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.
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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.”