Salem’s first rooftop bar touts strong drink, simple food and stellar views

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Shelley A. Sackett

Salem has no shortage of special summer attractions and activities.

From recreating at Salem Willows Park and Winter Island to enjoying the Essex Street Fair and Jazz and Soul, Salem Maritime and Salem Arts Festivals, there seems to be something happening every day guaranteed to suit almost every taste and age.

And, as of last month, those who crave a lively seasonal bar with a 360-degree view perched atop a snazzy new downtown hotel can have their specific summertime itch scratched too, with the opening of Salem’s first rooftop bar, aptly and simply named “The Roof.”

Casual high-top tables and plush banquette seating lend the bar a trendy, urban air that suits the slick retro décor of the hotel below. Although The Roof can accommodate 85 guests seated and an additional 150 more standing, its 18-seat rectangular bar fills quickly, especially on balmy, clear summer evenings and weekends.

Offering a casual menu of Mexican small plates and views of downtown Salem (and a sliver of a glimpse of the harbor), The Roof is above Salem’s newest hotel, The Hotel Salem, at 209 Essex Street. Its wood-paneled exterior walls, turquoise and lime green color scheme and live greenery produce the feeling of a hip, vibrant and modern outdoor space.

Glass barricades provide safety without compromising the views and a seasonal heating system will keep patrons toasty as summer fades to fall and Salem’s notoriously busy Halloween season. A retractable awning creates shade over the bar area.

Executive Chef Justin Perdue has created a menu of traditional and composed oysters, ceviche, six taco dishes and three inventive guacamole preparations designed for sharing. Recent standouts include Pork Belly Guacamole, Marinated Flank Steak Tacos with dates, pickled mushrooms and farmer’s cheese, and Roasted Eggplant Tacos.

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The small plates complement The Roof’s cocktail program that boasts three rotating seasonal cocktails on tap, fresh house-made frozen Frosé (frozen rosé), sangria and the usual craft beers and wine by the glass and bottle.

 

So far, the Frosé and various guacamole offerings have been the most popular items. To keep up with the volume, The Roof plans to buy another Frosé machine. As for guacamole, “we can go through 50-60 avocados on a busy day!” Perdue exclaimed.

He admits that managing The Roof’s wait list has been difficult. “During peak times we can have a wait list of almost two hours and hundreds of people. Once people get up there, they are happy and enjoy the atmosphere, but we’re still working to find a balance between turning tables quickly and inviting people to lounge around and relax,” he said. “It’s a fortunate position to be in.”

Nonetheless, Perdue said overall response to the rooftop bar has been strong and positive. “We have been busy since day one. When we opened in June, the amount of people who immediately went out of their way to visit really blew us away,” he said.

Although The Roof has no special events planned for this summer, Perdue said he looks forward to exploring different programs in seasons to come. He also plans to add more tables and chairs to accommodate more guests and “hopefully bring the waitlist down.”

In the meantime, those anxious to check out Salem’s first rooftop bar are advised to come early and bring plenty of patience.

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Texting not allowed — senior and fourth grade pen pals keep alive the old fashioned tradition of writing letters

 

Paul Calsimitto and Bill Hyde, Sr

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

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 fouorth grade teacher Julie O'Brien

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

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 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

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!”

Salem Garden Club celebrates its 90th anniversary

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By Shelley A. Sackett

On January 7, 1928, 20 men and women met at the home of Mr. Wilis H. Ropes. Bound by a love of gardening, the mostly married couples had decided to form the Salem Garden Club, a Salem mainstay that celebrated its longevity on May 20 with a 90th Anniversary Tea and Social at the First Church.

 

Mayor Kim Driscoll was on hand to express Salem’s appreciation. “It was an honor to recognize the club’s 90 years of dedicated service beautifying our city, sharing horticultural knowledge and providing social enterprise to members young and old,” she posted on her Facebook page.

 

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Co-Presidents Meg McMahon and Tracy Rubin at the 90th Anniversary Tea and Social.

On display were artifacts from years gone by, including old program books, photos, certificates of recognition, handwritten thank you notes from the people of Britain for seeds sent in the 1950’s and a slide show of special moments over the last nine decades. “Some members wore hats, which added to the festive atmosphere,” said SGC 2017-2019 Co-president Meg McMahon.

 

Following its 1928 establishment, the club’s first decades of existence were marked by much activity. It joined the Garden Club Federation of Massachusetts in 1929 and participated in the annual spring Flower Show in Boston that same year.

