In an effort to learn about one another, we have started a blog entitled, “Getting To Know You."
Judy Alexander & Bruce Chalmer interviewed by Jan Zatzman Orlansky
Bruce’s favorite quote: If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am to be for myself, what self am I? And if not now, when? -Hillel, in Pirke Avot
Judy’s favorite quote: You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore. -André Gide
Eat, pray, love, music….sums up life with and between Judy and Bruce. Judy loves to bake. Bruce loves to eat what Judy bakes. Both Judy and Bruce extol the beauty of prayer and music as well as their love for one another. They also share a love of chocolate! BUT there is so much more to their story.
We all know and are grateful to Judy and Bruce for their commitment to Temple Sinai. They exemplify the three pillars of Judaism by sharing their knowledge of Judaism and by helping our members study the tenets of our faith, they actively show us the beauty of prayer every time they read from the Torah, and finally they participate in acts of kindness (tikun olam), both in and outside of Temple.
Judy Alexander and Bruce Chalmer met on JDate. As Bruce tells it, “Against all the advice I routinely dispense in my psychology practice about waiting a while to date after divorce, I joined JDate just so I could write to her. I mentioned in my email that the most recent time I had been in Burlington was a couple months before, when the music group I was in had performed my composition Berakhot: A Midrash Cantata. Judy responded that she had been at the performance and had loved the music. My fantasy, during my brief time of being single, was that a woman would hear my music, and if she loved that, she could love me. We met for coffee at Uncommon Grounds in Burlington the next day, and here we are!” Some things are just ‘bashert’!
Judy grew up in Long Beach NY, very close to the Atlantic Ocean. Her childhood was different from most of the children on her block because she attended Hebrew Academy of Long Beach, a Yeshiva or Orthodox school. Besides her secular studies, she studied Hebrew, Torah, Prophets and Jewish History. When she wasn’t studying, she was outside playing with the children on her street. She is the second of four, an older sister, Debbie, a younger sister, Abby, and a younger brother, Danny. Judy considers her sister Debbie as the biggest influence on her life. She followed Debbie around and she taught Judy most of the things she knows. They were constant companions as children, going to movies, the beach, the pool, attending the ballet, theatre and Philharmonic together in NYC. They also traveled together all around England & Scotland and to Israel, Greece, and Italy.
Bruce grew up in Buffalo NY where both his mother and father were positive role models for him. His father showed him that a Jewish man should treat his wife with respect, love and deference. His mother taught him about family loyalty, determination and a love for reading and learning. He is the youngest of three boys, and his father was also the youngest of three boys. Guess how many children Bruce had? Micah, Seth and Eli all live in the New York City area. Micah (38) and his wife Melissa and their daughter Elizabeth (2) live on Wall Street. Micah manages a team of programmers at Morgan Stanley. Seth (36) lives in Riverdale (The Bronx) with his wife Rachel and daughters Ella (3.5), and Anna (12 mos.). They are Modern Orthodox in their practice of Judaism and Seth works as the Manager of Strategic and Digital Communications for the Jewish Funders Network. Eli (32) lives in Brooklyn with his wife Jessie Karsif and he is a professional musician. Amongst many musical activities, he is the trombonist with the Eli Chalmer Trio.
Before Judy became an educator, she worked as an advertising copywriter. She got her start in entertainment advertising where her agency handled Broadway shows, the New York City Opera and 20th Century Fox. Her career took off when Beverly Sills personally asked that she be put on the New York City Opera account. Judy wrote newspaper and radio advertisements as well as produced radio spots. A highlight was being able to attend dress rehearsals any time she wanted. She also worked with other luminaries such as Maurice Sendak, Stephen Sondheim, and Hal Linden.
Judy has two adult children. A daughter, Alex who lives in Fort Lauderdale and is a scuba diving instructor, and Jack, who is an actor/musician, living in New York City. Before moving to Burlington twenty years ago, Judy lived in London England, where she finished her studies and worked for a company that sold counter-surveillance equipment. She also lived in New York City, Stamford CT, Washington DC where she worked as an advertising copywriter and in Weston VT and Greensboro NC where she worked as a teacher. In 1998 she was hired at Temple Sinai. In addition to her job at Temple Sinai, Judy works as a Social Media and Content Curator for Jvillage Network, a company that designs engaging websites for synagogues and other non-profits. And as if that weren’t enough….Judy works as a voice actor, doing voice-over work for commercials, videos etc.!
Bruce had the good fortune of growing up next door to his paternal grandparents and a few houses away from his maternal grandparents. After high school, Bruce went to Oberlin College for his Freshman year and later transferred to the University of Toronto where he studied Chinese and Russian, and graduated with a degree in East Asian Studies.
Bruce has also lived in Barre VT, Middlesex VT and Montpelier VT. When he first moved to Vermont he became interested in statistics and started a Master’s program in Statistics at UVM. Since his thesis (on measuring quality of life in patients with advanced cancer) was related to psychology, he had advisors in the Psychology Department, and then enrolled part-time in the Psychology Ph.D. program, while still working as a statistician and teaching statistics. he received his doctorate in 1982, and worked at UVM in the Academic Computing Center as the resident statistician until 1985, when he left UVM to teach data communications on a consulting basis. He started clinical training in 1990, and got his license as a psychologist in 1994. He’s been in private practice, first in Montpelier and now in South Burlington, since then. Bruce is a psychologist in private practice at Stone House Associates in South Burlington. His main emphasis is couples therapy and he’s made over a dozen videos that address various therapy topics, available on his website <www.brucechalmer.com>.
Judy enjoys listening to a wide range of music from the Beatles, Leonard Cohen, Carole King, Broadway musicals, classical to 60s Rock & Roll. Bruce waxes rhapsodic over Bach’s Goldberg Variations and also enjoys Renaissance choral music as well as Jewish music, especially cantorial and choral arrangements.
Both Judy and Bruce enjoy walking for exercise and Judy particularly likes to body surf. During the winter they like to go to warmer climes and have been to Cancun, Jamaica, Roatan, Puerto Rico and the Turks & Caicos Islands. In the summer they have travelled to Saint John, New Brunswick (Bruce conversing with a statue) and to Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia (Judy on the Rocks). This winter they travelled to Eleuthera which forms a part of the Great Bahama Bank. They have also travelled to London, Paris and Israel.
When not professionally engaged, Judy enjoys singing and performing in Dahg, our Temple’s Rock Shabbat band and she is currently trying to learn to play the ukulele. She also writes plays and has had several of her 10 minute plays produced both locally and in other theaters around the country. Bruce’s extracurricular activities center around music, which he composes and performs. He was a founding member of Fyre and Lightning Consort in central Vermont, with whom he performed and recorded for about thirty years. Fyre and Lightning recorded a CD of his cantata (the one that ultimately brought Judy and Bruce together). Since moving to South Burlington, he’s joined Social Band, for whom he’s composed a number of compositions, some in collaboration with Judy as lyricist. Aside from singing, his main performance instrument is recorder. At home, he plays the piano a lot. He is also addicted to the NY Times crosswords, KenKen and Sudoku.
When asked what they look forward to at Temple Sinai, Bruce said that he is looking forward to studying Torah and Talmud with our new rabbi. Judy would love to see a children’s choir, an ongoing film series, more joint activities with other synagogues in the area, and activities for teens and millennials, maybe some music or poetry slam nights or “Moth” type storytelling, or just a place to hang out.
Thank you Judy and Bruce for not only sharing your life story with us but also for sharing yourselves so selflessly for the betterment of our community. You are both terrific rôle models for all of us.
Linda Retchin & Jeff Solomon interviewed by Jan Zatzman Orlansky
You do NOT want to mess with this guy! He is a certified Black Belt; that is, a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, one of the most sought-after business credentials today. Lean Six Sigma Black Belts are trained to solve business problems by asking the right questions and using data and analysis to get the right answers. Jeff earned his LSS Black Belt certification 8 years ago. Had you there for a minute, didn’t I?
Jeff Solomon and Linda Retchin are a powerful duo, each with their own style and independent careers. If harnessed, their energy combined could power a small country! They have run over one hundred 5Ks and now they are very active with the local Dragonheart Vermont Dragon Boating team, which requires year-round training and commitment. Linda paddled with Team USA in 2015 at the World Championships in Welland, Ontario. In 2016, both Linda and Jeff paddled at the Club Championships in Ravenna, Italy and they both are going with their local team to the 2018 Club Championships in Szeged, Hungary later this year. Linda has also paddled and raced in Hong Kong, in the South China Sea. Once the ice on Lake Champlain melts, you can see them practicing with their club three evenings a week.
