New app gives hope to caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease

By Shelley A. Sackett

PR-Alix-Segil-OnLeftSide-and-Debby-Segil-Smiling-Holding-App-2-1024x591

Alix Segil and Debby Segil

 

Debby Segil was home in bed with the flu. Rather than using the time to pamper herself with comfort food and old movies, the 89-year-old pint-sized dynamo seized the opportunity to do what she loves best: helping others.

As a licensed independent clinical social worker with 40 years of experience, Segil is used to thinking about ways to support those in need. On this particular wintry day two years ago, her thoughts turned to home caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

“No one has taught them dementia’s ABCs, so they make lots of mistakes,” she said. “They still think they can explain things. They think they can reason with someone.”
A member of Temple Emanu-El since 1965, Segil feels she is carrying on her mother’s legacy of caring. “She always cared about welcoming newcomers in the Jewish community in Hazelton, Pennsylvania, where I grew up,” she said.

Segil knows what a difficult and lonely job it is to care for someone with dementia, especially at first. As program manager of the Family Caregiver Support Program at Greater Lynn Senior Services (GLSS) since its inception 15 years ago, she has had caregivers tell her over and over again, “This is such a difficult job. I don’t know if I can do it.”

So she decided to write a poem that could give these family caregivers something to prepare them from the beginning by helping them relearn how to interact with their loved one so they could both get along.

Knowing that a pneumonic device helps people of all ages learn and retain new information, Segil distilled her advice to a mantra of five words – distract, divert, and then agree – which became the refrain in her five-stanza poem.

Once she finished the poem, Segil thought, “Wouldn’t it be better if we could set it to music?” So she contacted her friend, Rick Goldin, who writes and sings children’s songs. “I thought he would be perfect because he would write a nice, easy tune,” she said.

Goldin made a recording of their “Caregiver Ballad” and Segil brought it to some people at GLSS. They loved the song and suggested developing an app that would provide a toolset for dementia caregivers with the ballad as its anchor.

A development team was created to shepherd the project from concept to Caregivers Matter, a free app. Team members Katherine Prouty, product manager, and Larry Ehrhardt, application developer, are both Marblehead residents.

So is Alix Segil, Debby’s 18-year-old granddaughter who helped with the website caregiversmatter.org as her Marblehead High School senior project. Although the two live in the same household, their lives rarely intersected in the “real world” until Debby suggested that assisting in creating the app was a perfect way for Alix to combine her technology savvy and love of helping people with the requirements of her senior project.

Working with her grandmother was a real eye-opener for Alix, who will soon be a freshman at Ursinus College in Pennsylvania. “I know she’s a hard worker because she’s always working at home,” she said of her grandmother. “Seeing her in the office, running around all day going to meetings, I realized she has a really long day. Like, every day.”

Like her grandmother, Alix credits her Jewish upcoming with instilling in her a sense of tikkun olam. “Being Jewish, I’ve learned you’ll always have a community to go to. The app helps make sure caregivers don’t feel alone in what can be a lonely job,” she said.

Released in June, the free app currently works on Apple and Android systems, with Kindle on the wish list. Its menu revolves around the ballad and a toolset Segil developed for GLSS with the help of a grant from the Massachusetts Office of Elder Affairs.

Pep talks, activities, and tips for getting through the day are on the app’s tabs, as well as a link where caregivers can learn more about dementia and also share their ideas and feedback.

“People need to know that they are not alone, that there are ways to make the caring easier,” Segil said. The app helps them remember the importance of also caring for themselves by relaxing, refocusing, and regrouping.

The app has received positive feedback, including from a friend of Segil’s whose husband passed away from dementia 10 years ago. “She told me that at that time, she had no confidence that anything could be better or that she could do anything differently,” Segil said. “She said this app would have been so meaningful to her because it gives hope.”

For more information, visit caregiversmatter.org.

Sherman-Goldman wedding : A theme of beauty

By Shelley A. Sackett

Goldmans

Arlene “Leni” Sherman and Harvey Goldman at their wedding.

 

Arlene “Leni” Sherman wasn’t looking to start a relationship when she accepted a friend’s invitation to join him for dinner with his male dining club. He was curious to hear her “woman’s perspective” about the group. The Malden widow thought it would be a fun night out and nothing more.

Her friend called her back, asking if it would be OK with her if one more person joined the group. He told her she might know him since he too was from Malden. His name was Harvey Goldman.

“I said, ‘Of course I know him. My mother went to his bar mitzvah and his wedding,’ ” Sherman said.

Goldman remembered her too. He called and asked if she wanted to catch up before the dinner. “I had no inclination that we would date. I thought we were just getting together to schmooze and figure out what was going on in our lives,” Sherman said. Instead, the two really hit it off and that night turned into the beginning of the rest of their lives.

That was over 10 years ago. With three grown children and seven grandchildren between them, the couple decided it was time to make their relationship legal “for the sake of the grandchildren.” But at their ages, neither wanted a traditional – or typical – wedding.

The couple love musicals and are regulars at North Shore Musical Theatre in Beverly. “It’s one of the things we really do have in common,” Sherman said. Out of the blue, she put two and two together: What better way to celebrate the blending of their multigenerational families than at the theater?

When she ran the idea by Goldman, he was totally on board.

They checked NSMT’s schedule and realized the last matinee performance of the love story, “Beauty and the Beast,” was Sunday July 31. They confirmed with their rabbi, Rabbi Robert S. Goldstein of Temple Emanuel in Andover, that he was available to officiate. Suddenly, they not only had a wedding venue, they also had a ready-made theme. “It was bashert,” Goldman said.

When they went to the theater, general manager Karen Nascembeni and the NSMT staff helped turn their dream into a reality. They bought a section of the 1,800-seat theater so their more than 100 guests could sit together. “After all the whole thing of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is ‘Be our guest! Be our guest!’” Sherman joked.

unnamed-1

Nascembeni helped the couple with all the logistics, including hiring Essex caterer Timothy Hopkins. The traditional Jewish wedding ceremony took place at noon in a large rehearsal space with a chuppa of yellow roses adorned with a single red rose, representative of the Beast’s enchanted red rose under glass.