 

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Members Eleanor Soucy, Rosemary Mroz, Mimi Ballou, Jane Koza, and Judy Giunta at the 90th Anniversary Tea and Social held on May 20, 2018.

 

At the suggestion of local architect Philip Horton Smith, members rebuilt the garden at the Brookhouse Home on Derby Street. For a few years in the 1930’s, SGC sponsored a garden contest for children involved in the Salem summer playground program. With cash prizes for the best home gardens, the event was a summer favorite.

 

To celebrate the club’s 10th anniversary in 1938, the ambitious membership sponsored the city’s first garden tour, opening to the public ten gardens on Federal and Chestnut Streets and others along the Salem Common. Called “Open Garden Day,” the event drew over 600 people at $1.00 each, and the club raised enough money to hold its own horticultural show in historic Hamilton Hall on Chestnut Street the next year.

 

The club sponsored a second, smaller garden tour in 1941 to celebrate the opening of the Gardener-Pingree House on Essex Street, designed by Salem architect Samuel McIntire. As one of its missions, SGC had taken on the responsibility for replanting the gardens at this magnificent Federal mansion.

 

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Spring arrangement at the Salem Public Library.

 

Over the next decade, WWII interfered with the club’s many activities, although conservation chairperson Mrs. Willis Ropes advised citizens on how to plant their own war gardens. Never ones to remain idle, members began diaries with interesting facts and entertaining anecdotes about their own gardens. “Old Salem Gardens,” a compilation of these entries, was published in 1946 and remains available for purchase 72 years later.

 

McMahon, who has been a club member since 1999, described the SGC’s early years, when meetings took place in members’ homes. “Some records indicate that there may have been Saturday night meetings and sherry drinking with lovely flower arrangements set up by one’s maid or butler,” she said.

 

Today, with over 100 active, associate, sustaining and honorary members — all women —, the meetings take place in many venues that can accommodate the club’s growing numbers. Tracy Rubin, who has been a SGC member since 2013, is its co-president.

 

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Large group of members after winter planting of urns on Washington Street.

 

Another difference is that membership in SGC is “very hands on. Today’s members dig in their own dirt and enjoy refreshments that the hostess committee provides,” McMahon said. Programs typically include presentations by experts in landscape and floral design, environmental studies, local farming and native plants, among many others. Open to the public, the meetings are held on the first Thursday of the month from September through December and from March through June.

 

Although the style and membership of the club has evolved in the last 90 years, McMahon stressed that its traditions, missions and objectives remain unchanged: the advancement of gardening; the development of home grounds; civic beautification, and aiding in the protection of forests, wild flowers and birds.

 

Committed to the beautification of Salem, the club has worked on the Town House Square, planted shrubs and annuals in Lappin Park, donated and planted trees in Salem Common and maintained the gardens at Brookhouse and Emmerton House.

 

Today, SGC’s civic involvement can be spotted in the celebrated large urns on Washington Street, the City Hall window boxes, and the Blue Star Marker on Hawthorne Boulevard. The club also provides monthly floral arrangements to the Salem Public Library and helps judge the window box and traffic island contest during Heritage Days. Each year, one lucky qualifying student receives a generous $1,000 scholarship, courtesy of club members.

 

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Blue Star Memorial Marker on Hawthorne Boulevard honoring all Veterans.

 

The club is hardly idle during the winter months. Since the Christmas House Tour began in 1984, SGC members have participated by decorating one of the homes in the annual event. Starting in 1999, the club expanded its involvement to include the Christmas Boutique, where members sell handmade wreaths, swags, boxwood trees and arrangements to raise funds for its activities.

 

In 2017, the club’s biennial Garden Stroll, which highlights gardens in different neighborhoods, featured 15 private gardens in the McIntire District. The club is already busy planning its 2019 Garden Stroll.

 

McMahon has enjoyed her almost 20 years of SGC membership, with its monthly meetings where she has learned much from the many presenters and from fellow members. “Most of all, I’ve loved being a part of a dynamic organization and having the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people,” she said.

 

For more information, visit salemgardenclub.com or its Facebook page.

In Salem, NSCDC, United Way forge ‘win-win’ partnership

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North Shore Community Development Coalition redeveloped the Congress Street residences, an 8-building 64-unit complex, after buying the property in 2014.

 

By Shelley A. Sackett

The North Shore Community Development Coalition will host an evening on June 6 to spotlight the local impact the Community Investment Tax Credit (CITC) is having in Salem, where the funds have created affordable housing, neighborhood development, vital community services and vibrant urban mural art.

