Salem’s Root celebrates three years of helping at-risk youth

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Peter Endicott, the owner of Salem’s Cheese Shop and Root graduate Henrique Corminas prepare the hors d’oeuvre that they created especially for Root’s 3rd Annual Celebration. [All photos by Alyse Gause Photography

By Shelley A. Sackett

 

Last Wednesday evening, over 200 people filled Root’s elegant HarborPoint event space overlooking the harbor at Shetland Park, enjoying fine food, stylish table settings and festive lights. The well-heeled patrons were not gathered for just another holiday party. Rather, they were attending a third birthday party fundraiser for Root, a non-profit culinary-based training program for at-risk youth. They also celebrated honoree Deborah Jeffers, Root advisory council member and school nutrition director for Salem Public Schools, who received the 2018 Root Community Leadership Award.

 

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Founder and Board Chair Jennifer Eddy, Root graduate Nicky Lebron of Salem, Nutrition Director for Salem Public Schools Deborah Jeffers and 2018 Root Community Leadership Award Recipient, parent of Root graduate Leticia Carrasco, Root graduate Cassandra Bartolo of Beverly, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll and Root Executive Director M. Scott Knox were all speakers during the program at Root’s 3rd Annual Celebration.

 

 

Mayor Kim Driscoll hosted the Third Annual Gala and presented the award to Jeffers. “Who doesn’t like an organization that helps kids?” Mayor Driscoll asked rhetorically as she kicked off the formal program.

 

The Mayor spoke of Salem’s relationship with Jeffers, who eleven years ago proposed a food program in the public schools to provide fresh, wholesome, scratched-cooked meals with locally sourced ingredients. Today, this initiative has gained national attention and provides more than 900,000 nourishing meals a year. Every Salem school student gets free breakfast and lunch, regardless of need.

 

 

Jeffers also connected early on with Root founder and chairman of the board Jennifer Eddy to offer advice about setting a program that could both serve Salem Public School kids and be successful. “She is an exceptional partner and it is a pleasure to honor her,” Mayor Driscoll said.

 

Jeffers spoke briefly about the importance of food growing, preparation and sharing as a community to help lift us all up. “I don’t usually speak in front of a group. I’m more of a back room kind of person,” she admitted.

 

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Table of hors d’oeuvres in the kitchen for Root’s 3rd Annual Celebration includes Root’s own pickled vegetables and “Oat-eez” along with other catering items that are sold at the Root Café in Shetland Park. [Photo by Alyse Gause Photography]

Root is a social enterprise that focuses on the food industry as a training tool for at-risk youth ages 16 to 24 who have significant barriers to employment. Through a rigorous 12-week, 200-hour, work-force training program, students (called Program Partners) learn career and life skills through hands-on experience. “Root is the on ramp for youth in Essex County with an obstacle to success,” said M. Scott Knox, Root executive director.

 

Proceeds from the event will help support Root’s Essex County job skills training program.

 

It all started when Eddy had an idea she wanted to pursue to give at risk youth an opportunity to build a better life and break the cycle of poverty. She had visited and was impressed with D.C. Central in Washington, D.C. and Liberties Kitchen in New Orleans, two successful programs that use the culinary arts to train motivated young adults to access employment and education, and develop their skills as leaders and mentors.

 

When she returned, she put together a group of people, including her friend Elisabeth Massey, who serves on the Root board as community volunteer. They used the same structure and training program model Eddy encountered in D.C. and New Orleans. “She took the best of those two organizations and tailored it to our needs in Salem,” Massey said.

 

The result is Root, which operates a training program as well as several lines of food service-based businesses out of its Shetland Park facilities. These provide a training environment for the students and also generate revenue to support the mission. They include: The Root Café, which offers breakfast and lunch items; Catering By Root, and HarborPoint at Root, a new 2,200 square foot special event site. “Kids in the program learn by working in a real business,” Massey said.

 

Training is an intensive curriculum that runs Monday-Friday with four-hour morning and afternoon shifts. Program Partners attend life skills workshops, one-on-one career readiness coaching, and culinary training in Root’s on-site full catering kitchen. Root graduates are equipped with industry-certified credentials and direct skills that give them a sense of accomplishment and an advantage in seeking employment. “They leave Root with the skills not just to get a job, but to keep a job,” said Knox.