For the bride and groom, however, while the theme was fun, the most important part of the day was family. “All our children and grandchildren were in the ceremony,” Sherman said.

Officiating a wedding at a musical theater was a first for Rabbi Goldstein. Although most of the weddings he has conducted over the course of his career have been in synagogues, he believes that wherever a wedding takes place, the affection that the bride and groom have for each other, and the warmth and sincere love the guests have for the couple, transforms wherever the ceremony takes place into a holy and sacred space. “Harvey and Leni are blessed. There was unbridled happiness in the room,” he said.

After an hors d’oeuvres reception, all the guests strolled across the garden area into the theater for Act One. At intermission, they returned for more noshes. After Act Two, they enjoyed an ice cream sundae bar and other desserts and drinks.

Sherman, a retired Brandeis University administrator, took the “Beauty and the Beast” theme seriously, coordinating decorations and décor. Like Belle, she and her bridesmaids wore yellow. And, like the Beast, Goldman wore blue. Each guest received a red rose as they entered the theater.

Although delighted by his themed wedding, Goldman admits it was all a little more than they originally anticipated. “The whole idea of this was for us not to be the center of attention,” he said with a laugh.

Striking a more serious note, Goldman, who owns Goldman Funeral Chapel in Malden with his son, Jay waxed philosophical: “One thing I’ve learned in this line of business is that we only have one shot. We never know what tomorrow’s going to bring. You don’t want to live your life saying, ‘Why didn’t I?’”

Teens discover their Jewish identity on Youth to Israel journey

By Shelley A. Sackett

Y2I_cover

2017 Y2I participants dance on the Haas Promenade in Jerusalem during their ‘Welcome to Jerusalem’ ceremony. The trip included 109 teens from 28 communities.

 

 

Josh Tabenkin didn’t want to go on the Youth to Israel Adventure trip. He even skipped one of the mandatory pre-trip meetings, half hoping that infraction might get him booted out of the program. He ultimately decided to go because he was afraid he would regret it if he didn’t for the rest of his life.

 

After two weeks in Israel, the Georgetown Middle-High School 11th grader returned a different person.

 

“You learn about how great Israel is over all these years, but you really don’t believe it until you see it. I now feel I have a home and a place to go where I’ll always be accepted,” he said. “Being a Jew is more than a religion. I am changed in a Jewish way.”

 

Which is exactly the kind of transformation philanthropist Robert Israel Lappin hoped teens would experience when he created the Y2I program in 1971.

 

soldier-talk

2013 Y2I alumnus Jon Cohen, who is currently a Lone Soldier in the IDF, spoke to 2017 Y2I teens and encouraged them to defend Israel by being Israel advocates. Pictured, from left: Jonah Spritz of Swampscott, Colby Tarbox, Ian Shevory of Marblehead and Cohen.

 

“Y2I teens come back from Israel prouder and stronger Jews and eager to support Israel. Israel builds Jewish pride in our teens where none existed before. Israel inspires kids to stay Jewish. Israel connects teens to our Jewish Family and Israel inspires them to keep the Jewish chain of tradition going,” he said.

 

A stated goal of Y2I is to “inspire teens to stay Jewish, to marry Jewish, and to raise their own children Jewish.” To that end, it gives local teens a means and a reason to get together. “It’s a beautiful thing to see so many North Shore teens connect with one another and become fast friends. Were it not for Y2I, most would never meet,” Lappin said.

 

Open to Jewish sophomores or juniors in high school who live in or are members of a temple in any of 23 cities or towns, Y2I is considered a rite de passage for Jewish North Shore teens. More than 2,500 teens have taken the fully subsidized trip since its inception as Let’s Go Israel in 1971.

 

The 2017 trip included 109 teens from 28 communities and 38 high schools. Y2I is open to all, regardless of level of Jewish observance, education, and affiliation and, thanks to a 2017 grant from the Ruderman Family Foundation, disabilities.

 

Deborah Coltin is executive director of the Lappin Foundation and has led 12 Y2I trips over the program’s life. The two-week trip combines education, adventure, history and fun in a packed itinerary that includes visits to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, a Bedouin Village, the Sea of Galilee, and Masada.

 

“A big challenge is wanting to do more and see more during our time in Israel. With thirteen days on the ground and only 24 hours in a day, there is only so much we can do and see, and we do and see a lot!” she said. The 2017 trip also included activities such group building and leadership development, and Israeli dance sessions that tell the story of Israeli history and culture through dance.

 

Although Y2I offers participants the opportunity to have a Bar Mitzvah at the Western Wall, none from the 2017 signed up in advance. After less than a week in Israel, several changed their minds. “It was beautiful how Israel made them feel this way not even one week into the trip,” she said.

 

Tony Gluskin, who never had a Bar Mitzvah at home in Marblehead, pinpointed the event of wrapping tefillin, reading a prayer with Rabbi Bernie and receiving a blessing at the Western Wall in Jerusalem as the single Y2I experience that had the most impact on him as a Jew.

 

“I felt a connection like never before, like I was crossing a bridge and strengthening my Jewish identity,” the Marblehead High School 11th grader said. “It all came together to give me a once in a lifetime feeling.”

 

Being at the Wall, touching it and putting a note to his grandfather in one of its crevices was “one of the coolest experiences I ever had,” according to Tabenkin. “I just felt so connected with the country and my people.”

American and Israeli teens spent fours days together in mifgash, a Hebrew word that means, “encounter.” Coltin witnessed the strong bonds formed over such a short time. “The mifgash is about feeling part of the Jewish Family, regardless of where we live,” she said.

Gluskin was struck by how similar American and Israeli teenagers are. “We talk about the same stuff, like the same music, enjoy the same things,” he said. He was also struck by an important difference.