United Way of Massachusetts Bay and its partner, FHLBank Boston, are co-sponsoring the event to show investors how they have helped revitalize the North Shore community.

“We thought a donor appreciation event would be of interest to ‘spread the news’ while showing off the wonderful work they do with a walking tour,” said Senior Executive Director of the North Shore Region Bill Weihs.

This is the first North Shore CDC partnership with United Way to help market its Community Investment Tax Credits, and Weihs thinks it’s a win-win association.

“It was tremendously attractive to the donors that I cultivate and steward throughout the North Shore, since they want their donations to remain local. In previous years, they only had Boston-based CDCs to chose from,” he said.

United Way partners with a couple of dozen CDCs throughout the eastern MA region to administer a CITC strategy as they try to sell their tax credits to individual investors.

NSCDC could do this itself, but Weihs explained many CDCS choose to go through an agency like United Way because “often they are not selling out their credits. They are looking for another way to market these excess credits.”

Like most CDCs, the North Shore CDC has a particular niche — youth homelessness and vibrant urban mural art — that Weihs called “particularly unique. I don’t know of that many CDCs that focus on youth homelessness,” he said.

NSCDC Chief Executive Officer Mickey Northcutt said the nonprofit concentrates primarily on housing development projects that will have a “triple-bottom-line impact” — they create meaningful affordable housing units; they create highly sustainable, cutting-edge energy efficient housing which serves as a model for sustainable development, and they have a transformative economic development impact on the neighborhood in which they are located.

One example of a finished project is the Congress Street Residences, an 8-building, 64-unit Salem development. NSCDC acquired the buildings in 2014 because they were “some of the most distressed assets in the city. People were living in unsafe conditions,” Northcutt said.

After a $26 million rehab, the space has turned around for tenants and neighbors and includes a sculpture garden on Dow Street and a 2,000 square foot community center, called Espacio, on Congress Street.

Another finished project is Harbor & Lafayette Homes, a 2-building 100 percent affordable Salem development project that will be completed in early 2019. Of the 27 units, 16 will be prioritized for formerly homeless young people aged 16-24.

“They will have access to many services to help them with job training, support services, etc. to help them get back on track,” said Machel Piper, NSCDC director of development.

That project will have a live-in manager and additional case management services as well as a public art installation.

Future projects which have already been designed and permitted and await funding are The Lighthouse, a 2-building 46-unit mixed-income new construction in Salem, and Harbor Village, a 30-unit mixed-use 100 percent affordable project on Main Street in downtown Gloucester. This will revitalize a long-closed, blighted commercial property and when completed, will reconnect Gloucester’s west and east ends.

“We work only in low-income neighborhoods throughout our footprint on the North Shore, choosing environmentally challenged and distressed properties that are in dire need of renovation,” said Piper. “Many times this is a property that, once renovated, has the capacity to completely revitalize an area that will, in turn, transform a neighborhood.”

Both Northcutt and Piper point to CITCs, passed by MA in 2015, as helping NSCDC tap into the fundraising world and enabling it to become a strong partner with United Way and its excellent fundraising capacity. “We both have the mission that whatever is raised locally, stays local,” said Piper.

For more information or to attend, contact Bill Weihs at bweihs@supportunitedway.org or call 978-922-3966 x2005.

Davening to a different drummer: Meet Cantor Alty Weinreb

 

Aty Weinreb1

 

By Shelley A. Sackett

 

When Alty Weinreb answered the ad Congregation Shirat Hayam placed for a new cantor, it was because he was attracted to its name. “I love music (shirat) and the ocean (hayam), so I thought it might be interesting,” he said from his New York City home. After he experienced Shirat’s Shabbat Renewal Service during a weekend at the Swampscott synagogue as one of three candidates invited for live auditions, he was convinced it was more than an attraction to a name that led him to the Swampcott synagogue — it was bashert (meant to be).

It all goes back to Weinreb’s childhood. Raised in a very observant Flushing, New York Orthodox home, he would wait all week to go to shul (synagogue) to hear the cantor sing. “His voice became my refuge and inspiration,” he explained.

 

In addition to attending services, his family would head back to shul on Friday evenings after prayers and dinner for a group sing-along called Oneg Shabbos (Joy of Shabbos). “Here I was, a child surrounded by mostly grown men singing with full-throated joy and deep feeling. When everyone sang together, I was transported to a magical place,” he said.

 

Shirat’s Shabbat Renewal services, where congregants are invited to enter a meditative spiritual place through prayer and music, brought Weinreb back to those magical moments of his youth. It also reminded him of a funny story.