Linda started pre-Dental at Kent State University and then obtained her Dental Hygiene degree in 1985 from Howard University’s College of Dentistry in Washington DC. Her first professional position was working in Bern, Switzerland for two years. While in Switzerland, Linda traveled extensively throughout Europe, Scandinavia, and the Middle East.
Linda is a Registered Dental Hygienist who actively practices in Chittenden County. In 2015 she was given the Outstanding Dental Hygienist of the year award by the Vermont Dental Hygiene Association. She served ten years on the Vermont Board of Dental Examiners after being appointed by Governor Howard Dean. She now sits on the Vermont Board of Radiologic Technologists as a Public Member and was recently reappointed to this position by Governor Phil Scott. In addition she is a national Dental Hygiene Examiner for CDCA, a national credentialing agency.
For Temple Sinai, Linda has been a Trustee and also has been President and Treasurer of the Sisterhood. She served for four years as the Oneg Coordinator. She often remarks that she cast the deciding vote to install air conditioning in the synagogue years ago. Linda and Jeff have been members of Temple Sinai for 30 years.
Jeff graduated from Bowdoin College in Maine (he was Phi Beta Kappa) and then went to Cornell University for graduate school in Mathematics and Statistics. He quipped and quoted that “If I had only one day left to live, I would live it in my statistics class… It would seem so much longer!”
Jeff said that everyone in his family has a first name that begins with “J”: Judy, Jerry, Jeffrey, Joel, Jon and Jane. Then Jane married Jim and Joel married Janet! You just can’t make this stuff up! Jeff is the eldest of 4. His parents had 3 boys and then a girl and his mother was pregnant with his sister at Jeff’s Bar Mitzvah. As you can see, Jeff has a terrific sense of humor.
There is a serious side to Jeff too, when it comes to his professional life. He works at Simmonds Precision in Vergennes VT as a Quality Manager and Statistician and he is also an adjunct professor of Math and Statistics at the University of Vermont. At Temple Sinai, he taught in the Hebrew School, was VP of Education, Co-Chair of the Spiritual Committee, created and led the High Holiday Children’s Services for 10 years, and was a member of the Rabbinic Search Survey and Assessment committee. Jeff has lived in the Burlington area since July 1986.
Linda grew up in Babylon NY on Long Island’s south shore. She is the middle of three sisters: Judy, the eldest is a Superior Court Judge in Washington DC, and Nancy is an actress, art dealer and artist living in NYC. She enjoys playing Mah Jongg at least once a week. Somehow, she finds time to be a mentor in the Shelburne Community School.
Linda and Jeff recently became new pet owners of an Australian Labradoodle puppy named Copper. They can be found weekends hiking, XC skiing, and snowshoeing at Shelburne Farms.
Jeff was born in Boston and grew up in Marblehead MA. He is the only one in his family who lives outside of Route 128. His brother Jon lives in his family home in Marblehead and is a retired Tampa FL policeman who now works for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. His brother Joel is a doctor and lives in Lexington MA, and his sister Jane lives in Winchester MA and works at an insurance company.
The person who was the biggest influence in Linda’s young life was a neighbor, who happened to be a dentist. The person of greatest influence in Jeff’s life was his grandmother who was also left-handed and was the only one who could teach him how to tie his shoes. She lived in Brookline MA.
Linda and Jeff have two children, Hannah (27) and Ian (24) who both are UVM graduates and both now work at Dealer.com. They remind their parents from time to time, that they are native Vermonters while their parents are “Flatlanders”!
Jeff and Linda met at a wine and cheese mixer, and at the end of the evening, Linda asked Jeff for his phone number. Their first date was skiing at Bolton Valley and then going out for Asian food in Winooski. They dated for one year and were married by Rabbi Jim Glazier on a cold winter night in February 1989 in their Woolen Mill apartment #528. They had a small dinner celebration at Pauline’s restaurant afterwards and honeymooned in Europe.
For the past 28 summers they have a family tradition of meeting at Linda’s family summer beach house in Lewes, Delaware. Jeff and Linda love the ocean and salt air. Linda’s Mom and stepfather are both living in Boynton Beach FL.
Both Linda and Jeff love to travel. In addition to their travel abroad for Dragonboat racing, Jeff has been to Canada, England, Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Germany, and India.
While Jeff enjoys reading Stephen King, recognizing some of the scenes took place near Bowdoin, where he attended college, Linda prefers reading mostly non-fiction, because it is direct and straight to the point. Jeff’s favorite music is from the 60’s and 70’s, while Linda enjoys the Beatles and Sirius XM.
Thank you Linda and Jeff, our dynamic duo, for your willingness to be part of the Getting To Know You series
Ben Eisenberg & Molly Nilan interviewed by Jan Zatzman Orlansky
What do Ann Compton, Bruce Dern, Charlton Heston, Ann-Margret, Rahm Emanuel, Donald Rumsfeld, Christie Hefner, Scott Turow and Sharon Percy Rockefeller have in common with our Ben Eisenberg? Glad you asked! They are all graduates of the highly venerated New Trier High School in Winnetka IL, noted for its academic rigor and excellence.
Molly Nilan and Ben Eisenberg met at Beloit College in Beloit Wisconsin. After college they lived in Chicago for a few years and decided to settle in the Burlington VT area twelve years ago, to start their careers and family. Molly grew up here and graduated from Champlain Valley Union High School in Hinesburg. Molly has a younger sister, Emma who is an artist and lives in Burlington, and Ben has a younger brother, David. who is an attorney and lives in Wilmette IL.
During the time that they both lived in Chicago, they both worked at Temple Sholom of Chicago, one of the largest and oldest reform synagogues in the area, with a membership of over 3,500 congregants. Founded in 1867, Temple Sholom was a dynamic home to many famous speakers, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1964) and home to a strong early childhood education program. This is where Ben got his start in fundraising and development. Molly was the Assistant to the Cantor and worked closely with families with children going through the Bar/Bat Mitzvah process.
Molly’s parents owned two restaurants in this area so she grew up around food and the preparation of food. They started Sneakers in Winooski and The Daily Planet in Burlington. They no longer own either. Each family gathering and holiday was centered around special menus, which is a tradition that they like to share with their children.
For both Molly and Ben their parents have been the biggest influence, with similar values focused on responsibility, respect and connection to family and community. Molly grew up with a large, extended family of over 15 aunts and uncles and over 15 first cousins. Molly jokes that she is the quietest member of her extended family. Ben’s parents raised him to believe that we should all strive to give back to our communities though our work. Ben is a political and fundraising consultant and Molly is a Business Manager at UVM’s College of Arts and Sciences.
When asked what activities they would like to see more of at Temple Sinai they both agree that those activities which encompass social justice and giving back to our community, are two important ones. Molly attended the conversation with Dr. Lewis First and loved that it engaged both parents and grandparents.
They have two children: Ella is going on 7 years and is in first grade and Jake is going on 4 years old and is in preschool. They also have a sweet and mischievous chocolate labradoodle named Maya.
When they travel they love visiting the ocean. Their travels have brought them from the cold Atlantic in Maine to various locations in Mexico. Their most memorable trip, pre-children and post-college was driving across the country from Chicago through the Southwest, up the West Coast and back to Burlington.
Thank you Molly and Ben for your willingness to partake in our Getting To Know You series. We’re happy to have you and your children as part of our congregation.
Art & Ginny Greenblott interviewed by Jan Zatzman OrlanskyEvery great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember you have within you the strength, the patience and the passion to reach for the stars, to change the world.Harriet Tubman
Meet one of the founders and dreamers of Temple Sinai, Ginny Greenblott! She was and still is a force to be reckoned with, according to her husband Art. Both Art and Ginny asked others to join them in founding what is today, Temple Sinai. The other founding members were Alice and Robert Rosenberg Jr., Shirley and Carl Mack, Ellen and Richard Lipson, Gertrude and Jules Leopold, Mark's parents, Gail and Seymour Paymer, Judith and Dan Potts, Carol and Paul Wasserman, Suzanne and Edwin Grief, Rhoda and Morton Kaufman, and Eva and Harry Rieders. Eva’s father was Ben Zion Black, the artist who painted the Lost Shul Mural which today hangs in the foyer of Ohavi Zedek synagogue in Burlington.
Art and Ginny met in Springfield MA where Art was attending the American International College and Ginny was attending Bay Path College where she got an Associates degree, later finishing her Bachelor’s degree at Trinity in Burlington. After they got married, they moved to Burlington.
Ginny and Art wanted to name our congregation Sinai Temple, after the synagogue in Springfield MA where Ginny went through her conversion to Judaism, but when they went to register the name with the Vermont state authorities, they found out that the Masonic Lodge had already registered that name. So they just switched it around and legally became Temple Sinai.