 

Referrals to the program come through the school system, the Department of Children & Families, social workers and word-of-mouth. Candidates who demonstrate a “barrier to success”, such as socio-economic level, housing status, or learning disability, go through an application and interview process. The average age is between 18 and 19 and Root just graduated its fifth cohort, marking almost 100 graduates in three years. “We really try to do whatever we can to be successful,” Massey said.

 

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Root graduate Nicky Lebron of Salem, Root graduate Arianna Couturier from Salem, Root Founder and Board Chair Jennifer Eddy, Root graduate Jayla Bryant from Salem, Root graduate Nevada Winter from Salem, Nutrition Director for Salem Public Schools Deborah Jeffers and 2018 Root Community Leadership Award Recipient gather at Root’s 3rd Annual Celebration. 

 

Recent graduates Nicky LeBron and Cassandra Bartholow praised the program. “For the first time, I felt like I was able to accomplish something for myself. I learned to be more proactive. I learned what I’m good at is working with people,” said Bartholow, whose mother works in Shetland Park and heard about Root.

 

LeBron is a 2018 Salem High School alum. On the last day of school, his class took a field trip to Root, and he knew immediately Root was for him. “What I loved about Root is — everything!” he exclaimed. “My mentors also felt like my friends. I could go to them about anything, not just cooking.”

 

 

Root is located in Shetland Park, 35 Congress Street, Building 2, Third Floor. For more information or to volunteer or make a donation, visit rootns.org or call 978-616-7615.

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Student of Elie Wiesel shares his story in Marblehead

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Rabbi Ariel Burger leads a workshop at the 2008 Covenant Foundation meeting at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City.

 

NOVEMBER 1, 2018, MARBLEHEAD – Rabbi Ariel Burger was 15 when he met Elie Wiesel for the first time. His stepfather, a conductor who worked with Wiesel on a musical project, introduced the two after a lecture in New York, sparking a connection that would span over a quarter of a century.

As Wiesel’s undergraduate student, doctorate candidate, and teaching assistant at Boston University, Burger developed a relationship with the Romanian-born American Jewish writer, professor, political activist, Nobel laureate, and Holocaust survivor that transcended protégé. The two became close friends.

During his five years as Wiesel’s teaching assistant, Burger witnessed the transformative power of his mentor over hundreds of students. He lets the public peek through the keyhole door into this classroom dynamic in his newly published book, “Witness: Lessons from Elie Wiesel’s Classroom,” a detailed chronicle of student interactions and Burger’s personal conversations with Wiesel about intellect, faith, tolerance, and truth.

Rabbi Ariel Burger’s art includes illustration and multimedia works, and deals with themes of language and its limits.

 

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“Light”

 

“A lot of people had the chance to study with my teacher, or at least to hear him lecture or speak publicly,” Burger said via email. “But we can no longer do that. So it’s up to us who knew him and learned with him to share what we learned.”

Wiesel, who passed away in July 2016 at age 87, supported Burger’s project. “I think he was excited whenever his students created new work, especially books. And I was able to share with him some very early sketches of the book, chapter titles, things like that for his feedback,” Burger said.

A true Renaissance man, Burger has been drawing, painting, and illustrating since he was a young boy. He works in a variety of media, from acrylic portraits to pen and ink illustrations, to digital collages.

Referring to himself as “an educator and artist whose focus is leadership, spirituality, and creativity,” Burger strives to empower others to access their spirituality, or “the less common inward-facing stuff. We’re meant for more than plodding through our days with shopping breaks. And the problems we face as human beings demand better and deeper responses.”

The master storyteller and rabbi also began studying conflict transformation after spending time in Israel from 1998 to 2003, where he experienced the Israeli-Palestinian conflict firsthand. He was unsatisfied by the prevailing attitudes he encountered: the “us v. them” mentality and others that seemed to avoid the real issues altogether.

 

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“Aleph”

“I came away with a sense that we needed to deepen our approach to otherness, to difference, to competing claims and stories,” he said. “I wanted to know what my own tradition, and especially the hidden side of our tradition – the mysticism – had to say about how we might transform conflict.”

After studying in several other yeshivot, Burger finished his rabbinical studies at the orthodox Bat Ayin Yeshiva in the West Bank and was ordained in 2003. Wiesel neither encouraged nor discouraged this pursuit. “In general, he didn’t push me in any specific direction. He usually answered my questions with other questions. But this helped me a lot, because his questions were so much more precise, and asking them helped me clarify what I wanted,” Burger said.

