DANVERS — When Danvers High School Principal Adam Federico decided to partner with Lappin Foundation to host a six-week Intergenerational Holocaust Symposium on Zoom, his hope was that the students and adults who attended would feel empowered to call out and fight against biased and hateful language and actions.
He more than got his wish. Based on comments during the final session on February 17, Danvers now has a community of activists ready and willing to confront hatred and ignorance. “This is unique and special,” Deborah Coltin, Lappin Foundation’s Executive Director, told the 73 participants. “There was a call to action and you showed up. I hope you’ll rely on each other and respond,” said Lappin, who ran the symposium.
The event was created in response to antisemitism, swastikas and racist graffiti appearing more frequently in schools and community settings. Last fall, Danvers was victim to a rash of such incidents. Students who attended all sessions will receive a Certificate of Completion and credit for nine hours’ community service.
The curriculum included curated materials, primary sources, films, survivor testimony, a book read and discussion, and a closing lecture by Dr. Chris Mauriello, Salem State University history professor and Director of its Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. “Be an upstander, not a bystander,” he told the group. “Ask yourself, ‘What am I taking away from this?’”
Danvers tenth grader Norah Hass and her dad, Mike Hass, both attended and talked with each other after class, discussing the Holocaust and what is happening in Danvers and society as a whole. “Norah is forming her politics and thoughts on the world now, and I love seeing her think critically about history as well as current events,” Mike said.
“We don’t normally have conversations like that, so it was cool to see a new side of him. He would sometimes ask me how the meeting made me feel, and asked what I thought about it,” Norah added.
Listening to and interacting with survivors rendered the Holocaust and its horrors more real and left the deepest impact on most participants.
“Actually hearing survivors recount where they were during the Holocaust and how it affected their life is so much different from reading about it. These stories made me more aware of how it felt to be a Jew during the Holocaust. They need to be heard by more students, and the world,” said tenth grader Isha Patel.
“It takes the Holocaust from being a crime of epic proportions and personalizes it, a reminder that every person killed or who survived had a prior life, interacted with people in the town, and struggled through each day to get to the next,” said Mike Hass.
Coltin will expand this program to other communities. A community wide six-session online course begins March 2 and is open to any high school student, regardless of faith or town, who is interested in learning about the Holocaust. Newton South High School plans to host its own symposium this spring.
Also, she is working with Marblehead Village School to develop a professional development program for teachers and is assembling a team to train Salem High School to facilitate its own symposium. “The plan is to make it widely available to high schools and middle schools beginning in the fall of 2022,” she said.
In Danvers, all participants expressed both hopes for their community and a personal action plan to make that happen.
Danvers Chief of Police James Lovell, the father of two middle school students in Danvers, attended the symposium and said he was surprised to learn how much hate in our society is still rooted in the thoughts and beliefs of the Nazi party. He plans to engage community members in conversation about the difficult national and local issues facing them.
Principal Federico plans to expand experiences like the symposium to the greater community, with Danvers High School leading the way for more understanding and kindness.
To that end, he and Tess Wallerstein, a Jewish tenth grader, are already in the process of planning a project to help bring the lessons of the symposium to more students and adults. “It’s imperative for everyone to understand major historical events so they don’t repeat themselves,” she said. “I hope that residents of Danvers will continue to educate themselves and others about these important lessons in history.”
Dave McKenna, co-founder of the Danvers Human Rights and Inclusion Committee and Superintendent of Jewish Cemeteries of the North Shore, plans to continue speaking out when he sees division. “I am continually amazed at just how close beneath the surface is our ability to be divided and encouraged to hate someone else over the slightest difference of opinion, appearance, religion, belief or lifestyle,” he said.
Students Patel and Hass will stand up and encourage their peers to do the same.
“Now that I know how far racism can go, I want to make sure some of the students at my school don’t continue with their racist behavior,” Patel said. “They need to learn how harmful it is.”
“I have a job to bring awareness and act as a representative for the Jewish community at Danvers High School, especially since there are so few Jewish students,” Hass said. “I want to tell the students they aren’t alone in this fight.”
DANVERS — Last year, Danvers was in the news, but not for reasons that made its leaders and community members proud. Amid allegations of antisemitism, racism and homophobia in the Danvers High School hockey team, there were complaints about lack of transparency and accountability in the school and police departments. Then, in November, swastikas were discovered at the Holten Richmond Middle School and in December, a swastika was found at Danvers High School.
In response, about 200 people gathered for a “vigil of inclusion” organized by the Danvers Human Rights and Inclusion Committee and the Danvers Interfaith Partnership. But Danvers officials, especially the School Committee and administration, wanted to go further.
To that end, Danvers Public Schools partnered with Lappin Foundation to host a six-week Intergenerational Holocaust Symposium on Zoom. The free program began Jan. 6 and includes 39 students and 34 adults.
“We need to continue to work on ensuring our school has a safe and respectful climate and empower all our community members to call out and fight against biased and hateful language and actions,” Danvers High School Principal Adam Federico said in an email. “This work needs to be done by students, faculty and families.”
Consisting of curated materials, primary sources, films, survivor testimony, a book read and discussions, the symposium was created in response to antisemitism, swastikas and racist graffiti showing up more frequently in schools and in community settings. Danvers is the fourth symposium (the others were at New England Academy and Duxbury and Newton North High Schools) and the first to be open to the entire community.
“I believe education is our best hope. Opening the symposium to students and adults in Danvers to learn together has been especially powerful,” said Deborah Coltin, who is Lappin Foundation’s executive director and also runs the symposium.
So far, participants couldn’t agree more.
At the beginning of the first session, Coltin posed the open-ended question, “Why are you here?” Many answered that they wanted to make a difference in Danvers and to be on the side of not making light of recent events. “I want to be rebooted in my attitudes,” a student said.