 

“Once we graduate high school, we go onto college, but once they graduate, they go to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces. It was fascinating seeing the affect that has on their daily lives.”

 

For Katie Cohen, of Peabody, seeing people who were not much older than herself wearing IDF uniforms and carrying guns “showed me up-close how different it is to grow up in America versus Israel.”

 

Most of the teens were surprised by how safe they felt in Israel. “The Israel they saw and experienced was not the Israel they saw on the news,” Coltin said. “Some expected Israel to be like a military state with armed soldiers roaming the streets.”

 

The rigors of a summer tour in Israel had its own physical tests. For Gluskin, the 6 a.m. wakeup call was his biggest challenge. “During the summer I like to sleep a lot,” he said. For Cohen, it was the heat, which she doesn’t think she could ever get used to completely.

 

With the heat, however, came the chance to float in the Dead Sea, Cohen’s favorite experience of the trip. “I’m not that great of a swimmer, so for the first time I could float comfortably without a floaty,” the Peabody Veterans Memorial High School 11th grader said with a laugh.

 

On a more serious note, another goal of Y2I is to equip teens to be Israel advocates and ambassadors. Following their trip to Israel, they are invited to enroll in the Foundation’s free Teen Israel Advocacy Fellows program, where they can participate in advanced Israel Advocacy training.

 

“My wish is that every Jewish teen in the U.S. could experience Israel, which would remedy the growing divide between the American community and Israel,” Lappin said. Coltin is excited by the number of teens who have expressed their interest in continuing in the 2017 post-trip advocacy program.

 

Her biggest reward, however, still comes from establishing a connection between Israel and North Shore Jewish teens who now have new friends, their own personal stories about Israel, and the tools and techniques to stand up for Israel and for themselves as Jews.

 

“Y2I continues to weave its magic,” Coltin said. According to Tabenkin, so does she. “This whole trip would not happen if it weren’t for Debbie. She gave me the gift of Israel,” he said.

 

 

 

 

Y2I is funded by Lappin Foundation, Robert I. Lappin Charitable Foundation, Robert Israel Lappin, Combined Jewish Philanthropies and more than 900 donors to the Foundation’s annual campaign. The Morton and Lillian Waldfogel Charitable Foundation provides funds for families in need to cover ancillary costs.

 

 

Salem reinvests in Artists’ Row with its first Artist in Residence

By Shelley A. Sackett, Salem Gazette correspondent

downloaddownload-1

 

 

 

 

 

Last Thursday, Artists’ Row was a beehive of activity. Alexis Batakis, a UMass Amherst art major from Peabody, donned short overalls and wielded a drill as she hovered over a pile of wood in a corner that was destined to become a 24-foot community table, the latest example of Salem’s commitment to public art.

 

Kids and parents, teens and grandmas sat down together and created mosaics from buckets of natural and upcycled materials that ranged from mussel shells to pieces of fabric during the first of six weekly Public Art Salons.

 

The mosaics will eventually become the top a 24-foot long table that will remain in Artists’ Row and become a gathering place for conversation, creativity and community.

 

This Community Table is the latest brainchild of Salem’s first Artist in Residence, Claudia Paraschiv. She is a Salem architect and owner of Studioful – Architecture, Community Art and Neighborhood Design, and founder of Salem Public Space Project.

 

She was as busy as a bee, organizing volunteers, like her husband Michael Jaros, who teaches English at Salem State University, and was having a blast brandishing a hammer instead of a piece of chalk. “I love doing this. It is liberating and fun,” he said, obviously meaning it.

 

images

 

The Community Table will be built over five weeks by “anyone who would like to contribute time, artistry, ideas, help, materials or conversations,” Paraschiv said. She likes to imagine people sitting at the table and finding their artistic contribution and sharing that memory with new friends.

 

Her mission, as Artist in Residence, is to transform Artists’ Row into a local destination rather than a transitional, walk-through space. She intends to accomplish that through a series of creative placemaking events, called Public Art Salons, that will take place every Thursday, July 13 through August 17, from 3-7pm.

 

Located at 24 Derby Street in historic downtown Salem across from Old Town Hall and Derby Square at 24 New Derby Street, Artists’ Row occupies land that originally functioned as the City’s market place. Today, the space has five buildings that range in size from 370 to 1,000 square feet. Four function as working and gallery space for artist tenants, and a fifth is a restaurant, the Lobster Shanty.

 

Salem Public Art Planner Deborah Greel, who manages Artists Row and refers to its stalls as “art incubators”, wants to take the Row to the next level.

 

“It’s a place of challenged space. It’s wide. People don’t know where it is or how to get there,” she said, adding it is seen more as a cut through than a destination.

 

“We want Artists’ Row to be a creative space, a place that people are curious to stop at and see what’s going on there.”

 

To that end, the Public Art Commission and Greel launched the Artist in Residence Pilot Program (AIRPP) as an ongoing public art initiative to benefit the community by cultivating Artists’ Row’s potential. “Knowing the skill level Claudia has in creative placemaking, we asked her for a proposal,” Greel said.

 

Paraschiv was the first Artist in Residence in Dorchester’s Four Corners and recently facilitated the 289 Derby Community Design placemaking events.

 

Coined in 2010, the term placemaking describes a hands-on approach for improving a neighborhood, city, or region by inspiring people to collectively reimagine and reinvent public spaces as the heart of their community. Typically, placemaking involves a series of collaborative, inclusive meetings among stakeholders, municipal and professional representatives, and facilitators.

 

After she was hired, Paraschiv’s first step was to meet with the Artists’ Row tenants over a six week period for listening sessions where she asked them their priorities and needs, and how the AIRPP could help. “The consensus was to transform the Row into a destination rather than a traditional, walk-through space,” she said.

 

To accomplish that, she developed the concept of a Community Table with each artist tenant contributing materials that will be applied to the table directly and through use in the mosaics.

 

The Community Table will be designed and built during a series of five creative placemaking events, named Public Art Salons. These are also opportunities for people to cultivate local talent and build productive and meaningful relationships.