As Scholar-in-Residence at Temple Sinai in Marblehead this year, Rabbi Burger will bring all his hats to wear leading the audience in three sessions devoted to learning and growing. “The Temple Sinai community and Adult Education Committee feel a responsibility to provide exciting programs to the whole area that will inspire people to continue evolving and learning as part of leading a Jewish life,” said Rabbi David Cohen-Henriquez.

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“Freedom”

A member of the committee had met Burger and thought his fusing of text and traditions with the arts would be a good fit for the temple’s program. “And as a student of Wiesel, Rabbi Burger also focuses on one of my favorite passions — the power of storytelling,” Cohen-Henriquez added.

At the first session on Oct. 21, which was part of the Jewish Book Month speaker series, Burger spoke about “Witness” and his personal and professional experiences with Wiesel. “I always hope to connect listeners to themselves, to each other and to wisdom,” he said. “I feel very committed to helping heal our broken civic discourse through sharing stories and studying text. I’m continuing to travel and teach, learn, listen, and share stories about a man who continues to have so much to teach us.”

Rabbi Burger wants people attending his sessions to leave with two takeaways. “Hope, and new questions,” he said, echoing his mentor’s mantra.

The winter and spring sessions will integrate text study, art, and storytelling. For more information, go to templesinaiweb.org or call 781-631-2763.

Shirat Hayam Gets Down to Business

 

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Anna Hathaway settles into her new office as Congregation Shirat Hayam. She is the synagogue’s first Business Manager.

 

By Shelley A. Sackett

SWAMPSCOTT — For its first thirteen years, Congregation Shirat Hayam operated without a business manager. That changed on June 4th with the hiring of Anna Hathaway, a Middleton CPA, PFS and MST with 18 years of career experience.

 

Hathaway couldn’t be more pleased with her new position. “I wanted to find a place where I could work for the greater good, using my talents to help an organization accomplish its mission,” she said from her sunny office that abuts the social hall. “In today’s world, I believe it is important that people have both a place and an organization of people to be able to connect with something bigger than themselves. After meeting the staff at CSH, I was interested in joining the team and working with them to accomplish theirs.”

 

The need for a business manager surfaced as part of a three-year process undertaken by the CSH Strategic Planning Group and facilitated by Dennis Friedman of the Chesapeake Group. The group’s charge is to develop and implement a new Strategic Plan, Vision and Mission for CSH.

 

The journey began in 2017, when Renée Sidman became CSH Board President. She and fellow board member Larry Groipen approached the full board to fund a strategic visioning program. “We felt strongly that we needed to invest time into understanding who we were and where we were going. The best analogy was that we all needed to row the boat in same direction,” she said.

 

Friedman came highly recommended by Groipen, who had worked with him professionally for over 25 years. “Dennis was a fresh set of eyes to our community and brought his own experience as past president of his congregation in the South Shore,” Sidman noted.

 

What resonated most with Rabbi Michael Ragozin, however, was that Friedman remains with CSH to oversee the vision statement during its implementation. “That practical focus on implementation was very important to us. Many people on the Board sat on other organizations where an inordinate amount of time and resources is spent on creating a plan that simply sits on a shelf,” he said.

 

The resultant CSH Vision Statement has three prongs, including: “We embrace our responsibilities to invest in strengthening our Jewish community for generations to come.” Implementation of this prong led to creation of the business manager position.

 

As a business consultant with 28 years’ experience specializing in strategic planning and organizational development, Friedman concurred with the rest of the group that CSH had strong leadership in the religious and educational spheres, but needed a business manager to bring the same level of leadership in the physical and fiscal infrastructure sphere if it was to fulfill its mission “for generations to come.”

 

A successful candidate would be someone with strong financial expertise and management skills who could also work collegially with staff to assist them in increasing efficiency and effectiveness, the group decided. Hathaway’s resume was a perfect fit.

 

Born and raised in Lynn, Hathaway spent many summer days at Kings Beach. She and her husband Dave are parents to an adult son, DJ. She holds a Masters of Science in Taxation from Bentley College and a B.S. in Business Administration from Salem State University. Her experience includes: Controller/CFO of Quadrant Health Strategies, Inc.; Controller of Wakefield Management, Inc. (Midas franchises); Business Manager at Epstein-Hillel Academy, and Controller of the Jewish Federation of the North Shore (from 2001-2006).

 

After interviewing her, Groipen, a member of the Strategic Planning Group, knew that Hathaway was just the sort of person the group had in mind.