Art recalls that when he saw how committed Ginny was to Judaism and to the creation of a Reform congregation in Vermont, he could not stand in the way of her quest. Although Art’s parents were disappointed to learn that he was leaving their synagogue, they never opposed what he and Ginny were doing. Ginny’s father passed away when she was 13 and although her mother was an observant Catholic and expressed reservations about Ginny’s conversion to Judaism, she accepted her daughter’s choice.
In 1967 Art became the second President of Temple Sinai. In the late 1960s to 1971, the small congregation met in the gymnasium of South Burlington's Chamberlain Elementary school for services and 14 year old Mark Leopold served as the Cantor. Initially, the services were conducted by members of the congregation. In an effort to build solidarity and increase membership, Ginny and Art encouraged members to take turns inviting non-members to their homes for dinner. Teenagers were taken on weekend retreats to other youth groups in Montreal. This was a time of exceptional growth and membership involvement.
Ginny’s family is Assyrian. Her father was born in Iran and came to the USA as a young boy with his mother and 2 siblings. Her mother was born in New York and both her parents were of Assyrian descent. Ginny’s parents had an arranged marriage. Ginny spoke Assyrian fluently as a child because her grandmother, who lived with them, only spoke Assyrian.
Ginny grew up in New Britain CT and Art is a native Burlingtonian. Ginny grew up in a large house with 2 families of aunts, uncles and cousins, in addition to her grandmother. She had 1 brother, who is deceased and 2 sisters, one of whom lives in Shelburne VT and the other in San Diego.
Art grew up in the Old North End, which had a sizable Jewish population at the time. His grandmother who spoke only Yiddish lived with Art’s family. She and his grandfather had immigrated to the US from what is now Belarus. Art’s brother, a retired teacher, now resides in Brattleboro VT.
Ginny says that her mother had the strongest influence on her because she helped her understand the importance of family and her father helped her understand the importance of volunteerism and “giving back” to the community. Art feels that Ginny has had the strongest influence on his life, and that through her, he came to have a greater understanding and deeper appreciation of Judaism.
The Greenblotts have four children, three of whom currently live in the Burlington area. Kara has worked for several non-governmental organizations in Africa, Kevin is a construction worker, and Lisa is a Human Resources professional. Their son Brian currently lives in Boca Raton, Florida, and works at a drug and alcohol recovery center.
Art described his business life in Burlington at his family-owned Burlington Paint and Wallpaper store which his grandfather started in 1927 in the Burlington Old North End. The business was passed on to his father who changed the name to Burlington Paint and Tile and Art joined the business in 1962. In 1971 Art and two partners bought the business from his father and nine months later an arsonist destroyed the building. Undaunted, Art and his partners built a new building on Main street and named it Bard Home Decorating. Three years later Art bought his partners out and Ginny joined him in running the business. Art and Ginny ran the business for 44 years closing the doors in 2007. Perrywinkles jewelry store now occupies the building that was Bard Home Decorating.
In their retirement Ginny and Art enjoy time with their grandchildren, exercising and travel. Ginny loves to play golf and tennis and both of them are fond of socializing with friends. When she has time, Ginny enjoys reading historical novels and weekly news magazines. The Greenblotts have traveled widely, to such places as Florida, California, Africa, Europe and Cuba.
Ginny would like to see more events for young adults and their families at Temple Sinai and Art would like to see more social activities and a variety of adult education classes.
Thank you Ginny and Art for all you do for our Temple. We honor your dedication and want you to know how indebted we are to you both. Without you and the other founding members, there may not have been a Temple Sinai, at least not in its present form.
The Kalfus Family interviewed by Jan Zatzman Orlansky
How did a bassoonist and a percussionist meet, get married and eventually join Temple Sinai?
Tina grew up in Colchester and attended schools in Burlington and Colchester. On Sundays she and her sister and parents would drive to Montreal and while they attended an Estonian school in Montreal, their parents visited Estonian friends in Montreal. Tina is first generation American and she only spoke Estonian with her grandparents. She has an older sister who lives in Michigan and is a pharmacist. Tina graduated from the University of Vermont and moved to Plattsburgh for work, after graduating. She lived there for about five years. It was during that time that she met “Howie”. They moved back to Burlington when they got married.
Howard grew up in Livingston NJ. He has an older sister who lives in Londonderry NH, and a younger sister who lives in West Orange NJ. His parents retired to Vermont, so Howard says, partly in jest, “It’s obvious who their favorite child is!”
Howard graduated from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst MA and then graduated from Seton Hall Law School in Newark NJ.
Tina and Howard Kalfus met at a Phish concert in Plattsburgh NY in 1996, where they happened to play in the orchestra. The band wanted an orchestra to open for them. Phish chose the music (all classical) and the orchestra played before the crowd of around 90,000 people! The orchestra was conducted by Bill Phillips, one of the founding members of the Canadian Brass. Howard is the joyful percussionist for Dahg, the Lyric Theatre and the Vermont Wind Ensemble, and Tina plays bassoon with the Vermont Wind Ensemble. So playing music is very much present in their lives today.
Professionally Tina is a Nuclear Medicine Technologist at Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin VT. Howard is a judge with the Vermont Judicial Bureau, where he hears civil violations throughout the State.
They have two talented and committed children, Josh and Anna. Josh is 17 And Anna is 16. Anna is on the Varsity Dance Team, and the tennis team at Colchester High School, and she also is a percussionist. She plays in the Vermont Youth Philharmonia and substitutes with the Vermont Youth Orchestra, as needed. Anna has been working for the Lake Monsters this summer, and as she says, "it's the best summer job ever!" Anna also has volunteered for the past few years at Temple Sinai’s religious school. Josh is in the pre-professional ballet program with the Boston Ballet, so he is very excited to spend his senior year in Boston this year. He was just recently in Seattle WA in the Pacific Northwest Ballet's summer ballet program, and the year before, he was in Miami with the Miami City Ballet. Josh is interested in pursuing a career in pharmaceutical sciences, and of course he is still dancing!
The Kalfus family’s favorite destination for vacations has recently been to New York City, where they all enjoy musical theatre. Tina said that another of her favorite places to vacation is York Beach in Maine.
In terms of hobbies or activities, Tina loves to read and Howard loves to run races and play music. Both of them are fans of author Archer Mayor because of the Vermont Setting or Harlen Coben. Incidentally, Harlen was Howard’s cousin’s best friend, growing up in Livington NJ. Howard has raced about every distance from one mile up to 50 miles. “I much prefer the longer distances (26 to 50 miles); there's no pressure to run fast”. For music, he likes to play different styles. Lately, most of his musical attention has been devoted to playing in pit orchestras for musicals (mostly with the Lyric Theatre Company) and playing with Dahg. “I’m constantly amazed, amused and glad about how Dahg has developed over the last few years. It's a great group of musicians and friends”.
When asked what attracted them to Temple Sinai, Tina said that they decided to bring up their children in the Jewish faith. Tina grew up Lutheran. As she learned more about Judaism and later visited Temple Sinai and talked with the Rabbi, it became clear that she wanted to join the Temple. She and Howard both agree that the Temple is most welcoming to couples of mixed faiths.
As former President of Temple Sinai, Howard has a refreshing perspective. “I had the privilege of working with two dynamite individuals: Steve Greenfield, who preceded me as president, and Tim Cope, who succeeded me. With them, we tackled some significant challenges including changes in the front office, cleaning up our accounting and faced fiscal difficulties, brought on in large part by diminishing membership. I'm not sure that I can think of anything that I'd have done differently. I had a very competent, effective board and I think that we did as much as we could given the challenges referenced above. I'm probably most proud of the state of our accounting practices today and the fact that we've had stability in the front office between Stacie and Michael. Temple needs to evolve to a congregation that is attractive to future generations. In all likelihood, a successful congregation tomorrow will look very different from the successful congregation of today. Michael and the current leadership have done a wonderful job of bringing us forward technologically. This is a great first step.”
Tim and Paula Cope interviewed by Jan Zatzman Orlansky
"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved." Helen Keller
This quote seems applicable to the lives of both Tim and Paula Cope. They have had their share of adversities that they dealt with and overcame to become the successful people they are today.
I was impressed by their candor and their willingness to share those chapters in their lives that were difficult. After sitting on the Temple Board with Tim and working very briefly with Paula, I got to know them and appreciate their specialness and their ability to connect so ably with people of all ages. Fundamentally they are good, fun, honest and reliable people who contribute unselfishly to their community.
