Local people, places, travels and simchas – 5.6.11

Destination Bar Mitzvah

Amy Krauss, Richard Gordon and their son Sam at his Bar Mitzvah on St. Thomas

Just as there are destination weddings, so are there destination Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebrations.

At the end of March, MSNBC.com had an article entitled “Mazel tov! Traditional Jewish ceremonies take to the road.” The writer mentioned Tucsonan Sam Gordon’s December 2010 Bar Mitzvah during a Caribbean cruise. Sam’s parents, Amy Krauss and Richard Gordon, who honeymooned in Israel in 1993 and have a strong attachment to our homeland, thought of Israel as the logical site for their eldest son’s simcha. Sam, however, had fond memories of his grandfather Allen Krauss’ multi-generational 70th birthday cruise a few years back and wanted a similar meaningful experience for his rite of passage. Tucsonans Amy, Richard, Sam, his brother, Jake, Allen Krauss, cousins Randi and John Steiner, and friend Gayle Siegel and her son, Josh, plus family and friends from Cincinnati and Los Angeles boarded the Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas for the weeklong sail.

Upon learning of the Krauss family objective, their neighbor Asher Amar suggested the historic St. Thomas synagogue as their destination. Located in the U.S. Virgin Islands, it is the oldest synagogue in continuous use under the American flag. Amy googled “St. Thomas Bar Mitzvah” and up popped the name of a travel agent and the synagogue. The agent arranged the cruise, island transportation and excursions, and photographer. Rabbi Stephen F. Moch of the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas communicated with Temple Emanu-El’s Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon and Cantorial Soloist Marjorie Hochberg, who were supportive of the idea and prepared Sam well.

For local family and friends, Sam led the Friday night service at Temple Emanu-El on Dec. 3. Then, on Monday, Dec. 20, following a one-hour rehearsal at the St. Thomas house of worship, Sam led the two-hour traditional Reform service, chanting from the Torah and giving a speech, as did his parents. They used the same prayer book and familiar melodies as at home. Besides the assembled minyan, 50 tourists arrived who stayed, sang and prayed with them. It felt like a true Jewish worldwide community. Following the ceremony, the family hosted a lunch and chartered a private snorkel sail before re-boarding the ship.

A perfect day filled with lifetime memories! As Amy summed it up, “I don’t think a Bar Mitzvah has to be one-size-fits-all. It’s all about making a treasured experience for the child.”


Celebrated centenarians

Friends at 100: Evelyn Bersh and Solomon Steinfeld

Tucsonans Solomon Steinfeld and Evelyn Bersh were born in 1911 — the year Chevrolet officially entered the auto market, the New York Public Library opened, and the Philadelphia Athletics won the World Series. They have outlived noted contemporaries born in the same year — Lucille Ball, Jean Harlow, Ginger Rogers, Roy Rogers and Ronald Reagan. Friends for more than 35 years, Sol and Evelyn recently celebrated their milestone birthdays. We wish these young spirits continued health and happiness. Here are their stories/celebrations:

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Solomon C. Steinfeld celebrated his 100th birthday on March 26. Born in New York City in 1911, he led a busy life during the Depression, working his way through City College of New York, graduating with a degree in accounting and business education, followed by a master’s degree from Columbia University. He was a well-known business educator and author of accounting and record-keeping textbooks that he revised well into retirement in Tucson in 1982. Sol credits his longevity to a positive attitude, staying active in both mind and body, singing and dancing every day, and especially, complimenting everyone he comes in contact with daily.

Sol marked the beginning of his 100th year, on his 99th birthday, with a family celebration at Skyline Country Club in March 2010. In attendance were his children Joel and Alice Steinfeld and Judy and Gerald Fleischner; grandchildren Amy and Ben Small, Jacob and Mercedes Steinfeld, Cindy Fleischner, and Jeff and Jamie Fleischner; and four great-grandchildren. Numerous family members from both coasts traveled here for the festivities. For his 100th, Sol sailed on a two-week cruise to Hawaii with his companion, Frances Cohen, who celebrated her 90th birthday in January.

• • • • •

“Diminutive in stature but large in talent and energy” are the words Linda Tumarkin uses to describe her mother, Evelyn Bersh. Born Evelyn Schenkel in Newark, N. J., on April 6, 1911, she married her high school sweetheart, Nathan Barbarosh, a pharmacist, raised a family in South Orange, N.J., and moved to Tucson in 1972 to join Linda, her husband Gerry, and their family who had recently re-located here.

When Nathan passed away, Evelyn was blessed to find another love in her life, Victor Bersh. Upon his passing, she lived on her own until age 95, when she moved to Atria Campana Del Rio.

Evelyn is motivated by three driving forces: family, the piano, and the love of friends and community. She raised four children and boasts six grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren, who lovingly call her “GG.” Playing piano by ear since age eight, our centenarian still plays once a week for residents at Handmaker and entertains twice a week at Atria. Organizationally, our volunteer has been an active and honored member of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, the Tucson Jewish Community Center, Hadassah and Congregation Anshei Israel, and has worked the polls in every election. Our subject always has time to be a great friend, play cards and Rummikub, and tell a plethora of jokes and stories. When asked to reveal the secret to a good life, she replied, “Savor every moment — look to the future — smile — laugh — enjoy every day! Involve yourself with your community and the world, and BE YOU!”

At Evelyn’s joyous 100th birthday party at Finisterra Clubhouse on April 2, our celebrant was surrounded by the love of family and friends from near and far. Earlier in the day, she conducted a “sing-a-long” for 40 of her guests at Atria.


Time to share

Keep me posted at 319-1112 about your summer travels, especially those to Israel, for my column in the Sept. 16 Rosh Hashanah issue of the AJP. Stay cool. L’shalom.