 

“Anna is a CPA, she has a lot of building knowledge, she understands enough about roofing, plumbing, landscaping, HVAC and building safety and security to make good decisions,” he said. “Above all, she wants to work towards continuing the welcoming experience we at CSH are so proud of.”

 

While Hathaway is ready to advance CSH’s vision for the future, she is also mindful of national current trends. “The biggest challenge facing CSH is similar to other religious organizations, namely attracting and retaining families to become active participants of the congregation,” she said.

 

Not Your Zayde’s Cheder

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By Shelley Sackett

 

Congregation Shirat Hayam will unveil Darkeinu (“our way”), a trailblazing post-b’nei mitzvah program modeled on a college education that gives Jewish teens credit toward Kabbalat Torah/Conformation for participating in a broad range of activities that they choose for themselves.

 

Students in grades 8 through 12 can earn credits towards their Darkeinu “degree” by participating in a variety of activities that encompass five basic areas of Jewish life: community services, ritual leadership, community leadership, study and Zionism.

 

“As an educator, I am really enthusiastic about giving teens flexibility and choice,” said Janis Knight, Director of Center for Jewish Education. “One thing is for sure — this isn’t your zayde’s cheder, or even much like your own Hebrew School experience any more!”

 

The program’s real groundbreaking innovation, according to Rabbi Michael Ragozin, is in offering credit for “life experience” already available throughout the North Shore and beyond. Teens can fulfill their course requirements by participating in any number of local programs, such as the Jewish Teen Initiative, the Sloane Fellowship, Lappin Foundation, BBYO, Cohen Camps and more.

 

They also have the option of proposing something they come up with on their own or studying with Rabbi Ragozin in a more traditional setting. Once a month, however, all Darkeinu participants will meet for a light dinner and discussion with the Rabbi and CJE Director as part of a mandatory 9-week character and Jewish values program called “Chai Mitzvah.”

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“By giving teens credit for participating in an array of teen programs already in place, Darkeinu isn’t competing with existing local opportunities. Rather, we are encouraging participation in the unique activities that are right for each teen. Darkeinu is participant-centric, not institution-centric,” Rabbi Ragozin noted.

 

Perhaps most revolutionary is that Darkeinu is open to any teen that self-identifies as Jewish and has a whole-hearted interest in building their own authentic Jewish identity as they become an adult.

 

“We’re not trying to make anyone CSH members. We’re just trying to get Jewish kids together to explore being Jewish in their own way,” Knight said, adding, “And they get credit for it.”

 

One prong of the newly crafted CSH Vision Statement reads, “We will deliver the best childhood and teen education on the North Shore,” and Darkeinu helps fulfill that mission. A recent report from the Jewish Education Project, Generation Now: Understanding and Engaging Jewish Teens Today, influenced Knight and Rabbi Ragozin as they brainstormed about Darkeinu. (see http://JewishEdProject.org/GenerationNow.)

 

The JEP study developed core questions for educators to imagine teens asking themselves, such as: Who am I? With whom do I connect? What is my responsibility in the world as a Jewish adult? How do I bring about the change I want to see? “Creating programs and experiences that help teens to ask and look for answers to those questions is our goal,” Knight said.

 

Rabbi Ragozin, who was equally affected by the study, agrees. “We know that Jewish teens are yearning for inspiring opportunities and that meaningful teen engagement opens new worlds of wisdom and practice as they become adults. We want all to have the best Jewish teen experience, whether it’s inside Shirat Hayam or outside,” he said. “But in the short term, our goal is that they feel energized and have fun.”

 

Darkeinu launches at a brunch on Sunday, October 14. For more information or to register, go to bit.ly/RegisterDarkeinu or contact Janis Knight, CJE Director at CJE@ShiratHayam.org or 781-599-8005 x25.

Swampscott seniors stretch their minds and bodies at weekly Tai Chi and Sound Meditation classes

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John Benson receives an adjustment from Nicor Snow (also known as Kāmpa Vāshi Déva).

Shelley A. Sackett

Since 2014, John Benson has travelled from his Nahant home to the Swampscott Senior Center every Tuesday to practice Tai Chi with Nicanor Snow. For Benson, who was a professional copy editor for an academic journal specializing in Asian and Western religion and philosophy, having the subjects he learned about all these years fuse in a single physical and mental practice is “quite satisfying.”

“When you feel the breathing and the movement coming together, then you know you’ve reached that special zone where you want to be,” he said. He practices with Snow twice a week, also attending his class at the Marblehead Council on Aging.

