achieve a better life for his family, and by the work ethic of both her parents.
In addition to spending winter hiking and drying out in Tucson, and the knitting she’s always enjoyed, Mindy is an active member of Temple B’nai Torah, where she has found great support from the clergy and community, and learned to leyn (chant) Torah. Her husband Paul is the Northwest regional rep for the International Union of Roofers and Waterproofers. They have two grown daughters living in the Bay Area.
• • •
Seattle attorney James Rogers was recently selected as “Outstanding Plaintiff’s Trial Lawyer” by the Washington Defense Trial Lawyers at the organization’s judicial reception in Oct. 2010. The WDTL’s members are 800 lawyers statewide engaged in civil defense litigation. Jim was nominated by his peers — other members of the organization — and final selection was made by the WDTL board.
Jim is not only a JT reader (or “Transcript” as he wrote, and we fondly remember), but a member of a multi-generational Seattle Jewish family. His great-grandfather Solomon Rogers was a founder of Temple De Hirsch in 1899.
Tzachi Litov, executive director of Congregation Beth Shalom.
I called Tzachi Litov just to get a comment or two on a seminar he attended in November. My simple inquiry about how he got into his current job led me to the story of his interesting, yet somewhat circuitous career, which I will share with you.
The seminar that the executive director of Seattle’s Congregation Beth Shalom attended was the Kellogg School of Management’s Education for Jewish Leaders program at Northwestern University.
He joined 78 other rabbis, synagogue executive directors, and leaders from all Jewish denominations on the school’s Evanston campus, and says the best part of the program was the “discourse…after class” and the connections he made “with rabbis across the spectrum.”
“My rabbi [Jill Borodin] and I are partners,” says Tzachi, and he says “the window into the unique challenges that rabbis have was really helpful to me in my role in the business side of the Jewish community.”
Tzachi didn’t start his work life as a Jewish communal professional. Growing up in Baltimore, his Israeli father made sure that Tzachi (short for Yaakov) spent summers in Israel getting to know his family. He made aliyah at age 18 and while living in Israel was, among other things, a commercial photographer.
He returned to the U.S. in 1987 with the dream of documenting life on a commercial fishing boat. That idea got him working on a boat for two years in Alaska. While living in the Northwest he met his wife, Lara, an Everett native, now a naturopathic physician with a practice in Bellevue (Eastside Integrative Health).
“After she finished medical school we moved back east…and lived for five years in rural Maine,” where Tzachi worked in a bank, giving him experience in finance and computers. Although they found a “wonderful” and old Jewish community in Rockland, after having sons Noah and Aviv, they realized the community was too small.
“My wife and I joke that we would absolutely live rurally if we could [consistently] get a minyan,” he says. “In rural Maine it was tough.”
A job offer for Lara brought them back to the Northwest and Tzachi was able to spend a few years as a stay-at-home dad, “which were probably my favorite years.”
During that period he worked very part-time at Temple Beth Or in Everett as their religion school administrator, doing some Bar Mitzvah tutoring on the side. That was a stepping stone to being Herzl- Ner Tamid’s program director for five years, work he enjoyed very much.
“I could see myself moving forward on this [track],” he recalls, so he took the UW’s one-year certificate program in non-profit management.
When the Beth Shalom job opened up, “I applied. It was a natural move,” he says, noting that the family had been members of the shul for quite a while.
“I…have a very non-traditional background, but it’s what I draw strength from,” he reflects, adding that he’s fortunate to always have “found what I needed to do.”
• • •
Pamela Lavitt, our own director of the AJC Seattle Jewish Film Festival, was one of five panelists who helped select the winners of the Foundation for Jewish Culture’s Kroll Fund for Jewish Documentary Film. The fund awards grants of $20,000 to $35,000 to deserving films, which helps ensure their completion and marketing as well as circulation to film festivals, television, and other distribution outlets. Some of this year’s winners, selected from almost 100 applications, include: Joann Sfar Draws From Memory, a portrait of one of France’s most celebrated graphic novelists; Regarding Susan Sontag, a spotlight on the life and work of the late American writer and icon; The Law in These Parts, an examination of Israeli military tribunals in the occupied territories. SJFF will be held this year from March 10 to 20 with the Web site and ticket sales launching on Feb. 1. Mark your calendars!
Dr. Joseph Trachtman, Optometrist and expert in PTSD, in his office. (Eric Nusbaum)
Albert Feldmann approached me a few months ago with some news we don’t often hear in these economic times. He wanted me to know — and to let you, dear reader, know — that our local Hebrew Free Loan Association has money!