 

One Shabbat, he remembers the cantor was “wailing from his soul and it flew into my soul. I became lost in a davening (praying) ocean, swimming in deep waters, transfixed,” he said. Without thinking, he began hand drumming on the table in front of him.

 

Alty Weinreb2

 

His beat was getting louder and louder. Suddenly, the cantor stopped singing. “Then the Rabbi turned around and looked at me and screamed, ‘Alty, STOP! There’s no drumming in shul, young man. You are in a lot of trouble,” Weinreb continued.

 

He was mortified, but did not understand what the problem was. Fast forward to the adult Alty, recently walking into Shirat for the first time and seeing a collection of drums next to the bima (Torah ark). “Then the Rabbi invited me to play the drums during prayers,” he said, pausing for dramatic effect. “Hallelujah! Poetic justice!”

 

Weinreb began his cantorial studies because he loves Jewish prayer music. “It makes me feel alive when I sing it. It allows me to connect with people of all ages and maybe inspire in others what I first felt as a child,” he said. He holds a BA from St. Louis Rabbinical College and studied at Yeshiva University Belz School of Jewish Music in New York, where he trained in both the Ashkenazi and Sephardic traditions.

 

“I started out taking Ashkenazi cantor training and then fell in love with the Sephardic melodies,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to have studied with two of the greatest living cantors — Cantor Joseph Malovany (Ashkenazi) and Hazzan Moshe Tessone (Sephardic).”

 

Since 2000, Weinreb has been a cantor during High Holidays and at nursing homes and hospitals. He has also taught drum and percussion and performed with a number of musical groups, including the Judeo Flamenco group, the Simcha All Stars Klezmer Band and the Cuban Jewish All Star Klezmer Band.

 

Shirat is his first residential synagogue cantor position. Weinreb feels it is the right time in his life to contribute to building a community, especially one that is such a perfect fit. “I love Shirat’s desire to rethink basic assumptions about ritual and spiritual practice,” he said. “I hope to continue on the great path that Cantor Elana Rozenfeld blazed” during her seven years at Shirat.

 

He also hopes to add some new items to Shirat’s Shabbat Synaplex™ menu, such as “Storahtelling,” a Torah service that creatively fuses traditional chanting with English translation, dramatized commentary and audience interaction that brings text to life. “I have been energized by Storahtelling,” he said.

 

Although he counts among his “most fun gigs” playing drums for Shlomo Carlebach at a Purim show and performing with his Judeo Flamenco group for 1,000 singing and dancing concertgoers at NYC’s World Music Pier 70 Concert Series, he is excited to settle into his new apartment in Salem with his wife, Elizabeth, and begin his new job on July 1.

 

So is Shirat Board President Renée Sidman. “I cannot wait to see what he will bring on a weekly basis!” she said.

 

To listen to some of Cantor Alty Weinreb’s music, visit cantoraltyshul.com/about/

Rare genetic mutation sends family on an unexpected journey

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Luke Heller proudly shows a drawing to his speech therapist, Jessica Brown. / Photos by Shelley A. Sackett

 

By Shelley A. Sackett

SWAMPSCOTT—Jody and Noah Heller brought their newborn son, Luke, home to Swampscott in December 2013. Although he was a “sweet baby with an infectious laugh,” by nine months they noticed he was not hitting the same developmental milestones his older sister Lucy had by that age.

 

The Hellers knew something was off. Luke wasn’t able to sit up independently or crawl and never tried to put anything to his mouth. “If you picked him up, his body felt a little floppy,” Jody said.

 

Their pediatrician said Luke had low muscle tone and recommended an early intervention program. He also sent them to a neurologist. “Kids his age usually put everything in their mouths,” Jody said. “He was concerned.”

 

Luke began receiving physical, occupational and developmental services at Aspire Early Intervention in Lynn, but as he got older there were more delays.

 

He didn’t crawl until he was18 months and didn’t walk until he was 2. No one really knew what was wrong. His diagnosis was the umbrella term “globally delayed.”

 

Later, Luke was diagnosed with apraxia of speech, a condition where the brain has difficulty sending signals to the mouth to create speech. Luke knew what he wanted to say, but he didn’t know how to form the words to say it.

 

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Luke, Noah and Jody Heller at their Swampscott home.

 

The Hellers were determined to dig deeper, and visited the Genetics Department at Boston Children’s Hospital. Genetic tests in 2015, when Luke was 18 months old, were inconclusive, but the doctors urged them to keep trying. “They said, ‘we’re learning so much about genetics every day,’ and recommended we come back in two years,” Jody said.

