Interview by Jan OrlanskyLouise Stoll
Getting to Know You
A series of articles and interviews about Temple Sinai people, by Jan Zatzman Orlansky.
by Jan Zatzman Orlansky
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 Barbra 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, and 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 Temple Sinai as a Trustee.
Thank you Barbra for sharing your life story with us.
Interview by Jan Zatzman Orlansky
“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” E.B. White
Most of us know Charlotte and her adorable daughter, Remi, from seeing Charlotte attentively caring for her, first in a front pack as she rocked infant Remi to sleep during services, and more recently watching her follow a curious toddler around the Temple, making sure that Remi is safe. Remi loves music and always perked up whenever she heard it, even when she was dozing off. At Remi’s baby-naming ceremony, surrounded by friends and family, Charlotte articulated her wishes for Remi. They were not unlike those of most parents remarking on the strength of community and how supported she felt by family, colleagues, friends and Temple community. Remi Louise is 16 months old. Her special interests include eating yogurt with her hands, reading books and spending time with her Nana.
Interview by Jan Zatzman Orlansky
“Tip of the iceberg!” says Susan Leff when describing her position today as the Executive Director of Jewish Communities of Vermont (JCVT), and so it is. You’ll see what she means, as you read on.
There’s an expression that if you want something done, ask a busy person. This is the case with Susan Leff, who is an incredibly productive and busy person. Yet when asked if she would take on one more demanding task, such as fundraising for Temple Sinai, she did so, with great success, on more than one occasion. Susan is also very pleasant to work with and her calm demeanor belies a very strong work ethic and an ability to get things done in a timely fashion. More
Interview by Jan Zatzman Orlansky
When interviewing couples, it’s always the surprises that stand out and become highlights in the Getting To Know You series. Tim Owings was the big surprise for me, because he appears to be relatively quiet and thoughtfully and purposefully stands in the background, to let his partner, Rabbi Edleson, shine. Tim is highly accomplished and a very articulate professional, and if he hadn’t agreed to do this interview, it may have taken us a lot longer to get to know him. Throughout this article are photos of some of the projects that Tim has collaborated on while living in Israel.
Interview by Jan Zatzman Orlansky
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.
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 paddling team, which requires year-long training and commitment. They paddled with Team USA in 2015 and did well and this summer they are heading to Szeged, Hungary. Linda has also paddled and raced in Hong Kong, in the South China Sea and in Ravenna Italy in 2016.
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. The Lean Six Sigma Black Belt course trains you to ask the right questions and get the right answers as a project manager, and Jeff is a certified LSS Black Belt. Had you there for a minute, didn’t I?
Linda played field hockey at Kent State and started and graduated from a dental hygiene course at Howard University’s College of Dentistry in Washington DC, graduating in 1985. Her first professional position was working with a Hungarian dentist in Bern, Switzerland for two years, prior to moving to Burlington VT in 1987. While in Switzerland, Linda traveled extensively throughout Europe, Denmark and Israel.
She is a registered dental hygienist and in 2015 was awarded the honor, by her peers, of Outstanding Hygienist of the Year. She has represented the Dental Board for 10 years in Montpelier as the hygiene representative and she now sits on the regulatory Board of Radiation Technology as their Public Member.
Jeff graduated from Bowdoin College in Maine and then went on to Cornell Graduate School majoring 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!”
As you can see, Jeff has a terrific sense of humor. He 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.
There is a serious side to Jeff too, when it comes to his professional life. He works for 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 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 thee sisters: Judy, the eldest is a Superior Court Judge in Washington DC, and Nancy is an actress, art dealer and artist living in NYC. Linda has lived here for 30 years. She enjoys playing Mah Jongg, and is a new pet owner of an Australian Labradoodle puppy named Copper. She also is a mentor in the Shelburne Community School. In addition to her dental hygiene work, she also works for The Commission for Dental Competency (CDCA) for the past 17 years.
Jeff was born in Boston but grew up in Marblehead MA. He is the only one in his family who lives outside of Route 128. His brother lives in his family home 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 her 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 work at Dealer.com. They remind them 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 and Asian food in Winooski. They dated for one year and were married by Rabbi Jim Glazier on a cold winter day in February 1989 in their Woolen Mill apartment #528. They had a small dinner celebration at Pauline’s restaurant afterwards.
For the past 28 summers they have a family tradition of meeting at Linda’s family summer beach house in Lewes, Delaware. Linda’s Mom and step-father are both living in Boynton Beach FL. The most difficult thing that Linda did in her life was unsuccessfully performing CPR on her Dad.
Both Linda and Jeff love to travel. In addition to their travel abroad for Dragonboat racing, Jeff has visited Puerto Rico, Canada, England, Ireland Spain, Portugal, Italy, the 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 prefers loud music like the Beatles and Dido.
Thank you Linda and Jeff, our dynamic duo, for your willingness to be part of the Getting To Know You series.