Tess Wallerstein, an 11th grade Jewish student, took comfort in knowing there are “actually people in Danvers who genuinely care about this topic.” She believes a large percentage of people spreading antisemitism either have an incorrect understanding of the Holocaust or are rooted in ignorance. “Symposiums like this could help lots of people gain a better understanding of major issues and could bring community members together in open discussions by connecting young and old,” she said.
Parent Mike Hass wants to help raise the bar on what is acceptable behavior. He also wants his daughter to learn more about the deeper societal issues that led to the Holocaust. “I want her to see and experience that speaking up and taking an active role in society is critical to shaping the world around her,” he said in an email.
Danvers Chief of Police James Lovell believes the program can serve as a framework for additional, admittedly difficult conversations that will help Danvers grow as a community. “More importantly, I hope to learn things I can do in my role as a public official and leader to ensure we properly investigate incidents of antisemitism and help create a culture where hate is not acceptable or tolerated,” he said in an email.
The program included the movie, “The Path to Nazi Genocide,” that uses rare footage to examine the Nazis’ rise and consolidation of power in Germany. Intended to provoke reflection and discussion about the role of ordinary people, institutions, and nations between 1918 and 1945, the film did just that.
Students and adults agreed that seeing video recordings from that era was much more impactful than reading about it in books. “Nothing is left to the imagination. This is a wake-up call,” said a student. “Seeing the sophistication of the Nazis’ approach, the normalization of ‘us’ and ‘them’ and the hijacking of tradition – that really scared me,” added an adult.
For Selectman David Mills, Human Rights and Inclusion Committee co-founder, seeing the ease with which ordinary people were drawn into something so horrible disturbed him. “Do we all have that monster lurking just below the surface?” he asked.
Community member Carla King, who learned about the symposium through DanversCARES, has visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and attended lectures on the topic. She thought she knew more than many about the Holocaust. After the first session, she realized and appreciated there was much more for her to learn.
She was unnerved to watch the events that led to Hitler’s rise to power. “It was very powerful for me thinking of the current climate in the U.S. and that some of what we see is how it all started,” she said in an email. “Our children need to be educated about what the swastika means. I don’t believe they really understand, and if they did, I don’t think they would be doing what they are doing.”
Mary Wermers, assistant superintendent of Teaching and Learning at Danvers Public Schools, thinks outreach like this symposium can help Danvers. “We need passive bystanders to become upstanders in the community. It is time that we call out biased remarks and/or actions, try to explain why it is hurtful and not stand by and let it happen,” she said in an email.
Dave McKenna, who co-founded the Human Rights and Inclusion Committee in 1993 and is superintendent of Jewish Cemeteries of the North Shore, would go one step further. “We need to find a way to reach those who have no interest in learning about these issues and enlighten them as to the cause and effect of divisiveness and how it leads to hatred,” he said in an email. “We still have a long way to go.”
2021 Obermayer Award winner Dr. Marion Lilienthal seeks to tell the real story, through extensive research and a hands-on approach to teaching history.
by Shelley A. Sackett
Dr. Marion Lilienthal has always taken the road less traveled. As a young schoolgirl in Kassel, at an age when most of her classmates were content to play with dolls, she became interested in the National Socialist period. Her grandparents, who opposed the Nazi Party and suffered disadvantages as a result, raised her father to be politically active and to speak up against injustice and he, in turn, raised his daughter to embrace the same values.
Although her father was a child during the war, he remembered seeing Jews led through Kassel, probably to the train for deportation. He also spoke warmly of a Jewish family he had known, always with enormous respect but also sadness about their suspected fate, leaving his young daughter with a positive image of Jews and a desire to find out what might have happened to them. It made the fate of Jews personal for her, giving a name and a life story to each.
The Holocaust was an important theme at her school and a real turning point for Dr. Lilienthal occurred in 1979 when, as a 13-year-old, she watched the Holocaust mini-series with her classmates. “It shocked me to see what people are capable of and strengthened my conviction to fight against injustice,” she says. Later, through an exhibit she created about Jews in Kassel, she became acquainted with Esther Hass, a teacher who was then head of the Jewish community in Kassel. Haas took the teenager under her wing, and the two worked on many projects together, including one at the local Jewish cemetery.
Dr. Lilienthal tried to learn as much as she could about the history of Nazi Germany, but repeatedly ran into roadblocks. “As a young person, it was very difficult to get information. There was public opposition. The archives did not answer all my questions, and people looked at you strangely when you researched there,” she recalls.
Twenty years later, in 1999, she arrived in Korbach as a high school history and computer science teacher with a specialization in the German-Jewish history of her home region, North Hesse. Since then, not only has Dr. Lilienthal distinguished herself among colleagues and students by her commitment to teaching; she has also engaged in exceptional socio-political activities with her students, young adults and community members to bring the centuries-old history of the Jews in the region back into the collective consciousness so that people can learn from mistakes of the past as they confront prejudice and anti-Semitism today.
Her impact, however, extends beyond teaching and spearheading group activities. Her work one-on-one reconnecting former Korbach residents and their descendants with the region has profoundly changed individual hearts and minds in a way that brings peace and closure. “I was able to learn about my grandparents and great-grandparents, who I could never meet, and the events that led up to my mom coming to America. The love shown to my daughter when she was invited to Korbach by Dr. Lilienthal to experience the places where my mom must have spent time is priceless,” says Renee Schindelheim. “While I have never met Dr. Lilienthal personally, she has impacted my life greatly.”
Part of Dr. Lilienthal’s motivation was a mission to correct inaccuracies she found in history books. “The Nazis wanted to destroy all Jewish life. I try to research these individual Jewish life stories to keep their memory alive,” she says. It has not always been easy.