 

The 24-foot long table will be constructed in six parts that people can separate to sit at and lunch separately, or combine together into one long communal table. “The table will also integrate small gardens and spread knowledge about native plants,” Paraschiv said, noting that one thought is to have a birdbath right in the middle of the table.

 

To facilitate the cross pollination of ideas, she has engaged three professionals to help her host the Salons: ecological landscape designer Annie Scott (thrivedesign.studio); artist Lexiee Batakis (@ayyyitslexayyy); face painter Alison Troy (@AlisonTroy) and reading nook architect David Rabkin (@WentworthArchitecture).

 

She envisions the Salons as engaging the entire space of Artists’ Row in ways that will evolve over time with community feedback, ideas and participation. Reading areas, gardens and other possible are under discussion.

 

In the meantime, Paraschiv is very much in the moment, and her enthusiasm for the Community Table she is shepherding into being is contagious. A passerby she engages in conversation happily joins the table to create her own mosaic contribution.

 

“When Claudia was doing all those different projects each week at 289 Derby, it was just wonderful to go down there and eat and play,” Greel said with a wide smile. “Building community is actually the most important piece of the placemaking process.”

 

289 Derby final design a triumph for community engagement

By Shelley A. Sackett, correspondent

289derby-placemaking-placemats_votes-and-notes_page_1-1

The 289 Derby final collective schematic plan shows a balance of green space and paved surfaces with an amphitheater-like area, lawn with shade, a multi-use stage and a variety of areas for meetings, play and chance encounters.

 

289 Derby Street is a half-acre parking lot that directly borders the South River. The site hosts a pop-up carnival during Halloween each year and little else.

 

All that is about to change.

 

Salem acquired the parcel in 2016 and, with a recent $750,000 state grant for construction, the City hired CBA Landscape Architects to design the new public space that will connect downtown Salem to its waterfront.

 

CBA Landscape Architects engaged Claudia Paraschiv as a consultant for this placemaking phase. She is a public artist, urbanist, and registered architect in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and owner of Studioful -Architecture, Community Art, and Neighborhood Design.

 

She founded the Salem Public Space Project to facilitate these placemaking meetings and engaged John Andrews, of Creative Salem, to co-facilitate. He built the 289 Derby St. website that included the public input surveys that were crucial to the information gathering process.

 

After a series of four 289 Derby Community Design Events, the permanent park design was unveiled at the fifth and final June 21 event, and it is a curvy beauty.

 

00_main

Participants of one of the four 289 Derby Community Design placemaking events.

 

The whole process took a mere five weeks and involved the participation of community members in an exciting and innovative approach to collaborative public space planning called placemaking.

 

First coined in 2010, the term describes a hands-on approach for improving a neighborhood, city, or region by inspiring people to collectively reimagine and reinvent public spaces as the heart of their community. Typically, placemaking involves a series of collaborative, inclusive meetings among stakeholders, municipal and professional representatives, and facilitators.

 

The goal for the 289 Derby Street public space project, according to Deputy Director of the Department of Planning and Community Development Kathleen M. Winn, is to have a place that is both beautiful year-round and flexible enough to accommodate different types of programming.

 

Unique to this project, however, was the process used to achieve that goal. Rather than engaging in the traditional top-down practice of having CBA Landscape Architects design the space first and then ask the public to retrofit it to specific use, the community meetings were used to hear from residents and other stakeholders what they wanted to use the space for before they designed it.

 

Anyone interested would be invited to join the conversation and have a say and a vote in how the 289 Derby space would be used and what it would look like.

 

 

“The idea is to bring the project to the people who will use the space and then have it designed to fit their desires,” Paraschiv explained.

 

Members of the Salem community were invited to help design the city’s public space at the vacant 289 Derby Street lot during four community events that took place on site from May 24 to June 14.

 

Each 289 Derby meeting gave participants a hands-on opportunity to experience the different activities the space might sponsor, such as music, yoga, gardening, games, outdoor movies and even paddle-boarding on the South River.

 

“The space was transformed to show people literally, ‘look how cool this could be!’” Paraschiv said.

 

The first event, “Dance & Design”, featured performances by local dance groups and a chalkboard wall where attendees were invited to write their favorite activities.

 

“Meet & Share” offered the opportunity to share personal visions of the public space’s character, programming, meaning and culture; games and activities were the focus of “Plan & Play.”

 

Both Paraschiv and Andrews couldn’t be more pleased with the process and its outcome.

 

“This was a grassroots effort to design and construct an otherwise empty lot. The idea is to try to bring it to the people who will use the space and then have it designed to fit those needs,” said Paraschiv,

 

“One thing we learned during placemaking is what a powerful tool the community and the municipality has with this process under the right direction,” Andrew said.

 

At the fourth meeting on June 14, approximately 200 residents local food and the opportunity to review and comment on the final two design options, one straight and one curvy.

 

By a margin of 70 to 18, the curvy plan was the overwhelming favorite.

 

cba_2-options

Participants chose the “curvy” plan at right over the straight plan at left by a          70 to 18 margin.

 

 

The final collective schematic plan shows a balance green space and paved surfaces with an amphitheater-like area, lawn with shade, a multi-use stage and a variety of areas for meetings, play and chance encounters.

 

Some of the possible green space uses include botanical gardens and a labyrinth that could double as a space for group exercise and a small skating rink in the winter.

 

“It’s hard to believe that just five weeks ago we had our first listening session with ‘Dance & Design,’” said Paraschiv.

 

CBA Landscape Architects is continuing the design work and developing cost estimates. Permitting is underway and the City expects to have documents ready for late August, according to Winn.

 

Because the lot is the site of October’s Derby Street Carnival, construction could not begin before November.

 

In her summary report, Paraschiv credits local support for helping the Community Engagement achieve its three objectives of: designing a schematic plan direction with strong public support; creating simulated events of feasible, actual use; and inspiring local stewardship of some key elements of the park and programming for 289 Derby.