An engineer by training, retired from Boeing for 25 years, Albert has been active in the organization for about 15 years. He joined because he was impressed by the mission of this “very Jewish…and very useful organization,” which has its roots in two bits of text: “Three things justify the existence of the world, Torah, avodah [divine service] and gemilut chasadim [acts of kindness]” from Pirke Avot [Wisdom of the Fathers] and Exodus 22:25, which tells us not to take interest when loaning money to the poor.
In addition to seeking worthy loan recipients, the organization is also looking for new board members. In the last decade and a half, Albert says, board membership has remained pretty static.
“We have a core group…and everyone has been through every position,” he says. “We’re trying to bring in new blood — the baby boomers. It’s their turn now.”
I’m assured it’s not an overly demanding job.
“Years ago, when the Jewish community was much closer, there used to be more meetings,” he says.
Now the board meets monthly at Council House and hosts an annual luncheon at The Summit on First Hill, coming up on January 23. It helps, of course, that the almost-100-year-old organization is flush, and actually has been for most of its history, except during the height of Soviet Jewish immigration in the 1960s and ’70s.
Albert came here with his family in 1938 as a refugee from Hitler’s occupation of Austria, and he still speaks with a slight Viennese accent. A member of Temple Beth Am, he moved to Seattle in the 1960s. He left to work in the Israeli aircraft industry for nine years in the late ’60s, but eventually returned. He maintains a condominium in Tel Aviv and tries to get back about once a year.
Unlike other branches of HFLA, Seattle’s group “lends money only to Jewish clients.” For that reason it is not a member of the Jewish Federation.
Please call Judie Sherr at 206-722-1936 for more information about interest-free loans, about membership and donations or about attending the luncheon.
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Two articles by Joseph Trachtman, O.D., Ph.D., one about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and one about vision and the hypothalamus, recently became the fifth and seventh most downloaded articles from the journal Optometry, where they were published. The articles appeared in the May and February 2010 issues, respectively.
Joseph, an optometrist in private practice in downtown Seattle, became interested in PTSD during a tour of duty during the Vietnam War while serving as Chief of Optometry at Kirk Army Hospital in Maryland. The PTSD article guides eye doctors in the diagnosis and treatment of that disorder with a specific focus on the eye and vision system. Of course, interest in PTSD has resurged with the number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffering from this after-effect of battle. That article received a letter of praise from the House of Representatives’ Committee on Veterans Affairs.
The second article was a review of practical applications of the relationship between the sense of vision and general brain function regulated by the hypothalamus, a little gland that controls a myriad of body functions, including important things, like breathing.
To his degrees in optometry and experimental psychology, Joseph recently added a certificate in Virtual Worlds from the University of Washington. “The purpose of the [30-week] course,” he explained, was to teach “different aspects of the virtual world ranging from its use in education and business to being able to build things in a virtual world.”
The entire course was taught — what else? — virtually.
“I never met another student or the teacher,” he said. In the future, Joseph assured me, “health care will be through the virtual world…you’ll go on your computer and see your virtual doctor.”
A Brooklyn native who moved here four and a half years ago, Joseph is the inventor of a biofeedback device called the Accommotrac, designed to reduce myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and other vision disorders. You can see more at www.accommotrac.com, or contact him at 206-412-5985.
Lauren Mayo, left, with one of her Young Judaea Year Course buddies, after the Susan Komen Race for the Cure in Israel last month. (Courtesy Lauren Mayo)
1 When Lauren Mayo left Seattle for the Young Judaea Year Course in Israel, the Ballard High School grad probably didn’t realize that she’d get to participate in an historic event.
On Oct. 28, Lauren joined the first Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure ever to be held in that country. The race (most participants walked) around the walls of Jerusalem was the inaugural event of the Israel Breast Cancer Initiative Collaborative, a new partnership between Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization, and the Komen foundation, which raises cancer awareness and money for cancer research. More than 6,000 men and women of all religions, many of them cancer patients or survivors, wearing pink, carried pink balloons and walked together, demonstrating their commitment to finding a cure for the disease.
Lauren e-mailed me that Young Judaeans participated in the walk as an organized group activity and said it was a fun event. (Young Judaea is the youth program of Hadassah.) At the end there were speakers and music.
“Survivors and organizers, a male victim of breast cancer even spoke,” Lauren wrote.
Bellingham resident Katie Edelstein walked, too. The Hadassah national board member says she planned to be there the moment the organization announced the event. The event began for her the evening before with a reception at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence. She met Nancy Brinker, Susan G. Komen for the Cure founder and sister of the late Susan Komen, as well as Senator Joe and Hadassah Lieberman. That night, the walls of Jerusalem were lit pink in support of the race.