 

When Luke turned 3 and aged out of Aspire, the Hellers enrolled him at Northeast Arc, a not-for-profit organization that helps children and adults with disabilities. It was perfect timing, because Luke would often get frustrated at not being able to express himself, which was causing behavior issues.

 

Through Northeast Arc, behavioral and speech therapists work with Luke at his home. Jessica Brown, his speech and language pathologist, also goes to Luke’s Chabad pre-school with him, where she helps him use a special iPad speech device that gives Luke a voice he otherwise doesn’t have, enabling him to “talk” to his classmates.

 

“Northeast Arc allows us to communicate with our son. He has made so much progress,” Noah said.

 

Still, the Hellers wanted to do more than just treat Luke’s symptoms—they wanted to know what was causing all these delays. Last July, they returned to Boston Children’s Hospital, ready for Luke to take a genetic sequencing test that identifies every protein-coding gene in the body.

 

This time, just before Luke turned 4 years old, they received definitive information. “The geneticists told us that he had a mutation on the TECPR2 gene, but that there wasn’t a lot of information on the disease. It was extremely rare,” Noah said. Only eight children in the world had the same mutation, most of them living in Israel, where the mutation was first discovered in 2012 by an Israeli neurologist.

 

Both Jody and Noah, who are of Ashkenazi descent, tested negative for the Ashkenazi Panel screening test, which assesses the risk of having a child with any of 11 disorders, including Tay-Sachs disease. TECPR2 is not on the panel, but can be prenatally tested by request.

 

The Hellers asked for the Israeli doctor’s name and contacted her immediately. “That started a whole new journey for us,” Jody said.

 

The Hellers hope to get the TECPR2 mutation added to the Ashkenazi Panel in the near future. Jody started a Facebook page for TECPR2 families, and several families are now following the page and sharing stories.

 

“There are definitely others with this genetic syndrome out there, but they have been misdiagnosed as something else,” Jody said. “That’s why we’re really trying to bring awareness to this newly discovered syndrome.”

 

The Hellers and their families are also attacking the disease on the medical front. They started the Luke Heller TECPR2 Foundation, a privately funded entity with the goal of finding a cure for Luke’s mutation. The Boston-based foundation has enlisted scientists from around the globe.

 

In the meantime, Luke continues to work hard and to charm those he encounters with a quick hug and a ready smile. “Luke is smart and determined. We are so grateful to the Northeast Arc,” Jody said.

 

Noah acknowledges that reconciling what happened to Luke has not been easy. “We have a strong, loving family that has really helped us. Jody has done a lot of work to keep our family together and everybody happy. She is the center and strength of our family,” he said.

 

Filmmakers plan to bring Mass Hysteria to Salem

 

Mass Hysteria Still 2

By Shelley A. Sackett

Salem residents are used to mass hysteria in their seaside city during the month-long Halloween season, but a group of local filmmakers plan to extend the spell into the summer months when they begin shooting their comedy-thriller, “Mass Hysteria,” on the streets of Salem.

 

Set over the course of Halloween Eve, the films centers around a group of historical re-enactors who are falsely accused of witchcraft when a tourist dies on Halloween Night in Salem. The wrongly accused heroes flee as another tourist dies, then another…making it clear this is not just a random accident.

 

“Halloween in Salem is an experience of a lifetime, and we wanted to recreate a modern witch hunt surrounding this annual event. The majority of tourists come to Salem in October with no idea of what actually happened in 1692. Our goal is to make a thriller/comedy that is truthful and entertaining, but also shares the dangers of the effects of a modern-day witch hunt,” said Matt Peruse, producer of First-Names Films.

 

Mass Hysteria Still 1

Production stills from the test shoot for “Mass Hysteria,” shot on-location in Salem last October. Pictured from left: Matt Perusse and co-director/producer Jeffrey Ryan.

 

The film is set to begin production on the North Shore as early as mid-July and wrap by mid-August. The cast has not been disclosed, but Perusse promises “a great ensemble of new and veteran actors.”

 

Co-directed by First-Names producer Arielle Cimino, “Mass Hysteria” unites three former Salem residents on a project dear to their hearts. “We love the juxtaposition of Salem’s rich, historical past colliding with the reality of today’s Salem through the conduit of the millions of visitors to the city each year,” said First-Names Films co-director and producer Jeffrey Ryan in a statement.