She depends on post-war period files and interviews with local people. “I have looked for photos, gone from house to house knocking,” she says. Recently, a woman contacted her with eyewitness testimony about the fate of two Korbach brothers her father saw in Treblinkla. “She is so emotionally burdened. She wants to help,” she adds.
Today, she leads guided tours of Korbach that focus on the pre-WWII Jewish community. She invites people to walk in the footsteps of Jewish inhabitants, standing in front of a house and showing them an archival photo. She tells them what she knows about the family that used to live there and its fate. “The next time they pass this house, they have an idea of what happened there,” she says.
She first began her research 20 years ago as a newcomer in Korbach. “If people don’t know you, they don’t necessarily want to speak to you,” she says. Also, there was no interest at that time in revisiting the National Socialist period. “You had to be tough, be determined and be strong. I have received not only praise, but also hostility.”
When she mounted an exhibit about the looting of the Jews in Korbach, the mayor and city council supported her, but many Korbach residents did not. “The population is always afraid that a shadow could come over the family. Even today, there are letters and threats,” she says.
A few years ago, Dr. Lilienthal received her doctorate in “Euthanasia” under Prof. Krause-Vilmar. Her dissertation focused on Nazi era persecution of sick, disabled and “socially unadjusted” people from Korbach.
Her activities – nearly all of which have been outside her regular paid work – include: remembrance projects and publications to raise awareness of Jewish history in the region; connections to Jewish descendants from the region; a range of activities and workshops with her students and youth groups that have had a significant impact on how they see local history and the world; network building locally with like-minded people; and work with anti-racism, democracy and tolerance groups and initiatives.
She and many colleagues, including many former Obermayer Awardees, have formed a network of people and associations (such as the Arolsen Archives) from communities in the district where there used to be vibrant Jewish communities. The network sponsors events and publications that spotlight persecution and murder of the Jews while promoting coexistence of Jews and Christians in the region.
Her books and articles, which are used by libraries, history associations and other institutions, have achieved extraordinary results in combatting prejudice, as have her special public exhibitions. “Over the years, her many publications have helped people of all ages to overcome the period of forgetting, repressing and denying essential parts of our regional history. She has made a great contribution to bringing the centuries-old history of the Jews in our region back into consciousness so that people can learn for the future from the mistakes of the past,” reads a statement of support signed by Ernst u. Brigitte Klein, Karl-Heinz Stadltler, Hans-Peter Klein and Johannes Gröecke, all Obermayer awardees.
But, perhaps her most impactful work has been as a teacher, where she carries out projects with her colleagues and students that focus on Jewish life in the region.
Many former students credit Dr. Lilienthal’s hands-on approach to teaching the history of the Holocaust with sensitizing them to fight anti-democratic tendencies. “The work with Dr. Lilienthal left a lasting impact on me,” says former student Dominic Antony, who oversees the technical implementation of her projects. “Many years after my schooling, I am still involved in the fight against anti-Semitism and racism.”
Over the years, her research and documentation of the history of German-Jewish families led her to record, process and publish the life memories of contemporary witnesses. She established and maintains contact with families who have emigrated to the USA, Israel and Australia.
Ten years ago, with the help of her students, Dr. Lilienthal created an online portal so this work is accessible worldwide. “I am fearful about the future with no witnesses. I try to work as fast as possible to contact as many witnesses as possible and document what they experienced. I know it is a race against time,” she says.
The website, “Gedenkportal Korbach”, provides extensive information about Korbach and its Jewish community, Jewish families, perpetrators and victims. (gedenkportal-korbach.de). Family members who don’t know who to ask about their family history can see her genealogical work in photos and documents, enabling them to reconstruct their own family tree and learn about deportations. The site preserves the history and memory of the Jewish community that lived in Korbach for hundreds of years until the Holocaust.
She was one of the first in the region to recognize the importance of online publications, particularly for the young generation today. Her computer expertise and electronic publications have extended the reach and influence of her work far beyond the region, and made them accessible teaching materials for schools worldwide.
For Michael Dimor, of Tel Aviv, Gedenkportal Korbach was the gateway to both learning about his mother’s family roots in Korbach and also developing a deep, strong relationship with Dr. Lilienthal and her husband. He contacted her in 2011, seeking information about his family. She forwarded photos and documents and arranged a visit for Dimor and his family during the 80th memorial of Kristallnacht. They participated in several ceremonies, prayed in the old Jewish cemetery, and met with Dr. Lilienthal’s students, including Marie Fischer. “For our generation, who never saw that part of history, it is hard to imagine what terrible things happened back then,” Fischer says.
For the granddaughter (Renee Giordano) and great-granddaughter (Dr. Sara Giordano) of pre-WWII Korbach residents Toni and Siegmund Weitzenkorn, Dr. Lilienthal provided a priceless link to their family’s past and a new lens to view Germany today. Sara met her in Korbach and received information and photos of her family that would have been otherwise inaccessible, buried among troves of town documents. She brought them home to her mother, Renee, who was deeply impacted. “Because of the trauma of the war, my mother never told me much about the history of her family in Korbach. I never had a desire to ever step foot in Germany, but because of this work, I now hope to visit the place of my mom’s childhood and to meet Dr. Lilienthal,” Renee says.
Dr. Lilienthal believes her remembrance work is even more important today. “Truth makes you strong. It is much easier to deal with the truth than with an unspoken supposition. With my pupils, I talk about the structure, the motivations, why people did some things. It takes a lot of energy, but it can only strengthen them,” she says. “With all the tragedy or difficulty you encounter, you will come out stronger.”
Janis Knight (left) and her Israeli counterpart from the Boston-Haifa Connection, Yael Danielly.
by Shelley A. Sackett
According to veteran educators, teachers and administrators should recharge their batteries by maximizing their summer vacations. Some suggestions include: taking a summer trip; engaging in an activity that is a change of pace from the usual routine; participating in a career enhancement program, and joining a book club.