Being the parents of three accomplished adult children (Collin, Evan, and Lindsey) and knowing that they had a set of twins, I was curious what is was like to raise such a family. Here’s what they said, “So many stories… Exhausting and very rewarding. It truly takes a village. It became clear to us that genetics is stronger than environment with their personality traits and interests. You also have to keep your first child front and center because everyone fawns over the twins. We made a special effort to always change up the family dynamic, because there was a natural tendency to keep Collin alone and the twins together or pair up the boys and keep Lindsey alone. To combat that, we often paired Lindsey with Collin and they are just as close today as any combination of the three children. We also took each child alone for a weekend with one parent, which gave us time to focus on one child at a time."
Our three children would tell you that we have a very funny, close-knit, happy family. Our favorite activity of all, as children and now as adults, is What the Heck Night (WTHN). Tim and Collin invented it. It’s when kids get to rule and you have to do anything as long as it’s not unsafe or illegal. For example, the twins wanted to go to Church St. in their pajamas, stand on the rocks, and sing when they were six. Why not? What the heck! Collin wanted to go school shopping at 1 AM in Hannaford’s, eat donuts, and drink chocolate milk in the aisle when he was 11. Why not? What the heck! You just have to set safe boundaries and stay one step ahead. WTHNs are some of our best memories.
Their eldest son, Collin, is 30 years old and lives in Winooski. He is a full time musician with three bands. His primary group, Rumblecat, released its first CD last year called Till the Neighbors Shout. Evan and Lindsey are twins and are almost 26. Evan is engaged to Nicole Kutcher and they live locally. Evan works for Production Advantage as the Manager of Technical Services and is an audio engineer. Nicole is a theatrical stage manager, formerly with the Vermont Stage Company. Lindsey works for Senator Patrick Leahy in Washington, DC and is applying to law school.
Tim was born in Allentown, PA and moved to New Milford, CT when he was six months old. New Milford was a factory town on the Housatonic River. Tim’s mother was a music teacher and his father was a cook at the Southbury Training School. Paula was born in Brooklyn NY to her father, a cab driver, and her mother, a switchboard operator and commercial artist. Her parents divorced when she was five and her mother remarried a doctor when Paula was 13. Her grandparents raised her through some difficult years and she moved to Manhattan for high school.
Tim’s brother Randy was 14 months older. Randy lived in California until he passed away from lung cancer just over 10 years ago. Paula has two adopted siblings from her mother’s second marriage, Naomi who lives in NJ and Joel who lives in FL. She also has two step siblings from her father’s second marriage, a brother, Donald, who still lives in Brooklyn and a sister, Adrienne, who lives in FL. Paula is the youngest of all.
Both Paula and Tim had strong positive role models in their lives. For Tim, it’s his mother. Tim’s mom had Multiple Sclerosis which began in her 20’s and was diagnosed in her early 40’s. She maintained a positive attitude and was always willing to try new things. In her younger years she rebelled a bit by secretly going off to NYC with her older sister, Betty, going against their strict Methodist minister father’s wishes. Tim repeated that pilgrimage to New York City in high school despite his father’s preferences. Tim got his mom's positive outlook and an inclination toward adventure, with a little bit of rule breaking.
Paula’s greatest influence was her maternal grandmother, Harriet. Harriet was the youngest of eight children who emigrated from Poland. Paula’s mother was an addict most of her life and her grandmother raised her beginning at age four. Paula lived with them in a 2-room apartment in Brooklyn with no kitchen or hallway, but her grandmother instilled many strong values like education, honesty, and friendship which guided Paula. Harriet believed that there were two things that get you out of poverty: education and good manners and she instilled those in Paula. Unfortunately, Harriet died before Paula went to college, the same year as her adopted father. Simultaneously, her mother became lost in addiction and left the family never to return. Paula never saw her again and found out she passed away a few years ago. Paula’s biological father also passed away about 10 years ago.
Good humor and wit are never far from Tim and Paula and they both recounted some humorous incidents in their lives growing up. Tim has many stories to tell. When he was in middle school, he brought home two hitchhikers for lunch. His mother was not thrilled, but fed them anyway. Apparently, he didn’t learn anything from that because he did a similar thing to Paula years later, but thought it was okay because he called her first!
Paula’s humorous story is tinged with some sadness. Paula’s mother was very neglectful and self-involved and didn’t attend to her well. When Paula was 4 or 5 years old she was walking along Brooklyn’s busy streets alone to go to the library on Saturday mornings to hear stories read aloud and get a snack. One Saturday, her mother awoke to find Paula missing. Upon her return, her mother questioned her whereabouts and didn’t believe her story about walking 10 blocks alone to the library. So her mother asked her to take her back to the library. When they walked in, the librarian promptly greeted Paula and said, “Back so soon?” Her mother and the librarian were stunned when the librarian said Paula came by herself every week as she had assumed her mother dropped her off.
Professionally Paula and Tim have had various career moves, each one seemingly a stepping stone to the next position each took.
After teaching Special Education for three years, Tim began selling life and disability insurance. Tim is an insurance broker and advisor at NFP (formerly Fleischer Jacobs Group). He has been there since 1997. He continues today helping businesses with their employee benefits and individuals with insurance for long term care, life, disability, and estate planning.
Paula was a physical therapist for nearly 20 years including teaching cardio vascular physical therapy at the University of New England. After returning to VT, there were no jobs in PT on the faculty and private practice didn’t exist yet in VT. She became the Director of Campaign & Communications for the United Way until she was approached by TD Bank (then Banknorth Group) to become Director of Staff Development. Following the birth of the twins, she also worked at the Vermont Program for Quality in Health Care as Director of Quality Improvement and Director of Government Relations. Those jobs and her masters in organizational development helped launch her 26-year career as a consultant and owner of Cope & Associates, Inc. This fall, Paula will begin teaching full time at the Grossman School of Business at UVM and will maintain her consulting practice with the help of her supportive staff. This is her dream come true.
Interestingly both Paula and Tim served as President of Congregation Temple Sinai. Here is their perspective on being President. “Paula was president from 1998-2000 and her focus was on the expansion of the Temple facility while Tim worked to raise the $1 million we needed to do the renovation. She was amazed that it was far more of a “calling” than she had expected and it was truly a transformational experience personally. During her tenure, she also became a bat mitzvah sharing the experience with her son, Collin. Tim was President from 2013-2015. He learned what an amazing group of committed people we have as members and how hard it was to manage the finances. It was difficult to balance the needs of the congregation with the capacity of the membership and to find new sources of revenue.”
With this perspective of being President, there are some things that both of them would like to see happening more often at Temple Sinai. Paula is a fan of ‘themed’ services and congregational travel whether it’s a day in Montreal or a trip to Israel. She loves when people are called to the bimah by affinity groups so we can see with whom we have things in common. She’d also like to see more people volunteer and have us support a new generation of leaders. She and Tim started getting involved when they were in their 30’s and their family was young. Tim would like to have 1-2 non-fundraising social events like the Progressive Dinner or Fun in the Sun, and more interfaith events with our community like the Thanksgiving Service we used to share with two churches.
Spare time activities and hobbies are always interesting avenues to explore with congregants and Tim and Paula are no exception. After decades of playing basketball weekly, Tim traded in his sneakers for a bicycle. He is an avid cyclist having gone around Lake Champlain, biking from Portland, Maine to Middlebury, VT, and riding their sons up to summer camp in Mt. Tremblant, Canada on a tandem for 7 years in a row. Paula loves kayaking and doing anything on the water. Both of them love the theater, going to Collin’s shows, traveling, and reading.
Paula loves to cook, mixology, pop culture, and enjoys exploring home design and décor. Tim isn’t much of a hobbyist, but loves a good card game. To quote him, “If a hobby requires doing things with your hands, following directions, and sitting still, I have no hobbies!”
When asked what the most difficult thing people have ever done and what was the most rewarding, they often say that the most difficult thing that they have done was also the most rewarding. Paula and Tim have interesting answers to both these questions. For Tim, the answer was the seven months Paula spent on total bed-rest while pregnant with the twins. She went on bed-rest at 9 weeks before most people knew she was pregnant. Tim had to manage their uncertain future: multiple health scares, manage his own business, be attentive to his mother with MS, and care for a preschooler. The congregation, especially the Sisterhood, really stepped up and brought meals and kept Paula company through three seasons. For Paula, bed-rest comes in at number 2. Going to college as an emancipated minor at age 16 is at the top of her list. Both Paula’s biological parents were only children, when Paula was born, and she lost all of her grandparents and adopted father within a 2-year span. With help from some amazing people at UVM, she was able to graduate in four years. An optimistic outlook and keeping their eyes on the prize helped them both endure these situations. For both of them the most rewarding thing that they have done in their lives was raising great kids and having a terrific, caring, giving, and fun family.