 

“This permanent park design is a collaborative collection process by the people who came to the meetings and the architects,” Paraschiv said with obvious pride.

 

Andrews believes that those vested in the 289 Derby collaborative process might likewise influence the larger long-term project of creating a connection between downtown Salem and the waterfront.

 

“One thing is certain,” added Andrews, “It really drives home the emphasis on making a harbor walk a feasible and existing part of Salem’s future.”

 

For more information, visit salempublicspaceproject.com and CreativeSalem.com/289Derby.

 

JCCNS Inclusion Camp champions diversity

Shelley A. Sackett, Journal correspondent

 

Campers on bball court 04

 

 

When Marty Schneer arrived in Marblehead in 2013 to take over as executive director of the JCCNS, one of the first people he met was Marcy Yellin, whose 32-year-old son, Jacob, has special needs and was employed at the JCCNS.

 

She told Schneer that the community lacked an inclusion camp. He asked her what she would like to see. Within months, Schneer formed a committee with Yellin and a few others, including Special Education teacher Melissa Caplan. By the following summer, the JCCNS Inclusion Camp was up and running with 20 campers and Caplan at the helm as director.

 

This year the Inclusion Camp has 40 campers, a staff of 25, and a long waiting list. Specially trained staff work with children to integrate them into Kindercamp, Simchah classic camps and the Simchah CIT program.

 

There are no criteria for admission. “We take inclusion pretty seriously, so how could we make criteria that excludes some?” Caplan asked. The only reason a camper might not receive support is if that individual already tried camp and the staff knows it is unable to keep that child of their peers safe.

 

Screenshot_2016-07-01-11-19-31-1

 

Special needs campers participate in the same activities as their chronological peers, including aquatics and sports. “The goal of the camp is not only to provide services to a population who until now was not included, but also to break down the boundaries that often exist when people are not exposed to differences at an early age,” Caplan said.

 

Campers range in age from 2.9 months to teenagers. Staff includes teens and young adults who themselves have disabilities, filling an additional community need. “These individuals come to work and receive a paycheck just like their non-disabled peers,” Caplan said.

 

Inclusion campers and staff cope with a variety of disabilities that include developmental delays, intellectual impairments, autism, cerebral palsy, blindness, social/emotional disabilities, muscular dystrophy, down syndrome, seizure disorder and many more.

 

Most require on-on-one aids, which is expensive, and which is covered partially through private donations and organized fundraising. “We pride ourselves that the cost to attend camp is the same for all, whether you need a one-on-one aid or not,” Schneer said. “The underlying philosophical approach is that this is good for entire community of campers.”

 

“Marty believes in the need to support a neuro-diverse population, even though it costs the JCCNS a great deal,” Caplan added.

 

The term “neuro-diverse” means normal, natural variation in human cognition. It embodies the idea that those who are non-neuro typical can live their lives as they are with accommodations and modifications instead of being forced to conform to “normal.”

 

Caplan’s educational background includes a bachelor’s degree in multiple disabilities and a Masters degree in Early Intervention. She has worked in Roxbury, Newton and Marblehead and currently teaches special education at the Clarke School in Swampscott. “I believe wholeheartedly in the spirit of inclusion. It is a passion of mine,” she said.

 

During the rest of the year, the JCCNS runs adaptive/inclusion programs. Caplan works “very part time” in the year-round Inclusion Program, which last year added inclusive basketball and lacrosse clinics, Sunday family drumming circle and an IEP (individual educational program) support clinic for families. The program already has adaptive swim and gym programs.

 

Next year, Caplan would love to expand the sports clinics and start a lacrosse league and a Special Olympics swim team. “We have tons of great ideas and committed staff and eager participants. The only setback is funding,” she said.

 

In the meantime, Yellin sees the fruits of her vision every Friday as she walks down the hill to the JCCNS where she plays music. “I see wheelchairs amongst kids playing and all kinds of people in one space. It’s a beautiful sight,” she said.

Walnut Street Shul Preserves the Future

Rabbi Kagedan proudly stands at the Walnut Street Synagogue bimah.

Unbeknown to the ten Chelsea families who founded the Orthodox Congregation Agudath Shalom in 1897, they had erected their synagogue in a city that in their lifetimes would become home to the largest percentage of Jews of any other city in the United States except New York.

 

In 1890, 82 Jews lived in Chelsea; by 1910, that number swelled to 11,000, one of every three residents. By 1930, almost half of Chelsea was Jewish, earning it the moniker, “Yerushalayim d’America.” If it seemed like there was a synagogue on almost every corner, that’s because there was: in its 1.8 square miles, Chelsea housed 18 synagogues.

 

When tragedy struck and the Great Chelsea Fire of 1908 reduced most of the city, including Agudath Shalom, to ashes, the shul’s immigrant founders were undaunted. They rolled up their sleeves and in 1909 rebuilt the synagogue on Walnut Street, which inspired the new building’s nickname, the Walnut Street Shul.

 

Designed by architect Harry Justin Joll, the magnificent building boasts ceiling frescoes painted by immigrant artists and an awe-inspiring ark by Sam Katz, the renowned master woodworker from the Ukraine who made Chelsea his home in the 1920’s.

 

Fast forward to 2017, and most everything about Chelsea has changed.

 

Gone are the kosher butchers, bakeries and religious and cultural institutions. Yiddish and Hebrew have been replaced by the mother tongues of recent immigrants from Central America, Asia, Southeast Asia and the Caribbean. According to the most recent Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies survey, Chelsea’s Jewish population has shrunk to statistical insignificance.

 

Of the 18 synagogues, two remain: Temple Emmanuel and the Walnut Street Synagogue.

 

RabbiArk2

 

The Walnut Street Synagogues’s congregants are determined to revitalize their synagogue and, while they’re at it, to blaze a new trail for Orthodox Judaism. Last September, they hired Rabbi Lila Kagedan, the first female clergy member in the United States to preside in an Orthodox synagogue using the title “Rabbi.”