Group photo of the Yeshiva students. Janis Knight is in the back wearing a hat
Janis Knight, Director of the Center for Jewish Education at Congregation Shirat Hayam in Swampscott, found a way to combine all four (and more) when she attended her first summer Professionals Track at the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem. “My professional development this summer went way beyond an online course or a stack of background reading,” she said. CSH funded her attendance at the program.
Lunchtime at the Yeshiva is still study time.
She and fellow students spent three weeks submerged in Jewish learning and Hebrew Ulpan classes. This year’s cohort included students ages 18 – 82 from Mumbai, Sydney, London, Berlin and Argentina. The group bonded over classes, visiting museums and davening (praying) at the Kotel. They hope to keep the connection alive by studying together online. “Figuring out a common time when we are in nine different time zones is a serious challenge, but we are committed to our learning,” Knight said.
The Conservative Yeshiva was not at all what Knight expected. The program attracts Reform Jews, Jews by choice, women wearing tzitzit, rabbis, retirees, college students and the openly gay and transgender. “The words ‘conservative’ and ‘yeshiva’ do not conjure the reality of the open, friendly, intellectually curious and, above all, welcoming atmosphere I experienced,” she said.
Knight found time to make another wish come true. Since 2016, her sixth-grade CJE class has been part of the CJP-sponsored Mifgashim Program, which pairs Boston and Haifa classrooms and teachers. Usually, Knight and her partner teacher, Yael Danielly, work together using email and Skype to plan shared lessons and facilitate relationships among their students. During Knight’s stay, the two were able finally to meet in person, and spent their time together strolling (and chatting) at the Israel Museum.
Mannequins illustrate women dressed in full Orthodox cover at the Israel Museum exhibit.
A special exhibit on the Veiled Women of Jerusalem caught their eyes. Nuns, Muslim women in full hijabs and Orthodox Jewish in coverings even more extensive than hijabs were pictured and interviewed. For Knight, seeing Jewish women covered in yards of cloth was far removed from her experience in America. She and Yael talked about religious tensions in Israel (when secular Jews can feel like a religious minority even though Judaism is the majority religion) and America (where the settled doctrine of separation of Church and state is eroding.) “Our kids don’t know what it’s like to be the majority religion and culture in their home country and Yael’s students know so little about Jewish life outside Israel,” Knight said.
They visited an exhibit on Peter Pan that traced the character’s origins to the Greek god Pan, and his shrine at the northern Israeli nature preserve Banyas. This sparked the idea of having the Haifa and CJE classes read the same children’s book in Hebrew and English and then share illustrations. “Our time together was golden,” Knight said.
The Yeshiva group had several out-of-the box moments. One was listening to an Orthodox “dude” play bass guitar in Jerusalem to “House of the Rising Sun.” Another was when a feral cat jumped up a colleague’s lap while she prayed at the Kotel and promptly fell asleep in the folds of her tallit. “Feral cats are fierce and wild. They are not inclined to be friendly,” Knight said.
On a more serious note, Knight took away two important lessons. First, she realized that Conservative Judaism is far more vibrant and energized around the world than is felt here on the North Shore. Second, she gained empathy for her students who struggle with their Hebrew lessons.
“After so long spent in the administrator’s chair, it was very beneficial to be a classroom as a student, making mistakes and asking questions,” she said from her office. “I am blessed to work at a congregation that supports me as teacher and also as student.”
Pictured are some of the SHS seniors who have received early acceptances for college. Front Row, from left: Sarah Ryan (Vassar College); Chloe Howe (Bowdoin College); Sara Hamada Mohamed (UMass Boston, Stetson and St. Michael’s U.); Yelena Jeffries (Boston U.). Back Row, from left: Aveen Forman (Marist College); Grace DiGrande (Bucknell U.); Isaac Dreeben (Oberlin College); Kyle Lenihan (Syracuse U.), and Ivan Kadurov (Pratt Inst. And Wentworth Inst. Of Tech.)[Photo by SHELLEY A. SACKETT]
By Shelley A. Sackett
Aveen Forman was drawn to more than Marist College’s bucolic Hudson Valley campus when she decided to apply for early action to the Poughkeepsie, N.Y. school. What piqued her interest about the school was 3,140 miles away in Dublin, Ireland, where she will spend her first year as a member of the Marist College Freshman Dublin Experience.
“None of the other schools I applied to had anything like it. It was such a cool opportunity, I had to apply,” the Swampscott High School senior said. She needed to submit separate applications to the college and this special program. “Thankfully, I got into both. It was my top choice.”
For Maddy Foutes, one visit to Northwestern University was all it took to convince her it was the perfect fit for her. “The lakefront campus is stunning, with incredible access to Chicago. And Northwestern’s quarter system allows students to pursue several areas of academic interest at once,” she said. She returned home, applied early decision and was accepted. “I couldn’t be more excited!” she added.
Architecture is Kyle Lenihan’s passion and intended major, and the Syracuse, N.Y. native decided to return to his birthplace to pursue his interest in his “old stomping grounds. The Syracuse University School of Architecture gave a sense of challenge and prestige that no other school had. It consistently ranks among the best in the country for undergraduate architecture,” he said. His early decision application was accepted, based in part on a portfolio of artistic works he was required to submit. “I would not have been accepted to this program if it were not for the art program at SHS,” he added.
Early decision plans are binding — a student who is accepted as an ED applicant must attend the college. Early action plans are nonbinding — students receive an early response to their application but do not have to commit to the college until the normal reply date of May 1.