There are some events that Paula and Tim have done about which some of you may not know. Tim and Collin spent 10 days in Tela, Honduras with a group from Charlotte-Shelburne Rotary’s program called, Hands to Honduras, building a school and physical therapy clinic. Paula was one of four UVM students that started UVM Rescue. She also helped open ROTC to women at UVM as their largest scholarship program in 1972.
When asked, “Where is your happy place?”, they had different answers. Paula’s happy place is being on any body of water with her family. Tim’s happy place is hanging out with Paula.
Thanks Paula & Tim for your willingness to be part of the Getting To Know You series.
Paul and Patty Levi interviewed by Jan Zatzman Orlansky
Sometimes it is at the end of an interview that you get ‘the hook’ for the article you’re writing. So it was with the Levi interview when an “Oh, and by the way” comment, made as the interview ended, piqued my interest, and I hope yours as well.
We were talking about backgrounds and Patty mentioned that she converted from Church of Christ, Scientist to Judaism, after attending an Introductory class on Judaism, given by an interim Rabbi at Temple Sinai. Patty felt that Judaism actually melded quite nicely with her own philosophy, which she formulated from her exposure to the different churches she attended, including the Church of Christ, Scientist. She never felt pressured to convert, but it seemed like a natural progression, after she and Paul joined Temple Sinai in April 1971. Both their sons, Andy and Michael had their Bar Mitzvahs at Temple Sinai. Paul had a joint Bar Mitzvah with his elder son, Andy, which must have been very significant for them both.
Here is a summary of the philosophy of the Church of Christ, Scientist which you might find interesting https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_Christ,_Scientist .
Paul has an equally interesting background that he can trace back to the Medieval times (1437). Paul is descended from a very well-known and respected Portuguese statesman, philosopher, Bible commentator and financier from Lisbon, Portugal, named Isaac ben Judah Abarbanel, also spelled Abravanel. Paul is of Sephardic background on his mother’s side and his father is of Ashkenazi descent (Germany).
You might be interested in reading about Paul’s relative, Abravanel, in this excerpt https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaac_Abravanel
Patty was born in New Castle PA and grew up in Cleveland OH. Paul was born in Cambridge MA and grew up in Newton MA. Both Patty and Paul said that the biggest influence on their lives were their parents, because of their liberal views and accepting ways. Patty graduated from Miami University in Oxford, OH and studied Elementary Education. She graduated with a BS in Education. Paul went to St. Lawrence University, Canton, NY. After Saint Lawrence University, Paul went directly to four years of dental school, then went to Burlington for a dental residency of one year. He was required to be in the navy for two years. It was after that that he decided to return to Tufts Dental for a two year periodontal program, 1969-1971. Paul is a Periodontist in Burlington and also teaches at Tufts Dental School in Boston MA. They met one another on a blind date in Chicago. A friend of Patty’s, from Miami University, was in the Navy with Paul and recommended her as a date to the Captain’s Dance. Seems like that date went well….they got married 6 months later!
Paul and Patty have two sons, Andrew (Andy) [pictured on the left], who lives in Jericho, VT and is a real estate appraiser, and Michael [pictured on the right], who lives in Zurich, Switzerland and is general manager of apparel for Salewa, a sporting good company in Bolzano, Italy.
Burlington became home to the Levis in April 1971 after Paul had done a one year dental residency here and thought that it would be a great town in which to raise a family.
When asked what they like to do in their spare time, Patty mentioned that she enjoys tennis, reading, and travel. Paul enjoys working at both his dental practice and teaching. Patty enjoys reading mysteries and historical novels. Paul enjoys reading his dental journals and occasional book.
Both Paul and Patty enjoy travel. They visit Michael and family in Switzerland. They have traveled to Thailand for over ten years, where Paul taught. One of their favorite memories is living for a year in Barcelona, where Paul taught and they came to understand the people and their culture. Another memory for Paul is going to Toledo, Spain, knowing that some of his ancestors were from there.
Paul served as President of Temple Sinai from 1978-1980.
Thank you Patty and Paul for taking the time to allow us to get to know you better.
David and Amy Collins interviewed by Jan Zatzman Orlansky
Many of you know David as our past Vice President and now our President of Temple Sinai. Both he and Amy have been very active in our Temple. Amy was a teacher for 12 years and David was a past trustee on the board at Temple Sinai too. David and Amy have lived in Williston for the past 20 years. Prior to moving to Williston, they briefly lived in South Burlington and Colchester after moving to this area.
What you may not know is that David has participated in the generation of several US patents while working as an engineer. Those patents have to do with semiconductor devices or processes. When asked what events in his life that nobody in the congregation knows about, David said, “prior to my career in semiconductors, I worked with a talented team that designed and installed aftermarket fire protection systems on airplanes that the airlines owned or leased.”
David grew up in New York City as well as Long Island and Amy in southern Connecticut David has one older sister who lives in a Chicago suburb and works in the medical field. Amy has an older sister who is a stay-at-home Mom and lives in Connecticut. Both Amy and David have ties to Rhode Island, where David attended Brown for his Master’s degree and Amy attended the University of Rhode Island (URI) for her Bachelor’s degree. They met at URI’s Hillel one Shabbat evening. “The rest is history”, as they say! David went to Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta for his Bachelor’s degree.
They have two children, Alec and Maddie, who live with them and are both students. Alec is interested in the Social Sciences and Maddie will soon enter college to study Urban Planning. Alec enjoys playing guitar, Ultimate Frisbee and outdoor activities. Maddie works after school, enjoys music and socializing with her friends.
David said that the biggest influence in his life was one teacher in high school who was the architecture and engineering graphics teacher. He also was a sculptor of wooden birds (his parents still have one of his birds on their living room coffee table that they got 30+ years ago). He taught the class at the level of each students' capability rather than keeping the class all on the same level assignment, which David really appreciated. Also, he would generate 3-D balsa-wood frame representations of homes being designed before there ever was readily available computer aided drafting software, which took a lot of effort to do. Also he was a nice person to talk with even though he levied high expectations on you. Amy said that the most influential person in her life is her Mom. She was widowed two years ago and spends each and every day living life to the fullest. She has amazing friends, a great social life and travels extensively.
Professionally, David manages a design team comprised of engineers and technicians at GLOBALFOUNDRIES. Amy is a service dispatcher for a local Heating Ventilation and Cooling company.
Both Amy and David were drawn to Temple Sinai because many of their friends were already members.
When asked what they like to do in their spare time David said, “My 3 favorite things to do are going out to eat with family or friends as well as playing tennis and going downhill skiing. I also enjoy biking and hiking at a leisurely pace. Amy said, “I like to read, spend time with friends and kayak in the summer.”
Both Amy and David loved visiting Niagara Falls and also enjoyed visiting Chicago with their son, Alec, as their tour guide. For one vacation they decided to spend a few nights staying in the Times Square area of NYC, rather than commuting into the city each day from parents’ homes or hotels in the suburbs, which they typically did. They all agreed that it was a great family experience.
In retirement David said he would like to teach tennis to children or adults and also learn to play the piano. Ideally, he'd like to live in an area that is near a lake or ocean. Amy would like to have time on the beach. At this point, they've only talked about Rhode Island as a potential place to spend their summers.
Thank you Amy and David for giving us a glimpse into your lives and for sharing your experiences with our congregation.
Drs. Joel Goldberg and Barbara Burroughs interviewed by Jan Zatzman Orlansky
Our next interview is with our now immediate Past President and his wife. Click here to read more.
Cantor Mark and Deb Leopold interviewed by Jan Zatzman Orlansky
Mark and Deb met at Temple Sinai at a High Holy Day service in 1976. Deb said that one of her friends was engaged to Mark’s older brother and she took Deb to Temple that day to supposedly meet her future family. Deb’s impression was that her friend was actually acting as a matchmaker! The rest, they say, is history.
Mark’s parents were founding members of Temple Sinai and they brought him to Temple as a 13 year old. He knew Hebrew prayers from Hebrew school and started singing at holiday and Shabbat services. He was the first member of the Temple youth group to attend a leadership conference in Boston at 14 years old. He said that Temple Sinai was a great place to be as a teenager.
Deb was born in Burlington and grew up in Lyndonville VT until she was 9 and then the family moved to Essex Junction because her Dad worked for IBM. She is the eldest of 6 children. Mark is the youngest of 3 siblings, and has lived in Burlington VT for 44 years. Both have also lived in the St. Albans and Georgia VT area together.
Mark attributes his happiness to Deb, who helped him survive his divorce to his first wife and separation from his two eldest children. He says that Deb has made him happier than he ever thought possible.
Eldest daughter and granddaughter are not in this photo
Both Mark and Deb have three children together and Mark has a son and daughter from his first marriage. The Leopold household is joyfully alive when all the grandchildren gather at their home.