The day of the walk, Katie wrote, she was thrilled to see “Jewish, non-Jewish and Arab women (and men) coming together and walking side by side in the streets of Jerusalem for a common cause.” It created “an extraordinary image that proved people can work together under the right circumstances.”
Katie said she has been inspired and infused with “greater determination to do what I can to fight the fight against breast cancer.”
A slide show of the day’s events is at www.hadassah.org.
Seattle Chapter Hadassah will be holding a cancer-awareness event called Breast Cancer Exposed this coming spring. Watch for details in early 2011.
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Robin Rogel-Goldstein of Bellevue will be installed as a vice president of Women’s League for Conservative Judaism at its 2010 biennial convention on Dec. 12 in Baltimore. Women’s League is the largest synagogue women’s organization in the world and almost 1,000 women are expected to attend the event.
Robin grew up in Congregation Herzl-Ner Tamid on Mercer Island and was president of the synagogue’s sisterhood before beginning her volunteer career with Women’s League. An active member and former president of the regional branch, she has been a member of the board of directors since 1996 and chair of Z’havah, for younger women, since 2006. Robin has been a Girl Scout troop leader and served on the lay committee for the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle’s J Team teen philanthropy group. She’s a Bar/Bat Mitzvah tutor and private jeweler, too.
Founded in 1918, Women’s League is dedicated to the perpetuation of traditional Judaism in the home, synagogue and community.
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As a tribute to his father, who died of a heart attack in 1986, Seattle resident Jonathan Kaler has created a public service announcement and Facebook page to build awareness of heart attack symptoms and hopefully prevent other deaths.
Jonathan’s writes that his dad Irving died “after seeking help too late,” for his symptoms.
The short PSA can be viewed on YouTube and shows a medical animation of blood coursing through an aorta accompanied by a narration of a “fast-paced mix of actual survivor testimony.” It can be seen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjo2P2hSxCg.
Facebook members can go log on to that site and type “Heart Attack Stories” into the search bar to get to Irving Kaler’s tribute page. You’re invited to contribute stories, photos, links and other media, “specifically on heart-attack survival or loss” to the site, in particular to spread the message that time is of the essence when experiencing heart attack symptoms.
“When heart attack strikes, time is life,” writes Jonathan.
Heart attacks can be fast and painful, but they can also be gradual and merely uncomfortable, particularly in women. Please take the time to review heart attack symptoms at the Heart Association Web page, or any number of other sites.
If you think you are having a heart attack, call 9-1-1.
There’s little that’s more entertaining than talking to David Volk, unless it’s reading something he’s written. Now David brings his brand of humor to his new book, The Cheap Bastard’s Guide to Seattle, part of a travel series from Globe Pequot Press.
David hopes readers won’t take offense.
“It can be a good thing to be a cheap bastard,” he says, especially in this economy.
After getting the assignment for the book about a year ago, David hammered out 60,000 words between January and March, balancing writing with his other job as professional dad to two preschool-age kids. This required a lot of getting up at 4 a.m., writing during nap time and again in evenings, when Mom took over, until midnight or one o’clock.
Designed for visitors and residents alike, the book features “a lot of stuff out-of-towners can’t do,” he says.
Volunteer ushering, for example, which may allow you to see plays or SIFF films for little or nothing. “There’s no adventure” in buying tickets at the box office.
But meeting a celebrity while ushering at the Paramount?
“You can dine out on that for days,” he quips.
David continues freelancing “as fatherhood allows,” and hopes to publish a humor collection tentatively titled, “As I Die Laughing… about funerals, death rites and rituals gone horribly wrong.”
Cheap Bastard will be released Dec. 7, but locally it’s already available at Island Books on Mercer Island. David will read at Seattle’s University Bookstore on Dec. 6.
Become a fan of the cheap bastard on Facebook and get more cheap ideas, and read more of David at www.davidvolk.com.
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A ’70s-era Michael Druxman with Fish, otherwise known as actor Abe Vigoda. Photo courtesy Michael Druxman.
The prolific Michael Druxman, who was raised in Seattle and studied drama at the University of Washington, but fled for Hollywood at the tender age of 20, is also fun to talk to.
The veteran publicist, screenwriter, playwright, director and author has now turned his pen to memoir in My Forty-Five Years in Hollywood…and How I Escaped Alive from Bear Manor Media.
Enthusiasts of local history will enjoy Michael’s stories of growing up in Seattle, including stories of his father and uncle’s (Harry and Nate Druxman) work as boxing organizers and fight-fixers. For others there are lots of stories of hobnobbing with and working for Hollywood’s elite, illustrating how a “kid from Seattle” can make it with no contacts.