Director of Guidance Emily Zotto-Barnum noted a marked uptick in early acceptance application over last year. The Class of 2019 saw 15% of the senior class applying ED (vs. 6% in 2018) and 55% applying EA (vs. 37% in 2018). While she’s not sure why there was such a huge jump in the numbers, she suspects running more Naviance and Common App boot camps may have prepared students earlier than in past years. [The
Common App Recommender System and Naviance are on-line
systems used to submit recommendations and school forms].
“During these boot camps, we do a lot of hand holding and walk the students through each step of the process one on one. It has been a great opportunity for us to be with the students and really understand where they are at,” she said, noting that the 14 before school, after school and evening sessions all attracted robust attendance.
Yelena Jefferies, who will attend Boston University where she plans to study sociology, is thankful for the guidance she received in filling out her college applications. She strongly believes the opportunity SHS students have to take Advanced Placement and Honors classes is of equal importance in preparing them for college.
“I was able to build skills that I know will be useful in a college classroom setting,” she said. She equally praises her non-AP class experiences with preparing her to be more confident in the kind of discussion-based classes she expects in college. “One major example is Mr. Reid’s Media Lit classes, which has helped me articulate critical thinking skills in class discussions and improved my informal writing skills,” she added.
In 2018, one-third of eligible students (Grades 10-12) took at least one AP level course. Every student enrolled in an AP class must take the AP test. 162 students took 372 tests in 19 subjects and 80% of them scored 3 or better. Many colleges award college credit for AP scores of 3 or higher, saving students (and their parents) tuition expenses and permitting them to skip introductory level classes their freshman year.
While academics are arguably the most important prong to a student’s portfolio, Zotto-Barnum stresses that SHS values and supports students’ non-traditional choices, too. She has noticed an increase in students electing to take a GAP year between graduating from high school and entering college.
One student chose a Semester at Sea; another will teach skiing in Japan. “We’re all about the path,” Zotto-Barnum said, referencing the SHS Guidance Department’s philosophy — Embrace your path, make your own pace! “While not all students choose the same path, everyone does have a place. It’s important for parents and students to hear this message,” she said.
Other students who have received early acceptances include: Diego Lucruz (Suffolk U. in Madrid, Spain); Isaac Green (George Washington U.); Ivan Kadurov (Pratt Inst. and Wentworth Inst. of Tech.); Harry Katz (Stanford U.); Molly Delaney (Emerson, Keene State, Salem State, Suffolk and Whitworth U.); Grace DiGrande (Bucknell U.); Sara Hamada (St. Michael’s College, UMass, BU and Stetson U.); Isaac Dreeben (Oberlin College) and Chloe Howe (Bowdoin College).
Some student-athletes who have been accepted to college plan to continue their athletic careers. These include: Sarah Ryan (field hockey at Vassar College); Nikki Rosa (basketball at Roger Williams U.); Ryan Graciale (baseball at Salve Regina U.); Hannah Amato (field hockey at Salve Regina U.), and Tim Perlin (lacrosse at Franklin Pierce U.).
Lest anyone think these seniors are coasting through their last semesters at SHS, think again. In addition to their regular course loads and studying for their AP exams, these students are spending time participating in band and chorus concerts, participating in the SHS Spring Musical “Sweet Charity”, working at a preschool three days a week and, as Foutes said, “trying not to let senioritis affect me too much.”
Congregation Shirat Hayam will unveil Darkeinu (“our way”), a trailblazing post-b’nei mitzvah program modeled on a college education that gives Jewish teens credit toward Kabbalat Torah/Conformation for participating in a broad range of activities that they choose for themselves.
Students in grades 8 through 12 can earn credits towards their Darkeinu “degree” by participating in a variety of activities that encompass five basic areas of Jewish life: community services, ritual leadership, community leadership, study and Zionism.
“As an educator, I am really enthusiastic about giving teens flexibility and choice,” said Janis Knight, Director of Center for Jewish Education. “One thing is for sure — this isn’t your zayde’s cheder, or even much like your own Hebrew School experience any more!”
The program’s real groundbreaking innovation, according to Rabbi Michael Ragozin, is in offering credit for “life experience” already available throughout the North Shore and beyond. Teens can fulfill their course requirements by participating in any number of local programs, such as the Jewish Teen Initiative, the Sloane Fellowship, Lappin Foundation, BBYO, Cohen Camps and more.
They also have the option of proposing something they come up with on their own or studying with Rabbi Ragozin in a more traditional setting. Once a month, however, all Darkeinu participants will meet for a light dinner and discussion with the Rabbi and CJE Director as part of a mandatory 9-week character and Jewish values program called “Chai Mitzvah.”
“By giving teens credit for participating in an array of teen programs already in place, Darkeinu isn’t competing with existing local opportunities. Rather, we are encouraging participation in the unique activities that are right for each teen. Darkeinu is participant-centric, not institution-centric,” Rabbi Ragozin noted.
Perhaps most revolutionary is that Darkeinu is open to any teen that self-identifies as Jewish and has a whole-hearted interest in building their own authentic Jewish identity as they become an adult.
“We’re not trying to make anyone CSH members. We’re just trying to get Jewish kids together to explore being Jewish in their own way,” Knight said, adding, “And they get credit for it.”
One prong of the newly crafted CSH Vision Statement reads, “We will deliver the best childhood and teen education on the North Shore,” and Darkeinu helps fulfill that mission. A recent report from the Jewish Education Project, Generation Now: Understanding and Engaging Jewish Teens Today, influenced Knight and Rabbi Ragozin as they brainstormed about Darkeinu. (see http://JewishEdProject.org/GenerationNow.)
The JEP study developed core questions for educators to imagine teens asking themselves, such as: Who am I? With whom do I connect? What is my responsibility in the world as a Jewish adult? How do I bring about the change I want to see? “Creating programs and experiences that help teens to ask and look for answers to those questions is our goal,” Knight said.