Music figures prominently in both Deb and Mark’s lives. Deb says that her mother said she was singing before she could talk. Her father’s mother and sister were both singers and played the piano and she and her aunt use to sit at the old upright piano entertaining everyone at family gatherings. Picture 5 year old Deb belting out “It Had To Be You”! Deb started piano lessons at age 9 up through high school and did a couple of musicals in high school. She now sings in the Temple choir. Both Mark and Deb did a show at the Stowe Playhouse a number of years ago. Mark was on stage and Deb was the assistant stage manager.
Most of us know Mark as our cantor. When asked about his cantorial work at Temple Sinai, he gave some very thoughtful answers.
When you retire from being cantor, what is it that you would like to do instead?
Interesting question, I haven’t given this much thought. It might be nice to have a Friday night social life that is not centered around being at Temple and doing that at sundown, not after services. It would also be nice to feel free to not be at Temple 52 weeks a year, as well as holidays. My day job now is a bit arduous in that I commute and the day starts with a 5 AM wake-up to be at the office for 7:30. 8 hours computer work followed by the commute home arriving between 5:30 and 6. By Friday evening, I am exhausted! Many nights getting myself to go to Temple is a mental challenge. But once I am there I feel energized.
What do you like most about your cantorial role in our congregation?
When I arrive for services I am often the first person at Temple. My definition of on-time is 15 minutes early, and at Temple I tend to arrive 30 minutes before, to coordinate with a keyboardist or guitarists. Often I go alone without Deb so I find the Temple empty when I arrive. After a few minutes I find some inner peace, the space is conducive to that. When strangers arrive many come early and I get to greet them and this brings me much joy. While I am challenged in remembering names I never forget a face and enjoy welcoming them. I think I succeed in making newcomers comfortable from the moment of their arrival. When possible during their visit, I connect them with congregants that have common background, interests or geographic history. When these people or any others tell me that the worship was enhanced by the music, that is my greatest joy. Recently on NPR a famous heavy metal musician said in an interview that “music is emotion.” I agree, and when that emotion moves people, that is wonderful! No matter how tired I might be at 5:15 or 7:15 within minutes after a service begins, I am energized by the music and the congregants. I feel the energy reflected back to me. Whether they sing along or not, and I sense their engagement, it is immensely pleasant and joyous.
What would you tell the next cantor who takes over your role about our congregation?
If I had the time, I would make recordings of the various melodies we sing, available for easy access on our website and also use this site to introduce new melodies. Fifteen or twenty years ago we made a cassette tape and circulated 30 or 40 of these and this helped people learn the melodies. Few attend services regularly so it is hard for me to balance introducing new music and keeping the music familiar so that congregants feel at home when they do come. I have been told that some of what I sing is traditional solo music but at Sinai people join in. Not being formally trained, I have not been schooled in the ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’ of the tradition for the prayers. When I find a melody I like for a prayer that feels like the mood I believe is appropriate for a particular service, I introduce it and hope others find it moving too.
The most grueling of cantorial preparation must be the High Holy Days. How do you prepare yourself for this marathon?
Before we had a choir or in years when we don’t, I rehearse the music alone or with the holiday keyboardist. For most of the last 40+ years that has been Wendy Valastro. For the roughly 16 hours of services I spend more than 30 hours reviewing the music and rehearsing. In addition, I do vocal exercise for the 4-6 weeks before trying to get 30 minutes minimum daily. For Fridays I try and do my exercises at least twice a week, but lately finding time to do this has become very challenging. When I lived in the St. Albans area and had a 35 minute drive to Temple, I often did my voice exercises during the commute. Deb would join me. For many years I had a voice coach and Deb shared the same coach so she would do many of the same vocal exercises.
What would you most like to be known for in your cantorial repertoire?
Not one particular piece but that I “made a joyful noise before the Lord” and encouraged others to let their own internal music come out and that this gave them satisfaction. When I have tutored a student for a b’nai mitzvah and they have previously thought that they could not sing, but do quite well, this is something I want to be known for. If I were to pick a piece of music, high on the list would be ADONAI ROI ( The twenty-third psalm) by Gerald Cohen. Lately I have sung it alone, but for many years Deb and I sang it in sections and part of it in harmony and this was memorable for me.
Professionally Deb owns her own massage therapy practice and Mark is a computer programmer and was an information systems manager.
Deb answered several questions about her massage therapy practice and how she got into that profession.
What first attracted you to massage therapy?
I've always been interested in healing/holistic wellness and complementary healing. I've had family members throughout most of my life with chronic conditions that were not well served by allopathic medicine. I always felt that there must be something else that could be done to relieve their pain. My mother was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 1986 when she was just 50 years old. Her pain is what drove me to begin studying alternative healing through books. My daughter was diagnosed with fibromyalgia about 13 years later and that really kicked my desire to learn more into high gear. A nurse friend of mine turned me onto Healing Touch and I began training in early 1999. I toyed with the idea of going back to college and then on to become a naturopathic doctor, but at 40+ years of age I had visions of receiving my medical degree in my walker!! My son-in-law, who is an orthopedic surgeon was actually very encouraging of this line of thought and said he felt I'd make an excellent doctor. He said that you're never too old to follow your dreams and that there was a man of 75 in his graduating medical class at UVM. I decided I really didn't want to spend years getting prepared to help people. Since I had already started down the path of "hands on" healing, massage school seemed like a natural choice. I've always been amazed at the benefits conferred by caring touch. I also had noticed that my kids were very rarely ill and hardly ever had to go to the doctor, other than well-baby visits. I think that was because I always massaged them as children. It was part of our daily bedtime ritual.
How long have you been doing massage therapy and where do you do it?
I have been a certified massage therapist since July 2001. I work from my home now. My first office was on S.Champlain Street in Burlington. My last office was at Severance Corners in Colchester. It was nice, but the area was getting a bit too noisy. I contemplated finding a different location. One day it occurred to me that I had a perfectly good room in our house and why not just work from home. So last December I moved my practice home and it's going great. My clients like it and my dog loves it. Rather than lose clients, I've actually gained clients! People seem to like the relaxed atmosphere of the home office and the personalized greeter, Sophie, our chihuahua. One of my gentlemen clients says she's like a massage therapy dog!
Do you work with other massage therapists? If so, how many are there of you?
I work alone. In 2000, I started doing "in room" massages for the Essex Resort to give me an opportunity to work with other therapists once in a while. Then when the resort decided to build a spa, I went to work there and worked with a lot of other therapists. It was fun, but after a while it was a mixed bag. When it was the busy season, you were often booked solid for days on end and when it wasn't busy, you sat home waiting to be called in and could not really plan to do anything. So, I got tired of that and decided to go back out on my own.
How long does it take to become a massage therapist?
That depends. Vermont is unlike most states in that there are no minimum training hours and there is no licensing. Theoretically, you could take a weekend course of say, 20 hours, and hang out a shingle as a massage therapist! That’s nuts! There are massage schools in the state with very thorough training programs. I chose to attend a program at Community College of Vermont in 2000. It was 2 years long. I drove to Montpelier every other weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday), 3 semesters/year. I calculated the hours once and it was over 1200 hours of training. Most states require between 500-1000 hours of training. Fortunately, most people do take training seriously and go for more rather less.
Is there a certification process?
In Vermont therapists are certified by the school that they attend. There is no state licensing, as I mentioned. We can also opt to take a national certification test. I haven't done that because I don't believe that a written test really proves that you're a qualified massage therapist. I think possessing a state license or certificate gives consumers a false sense of security. I'd rather talk to them and have them ask questions, before the massage, and then get their feedback as to how they feel.That gives a truer sense of whether or not I'm qualified.
What do you enjoy most about the profession?
Oh, that's easy--the clients! I love my clients. Some of them have been with me since the beginning and were my ‘practice bodies’ when I was in school, so they've seen my evolution as a therapist. I love it when they get off the table and feel better. I enjoy feeling that I've helped make their lives better in some small way. I also appreciate that the field is always changing. At the end of the day, I don't believe it's about the bells and whistles and fancy techniques, it's about touching someone in a way so that they feel safe and cared for and when needed, comforted. When they feel safe, they can let their guard down and relax and when that happens, that's when the real healing occurs.
What are some of the challenges you face as a massage therapist?
I would say one of the biggest challenges I've faced is the tendency to try and "fix" someone. There they are, lying on your table and you’re massaging and the body just isn't relaxing or that muscle knot isn’t letting go. There is a strong urge to push harder or work the area longer and I've found that is the worst thing to do. If things aren't releasing, it's because the body just isn't ready. Despite what the client says about wanting more pressure, you really do need to back off, go massage somewhere else for a bit and then check back in to the "trouble" spot in a few minutes. Often, that tough spot magically has disappeared! I want massage to be affordable for more people, not just people with a lot of discretionary income. I don't consider massage a luxury. I consider it wellness/preventative care.