 

First-Name Films started as an idea to create a production company that would operate as a collective of like-minded producers who strive to create independent films on a regular basis. “We aim to involve the communities around us in order to help these smaller films reach a massive audience,” Perusse said.

 

Cimino, Perusse and Ryan collaborated on “YouthMin,” First-Names Film’s last feature film, which was produced in Beverly and won the Boston Independent Film Festival’s Audience Award. The film pre-premiered at CinemaSalem to a nearly sold-out audience. With “Mass Hysteria,” the producing team aims to once again engage the town in production of the Halloween comedy/thriller through community involvement and corporate sponsorship.

 

Cimino and Ryan first met at college, where they performed together on the improv comedy team. “We discovered through improv that we not only had similar goals for our film careers, but also a strikingly similar sense of humor that would lend itself to writing and creating comedies together,” Cimino said. After graduation, they started working together on short films and TV pilots to gain experience for their eventual goal of producing and directing independent feature-length films.

 

Perusse met Ryan after returning to Massachusetts a few years after working for a time in Los Angeles as an actor. A mutual professor introduced them with the purpose of discussing how to be a working actor in New England. The two struck up a friendship, which led to an eventual collaborative relationship. “YouthMin” was their first feature-length film.

 

As filmmakers, the three share a common goal of engaging, inspiring and entertaining their audience. With “Mass Hysteria,” they aim to take the audience on a thrilling and comical journey through one of the most exciting nights of the year — Halloween in Salem. “As a result, our audiences will not only appreciate Salem’s rich historical past, but also gain an appreciation for Salem’s standing as a modern, creative and vibrant 21st century city,” said Perusse.

 

For more information, visit firstnamesfilms.com

Swampscott’s Zabar to be honored by Northeast-Arc on May 3

 

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Larry Zabar is the honoree at the Northeast-Arc’s May 3 fundraising event.

 

By Shelley A. Sackett

On Thursday, May 3, the Seaport Hotel in Boston will be transformed into a local star-studded runway as the Northeast Arc hosts its signature fundraising event, “An Evening of Changing Lives.” Emceed by Kim Carrigan, longtime Northeast Arc advocate and host of “The Boston Morning Show” on WRKO-AM, the evening also honors Larry Zabar of Swampscott, Executive Vice President for The New England Council and longtime Northeast Arc supporter.

 

“We are honoring Larry to shine a spotlight on all the remarkable work he has done throughout New England, especially in creating opportunities for people with disabilities,” said Jo Ann Simons, CEO, NE-Arc. She expects over 450 people to attend the event.

 

Zabar serves as a NE-Arc board member, chair of the development committee and vice chair of the advisory board. He is also the longest serving member of The New England Council, the nation’s oldest regional business organization.

 

“Receiving this award allows me to shine a spotlight on, and hopefully raise funds to support, an organization and a group of employees who really deserve this recognition. No one works at the NE-Arc because it’s easy and no one works there to get rich. They work there because of the importance of the mission, the value of giving back, and the difference they can and do make every day in the lives of people with disabilities,” Zabar said.

 

The NE-Arc is a not-for-profit organization that helps children and adults with, or at risk for developing, disabilities become full participants in the community.

 

The evening also features a fashion show spotlighting local celebrities, dignitaries, and business leaders who will be paired with individuals whose lives are changed as a result of the community’s support of the NE-Arc’s services.

 

“This is not a typical fashion show,” Simons explained. “It’s about our mission, and the fashion show and clothes are the vehicle to demonstrate how we change lives.”

 

The show will feature 12 models that represent the entire range of NE-Arc services, including early intervention, family support, employment and residential services. These families who receive NE-Arc services will be paired with local notables, such as Boston Globe Journal Editor Doug Banks and Dan Cahill, Representative for the 10th Essex district.

 

Among those walking on the runway will be the Heller family, whose son Luke has been diagnosed with a rare genetic mutation.

 

“NE-Arc has done so much for Luke and our family. The runway event is an opportunity to say thank you and to raise money and awareness in the community, because NE-Arc is so important to many families like ours,” said Jody Heller, Luke’s mom. Luke started with NE-Arc’s specialty early intervention program, Building Blocks, and now receives services through its Applied Behavioral Analysis program.

 

“The Arc has been life-changing for us,” Heller said.

 

“The Hellers are a remarkable extended family who represent part of the village that it takes to raise a child who has additional needs,” Simons said.

 

Shirley Leung of the Boston Globe, who served as a judge for last fall’s ArcTank competition, will model with her 5-year-old son. who has autism.

