Teens and veterans in D.C., women in Israel and mishpocha across the U.S.

Area BBYO teens at D.C. convention

(L-R) Michelle Goodman, Ital Ironstone and Jessica Setton (of Phoenix) at the BBYO International Convention
(L-R) Michelle Goodman, Ital Ironstone and Jessica Setton (of Phoenix) at the BBYO International Convention

Michelle Goodman, 16, a junior at St. Gregory College Preparatory School, and Ital Ironstone, 18, a senior at City High School, attended BBYO’s International Convention in Washington, D.C., from Feb. 14-18. BBYO comprises AZA (Aleph Zadik Aleph) and BBG (B’nai B’rith Girls). Joining 1,500 Jewish teen leaders from around the globe, the conventioneers viewed a video message from President Barack Obama, who welcomed them to the nation’s capital, and heard from U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice. They also performed hands-on community service and engaged in a Limmud day of learning. On Saturday, the group held 24 unique teen-led Shabbat services that celebrated the pluralism of BBYO. The conference closed with a concert headlined by artists Hoodie Allen and Timeflies.

Ital summed up these incredible few days, saying, “This convention showed me that BBYO is not just a youth group, but truly a movement, dedicated to making a difference in the world.”

WRJ Centennial in Israel

Norma Cohen (left) and Dana Adler at the Kotel during the WRJ Centennial
Norma Cohen (left) and Dana Adler at the Kotel during the WRJ Centennial

From March 5-17, Dana Adler and Norma Cohen traveled to Israel on the Women of Reform Judaism Centennial Trip — the first Israel experience for both. WRJ is the women’s affiliate of the Union for Reform Judaism. Adler is president and Cohen is a board member of WRJ of Temple Emanu-El. Their packed itinerary included learning about women’s issues in Israel and visiting grantees funded by WRJ’s Youth, Education, and Special Projects (YES) fund.

Some of the many trip highlights included:

• Joining Knesset and Women of the Wall members to pray at the Kotel to celebrate Rosh Chodesh Nissan and to promote religious freedom in Israel. A 2003 Israel Supreme Court ruling upholds a ban on women wearing tefillin or prayer shawls or reading from the Torah at the Western Wall. This much-publicized event of more than 100 women, which took place a week before President Obama’s visit, drew heightened security but no one was detained. Anat Hoffman, Women of the Wall chair and executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, who had been arrested previously at the Wall, was present at the gathering. She addressed the conference the next day at Hebrew Union College, which shares a campus with the World Union for Progressive Judaism in Jerusalem. “We stand in solidarity with our sisters in Israel, so that they and all women are able to pray as they choose,” affirmed Dana.

• Meeting with women from Congregation Emet v’Shalom of Nahariya, the synagogue twinned with Temple Emanu-El. Dana and Norma presented them with handmade kippot from the Temple Emanu-El Sisterhood and candlesticks made of saguaro branches by local artist Maury Lipowich.

• Touring Yad Vashem, a moving first visit to Israel’s Holocaust history museum.

• Visiting Kibbutz Lotan, an eco-tourism, fully self-sustaning Reform kibbutz in the Negev.

 Lotsa mishpocha

Gordon Fisher leads the Marcus family Seder in Pittsburgh.
Gordon Fisher leads the Marcus family Seder in Pittsburgh.

As the popular 1979 dance hit song goes: “We Are Family.” That certainly describes six generations of the Marcus tribe.

On Monday, March 25, the Marcus family graced the front page of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in a feature article, “Family’s century-old Passover tradition alive, well in Pittsburgh.” The story highlighted Marcus ancestors — Russian immigrants who settled in the city’s Hill District in 1912. (The family name, Mirkiss, was changed to Marcus at Ellis Island.) Fast forward to their 100th Seder night, when 75 participants — some flying in from around the country — gathered at the Green Oaks Country Club to celebrate the holiday and this milestone.

For this special occasion, the family used modern technology to unite members from afar. They set up a Google+ Hangout using an iPad and webcam, plus a big screen television at the Pittsburgh venue to include Seders taking place in other cities.

The Tucson contingent who linked via Skype included Judy and Chuck Schultz, Gerry Schultz, Anne and David Hameroff, Barbara Holtzman, her daughter Billie Maas with her family, and her son Barney with his family at the Maas Tucson Seder; Barbara’s daughter Mollie Hipp and her family connecting from North Carolina; Judy and Chuck’s daughter, Karen, and son, David, joining in from Washington, D.C.; and Sarah and Leonard Schultz with their daughter, Mimi, with her family, and son, Michael, from San Francisco.

“Thank you for your service”

 Captain Harry Kaye
Captain Harry Kaye

Harry Kaye, 96, was one of 27 U.S. veterans flown to Washington, D.C., last month under the auspices of Honor Flight Southern Arizona to visit, reflect and be honored at various military memorials.

Honor Flight participant Harry Kaye is greeted at Tucson International Airport by Miss Arizona.
Honor Flight participant Harry Kaye is greeted at Tucson International Airport by Miss Arizona.

At Tucson International Airport, when the group departed at 4 a.m. on March 26, and again when they returned at 8 p.m. on March 28, throngs of veterans from all branches of the armed forces and their supporters gathered to provide red, white and blue fanfare and honor guards for these American heroes.

Captain Kaye, who served as an army dentist from 1942-45, was interviewed by KVOA-TV before departing. He recalled being at Dachau upon its liberation and spoke of “man’s inhumanity to man” during wartime. Kaye was overwhelmed by the expressions of gratitude from Tucson well-wishers, who came out to pay tribute to the veterans for their sacrifices. This feeling lasted the entire two days, says Kaye, noting that after the war, veterans returned to the States and went right back to work. Now, they were being officially thanked for their service.

Each veteran was assigned a guardian. Harry’s daughter Andy Shatken served as his escort; daughter Barbara Marx (Wellesley, Mass.) was guardian for another vet. (Guardians are volunteers who pay their own way; the national nonprofit Honor Flight Network is supported by donations and grants.) They visited many memorials — WWII, Vietnam, Korean, Lincoln, Women’s, Air Force, FDR and MLK, plus Arlington National Cemetery and Fort McHenry. At a final dinner, vets shared moving impressions of this momentous experience. For their flight home, among other perks, American Airlines provided lunch and an American flag cake at the Baltimore Airport. On the plane’s loudspeaker, they announced “mail call,” like overseas during WWII. Each veteran received personalized letters — for Harry, from local elementary school students, his former N.J. Lions Club members and Rabbi Robert Eisen of Congregation Anshei Israel.

Time to share

I’m listening … Keep me posted — 319-1112. L’shalom.