 

Within the world of Orthodox Jewry, this is a big deal.

 

Rabbi Kagedan attended Yeshivat Maharat, the Orthodox women’s religious training program founded by Rabbi Avi Weiss in the Bronx, New York. Because rabbi is a masculine word, Rabbi Weiss allows his graduates to adopt whatever title they want.

 

Some choose rabba (a feminized version of rabbi) or maharat (a Hebrew acronym Rabbi Weiss invented that translates as female leader in Torah, spirituality and religious law). When Rabbi Kagedan and her two female classmates graduated in 2015, she alone chose the title rabbi.

 

“It was the title that most accurately described the work that I trained to do. Like calling a doctor ‘Doctor,’” she said. “People did try to discourage me because it hasn’t been a typical choice in Orthodoxy, but I always wanted to serve the community and use my training and knowledge to support the Jewish community with pastoral and halachik needs.”

 

The Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), which represents over a thousand Orthodox rabbis across the United States, saw the matter differently. It adopted a policy in the fall after Rabbi Kagedan’s graduation prohibiting the ordination or hiring of women rabbis.

 

 

“Should it be allowed? Who’s going to make it illegal?” asked Jonathan Sarna, the prominent author, historian and Brandeis University professor who has written extensively about American Judaism. “In America, the congregants make their own decisions. We don’t have a Chief Rabbi. We don’t have a Ministry of Religion. Every congregation is, in a sense, a law unto itself,” he said by phone from Jerusalem.

 

None of these religious politics mattered to Board Secretary Richard Zabot, whose grandparents arrived in Chelsea in 1905 from Russia and helped found the Walnut Street Synagogue. In Rabbi Kagedan, he saw a perfect fit. “She showed a willingness to work with the unknown in order to achieve our goal: the rejuvenation of our synagogue,” he said.

 

Fellow Board member Eddie Medros, who grew up in Chelsea in the 1950s and attended the Elm Street Synagogue, agrees. “She is infectious with her drive and enthusiasm. She brings warmth, passion, inclusiveness and a love of Judaism,” he said, noting she has already reached out to the local community in a meaningful way.

 

The attraction was mutual. “The shul presents a challenge, which I am always up for. I also feel committed to keeping a shul that has existed for so many years going. Continuity is powerful,” she said.

 

Devra Zabot, Richard’s daughter and events chair of the shul’s museum, described the extensive vetting process Rabbi Kagedan received before the synagogue board offered the ultimate vote of confidence. “Given that the board members are all over the age of 70 and mostly male, this was a heavily discussed decision,” she said.

 

In the ten months she has been at the spiritual helm, Rabbi Kagedan has been busy learning the ropes and making connections with the greater Jewish and local Chelsea communities. Almost immediately upon arrival, she led the High Holiday services and organized a Chanukah celebration with a klezmer band that attracted over 150 people, including Zahava Stern, a new young member.

 

“I met a lot of people who grew up in Chelsea and were bar or bat mitzvah-ed in this shul, but have since moved out to Sharon or Brookline. They were so excited to come back and see an active community in a place they hold so dear to their heart,” she said.

 

Stern also noted that Chelsea’s location attracts families from the North Shore, East Boston, Cambridge and Somerville. “It’s a secret gem right in the middle of the action,” she said.

 

The Walnut Street Synagogue offers monthly Shabbat and holiday services, classes on a variety of Jewish topics and holidays, and pastoral counseling and services. Rabbi Kagedan is the founding member of the Chelsea Interfaith Council and has met with the City Manager and other non-profit organizations about partnerships and integrating the shul with the Chelsea community.

 

The shul is supported by its board and members and by the Chelsea community at large, including citizens, city councilors and non-profit organizations. There are 120 members, and it operates as a fully Orthodox shul, with a mechitza on Shabbat and during high holidays services. The Jewish Chelsea Home generously opens its doors to the Rabbi and her family and guests to stay over on Shabbat.

 

Somehow, Rabbi Kagedan also finds time to serve on several professional and religious boards. “My peers have been largely supportive and open. Once people meet me and get to know me and see or experience the work I am doing, there is less anxiety and hype about being a woman Orthodox rabbi and people see me as just simply an Orthodox rabbi,” she said.

 

For now, Chelsea and the Walnut Street Synagogue are her prime focus. “Chelsea was at one time a real center of Jewish life in the region. My priority is to get Chelsea back on the radar of Jews in Massachusetts and to let people know the Walnut Street Synagogue is operational,” she said.

 

This is music to Richard Zabot’s ears. He remembers as a child when all 1,109 seats would be occupied during the High Holidays. “The shul hasn’t lost any of its charm or awe. We’re inviting 900 new people to join us this Yom Tov and be part of the preservation of the future,” he said.

North Shore Jews Pray with their Feet in Salem’s Pride Parade

 

By Shelley A. Sackett, Journal correspondent

 

Laura-Jillian

(L-R): Laura Shulman Bronstein and Rabbi Jillian Cameron with their “totes gay” tote bags.

 

The sixth annual North Shore Pride Parade and Festival will wind its way through Salem on Saturday, June 24, and for the first time, there will be an official Jewish North Shore group participating.

 

Even though the parade takes place on Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest on which observant Jews refrain from various forms of labor, 30 people have committed to marching under a banner that identifies the group as “Jew(ish) Tribe for Pride” and includes the logos of its sponsors, InterfaithFamily and Cohen Hillel Academy. 40 more have expressed interest.

 

It all started at last year’s parade, in which Laura Shulman Brochstein, Rabbi Jillian Cameron and Liz Polay-Wettengel marched with their families. They were chatting on Salem Common, where the parade ends, lamenting the lack visibility from the Jewish community, despite what they knew to be a welcoming Jewish community for LGBT individuals and families.

 

They figured the likely reason was that the event took place on Shabbat.