In their spare time both Deb & Mark enjoy reading. Mark likes historical fiction, mysteries and science fiction, while Deb enjoys books on body massage and yoga. She attends Pilate sessions and yoga at least twice a week. As far as hobbies go, Deb also likes to knit and crochet. She is currently learning to drum! In his spare time Mark likes to swim, cycle and garden a little bit.
When asked about activities that they would like to see the Temple try, Mark suggested dance and Tai Chi classes. While Deb suggested starting a Jewish meditation group or a chanting group.
The greatest influence on Deb’s life was her Mom who was raised on a farm on the Vermont-Canadian border and was the ninth child of ten. Deb teased her that she was the Queen of Make Do because she could make something out of nothing when it came to sewing. She was creative and extremely hard working.
There are two people in Mark’s life who had the greatest influence on him. The first, he said, was Deb who he credits with his present sense of well-being and happiness. The second was his Professor Harry Kahn, who taught Hebrew Scriptures at UVM and made him realize that he could find in Judaism all that he had been seeking in Buddhism.
Thank you Deb and Mark for helping us know you a little better and for sharing your lives with us.
Gene and Barbara Sklar interviewed by Jan Zatzman Orlansky
(Hover on photos for descriptions)
Gene grew up in Sunnyside NY in Queens and later in Oceanside NY, on Long Island. Barbara grew up in Burlington VT. So how did these two end up meeting, marrying and spending their lives together in beautiful Burlington VT? They met through Gene’s best friend in Burlington and went out on a blind date. Barbara’s father had work in Burlington and that is what brought the family to Burlington. Gene has lived here for 55 years and Barbara 70.
I knew that they enjoyed traveling around the world and asked them to share some stories and photos from their travels. Amongst their favorite trips were to both China and to Africa. Seeing the Masai warriors and the African safari in Kenya and Tanzania were memorable trips in Africa. Being dropped off in the middle of nowhere in Tanzania, where the airstrip workers had to wave a red blanket to rid the field of wildebeests, before the plane could land.
Serengeti Plain, in Tanzania, with the captain of the balloon ride, where they were served a champagne breakfast after they landed.
Three highlights In China were strolling in the vast Tiananmen Square, as well as walking along the Great Wall of China. A car bomb had exploded in front of Mao’s photo the day after they were there. A boat trip at night in Shanghai Harbor was also memorable.
The Statue of Liberty climb to the top is something that both Barbara and Gene remember. Barbara counted the steps as she ascended with her Grandfather Abe, counting the 268 steps. At another time, Gene remembers going to the top of the statue with his parents and looking out the small windows in the crown and thinking how dirty they were!
I asked them about their volunteer work, now that they are retired. Gene worked with Beth Pearce, our current Treasurer for the State of Vermont, on her campaign, and also manned phone banks for the Democratic Party. At Temple Sinai, Gene was a past president, and was Treasurer for many years. He served on several different committees, and now is on the Cemetery committee. At COTS he was assigned to a person with limited abilities, assisting her with all of her financial dealings. Barbara says she is “fully retired” but was very active on the recent 50th Jubilee committee for Temple Sinai, as was Gene. Barbara was involved with the Vietnamese Refugee Settlement program and was a mentor to a Vietnamese family with whom she still keeps in touch. One of the daughters is like a second daughter to Barbara.
Both Gene and Barbara joined Temple Sinai in September 1966. Barbara’s parents were two of the founding members.
Professionally Barbara was a second grade teacher in the Burlington school system and later was a reading specialist at Hunt Middle School after receiving a Master’s degree in reading from St. Michael’s College. Gene managed a company, Ladd Research Industries, involved in electron microscopy research and sales.
For hobbies, Gene loves gardening and taking care of the landscaping around their home. He also likes hiking and taking fall foliage drives in Vermont. He enjoys reading news both on the computer and in print, as well as books on travel politics and science fiction. Barbara likes to knit, play Bridge and other card games, Mah Jongg, solving crossword puzzles, reading books, such as historical fiction, travel and craft books. She makes latch hook kits and fleece blankets, as gifts. Barbara enjoys cooking and baking, especially chocolate desserts and her specialty, lemon bars!
Barbara and Gene have two adult children: David Sklar, who lives in St. Albans and Deborah Sklar who lives with her family outside of Modena, Italy.
Thank you Barbara and Gene for allowing us to get to know you better.
Barbra Marden interviewed by Jan Zatzman Orlansky
Barbra, Doug, Emma, Eli & Natalie (Doug’s Mom)
Many of you have seen Barbra and her family at Temple and probably had some of the same questions that I had when first meeting her. It is unusual to have a native born African attending our services and I was intrigued by her. She has a lovely accent and an animated face which draws you in immediately. She is also a very open and friendly person.
We had lived in Ghana, West Africa and I knew instinctively that she was not from there. So I asked her, “Where are you from originally?”
Barbra was born Barbra Kasana near Kampala, the capital of UGANDA, which is located in east Africa (see maps below), surrounded by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC )to the west, Sudan to the northeast, Kenya to the east, Rwanda to the southwest, Tanzania to the southeast where beautiful Lake Victoria borders both Tanzania and Uganda. She is one of 9 siblings who now live all over the world, a brother and a sister in Uganda, 2 in Europe and 4 in Massachusetts. She grew up in Rubaga (sometimes spelled Lubaga), a suburb of Kampala. She grew up in a Christian home with many different influences including Catholicism and Born Again Christianity.
When asked about some of the differences between schooling in Uganda and schooling in the US, Barbra explained that schooling in Uganda is very severe, and the exams are tough. You have to be at a certain academic level to pass to another grade. Teachers had full control over the children at school and they were allowed to physically discipline the children in their charge.
Below is a map of the continent of Africa. Uganda is bordered by 5 other countries.
Barbara moved to Ancona, Italy in 1994 because she has family there and she wanted to go to school to become a travel agent, which she achieved. She eventually worked in a travel bureau there, where she booked and sold corporate airfares and student air fares. She lived in Italy for six years and is totally fluent in Italian. She taught herself Italian while living there.
Barbra and her children travel every summer to Chivasso in the Torino Province (northwest corner of Italy) where her sister now lives. Both of Barbra and Doug’s children, Eli and Emma, are bilingual in English and Italian, because for 8 months they went to a regular Italian public school and learned the language while attending that school. Barbra is trilingual and speaks Luganda (spoken by over 5 million people), Italian and English. Barbra enjoys sightseeing, drinking good wine, cooking and meeting people while she is visiting with her sister.
Barbra moved to the US in 2001 to attend Northeastern University in Boston to begin a Management Information Systems program. She studied and went to classes by day and at night was a health care aide in a nursing facility. It was in this facility that she met her future husband, Doug Marden, while caring for his father. She moved to Vermont and later began and completed a program in Business Administration. Presently Barbara is enrolled in a Master’s program in Public Administration, which she is doing part-time, while working full-time at Allscripts. She hopes to graduate in December 2017.
I asked Barbra what she does at Allscripts. “My current role is a support Technician. I troubleshoot and resolve client issues, related to the electronic medical record software we sell.” When asked what prepared her for this current position she said, “When I finished at UVM I interned at Allscripts and slowly made my way to where I am now.”
“When I was expecting Eli, we made a decision to join a Temple and bring up our children in the Jewish tradition. UVM gave me contact information for a rabbi, whom I called, which happened to be Rabbi Glazier.”
Barbra is presently in the process of converting to Judaism. She expects to complete the process very soon. She has lived in Burlington since 2003. Running and cooking are two hobbies that Barbra enjoys, in addition to working full time, studying for a Master’s degree, raising a family and studying in order to be able to convert to Judaism. She is an active member of our congregation and serves on the Board of the Temple as a Trustee.
Thank you, Barbra, for sharing your very interesting life story with us.
Dean & Linda Snider interviewed by Jan Zatzman Orlansky
Where were you born?
Dean - Birmingham, AL
Linda – Ardmore, OK
Where did you grow up?
Dean - Alabama, Kentucky, Indiana, Florida
Linda – Ardmore & Tulsa, OK
Do you have any siblings? Younger? Older?
Dean - Two Sisters and one brother all younger
Linda – One younger brother
Who was the biggest influence on you growing up and why?
Dean – My grandparents were role models. My mother and I lived with my grandmother during WWII, while my father & maternal grandfather were both in the military. I also spent many summers with both sets of grandparents.
Linda – Paternal grandfather, Polish immigrant-peddled his way across the country in a wagon with anything that would fit on the wagon, and ended up in Oklahoma, opening a clothing store, family shoe store, and a founding member of a Reform Temple. His courage, honesty and religious values were inspirational.
