Tucsonans make the most of New York, Israel, longtime friendship

BFFs Susan Weinstein (left) and Hedy Feuer
Hedy Feuer cuts her Sweet Sixteen cake in 1967 as Susan Weinstein (in striped top) and other friends look on.

Childhood friends re-connect

In August, AJP Executive Editor Phyllis Braun received an email from a “Susan Weinstein” who had searched online to locate her childhood friend Hedy Feuer. Susan saw an AJP article about Hedy, a breast cancer survivor, and realizing this was indeed her long-lost friend, asked Phyllis to forward her email address to Hedy. Phyllis obliged. Hedy emailed Susan questions to verify her identity — where she was from, her maiden name, and the clincher, the name of the summer camp where they met as 8-year-olds, Camp Glenwood in New Jersey.

From seven camp summers to traveling through Israel together with Hedy’s Israeli cousins to Hedy being maid of honor at Susan’s 1973 wedding, the two were best friends. Over the years, they lost touch; Susan remained in New York and Hedy relocated to Tucson. In mid-October, Hedy flew to New York to visit Susan. And so begins the renewed history of their friendship.

Honeymoon Israel

Jonathan and Rachel Teitel at the Western Wall on Honeymoon Israel

Rachel (Surwit) Teitel, a native Tucsonan who now lives in New York, married Jonathan Teitel last December in Tucson. The pair went on a honeymoon to Belize, but also applied to travel on Honeymoon Israel (HMI). They were accepted for the Nov. 14-24 journey. Rachel had been to Israel on family trips and Birthright Israel, but Jonathan had never experienced our homeland.

The Honeymoon Israel program is like Birthright for newlyweds. The itinerary balances group experiences with alone time.

Here is Rachel’s takeaway:

“It is hard to put into words how unique this adventure was, exploring Israel as husband and wife and with 19 other couples from downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn. We felt surrounded by a community of supportive couples in the same stage of life, figuring out what Judaism means to them. What was more unexpected was how supported we felt by the larger community in Israel with Hebrew and Jewish stars surrounding us. We were moved on the Tel Aviv boardwalk on Shabbat when an Israeli dance group grabbed our hands and taught us their folk dance. The itinerary included typical requisite sites and activities — putting a note in the Western Wall in Jerusalem, hiking Masada, and floating in the Dead Sea. We also ventured to places we knew less about, such as the nature-made grottos of Rosh Hanikra and a vineyard in the Western Galilee. At each place, we heard perspectives from journalists and politicians, giving us an inside look at Israeli life and helping us feel more connected. We think ‘connection’ was really the goal of the trip — connecting Judaism, Israel, and a new HMI Jewish community back home in New York. On the last day of the sojourn, the rabbi explained that this is just the beginning. We already have three more reunion events with our group scheduled in December!”

Tucson pride

Sousaphonists Harris Brody (left) and Eric Hall march on the Avenue of the Americas before the Macy’s parade rehearsal.
Susan Claassen as a “Half Baked Sweets Clown” in the Macy’s parade.

Tucson was well represented in the 93rd Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The Catalina Foothills High School Marching Band, which last participated in 2006, performed. Susan Claassen, managing artistic director of Tucson’s Invisible Theatre, was a “Half Baked Sweets Clown” in her 19th year of “clowning around” the streets of New York in the parade.

The 266-member Falcon band, the largest high school band in Arizona, marched to Sergei Prokofiev’s “Troika.” Besides their parade appearance, the group’s week included a jam-packed Big Apple itinerary — Times Square, a Broadway show (“Come From Away”), Ground Zero, the 9/11 Museum, One World Observatory tour, dinner cruise, Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island tour, Radio City Music Hall tour and Rockettes show, New York Philharmonic concert at Lincoln Center, Central Park walking tour, Rockefeller Center, and more.

The following are some trip impressions:

Melissa Hall, a chaperone, emailed her thoughts during the journey: “This trip has been amazing! With the exception of the students being tired, they have all had smiles on their faces. Yesterday (Thanksgiving Day), we were out the door for the parade by 2 a.m., and by 10 p.m., the kids were dancing fools on the dinner cruise. We were all wowed by the Statue of Liberty and I personally was teary-eyed at Ellis Island, knowing that my great-grandparents came through there.”

Davis Yalen, a CFHS freshman drummer: “I marched holding the left side of the Arizona banner, as my instrument was too large to take to New York. For me, a highlight was visiting the 9/11 Museum. I focused on finding one name, David DiMeglio, and found his picture. I also enjoyed Rockefeller Center and seeing the Rockettes. The parade was the best part. I watch part of it on TV every year, but to be in it was amazing. I went with such a great group; I’ll never forget it.”

Harris Brody, a CFHS senior tuba player (sousaphone for marching): “Going to New York was such a fantastic experience. Band has been an important part of my high school career and being able to close it out on such a high note has been incredible. My favorite part of the trip was simply wandering around the Big Apple, experiencing the hustle and bustle of the streets, eating the food and seeing amazing monuments. Just being in New York surrounded by my favorite people in the world was what really made this trip unforgettable.”

“The parade was fantastic,” Claassen enthused. Since 2001, Susan has been many different thematic clowns in the parade: “Funny Firefighter Clown,” “A Saguaro,” “Confetti Clown,” Uptown Doggy Walker,” “Billiard Ball Clown,” “Sleepy Time Clown,” and “Troll Clown,” to name a few. During her New York stay, she connected with friends from the theater community, saw “To Kill a Mockingbird” on Broadway, and took in other city sites/museums.

Time to share

Happy Hanukkah! I look forward to your news in 2020. Keep me posted – 319-1112. L’shalom.