Judy Alexander and Bruce Chalmer

Interview by Jan Zatzman Orlansky

Bruce Chalmer and Judy Alexander portrait

Judyʼs favorite quote: Judyʼs 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 (tikkun olam), both in and outside of Temple.

Bruce and Judy singingJudy 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!” Somethings are just ‘bashertʼ!”

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, a Yeshiva or Orthodox school. Besides her secular studies, she studied Hebrew, Torah, Prophets and Jewish History. When she wasnʼt 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 her around and taught her 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.

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 & ½), 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. She also worked with other luminaries such as Maurice Sendak, Stephen Sondheim, and Hal Linden.

Judy Alexander and children Alex and Jack
Judy with Alex and Jack

Judy has two adult children. A daughter, Alex who lives in Fort Lauderdale FL 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, in Weston VT and in 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 Jewish non-profits. And as if that werenʼt enough….Judy works as a voice actor, doing voice-over work for commercials, videos etc.!

Chalmer family at weddingBruce 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.

Before moving to Burlington, Bruce lived in Toronto Ontario where he went to the University of Toronto. He 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 Masterʼs programming 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. Heʼs 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 heʼs made a number of videos available on his website that address various issues.

Judy enjoys listening to a wide range of music from the Beatles, Leonard Cohen, Carole King, Broadway musicals, classical to 60’s Rock a Roll. Bruce waxes rhapsodic over the Goldberg Variations and also enjoys Renaissance choral music as well as Jewish music, especially cantorial and choral arrangements.

Bruce chats with a sculpture of a man with a pigeon
Bruce confers with a new acquaintance
Judy at Nova Scotia lighthouse
Nova Scotia

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 a Caicos Islands. In the summer, they have traveled to Saint John, New Brunswick and to Peggyʼs Cove in Nova Scotia. This winter they travelled to Eleuthera which forms a part of the Great Bahama Bank. They have also travelled to London and Paris.

When not professionally engaged, Judy enjoys singing and performing in Dahg, our Templeʼs 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. Bruceʼs extracurricular activities center around music. He composes and performs music. 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, heʼs joined Social Band, for whom heʼs 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 childrenʼs choir, an ongoing film series, more joint activities with other synagogues in the area, and activities for teens and millennials.

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 role models for all of us.