Omaha Jewish Reunion
A reunion usually refers to a high school, college, or family gathering. From Sept. 12-14, Marlyne Freedman attended the first-ever Omaha Jewish Reunion. Born and bred in the “Gateway to the West,” Marlyne took this three-day trip down memory lane.
The weekend included social, educational, and religious programs. On Shabbat, Marlyne enjoyed wine and cheese at a participant’s home, reconnecting with 14 friends whom she hadn’t seen in 50 years. Their group of 1965 Central High School graduates represented the largest contingent at the reunion. Our native daughter took the “Bagel” bus tour — “Bagel” was the nickname for the neighborhood just northwest of Memorial Park that was home to many post-WWII Jewish families. It was situated between the Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform synagogues at the time. (These congregations, like the majority of the Jewish community, have since moved west of the city.) On Saturday evening, after dining with her classmates at a local restaurant, the group headed to the Omaha Jewish Community Center for a community-wide dinner with dancing to a live band. The Nebraska Jewish Historical Society, housed at the JCC with the Jewish Federation of Omaha, displayed exhibits of bygone days. In lieu of the Sunday brunch, Marlyne drove to the cemetery to pay respects at her relatives’ gravesites.
A standout Jewish memory for Marlyne came from her high school days, taking first place in storytelling for her B’nai B’rith Girls chapter, region and district, and attaining runner-up status at the international competition in Starlight, Penn. Of note: BBYO’s first chapter of Aleph Zadik Aleph, the boys’ group, began in 1922 in Omaha.
Omaha, a small but active Jewish community numbering about 5,500 today, boasts many famous Jewish families, including the Simon family of Omaha Steaks fame. We Tucsonans lay claim to Marlyne, who has been a Jewish professional for 35 years, most recently as senior vice president of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, having retired in 2013. L’chaim!
Sam Wolsky recently observed two milestones — reaching his 90th birthday and celebrating the 77th anniversary of his Bar Mitzvah. At Congregation Anshei Israel on Sept. 6, he led the Shacharit service and read the Haftorah portion. The celebrations included his daughter and son-in-law, Bari and Mark Ross, son and daughter-in-law, David and Faye Wolsky, and two of his five grandchildren — Jacob and Aaron, plus a busload of friends, many from his retirement community. Sam cosponsored the kiddush in honor of this auspicious occasion. The festivities continued with a party for family and friends that evening.
A native Chicagoan, Sam owned a furniture and appliance business and later a catalog showroom. Sam and his late wife, Bobbie, moved to Tucson in 1994 to be near their children and grandchildren. According to Bari, “He married the love of his life with whom he shared 62 incredibly happy years, dancing through life with style and grace.” Sam enjoys partaking of what he calls the “smorgasbord of activities” our community has to offer. We wish our newly minted nonagenarian continued health and happiness.
Over the High Holidays, Amy Beyer spent three weeks in England on business. She had the opportunity to extend her trip in order to visit with friends who live in the London area. Amy spent Yom Kippur and break-fast with Rabbi Jason Holtz and his wife, Jodi, plus several members of their congregation. Holtz, previously the associate rabbi at Tucson’s Temple Emanu-El, is now rabbi at Bromley Reform Synagogue in the London Borough of Bromley.
Mitzvah of building a sukkah
After breaking the fast, Paul Araiza and his wife Karyn Kolman, broke out the tools to build their annual sukkah (booth) for the harvest festival of Sukkot. Raised on the East Coast, Karyn has memories of hurriedly saying the brachot (blessings) and eating a bit of soup or bread in the sukkah before dashing back into the house out of the freezing rain or snow.
Paul admits that his first attempt at constructing a sukkah eight years ago didn’t go very well. He used lumber salvaged from a demolished storage shed. That first sukkah was needlessly complex and fell down several times over the holiday. The next year, he purchased plans and hardware from an online company. Using the old lumber and new design, the current sukkah is sturdy and assembles in three to four hours. Over the years, materials have included burlap, roll-up blinds or plastic windscreen for the walls and palm fronds, branches, burlap or bamboo mats for the s’chach (roof of the sukkah). The couple adds different decorations each year, made by their sons Jonah, 5, and Ari, 3.
Sukkot is Paul’s favorite Jewish holiday. He asserts, “What’s not to like about inviting family and friends over to dinner outside in the sukkah, welcoming ushpizin (Sukkot guests)? It’s good conversation, good food, and good company without the restrictions of Pesach.”
Time to share
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