 

“Each pair has a story that is inspiring and helps represent the 10,000 lives we change every day,” Simons said.

 

Honoree Zabar humbly added, “This award is not about me. So many businesses in the New England Council support organizations like NE-Arc. The common thread is we all see value in what they and other groups do to make lives better.”

 

For more information or to buy tickets, visit https://ne-arc.ejoinme.org/MyEvents/AnEveningofChangingLives2018/tabid/940603/Default.aspx or contact Paula Vrattos at (978) 624-3080 or pvrattos@ne-arc.org.

 

Lights, camera, action! JCC film festival screens in Marblehead, Salem

 

 

 

APRIL 26, 2018, MARBLEHEAD – Film fans on the North Shore who love Jewish movies but don’t love driving over bridges or through tunnels to see them are in for a treat.

From Tuesday, May 8, to Friday, May 18, the fifth annual JCC of the North Shore International Jewish Film Festival will bring 12 award-winning films to theaters in Marblehead and Salem. With a range in genre from historical fiction and documentaries to mystery, comedy, and drama, the 2018 lineup has something to satisfy every taste.

The 21 members of the Film Committee and co-chairs Izzi Abrams and Sara Winer selected films that showcase Jewish- and Israeli-themed topics. None of the films have been previously shown locally and half include post-screening speakers.

The 2018 festival includes two unique Israeli films, one for mature audiences (“The Cakemaker”) and one dealing with an international problem that affects all combat veterans (“When the Smoke Clears”).

Films will be screened at the Warwick Cinema in Marblehead, the Salem Visitor Center and – for the first time ‒ Cinema Salem. Several films will be screened twice, with both evening and matinée offerings.

“This festival is a signature JCCNS event, one that we look forward to bringing to the community each and every year,” Marty Schneer, executive director of the JCCNS and Film Committee member, said in a statement.

Barbara Schneider recalled how the film festival got started. About eight years ago, when she was publisher of the Jewish Journal, the owner of the Gloucester Cinema approached her about collaborating with the Journal. But the timing wasn’t right.

After a brief and loose affiliation with the Boston Jewish Film Festival, the idea lay dormant until Schneer became executive director of the JCCNS in 2012 and revived it.

“Marty was a key motivator,” Schneider said. He started pulling together a group to help organize and plan the film festival. “I said to Marty, ‘If you want this to be successful, you need to get Izzi Abrams,’” Schneider added.

Schneer did just that and Abrams chaired the first festival in 2014 and every one since, sharing the duty for the first time this year. “It really took off. People were very excited,” Schneider said.

“Itzhak” is the Opening Night celebratory screening at the Salem Visitor Center at 7 p.m. on May 8. This inspirational American-made documentary dives below the surface of violinist Itzhak Perlman, disabled polio survivor and masterful musician, to reveal the charming and entrancing essence of the man. Dessert and live music follow the film.

Also noteworthy is “RBG,” a new documentary about the diminutive but fierce legal warrior and Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. At 85, Ginsburg’s unique personal journey has been largely unknown, but the filmmakers shed light on this daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants and her stunning legacy. It will be shown May 10 at 8:15 at Cinema Salem.

Of special local interest is “Etched in Glass,” the remarkable story of concentration camp survivor Steve Ross, who founded the New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston. Mike Ross, Steve’s son, and the film’s director, Roger Lyons, will speak after the screening (May 11 at 2:30 p.m. at the Warwick Cinema).

While several films share roots in the Holocaust, their styles are completely different. In “1945,” (in Hungarian and Russian with English subtitles), an Orthodox man and his grown son are treated with suspicion and fear when they arrive at a small Hungarian village. Similarly, Holocaust researcher uncovers a long-buried secret that casts doubt on his family history in “The Testament” (Austria). “Bye Bye Germany” (Germany) combines upbeat klezmer music and a fresh historical perspective to tell the story of a Holocaust survivor who returns to postwar Frankfurt to strike it rich.

Rounding out the lineup are: “Humor Me,” a father-son comedy starring Elliott Gould and Sam Hoffman; “My Hero Brother” (Israel), an inspirational story about young Israelis with Down syndrome who trek through the Himalayas; and “An Act of Defiance” (South Africa), a riveting historical drama about the fight against apartheid and the lawyer who risked his life to defend them.

“Les Enfants de la Chance,” a coming-of-age drama set in 1942 France and based on a true story, will be shown at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 17, at the Salem Visitors Center. Light refreshments and live music by Jack Skowronski follow the film.

For tickets and more information, call 781-631-8330, or visit jccns.org.