Rabbi Ragozin, who was equally affected by the study, agrees. “We know that Jewish teens are yearning for inspiring opportunities and that meaningful teen engagement opens new worlds of wisdom and practice as they become adults. We want all to have the best Jewish teen experience, whether it’s inside Shirat Hayam or outside,” he said. “But in the short term, our goal is that they feel energized and have fun.”
Darkeinu launches at a brunch on Sunday, October 14. For more information or to register, go to bit.ly/RegisterDarkeinu or contact Janis Knight, CJE Director at CJE@ShiratHayam.org or 781-599-8005 x25.
Adam Denny Golab (at left), brewer and head cellarman of Lynn’s Bent Water Brewing Co., and Joe Nunnari, owner of Craft Beer Cellar in Swampscott, treated the over-21-year-old crowd at Swampscott Library to “Beer Tasting 101.”
Shelley A. Sackett
Despite rumbling skies and threats of downpours, over two dozen people ventured out last Friday evening to whet their whistles another way — by attending the Swampscott Library’s “Beer Tasting 101.”
For more than two hours, Adam Denny Golab, brewer and head cellarman of Lynn’s Bent Water Brewing Co., and Joe Nunnari, owner of Craft Beer Cellar in Swampscott, treated the over-21-year-old crowd to an evening that can best be described as, “everything you never knew you didn’t know about craft beers.”
Most importantly, after describing the brewing process and explaining in detail the differences in tastes among six beers, they circulated throughout the library’s reading room, pouring sample of the beers. Patrons cleared their pallets with pretzels, chips and cheese and crackers.
Nunnari, who says his wife, Kim, “kind of volunteered him” to sponsor the beer tasting (Kim is a volunteer at the Swampscott Library), hopes people learn a little about the complexities and subtleties of beer.
“There’s more to this than just opening a can,” he said with a laugh.
The library’s philanthropic arm, The Friends of Swampscott, captured the proceeds from the $20-per-ticket admission to the beer tasting event. The nonprofit provides volunteer help, conducts the annual book sale, sponsors programs for adults, purchases all museum passes, funds the library newsletter and underwrites many Young Adult and Children’s Room activities.
The tasting offered four different and distinctive genres of beer: an original German lager beer (Weihenstephaner Original); two malts (Murphy’s Stout and Mayflower Porter); two India Pale Ales (Bent Water’s Sluice Juice and Thunderfunk), and two Sour or Acid beers (Bent Water’s Cosmic Charlie and Destihl Wild Sour).
The history and intricacy of each beer was detailed before patrons had their first sip. IPAs, for example, were developed from pale ales in England to be shipped to India, where the hot climate demanded a lighter beer than typical English stouts. Hops were added so the brew would survive the journey.
Golab pointed out that hop flavors can be personal to the taster, with women, “for some unknown reason,” more prone to taste garlic. The hoppier the beer, the less bitter it tastes.
Some describe IPAs as hazy, chewy or mouthy, he added.
Nunnari also explained the importance of the “three-sip rule” when tasting beer.
“Never trust that first sip. Always sniff the beer first and drink it from a glass, not out of the bottle,” he advised.
Golab attributes Bent Water’s superior flavor to Lynn’s water, the “best water in the area” since it comes from the Lynn watershed instead of central Mass. The different profile minerality-wise gives Bent Water’s beer a different quality.
“After all, beer is 98 percent water,” he pointed out.
Like Nunnari, his interest in beer brewing started with the gift of a home-brewing kit from his parents. He has been brewing beer professionally for four years and the activity reminds him of family life as a child.
“I grew up in a house that cooked together a lot. Combining ingredients that create flavors that are unique and fun and work together well is a creative process,” he said.
He hopes after the tasting people realize there are more styles of beer than their usual go-to brand.
“There are so many different kinds of beer. There is something out there for everyone,” he said.
Sitting at café-style round tables of six, patrons chatted between sips, getting to know each other and the different brews. Anthony Cerra, a Swampscott resident whose father was a soda bottler and beer distributor from Pennsylvania, likes to support the Friends of the Library and likes to taste different kinds of beer. He used to brew beer before he had children.
“I guess it’s in my blood,” he said.
At a nearby table, Andrea Mercurio marveled that this was the first time she had been in the library.
“I love it. I want to wander around. I think I spend too much time at work. I definitely need to hang out here more,” said Mercurio a newcomer to Swampscott, she found out about the event on a Facebook page and thought it would be an excellent way to get out and meet people in the community.
Four years ago, the Swampscott Library hosted a beer tasting, and the library’s executive director, Alyce Deveau, thought it was time to do it again.
“It’s summertime and people drink beer in the summer,” she said. “People will get a lot of information and have a chance to come in and see the library and what they’re missing if they haven’t been here before.”
Reference and Teen Librarian Janina Majeran, who helped serve cheese and crackers between beer “courses,” thought the evening was fantastic.
“It’s really great for the library,” she said. “It is great exposure and something different than just books.”
Hadley fourth grader Paul Calsimitto and his senior pen pal, Bill Hyde, Sr
By Shelley A. Sackett
To the casual observer, last Wednesday looked like just another noontime at the Swampscott Senior. The lunch tables were set, the bingo spinning wheel was in place, and the alluring aroma of pizza wafted from the kitchen.
But at 12 o’clock sharp, the Senior Center van pulled up to the front door with a surprise. When its doors opened, out poured a throng of excited and agile Hadley fourth grade students, ready to meet their senior pen pals for the first time.
Since last October, Julie O’Brien’s class has corresponded with volunteer seniors from Swampscott the old fashioned way: by writing letters. “This experience was wonderful. I wish the seniors had a chance to see the look on the kids’ faces when they opened their letters. It was amazing to see the joy as they discovered new things about their new friends,” O’Brien said.