 

Liz with Sign

​Liz Polay-Wettengel holds an equality sign at last year’s North Shore Pride Parade.​

 

“Because of our collective professional experience working for Jewish organizations over the years, we knew that for many, this was the barrier for participation,” said Polay-Wettengel, who lives in Salem and is National Director of Marketing and Communications at InterfaithFamily.

 

Brochstein is a social worker from Marblehead and the North Shore Outreach Manager for Jewish Family and Children’s Service; Rabbi Jillian Cameron, of Salem, is the director of InterfaithFamily/Boston.

 

“We thought, ‘What if we marched as individuals and not as an organization?’” Polay-Wettengel continued. Over lunch one day, the three decided that, as Jews in the North Shore community, they wanted their LGBTQ friends to know that the Jewish community supported them.

 

The three women organized an independent Jewish group, called Jew(ish) Tribe for Pride, creating an opportunity for North Shore Jews to march together, regardless of institutional or rabbinical support or opinions.

 

As a Jew, a rabbi and a member of the LGBT community, Rabbi Cameron can’t think of a better way to spend Shabbat on June 24 than marching with her North Shore community. “For me, this is a sacred act, an act of prayer, a way to seek out greater connection with my fellow human beings and with God,” she said.

 

Although Beverly’s Temple B’nai Abraham members will participate in the Pride Parade for the third consecutive year, they march with the Beverly Multi-faith Coalition. After their Shabbat morning services in the TBA chapel have ended, “We will pray with our feet (as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel described his experience marching for civil rights),” said TBA’s Rabbi Alison Adler.

 

“ I don’t see walking in a parade in support of equality and inclusion as a violation of Shabbat – just the opposite,” she said. “Shabbat is supposed to give us a taste of the kind of world we want our children and grandchildren to inherit, a world of equality, free of hatred. I am thrilled that there will be more of a Jewish presence this year under the Tribe for Pride banner.”

 

Rabbi Adler was instrumental in getting the North Shore Pride Board to change the night of the interfaith service preceding the march from Friday to Thursday. As a result, most North Shore rabbis and cantors will attend this year, leading a song together as part of the service.

 

Rabbi Michael Ragozin, of Conservative Congregation Shirat Hayam in Swampscott, applauds Rabbi Adler’s success and will attend and publicize the Thursday night event. However, he cannot do the same for Saturday’s parade.

 

“Shabbat and support for the LGBTQ community are two values that I hold dearly. Unfortunately, the North Shore Pride parade conflicts with Shabbat, and I will not publicize events that conflict with Shabbat,” he explained.

 

Rabbi David Meyer of Marblehead’s Reform Temple Emanu-el supports any of his congregants who wish to attend and participate in the parade, although he thinks it would be in poor judgment to have the Temple play an official role in a secular event that takes place on Shabbat.

 

“Although certainly not a traditional approach to Shabbat observance, sharing in the work of increasing civil rights, justice and peace in our community, nation and world is very much in keeping with Reform Jewish principles,” he said.

 

Rabbi Cameron welcomes everyone to march under the new Jew(ish) Tribe for Pride banner. “In life, there aren’t many parades, aren’t that many times we get the opportunity to show up and physically express the things which are important, which makes us who we are,” she said.

 

For more information, email northshorejews@gmail.com. or visit salem.org/event/north-shore-pride-parade/. To RSVP, go to bit.ly/NorthShorePride.

PEM hires neuroscientist to enrich visitor experience

Tedi Asher

Dr. Tedi Asher

Groundbreaking initiative first in the museum world

By Shelley A. Sackett, correspondent

 

By his own admission, Dan Monroe is “afflicted with intense curiosity.” The Peabody Essex Museum executive director and CEO relaxes by intensely investigating fields unrelated to art and appreciation, such as quantum physics.

 

A few years ago, neuroscience caught his attention. After reading roughly 150 books and publications, it became clear to him that neuroscience has a direct role to play at PEM.

 

“What we essentially do is to create experiences of art and culture. We call them exhibitions and programs, but we are really creating experiences,” he said.

 

Since research shows that all experiences are created in our brains, he reasoned, if PEM wanted to remain at the forefront of designing meaningful, relevant and impactful art experiences, it would be a good idea to better understand how brains work.

 

Essentially, he thought that by getting inside visitors’ heads and figuring out how they felt, how they saw, what caught their attention and what they remembered, PEM could enrich their visits.

 

Plus, it would make the museum a more fun experience.

 

His team began experimenting with this new approach, adding innovative multi-sensorial elements to select exhibits. Professional dancers greeted visitors in the “Rodin: Transforming Sculpture” galleries, their movements and poses reflecting those of the sculptural works. “Asia in Amsterdam” showcased fragrant spices, a soundtrack conveying 17-th century Dutch life, storytelling and striking graphics.

 

The feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

 

“The dancers created a new kind of attention and a new avenue for people to appreciate and see sculpture,” he said, noting that the traditional way museums transmit information — through written labels — is not working. “If people read them at all, they spend an average of 2.5 seconds, even at the oversized introductory panels,” he said. He wanted a more transformative experience for the PEM guest and, based on visitor surveys, so did the public.

 

After the success of the Rodin and Asia shows, Monroe and his team decided to expand their reach. They applied for and received a $130,000 grant from the Barr Foundation, a Boston-based philanthropic organization, to launch the neuroscience initiative and delve deeper into using neuroscience research to enhance the way PEM designs exhibits.

 

The initiative enabled PEM to hire Dr. Tedi Asher, a neuroscientist who earned her Ph.D. from Harvard Medical School’s Biological and Biomedical Sciences program 2016, and joined PEM as its full-time Neuroscience Researcher in April. “To our knowledge, this is the first art museum in the world to hire a neuroscientist and put them on staff,” Monroe said.

 

Asher is thrilled with her first job outside the academic arena. “Where else but at art museums can one witness such breadth and depth of emotional experience?” she asked.

 

She was looking for a position that would allow her to creatively communicate neuroscience to non-scientists in a non-traditional teaching environment that would reach beyond academia and benefit the public at large.