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Paula Peterson credits Tai Chi with helping her to “slow down.”

Bonnie Harmon and Paula Peterson have also practiced twice a week for four years with Snow, known too by his spiritual name, Kāmpa Vāshi Déva. Tai chi has changed them both. “We’re always running around. With Tai Chi, you have to calm down and go slow and think. It’s very refreshing,” Peterson said.

Harmon thinks the biggest change she’s noticed in herself is that she is more peaceful. “When I concentrate, my body gets tight. Tai Chi makes me relax my body,” she said.

Snow describes Tai Chi as “meditation in motion”, a practice that helps regulate the body and increase serenity. “Tai Chi is great for balance, posture and other health benefits. It is perfect for adults and seniors who really have the time to give it,” he said.

The class meets every Tuesday at 1 p.m. at the Swampscott Senior Center at 200R Essex Street. Walk-ins are welcome. The fee is $5.00.

Snow teaches 16 Tai Chi classes a week at different community senior centers in Swampscott, Marblehead, Lynn, Boxford, Lynnfield, West Newbury and Newburyport. His classroom is multi-level, with newer and more experienced students grouped together at different ends of the room. “Everyone learns the same way. They start at the beginning of the classical form, practice it, and after they’ve mastered it, they move on to the next step,” he said.

Snow’s niche teaching at senior centers fell into his lap. Marilyn Hurwitz, director of the Swampscott Council on Aging, saw his Tai Chi Institute mentioned on the back of a Boston Globe magazine, explaining the benefits of Tai Chi. She called Snow to see if he would teach in Swampscott. Other senior centers followed suit and before long, he was up to 16 classes a week.

Born in the Philippines, Snow’s family moved to the U.S. when he was a toddler. He discovered Tai Chi as a 22-year-old, after becoming “burned out” by his many years practicing Okinawan Karate. “I needed a change in my life. I read about Qigong and Chinese energy work in the back of a Kung Fu magazine and I wondered, ‘Where do I find that? How can I get involved?”

He found a Tai Chi school in Boston and in the spring of 1983 he started training with Master Gin Soon Chu and his son. Two years later, he began his healing studies at the Lea Tam Acupuncture Center in Boston with Qigong Master Tom Tam and Dr. Ping C. Chan.

In 2000, Snow established the Seacoast Tai-Chi Club in Kittery, Maine, which he renamed the Seacoast Tai-Institute when he moved to Portsmouth, N.H. He is an instructor and trainer of Tai-Chi Chuan, Qigong healing and meditation and certified by the American Organization of Bodywork Therapy of Asia.

In addition to Tai Chi, Snow is offering “Sound Vibration Meditation” on Tuesdays at 2 p.m., right after Tai Chi. The class explores kirtan, or Hindu cultural singing, combined with light stretching and breathing exercises. The fee is by voluntary donation.

“Kirtan brings peace to the world in body, mind and soul. When you’re chanting these mantras (a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation), there is a spiritual connection that happens through sound vibration,” said Snow, who brings his harmonium to accompany the chanters. “There is a healing aspect to the vibrations.”

Dennis Scolamiero and his daughter, both of Swampscott, attended both the first Sound Meditation and will be back. “It’s very moving. I’m proud to have evolved in the ways that support this,” Dennis said. “He loves to sing,” his daughter added. “It’s a great activity that we can do together.”

To those who have never tried Tai Chi, Snow offers this advice. “You have to have a lot of patience and give it a try for longer than you think. I try to coach people so they can feel the practice. You have to really feel the external movements to develop an understanding of what it feels like on the inside,” he said.

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Bonnie Harmon has been practicingTai Chi twice a week for four years.

Harmon, who hasn’t yet mastered the first form despite her four years of twice a week classes, agrees with the need to be patient. Asked if it is worth it, she replied with a huge smile, “We love him (Snow). That’s why we come.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Izzi Abrams becomes President at JCCNS

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Izzi Abrams at the JCCNS Annual Meeting, where she was inaugurated as President for the 2018-2020 term. “I’ve come full circle,” she said.

Shelley A. Sackett

Rabbi Michael Ragozin, of Congregation Shirat Hayam, began the opening invocation at the June 3 Annual Meeting of the The Jewish Community Center of the North Shore on a personal note, remarking how much the JCCNS had become even more of a blessing to him after he tore his ACL.

 

He noticed the subtle nuances during his many months of recovery. “This is not just a place to rehab or workout. It’s about the people. The JCC is a promoter of relationships and community,” he said to a crowd of more than 115, many of whom nodded their heads in agreement.