He reminisced fondly about shopping for Sunday brunch with his dad at the Jewish delis on Cherry Street.
“Some of them were in garages!” Michael recalls. “We’d get kippered salmon and chopped liver…great memories of that.”
I learned from Michael about our state’s “Palm Springs” at Soap Lake in Eastern Washington, where his family, and many other Jewish families, had summer homes.
Michael and his wife escaped Hollywood for Austin a few years ago, where Michael continues to write, to consult on film scripts and mentor young writers. (His advice: “Don’t write for nothing.”)
His new book of short stories, Dracula Meets Jack the Ripper and Other Revisionist History, is currently seeking a publisher.
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Carole Glickfeld is enjoying the re-release of her 1989 collection of connected short stories, Useful Gifts, from the University of Georgia Press.
Carole, who is a CODA (child of deaf adults), hopes the book will interest a new generation of the deaf and CODA community with its stories of Ruthie, a hearing child growing up with deaf-mute parents in upper Manhattan in the 1940s.
The book’s re-release evolved over a couple of years, says Carole. The University of Georgia first approached her about making the book a print-on-demand item, but Carole rejected the idea. Reconsidering later, she contacted the publisher to find that they had changed their mind and were reissuing the book.
Only out for about a month, Carole has already seen renewed attention.
“When the book [first] came out, the deaf community wasn’t as organized,” she says.
Now there are many online groups, and groups of CODAs, too, who will be interested in these stories, which are “not autobiographical, but the neighborhood is true and my parents were deaf.”
Carole continues to write and to teach privately in Seattle. She has a short story coming out in the journal Common Knowledge next spring, designed to complement essays on finance by Margaret Atwood in the same issue. When she’s not writing, Carole enjoys ballet classes and travel.
“I love travel,” she says. “Every time I get some money together, I travel.”
In the spring she’ll accompany some deaf friends on a cruise from Shanghai to Beijing.
You can find Carole at a book party at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 7 at Arundel Books, First and Madison in downtown Seattle.
Ellen Lettvin, vice president of science and education at the Pacific Science Center.
When Ellen Lettvin took the newly created post of vice president of science and education at Seattle’s Pacific Science Center almost two years ago, she made what looked like a sudden departure from a career in academic research to one in education.
The truth is, she told me recently, is that the change came gradually, an outgrowth of her previous job as assistant director of the University of Washington’s applied physics lab.
After getting her bachelors, masters and doctorate at the University of Michigan — plus a research stint at Stanford — Ellen came to the UW, doing a lot of work in conjunction with NOAA. Trained as an oceanographer and engineer, Ellen’s expertise is in “remote viewing,” using satellite data to model ocean wave patterns.
While there, she decided the public ought to know more about the publicly funded work going on at the lab.
“I felt there was an untapped need” for the lab to reach out to the community, she says, and to develop more “technology transfer, finding linkages to local businesses” leading to commercial applications, “which would be mutually advantageous.”
One organization she reached out to was the PSC.
“I worked on several projects with them,” she says.
So when the Science Center created this new position in 2008, naturally they approached her and she accepted.
“By being involved in education and outreach I could make more of a difference,” she says.
Ellen, who recently completed treatment for breast cancer, described one of her best days at work recently at PSC’s Discover Awards meeting, “a big deal,” where children who come to the center’s summer programs are recognized for “curiosity, ingenuity, teamwork” as well as inspiration or stewardship.
“There were hundreds of kids and parents at this event, age four to 14. They were so excited and so proud,” she says. “It was fun to be there and see them all thriving.”
Ellen and her husband Peter are members of Temple Beth Am where her son Alexander had his Bar Mitzvah last year. Raised Conservative in Brookline, Mass., and Ann Arbor, she had drifted from religious observance until her father died in 2003.
“A friend suggested I find a minyan,” she says, and the experience connected her with “a repository of memories and traditions and things that were part of me… It was that moment I realized that I wanted my son to have a Bar Mitzvah.”
Four years ago Maddy Berkman lost a close friend to an inoperable malignant brain tumor. Sydney Coxon was only 11 at the time, and it left Maddy and her friends at a loss as to what to do with their grief.
Then, Maddy remembers, “one of my friends read an article in the newspaper about Seattle Children’s guild program.” The hospital was seeking new guilds, and so the Pink Polka Dots Guild, the brainchild of Maddy, Kelsey Josund and Sierra Ales, was born.
