Handmaker youth volunteers, a senior’s milestone and wine tasting

Handmaker helping hands

(L-R) Rachel Bransky, Hilda Poulos, Robert Rosenberg and Breanna Bregman play a game of Trouble at Handmaker.

In May, Handmaker Jewish Services for the Aging launched the Handmaker Youth Leadership Team. Its mission is to increase volunteer opportunities to enrich youth, address community needs and develop a lifetime commitment to service. The group, ages 11-18, currently has 15 members. Participants learned about the program through many sources, including the Arizona Daily Star, Arizona Jewish Post, pamphlets at the Tucson Jewish Community Center, Girl or Boy Scout troop, grandparents residing at Handmaker, or from friends. Like Handmaker, the program is non-sectarian but guided by Jewish principles.

The Oct. 21 H.Y.L.T. event was divided into two segments. First, each youth interviewed a resident, using printed questionnaires prepared by Handmaker resident Brian Litwak to hone their interviewing skills. Then, each volunteer chose either to play games with the residents or cook with Executive Chef Mike Felte, preparing hummus that was later shared with the residents.

Phil Bregman, past Handmaker Foundation president and chair of the H.Y.L.T. advisory board, came up with this youth team concept while pondering marketing/fundraising strategies. The experience, he believes, serves as life-cycle education, breaking down barriers between the generations. According to Lori Riegel, Handmaker religious and cultural education coordinator, who heads the program, “Engaging the residents and youth is mutually beneficial. The program improves the quality of life for the residents. Some of the kids come back and are involved volunteering on a regular basis — having lunch with the residents, visiting and doing physical exercises or other activities with them.”

 Special 85th for a special lady

(L-R) Arnie and Rhea Merin and Hilda Kamenetz at the Cardo in Jerusalem

Hilda Kamenetz wanted nothing more than to be in Israel on Oct. 25 for her milestone 85th birthday. Her daughter and son-in-law, Rhea and Arnie Merin, flew with her to Ben Gurion International airport in Tel Aviv to make this wish a reality.

Having been to our homeland approximately 25 times, always staying in hotels, Hilda and company rented an apartment in Jerusalem for their 12-day stay. The residence was centrally located, near the Old City, Mamilla Mall and Ben Yehuda Street.

Hilda’s son Rabbi Yaakov Kleiman and his wife Hedy live in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. The rabbi teaches at Aish HaTorah and is the author of books on the DNA of the Cohen (priestly) gene, including “DNA and Tradition.” Yaacov and Hedy have seven sons and nine grandchildren. Hilda enjoys hearing her great-grandchildren refer to her as “Safta raba mi America” — “Great-grandma from America.”

Every day was a celebration, including a pizza party at a grandson’s home in the Old City, a communal observance of Shabbat and a stroll through the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo with their entourage of 25. Hilda, Rhea and Arnie also toured Old Jaffa and the Palmach Museum in Tel Aviv. Hilda reunited with childhood friends at Kibbutz Gesher HaZion in the North. This kibbutz was established by Habonim, a Labor Zionist youth movement. Growing up in Baltimore, Hilda went to a Habonim summer camp and volunteered for the youth group. Her kibbutznik friends made aliyah years ago and she remained in contact with them. Rhea and Arnie visited with beloved Tucsonans Carol and Dan Karsch, who recently made aliyah, in Modi’in.

Our celebrant’s Israel family gave her a personalized calendar as a birthday gift. Other memories she carried home included “the loads and loads of tour buses and the building, building, building” she saw all over Israel. Kadima! (Forward)

Oenophiles unite!

(L-R)“Wine guys” Fred Klein, Micah Halpern and Tedd Goldfinger

On Nov. 7 and 8, Micah Halpern, a social and political columnist, spoke at the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona’s Leadership Campaign Summit. At the luncheon meetings, he discussed “Making Sense of the Middle East: a Post-Election Analysis.” The pundit is also the only exclusively kosher wine reviewer in the Western world.

The previous evening, Nov. 6, Micah met with wine lovers Tedd Goldfinger and Fred Klein, sharing oenological insights. He spoke of the kosher wine revolution of the past 10 years, with worldwide vintages ranging in price from $5 to $500. He noted that only half of kosher wine produced is mevushal (flash pasteurized). Halpern credits the Golan Heights Winery in Israel for raising the bar for kosher wine development. The company combines state-of-the-art technology with traditional vinification techniques.

When asked his favorite special-occasion picks, the connoisseur listed Chateau Castel, Shiloh Barbera, Dalton Reserve Cabernet and Barkan Superior Reserve Merlot, all of which are kosher for Passover. Whether used for ceremony or celebration, enjoy. L’chaim!

Time to share

Keep me posted at the Post — 319-1112. L’shalom.