 

“I came across PEM’s job ad and it seemed to fit that bill,” she said.

 

Asher’s primary academic focus has been studying emotion, starting as an undergraduate at Swarthmore College, where she studied learning and memory in the common fruit fly. Her doctoral work in neuroscience investigated aggressive behavior in mice.

 

At PEM, she will step out of the laboratory and explore how PEM can enhance and enrich the visitor experience by designing exhibits that will evoke human emotions, thereby leaving lasting impressions.

 

“Teri has a keen interest in using neuroscience to make the world a better place. She’s learning a great deal about art and culture and how museums work at the same time she’s teaching us about neuroscience and how brains work,” Monroe said.

 

Asher’s tasks are threefold. She will investigate how human brains are wired to appreciate art and how that information can be used to design exhibits that resonate on a personal level. She will then work with PEM staff, teaching them basic concepts that are relevant to their work as exhibition and program designers, such as how visual and attention systems work and how they relate to emotion. Finally, she will also pen a small publication to explain the concept behind the neuroscience initiative and its applicability to museums.

 

The skills she honed during schooling — particularly her ability to “mine the literature in an efficient and effective way” — will be key to her position. Specifically, she will be looking at the structure of the visual system and how that influences visual perception, asking questions such as, “What neurostructures allow us to regulate attention? What characterizes how we allocate attention with an experience like a museum visit?”

 

It will be then be up to PEM exhibit designers and staff to translate and incorporate that information into the museum’s installations.

 

The timing of Asher’s hire couldn’t be more perfect. PEM continues to undergo a comprehensive renovation and expansion project, featuring a 40,000 square-foot new wing of galleries, which will open in 2019. At the same time, Monroe explained, PEM is also in the process of refreshing its permanent collections, creating new installations of virtually all of them.

 

“The entire experience at PEM will be new, based on ideas we’re deriving from neuroscience and other fields,” he said. Asher will assist in this overhaul too.

 

Since 2003, PEM has used The Morey Group to measure overall visitor satisfaction through a standardized survey tool used within the museum industry. Among the 80 museums tracked by Morey, PEM is head and shoulders above the rest, ranking number one every year since 2003.

 

“We’ve long been pursuing innovative approaches,” Monroe explained modestly, adding, “but the neuroscience initiative is a distinctive one.”

 

Monroe credits the neuroscience initiative with motivating PEM to shift gears away from written text and towards better and more storytelling. “Stories are the glue that holds us together as social animals. Good stories elicit emotion and emotion is really critical,” he said.

Creating intergenerational bonds the old fashioned way: by writing letters

by Shelley A. Sackett

 

 

Stanley Elementary School fourth grader Drew Hause couldn’t wait to go to school last Wednesday, June 7. Since October, he and 21 other students in Mrs. Sami Lawler’s class have corresponded with pen pals from the Swampscott Senior Center and today was the day they would finally meet them face-to-face.

 

The seniors were just as excited. For many who live far away from their own grandchildren, gaining a peek through the keyhole of a nine-year-old’s life over the course of the school year was a welcome treat during the long slog of the New England winter. Meeting them in person would be icing on the cake.

 

The intergenerational program was started years ago by Marilyn Cassidy as a way to connect seniors and young school children. For the first few years it was at Hadley Elementary School, then Clarke Elementary School, and this year its home base was Stanley.

 

 

Hause and Sackett

Pen pals Drew Hause and Shelley Sackett get ready to try their luck at bingo.

 

 

“The kids loved writing. They poured their heart and soul into their letters and I learned things while I was proofreading with them that I would otherwise not have known,” Lawler said, adding, “It was pretty special.”

 

 

Mello-Lawler-Fray-Kerr-Glynn

Mrs. Ami Lawler (second from left) and fourth grade class mom chaperones at the Swampscott Senior Center pen pal lunch.

 

 

Norma Freedman, of Swampscott, chaired this year’s Senior Center pen pal program. She has had a pen pal for many years, and even wrote to one girl throughout the summer while she was away at camp.

 

“It’s a lot of fun and it’s good for the kids. They know there’s someone in the world besides their immediate family that cares for them,” she said.

 

The biggest challenge for her? “They draw a lot on the envelopes. I’m not an artist and I don’t draw, but I tried to, to keep it interesting for them too.”

 

The students arrived at the Senior Center by van (courtesy of the Senior Center) clutching handmade decorated envelopes, presents and lunch. Their senior pen pals were already there, and squeals of delight filled the lunchroom as hugs, presents and — of course — letters were exchanged.

 

Thomas Mello presented his pen pal, retired social worker Bill Foley, with a last letter in an envelope covered with colorful drawings of his pets, a guinea pig and an aquarium full of fish. Unsurprisingly, his favorite part of the pen pal project was “drawing on the cards.”

 

Mello-Foley-Jaeger-Kerr

From left: Thomas Mello, Bill Foley and Caleb Jaeger-Kerr get to know each other over lunch.

 

 

After lunch, seniors and fourth graders played four rounds of bingo, bonding even more over lessons in frustration and good sportsmanship. Freedman reminisced how her pen pal won one game last year and hugged and kissed her. “He was so happy. It was like I gave him the world,” she said with a smile.

 

Holly Mello, Thomas’s mother and one of the class chaperones, touted the scholastic benefits of teaching kids to communicate the old fashioned way — through letters. “It’s a great way for the kids to have an applied experience to practice their writing during the school year. They have grandparents, but they see and talk to them often on the phone,” she said.

 

Even though he didn’t win at bingo, Drew Hause had a big smile on his face as he hugged his pen pal goodbye and enthusiastically invited her to continue the correspondence after school lets out for the summer.

 

He offered parting words of advice to incoming Stanley fourth grade students. “When you guys are in Mrs. Lawler’s class, and she asks if you want a pen pal, you should say yes. You’ll be so happy because then you’ll meet them and it will be so much fun!”