The intergenerational program was started 6 years ago by Marilyn Cassidy as a way to connect seniors and young children. Gina Bush, whose son William is in O’Brien’s class, chaired the program this year.
Chairperson Gina Bush serves pizza to Noah Murphy
“The best part is the connection the seniors made with the class,” she said as she looked around the dining room. “It’s fun to see how well some of them are getting along and to see them meet face-to-face for the first time.”
The exercise is not just for fun, however; there is also a pedagogic and life skills component. The students learned to write a formal letter, how to address an envelope and how to share personal information with someone they had never met.
When the class received mail from the senior center, all the students would open their letters and read them at their desks. Then they would all meet “on the rug” to share something new they had learned about their new friend, O’Brien said.
Hadley fourth grade teacher Julie O’Brien
Some pen pals were uncannily well matched. Student Paul Calsimitto’s father is a fireman in Revere. His pen pal, Bill Hyde, Sr. was a Swampscott fireman for over two decades, including a period as Fire Chief. “My dad was very surprised,” Calsimitto said. “He thought it was kind of funny.”
For Hyde, who has been part of the program since its first year and has kept in contact with several of his former pen pals, it’s not just about getting to know a fourth grader. “It’s an opportunity to learn about their parents, their brothers, sisters. It’s almost like I have another family,” he said.
First time pen pal Rick Pierro, who retired from his advertising agency, Designer’s Eye, has always wanted to be a big brother, but hasn’t gotten around to it yet. Although he has lots of nieces and nephews, he has no children and loved having a pen this year. “My only complaint is it takes too long between letters,” he said with a chuckle.
Noah Murphy and Rick Pierro
His pen pal, Noah Murphy, really liked learning about Pierro through their correspondence. What amazed him the most? “I was surprised he wants to be a champion chef and enter in the Julia Child competition,” Murphy said as Pierro grinned.
After lunch, seniors and fourth graders teamed up to play four rounds of bingo, bonding even more in lessons of frustration, good sportsmanship and gracious winning.
Norma Freedman and Talia Pagliaro
Norma Freedman, who chaired the program last year, was happy to just relax this year. She enjoyed her Italian ice with her pen pal, Talia Pagliaro, who was surprised to learn Freedman’s children attended Hadley and said she couldn’t have asked for a better pen pal. “Whenever she talked about something, she put a lot of thought into it,” Pagliaro said with a big smile.
Shelley Sackett and Caden Ross
Last but hardly least, each pen pal received a card and envelope. They addressed the envelope to themselves and exchanged them, with the intent of keeping the correspondence going over the summer. After all, as Caden Ross enthusiastically put it, “It’s fun!”
MARCH 29, 2018 – Carrie Dichter grew up in Marblehead, where she attended religious school at Temple Emanu-El through post-confirmation. She is parent committee chair of Temple Tiferet Shalom Hebrew School in Peabody, which her nine-year-old daughter has attended since pre-school. “My husband and I feel religious school is important,” she said.
Asked if there are any changes she would like to see, she answered with three words: more parental involvement.
“While life has always been busy, religion often falls between the cracks because of school, sports, clubs, arts and other special interests in addition to many families where both parents are working outside the home. Everyone is trying to navigate it in the best way possible,” she said.
Parents, teachers and rabbis from the North Shore’s religious schools who were interviewed for this article echo Dichter’s sentiment.
Over her 20-year career teaching different ages in three different schools, including her current position at Temple Emanuel in Andover, Marcie Trager has seen Hebrew School become less of a priority for parents. “Attending religious school has to come from their parent’s commitment,” she said.
Not only are parents today stretched thinner than their parents were, they also may not have fond memories of their own religious school experiences.
“When it comes to supplemental Jewish education, I have no doubt that parents who are more engaged with their child’s Jewish education will produce better results. Through anecdotal conversations, I’ve learned that a majority of adults view their own childhood experience with Hebrew school negatively. For some, they found it hypocritical that their parents forced them to attend Hebrew school, but did not engage themselves in meaningful Jewish practice,” said Rabbi Michael Ragozin of Congregation Shirat Hayam in Swampscott.
Many feel that the key to increased religious school enrollment and better attendance is family programming, beginning for toddlers long before they enter Hebrew School.
“Getting children started early with preschool, pre-K and programs like PJ Library, Tot Shabbat and other Lappin Foundation programs will help get more kids involved and enrolled,” said Allison Wolper, an educator at Temple B’nai Abraham in Beverly who has taught religious school for 25 years.
To be successful, parents and educators believe that family programming at religious schools must also acknowledge the changing demographics of congregants, and stress inclusivity. At Gloucester’s Temple Ahavat Achim, according to Phoebe Potts, director of the temple’s Family Learning, 75 percent of the religious school families are intermarried.
Stephanie Band, who teaches grade K-2 at the Gloucester temple, points to many religious school offerings that are also open to parents and families. “The importance of learning together has grown significantly as many children are learning alongside their parents and caregivers,” she said. “Families need to model for their children what they want their Jewish future to look like.”
Band stresses the importance of inclusivity in religious school and the temple community. “These families need and deserve to be treated as equitable members of the community,” she said.
Lauren Goldman, who has taught at Temple B’nai Abraham in Beverly for 16 years, also emphasizes the responsibility religious school teachers have to both honor sacred traditions and make all families feel welcome. “We must be inclusive of the LBGTQ community, children with disabilities and their families, mixed faith families – everyone,” she said. “Family programming is tantamount to involving the parents and other generations of the children’s families.”
Curricula that stress projects and social interactions – rather than traditional text-based learning – acknowledge another factor that plays a crucial role in getting parents to prioritize religious school attendance over other extra-curricular activitites: busy parents are more likely to transport their children to religious school if their kids enjoy it. “It’s very important today to make the parents happy by creating a kind of easy going environment,” said Rachel Jacobson, who teaches at Alevy Family Chabad of Peabody Jewish Center.
