Getting to Know You
A series of articles and interviews about Temple Sinai people, by Jan Zatzman Orlansky.
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.
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.
Every 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 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.
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 her 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. At the time of this writing, 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.”
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.
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.
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) who lives in Jericho VT and is a real estate appraiser, and Michael, 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 was President of Temple Sinai for two terms, from 1978-1980.
Thank you Patty and Paul for taking the time to allow us to get to know you better.