The name comes from Sydney’s penchant for pink. The girls explained to KING-5 television in 2009 that “she loved everything pink — pink fuzzy sweaters and pink purses…and pink polka dots had always been one of her favorite things.”
All funds raised by Pink Polka Dots is donated through Seattle Children’s to Dr. Jim Olson at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
“Most of the guilds at the hospital raise money for uncompensated care, but our guild is considered a junior specialty guild,” Maddy explained, allowing it to support Olson’s “really groundbreaking work” in developing scorpion venom to create a tumor marker.
The guild was especially busy in September hosting their annual memorial golf tournament plus a benefit concert by the Brian Waite band.
September also found them speaking at a TEDx event in Redmond. (TED is an idea-sharing organization which hosts conferences where innovators showcase concepts and talent.) The event, broadcast live worldwide, was organized entirely by and for young people. The three girls addressed a crowd of 400 of “the most amazing kids we’ve ever [met]” while parents watched in another part of the building.
Maddy is a junior at Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences while Kelsey and Sierra are students at Shorecrest High. An active member of Temple Beth Am’s youth group, Maddy is also in the bee club at SAAS where there’s a hive on the roof. “I spent my whole lunch on the roof smoking the bees out to get the honey,” she told me the day we spoke.
PPD has raised over $300,000 to date. Its ongoing efforts include selling cards and holding dances. “Anything the guild thinks of that we think will make money, we will act on it.”
Visit their Web site at www.pinkpolkadotsguild.net.
Josh Voss, left, Rena Genauer, center, and Shmuel Treiger, named as national merit scholarship finalists. (Photo courtesy NYHS)
One of the many recent revolutions in publishing is the readily available, relatively inexpensive ability to produce books through Internet publishing companies.
I could argue both for and against this trend. In this case I err on the side of good because now family elders can not only write their memoirs, but create an attractive and permanent book for family and friends to enjoy for posterity. (And all for a reasonable price thanks to single-copy printing, which is the real revolution.)
This is what Seattle native Harry Glickman has done in, Jeannette and I: A 75-Year Adventure, a collection of memoir, essays and opinion pieces assembled in tribute to his late wife Jeannette.
With computer and editing help from various family members, he has produced a volume of works written over 13 years that reflects on growing up and working in Seattle, family life and travels, and his 25 years as an Israeli orange farmer. This comes along with opinion pieces on a range of subjects from food to politics. (Harry admits he’s “way out in left field…any Republican that reads this book is not going to like it, or not going to like me.”)
Harry started writing when he got his first word processor at age 80. Now 94, and living with the knowledge that he has a defective heart valve, he says writing keeps him active and alert.
“I’m having more fun with my brain [now] than I ever had,” he says.
This is not to belie a life of adventure in work and travel. Coming from a working class family and raised in the Workman’s Circle tradition, he always worked hard in family businesses, cutting cloth, jarring pickles, managing parking lots. I found these tales of early-day Seattle the most entertaining. General readers will probably find much to enjoy in this history along with tales of his family’s travel adventures and their 35 years in Israel.
Although the Glickmans moved to Israel by accident (went on vacation, forgot to come home) Harry says that life there fulfilled a dream. Arriving as tourists in 1968, they visited friends on Moshav Avichail and learned they were entitled to purchase land in that country at bargain prices. The lush grounds, which “looked like an estate to me,” and the proximity to Tel Aviv and Haifa, inspired them to settle there.
“I always wanted to be a farmer,” Harry says, and “once I got [financial] security it happened. We became farmers in a Jewish neighborhood!”
The Glickmans spent summers in the States whenever possible, and a few years ago Harry and Jeannette returned for a summer, but never went back. Their youngest daughter, Debby, and her family, who were also ensconced in Avichail, quickly followed. Now Debby lives next door, her walls covered with Jeanette’s wonderful collection of embroidery panels that illustrate highlights of their family’s life.
Harry continues to write and guard his health. Already a vegetarian, he has now turned to a mostly raw-food diet. Asked to single out a favorite story, he chooses “Getting to Israel and the SS Kipriot,” the story of a Peugot purchased in France and a long land and sea voyage to the Holy Land.
You can purchase or download a copy at lulu.com.
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Northwest Yeshiva High School students Rena Genauer, Shmuel Treiger and Josh Voss have been named commended students in the 2011 National Merit Scholarship Program, says Bob Cout, the school’s academic dean. They earned this by placing among the top 5 percent of more than 1.5 million students who entered the 2011 competition by taking the 2009 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.
The students learned of their honor when they received letters of commendation from National Merit Scholarship Corporation recently.
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Our esteemed editor, Joel Ma