Swampscott celebrates little known Harold King Forest on May 6

Troop 53 at Harold King Forest-1

Members of Troop 53 proudly pose beside the kiosk they built at the entrance to Harold A. King Forest. Pictured from left to right: Mr. Jessie Davis, Duncan’s Volunteer Eagle Rank Coach; Ethan Grant, Boy Scout; Mr. Charlie Page, (brother of Duncan); Duncan Page, Life Scout, working towards his Eagle Rank; Mr. Chuck Page, Scoutmaster and Harris Havlicek, Boy Scout.

 

By Shelley A. Sackett

 

About a year ago, 16-year-old Eagle Scout candidate Duncan Page was thinking about what he might want to do for his Eagle project requirement. As the culmination of the Scout’s leadership training, Page knew the project has to demonstrate leadership while performing a project for the benefit of the scout’s community. He also knew he had to have all his Eagle Scout requirements completed before his 18th birthday.

 

Page went to the Swampscott Town Hall, and looked through a list of projects the town had requested. The Harold King Forest caught his eye.

 

“It was a green space and resource I didn’t even know our town had, so I went for a hike though the trail and I saw the potential and the amount of work it would take to have the trail reach it’s potential,” he said.

 

Duncan Page and kiosk

Duncan Page with the Harold A. King Forest kiosk that was part of his Eagle Scout project.

 

Wedged in the northern-most corner of Swampscott, between Lynn on one side and the quarry on the other, the forest is about the size of Tedesco Country Club.

 

Many years ago, boy scouts marked the trail, but it was only rarely used and is not currently maintained. It is also marked in only one direction. “There was no way of retracing your steps if you wanted to turn around and go back,” said Danielle Strauss, Swampscott Recreation Director.

 

Page went to see Strauss to ask if he could do his project at Harold King Forest. Part of his proposal was to mark the trail in the opposite direction, clean up the trail and build a kiosk at the end of Nichols Street, where the forest’s entrance lies. “There wasn’t even a sign that said Harold King Forest,” Strauss said.

 

Little known even by families that have called Swampscott home for several generations, Harold King Forest (also known as the Oscar Short Conservation Land) is 47 acres of wild and rugged forested land that has been dedicated as public conservation land and is managed by the Conservation Commission. Primary access is down an uneven slope from a small, paved parking is at the end of Nichols Street. It serves as habitat for both birds and mammals. Passive outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, on-leash dog walking, and wildlife observation is permitted, along with educational and nature study.

 

Strauss was delighted when Page approached her. “Harold King Forest has always been on our radar, ever since we did the Open Space and Recreation Master Plan [in 1983],” she said, adding, “Most of the people who live in Swampscott don’t even know it exists.”

 

Once he got the Town’s approval and the Recreation Department’s sponsorship, Page set to work. He solicited friends, family, scouts and other interested organizations. To demonstrate the leadership component of project, he organized teams and made sure they had the materials and direction they needed, and organized their scheduled breaks.

 

“As you can imagine, there’s no rehearsal, so there were a lot of questions,” said Troop 53 Committee Member Paul Rizk, a “scouter,” or registered adult scout. Over two full weekends, he and other adults and scouts worked directly on the project. Non-adults cleared the one marked trail with hand tools and marked trees with standardized markings. Adults operated power tools when necessary.

 

Once the trail was cleared and the kiosk was up, Strauss knew she wanted to create some kind of event with the Boy Scouts that would shine a light on the forest. “We wanted to raise awareness of this community asset. Part of living in Swampscott for a lot of people is about getting out and doing things,” she said.

 

“Celebrating the Harold King Forest” will take place on Sunday, May 6 from 1 to 3p.m.. The Boy Scouts from Troop 53 will give guided tours and answer questions. The Health Department will give out information about ticks and Strauss will provide information about invasive insect species.

 

“The event is strictly about information and the environment,” Strauss said. She also enlisted the Conservation Commission, which will hand out information about their new “Friends of Conservation” group, and Colleen Hitchcock and her Girl Scout will acquaint attendees with the iNaturalist app and the Swampscott Biodiversity Project.

 

Page, who was elected Troop 53 Senior Patrol Leader by his fellow scouts, has received positive feedback on the quality of the trail and the kiosk. His biggest hope for the May 6 event is just that people realize the Harold King Forest trail exists. “It is a hidden gem our town has that very few people know about,” he said.

 

Strauss agrees. “Everyone knows Swampscott has beaches, but not many people know that on the other side of town, we also have a forest,” she said.