Stacey Chicoine, parent of third grade twins, appreciates Chabad’s innovative and hands on approach. “My Hebrew school growing up in Framingham was strict and I was slow in learning. I always felt uncomfortable asking for help,” said the Melrose resident. “Chabad is so intent on engaging the children and it has paid off. After a long day of school, my children look forward to attending.”
Parents also give religious schools high marks for establishing a sense of Jewish identity and kinship in their children. “I was hoping religious school would be a place where our kids would not only learn about Jewish tradition and history, but also make connections and feel part of a Jewish community,” said Rebecca Joyner, who attended religious school until her bat mitzvah and whose fourth and sixth grade daughters attend religious school at Temple Emanuel in Andover. “They are getting out of it what I had hoped. Some of our daughter’s closest friendships are at Hebrew school, and the temple has become a big part of their lives.”
Overall, once parents commit to sending their children to religious school, they and their children seem happy with the experience. Educators say the biggest hurdle is figuring out how to get more kids enrolled and, once enrolled, how to get their parents more involved in religious school and synagogue life.
Rabbi Meyer of Temple Emanu-El in Marblehead believes the key lies with a parent’s own Jewish practice. “The most important learning comes when our students are able to witness their parents’ valuing of Jewish education, and when what they are learning at temple comes to life in their own home and lives,” he said.
Rabbi Ragozin agrees and considers it the synagogue’s role to engage both parent and child. “Synagogues have a responsibility to offer a variety of gateways into meaningful and accessible practices, not only for the sake of adults, but also for the sake of educating children via their parents’ engagement,” he said.
Nonetheless, he is realistic about changing parents’ attitudes overnight. “Ultimately, we all need to have reasonable expectations,” he said.
Above: LEAP for education cofounder and executive director Linda Saris (center) with brother and sister Josward Santana of Peabody (at left) and Idekelly Santana King of Lynn. Josward is a sophomore at Middlesex Community College and works full time at Citizens Bank. Idekelly graduated from Northeastern University in 2017 with a degree in mechanical engineering.
By Shelley A. Sackett
JANUARY 25, 2018 – SALEM – Linda Saris’ stellar resumé reads like every parent’s dream. A degree in economics and urban studies from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from the University of Chicago led to a career that culminated in the senior vice presidency of RSA Security, a fast-growing tech company with 1,300 employees and $320 million in worldwide sales. Her leadership and entrepreneurial skills reaped increasing responsibility and commensurate compensation.
Yet through her quarter-century career, she always felt something was missing. “As a mother and full-time employee who traveled a lot, there was little time for community engagement,” the Swampscott resident said. “I did work in support of women’s advancement opportunities in the workplace, but looking back, I should have done more.”
Her “wake up call to do something different” came in 2001, when the tech bubble burst after 9/11. Saris took advantage of a generous severance package and left the private sector to start a nonprofit with a mission to teach tech skills to young people and their parents.
“It was my time to give back and honor my family and cultural tradition of tzedakah,” she said.
Named Salem CyberSpace, the startup began as part of a larger nonprofit called North Shore Community Action Programs and served seven Salem students in 2003. Today, after going solo in 2004, it is known as LEAP for Education, and a $1 million budget allows it to reach over 800 students per year, primarily in Peabody and Salem.
With its mission to help low-income and first generation American students succeed in middle school, high school, and college, LEAP also educates parents on the college process and financing. It now has a staff of 17 and over 100 volunteers. Saris is understandably proud of LEAP’s 100 percent high school graduation rate and 85 percent college access and retention rates.
While LEAP continues to focus on teaching tech skills and emphasizes STEM – a curriculum based on science, technology, engineering, and math – it has adapted to changing demographics by also providing arts programs and English literacy for the growing immigrant population for whom English is a second language.
According to Saris, organizations like LEAP are especially important during this current administration. “LEAP helps to support, educate, affirm, and make feel welcome young people [and their families] from a variety of countries,” she said.
When new and longtime citizens meet and build connections across ethnic and cultural lines, Saris thinks the resulting familiarity and understanding creates respect, tolerance, admiration, and affection among a diverse citizenry.
“Those qualities are the antidote to prejudice, ignorance, and scapegoating,” she said.
Saris was raised in West Roxbury and attended Congregation Mishkan Tefila in Newton (now in Brookline), where she became a bat mitzvah in 1965 and attended Hebrew school through 11th grade. While her home life was “not overly religious,” her parents and temple educators stressed the importance of charity and community engagement.
As a high school student, she volunteered at ABCD in Dorchester, tutoring young children. “I talked incessantly about the inequities I saw in our community and my parents pushed me to put action behind my words,” she said.
Growing up during the 1960s empowered Saris. “It was a decade of citizen empowerment, of despair and of hope,” she said. “The events around me, my family, my Jewish cultural roots, all foreshadowed the path I decided to take.”
Her sister Patti Saris, older by 11 months, serves as chief judge of the federal court in Boston, and it is evident the sisters share views on immigration that are at odds with the current administration. Last September, Judge Saris issued a temporary order stopping the Trump administration’s deportation of Indonesians without due process.
At a hearing last week, The Boston Globe reported she compared the Indonesian Christians facing possible torture or death in their Muslim-majority homeland to Jewish refugees trying to escape the Nazis on the St. Louis, a boat that left Germany with 937 passengers, mostly Jews, that was turned away by the US government in 1939. Many were later killed in the Holocaust.
“We’re not going to be that country,” Judge Saris said in court, according to the Globe.
“My sister has always been a source of inspiration and someone I always looked up to,” Linda Saris said. “She was very supportive when I changed my career. However, the drive to do what I did came from within me, with a lot of help from my family and the events of the day.”