Any interesting or humorous stories that you would like to relay about growing up in your family?
Dean - My Dad and I went fishing when we first moved to Hollywood, FL and forgot to bring any mosquito repellent. Luckily for us, Mom came to check on us about an hour later and we left quickly.
Linda –As an older sister I generally was more adventurous about trying new things. When my father bought a zip-sled (a floating device that you sit or lie on which is pulled behind a boat) my brother insisted on me going first. After figuring out the balance that was needed without falling off and being pulled faster, I really enjoyed it. My brother then said, “Darn, now I’ll have to do it!” (he was around 6 or 7 at the time)
Where did you go to school Grades 1-12?
Dean - Birmingham, AL, Louisville, KY, New Albany, IN, North Miami, FL
Linda – Ardmore & Tulsa, OK
Where did you go to college?
Dean - Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL
Linda – University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK
What brought you to Burlington?
We chose Monkton because we wanted to live in the country, had family living in the Burlington area, and Vermont seemed like a great place to raise a child. We lived there for 20 years and then moved to Grand Isle in July 1994 and refurbished a camp.
Where did you and your wife, Linda, meet?
We met in New Orleans, LA at a criminal justice educational seminar
What did you do in your professional life?
Dean – 18 years as a professional firefighter, 18 years in juvenile corrections and 20 years in development
Linda –adult corrections, social worker, certified paralegal
What positions did you hold in your careers?
Dean – Fire Department, full time paid positions including chief of the department (chief directs all administrative and operational activities).
Juvenile Corrections, taught diving and marine skills, Operations Director, Executive Director & Regional Director
Development, Director of Development at Fanny Allen Hospital and Fletcher Allen, Principal Gifts Officer & Director of Major Gifts-School of Business- UVM
Linda – Program Director of half-way house for men discharged from prison, State Adult Parole Officer, Vocational Rehab Counselor, Director of Mexican-American Neighborhood Center and pre-school, paralegal for bankruptcy firm and Florida Supreme Court Mediation program, DCF social worker for foster and adoptive children that were abused or neglected.
What first attracted you and Linda to Temple Sinai?
We attended services several times while visiting family in the Burlington area, and found the members friendly and active.
What made you decide to buy a home in Corpus Christi TX, and live there in the winter and Grand Isle in the summer?
We planned to retire in both Corpus Christi and the Champlain Islands for a number of years. Linda has relatives in Corpus Christi and she has visited them and loved the beach all her life.
Do you belong to a Temple in Corpus Christi? If so, how would you compare the two Temples both in size and activities?
We also belong to Congregation Beth Israel (CBI) in Corpus Christi, Texas. Both Temple Sinai and CBI are similar in congregation size. The only Reform Temple and Conservative Synagogue in Corpus Christi merged four years ago to create CBI. CBI has more seniors in the congregation. They have more activities, are well organized and staffed with many active volunteers. One fund-raiser is a Jewish Food Festival which generates significant income, and is supported by the community at large. Nueces County is double the size of Chittenden County and this has an influence on the amount of activity and involvement. The music and choir at Temple Sinai is far superior. CBI “choir” consists of a husband that plays organ and wife that performs soprano old-style tunes. There is no Cantor and their folk-service is one guitar-player/singer.
What is the rhythm of your life like in Corpus and how does it differ from your life here in Vermont?
Very similar. We call it chasing 72 degrees year-round. We are active in both places in different ways. Linda is a member of an international social/service sorority in both cities (not college sorority). Linda is on the boards of Congregation Beth Israel (CBI) and the Jewish Community Center in Corpus Christi. She ran the 2nd night Passover Seder at CBI and is chair of the Social Action Committee there. She is a member of the League of Women Voters in Texas and has lobbied in Austin.
Linda also does volunteer work in South Hero for a senior program called CIDER (Champlain Island Developing Economic Resources).
Dean is assisting CBI in increasing the size of their endowment in preparation for future needs.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
We boat in both places, fishing, some golf, music festivals, spend time with family and friends, like to travel, theater, movies
Do you have any hobbies? If so, what are they?
Dean – boating, fishing, golf, good wine & fresh seafood from the Gulf
Linda – reading, card-making, photography, politics
When you have time to read, what kinds of books interest you?
Dean – Often read more than two books a week year-round. Love historical fiction with excellent research and writing. Have read everything from Leon Uris to Diana Gabaldon. Our library consists of several thousand volumes.
Linda – mystery and crime themes, spirituality, self-help/psychology, and humor.
What kind of activities would you like to see at Temple Sinai?
We both like the Sunday morning lecture series that Congregation Beth Israel (CBI), that Corpus Christi offers. Similar to the Robert Alper program but usually educational. I believe they are monthly, September - May. Another program CBI offers is the New York City 92Y Jewish interest series. The next one is September 13th. They are Wednesday evenings. We connect through a laptop and project the program on a screen in one of the religious school classrooms or in the small chapel. After the program the Rabbi leads a discussion on the topic. We get 15-25 people normally for these programs. In both programs people are asked to bring snacks to share and CBI furnishes beverages. We get people from the community for many of these. I believe the Rabbi advertises through the ministerial group in Corpus Christi by Internet. We have a speakers fund that covers both programs that was created by individuals who were interested in adult education.
Thanks Dean and Linda for sharing your interesting and varied life story. We look forward each summer to seeing you in our Temple and sharing the High Holidays with you and your son, Aaron.
Andrew Orringer interviewed by Jan Zatzman Orlansky
Andrew Orringer was born in New York City and later lived in New Rochelle NY. When he was 13, he and his family moved to Lake Placid. He has one sister, who lives in New York City, is married and has a 13 year old daughter. Andrew went to grade school in New Rochelle and attended Northwood School in Lake Placid. He later attended SUNY Plattsburgh. Andrew lived and worked as a Special Agent, of the US Secret Service, in Burlington in the early 90s. He and May met in San Francisco in 1998. He and his wife, May, moved back to Burlington in 2008. They had their daughter, Lucy, in 2012, who was born at the University of Vermont Medical Center.
I asked Andrew about his professional life as a Secret Service Agent, which sounds very interesting, and brings him in contact with challenging assignments around the world. He joined the Secret Service in 1983, before that he was a bartender and part-time ski coach in Lake Placid NY.
There are two branches of the Secret Service: Special Agents and Uniform Division Officers. Both branches work together to protect facilities like the White House and Vice President’s Residence. The Uniform Division Officers guard the White House and the Vice President’s Residence. The Special Agents also guard the President, Vice President and visiting dignitaries.
The Secret Service is a dual mission agency, which conducts major bank fraud and computer investigations, and protects the President, Vice President, former Presidents and visiting foreign Heads of State and government. The Secret Service coordinates the efforts of other agencies like the Transport Security Administration (TSA), US Park Police, The US Capitol Police, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the US Department of State, and events like the 2002 winter Olympics, the opening of the UN General Assembly, the Presidential debates, the State of the Union speeches. The Secret Service also is the lead agency in major events in the US such as the Presidential Inaugurations, Democratic and Republican debates.
While in the Secret Service, Andrew was assigned to the Presidential Protective Division for President George W. Bush (43). He was also assigned to the Vice Presidential Protective Division for Vice Presidents, Quayle, Gore and Cheney. In addition he was a Department of Homeland Security Attaché at the US Embassy in Canada. With his assignments in the Secret Service, he travelled all over the world, including Asia, Australia, Europe, South America, Africa, the Arctic circle, Middle East, including Israel for the 40th and 50th anniversaries of the founding of the State. He was in the West Bank and the Palestinian Territories for the 2006 elections with Former President Carter, who served as an election monitor.
When asked what attracted him and May to Temple Sinai, he said, “I had belonged to the Temple when I first lived here in the early 1990s, and I liked the Temple and Rabbi Glazier. We want our daughter, Lucy, to identify with her Jewish roots and have her Bat Mitzvah there. We enjoy going to the events at the Temple and have made good friends there”.
Besides his professional life, Andrew enjoys playing golf, skiing and going to his daughter’s activities. For reading, he mostly enjoys books about politics and history. This is a good year for both!
For those thinking about a career in the Secret Service, I asked Andrew if there were any specific college courses that would prepare them for this profession. He said, “There are no college courses that prepare you for the Secret Service, the best thing to do is to get a college degree and some work experience either in the military or law enforcement fields”.
Thank you Andrew for sharing your life story with us and the next time you see Andrew and his family, perhaps you’ll have questions of your own.
Louise Stoll interviewed by Jan Zatzman Orlansky
Our first interview is with Louise Stoll, who moved here 11 years ago with her husband, Marc Monheimer of blessed memory.