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Rabbi Michael Ragozin gave the invocation.

 

President John Gilberg, who handed over the reins to Izzi Abrams, reflected on his 2-year term. “I grew up in this building. I went to nursery school here, so for me being president was especially rewarding,” he said.

 

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Marty Schneer, JCCNS Executive Director, presents outgoing President John Gilberg with a framed print of L’dor v’dor (“from generation to generation”).

 

Two of the biggest challenges he faced were balancing the needs of the many different groups that use the JCC — it is a school, workout center, summer camp, senior center and community source of Jewish programming — and keeping its financial boat afloat.

 

“I give kudos to Executive Director Marty Schneer, who manages all the J’s facets expertly,” Gilberg said. He credits CFO Tom Cheatham with anchoring the financial information and providing numbers “like we never had before.” This allows management to act quickly, adjusting programming that isn’t meeting expectations.

 

Annual revenue and net surplus both increased in 2017, and the endowment grew by $1.5 million, creeping closer to its $5 million goal. “My happiest moment will be when we hit that $5 million,” Gilberg said.

 

Schneer drew laughter introducing the new board and officer installation ceremony as “part of peaceful transition of leadership,” handing over the microphone to Barbara Schneider, Jewish Journal Publisher Emerita and JCCNS life-board member and past President, to do the honors.

 

She introduced Abrams as “our community’s cultural guru” and advised her, above all, to “have fun and do good.”

 

Abrams spoke of growing up in Worcester, where her father, Rabbi Abraham Kazis, served as her role model for taking leadership roles in the Jewish community. “He was a humble leader, a man of the people,” she said. “I hope to emulate him in engaging new members.”

 

Over the years, Abrams has been President of the local chapter of ORT (a non-profit global organization that provides education and skills training for needy Jewish communities); Chairs of the Holocaust Center and Youth to Israel Program; President of the Jewish Journal and Chair of the JCCNS International Jewish Film Festival.

 

When Abrams, an early childhood educator, first arrived on the North Shore, she was approached by Bea Paul to join the JCC as an afternoon kindergarten enrichment teacher. Over the next 10 years, she continued to work at the JCC in various areas, including teen and adult services, eventually becoming Director of the Preschool. She retired in 1994 and now is Co-Head of Children’s Services at the Swampscott Public Library.

 

Of becoming JCCNS President, she said,” I’ve come full circle.”

 

She stressed that the JCC is welcoming for all who want to be involved in giving back to an agency that has done so much for this community. “I invite you to join me on this journey,” she said to a standing ovation.

 

Bea Paul then presented Jason Garry, JCCNS Director of Facilities, with the Bea Paul Professional Staff Award and JCCNS Life Board Member Michael Eschelbacher presented Virginia Dodge, longtime JCCNS supporter and member, with the Samuel S. Stahl Community Service Award.

 

New JCCNS Board of Directors members, whose 2-year terms will expire in 2020, are: John Gilberg, Betsy Rooks, Shari Cashman, Anthony Chamay, Daniel Gelb, Peter Short, MD, Susan Syversen, Courtney Weisman, Sara Winer and Joseph Zang.

 

Joining President Abrams as officers are Vice Presidents Randall Patkin MD and Adam Forman, Treasurer Michael Goldstein MD and Secretary Kate Clayman.

 

After Abrams’ family said the Hamotzei, a sumptuous brunch was served, including a table of irresistible desserts prepared by Sara Winer’s “Sara’s Baked Goods and Specialties.”

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While attendees sat at tables enjoying their food, the lobby was abuzz with people coming from and going to classes. Former JCCNS Executive Director Sandy Sheckman commented, “Isn’t it amazing how, while all this is going on in here, the JCC is still alive with activity out there.”

Davening to a different drummer: Meet Cantor Alty Weinreb

 

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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/

SalemRecycles celebrates a decade of making Salem greener

 

Salem Recycles

SalemRecycles committee members received special commendations for the committee’s ten years of helping to make Salem one the North Shore’s greenest cities. Pictured from back row: Sharon Kishida, DEP; Rep. Tucker; Hannah, from Sen. Lovely’s office; Shelby Hypes (new member); Liz Vago; Penny Neal (Emeritus); Carol Hautau; Julie Rose; Susan Yochelson and Mayor Kim Driscoll. Front row: Jennifer Percy (Emeritus); Nancy Gilberg; Melynn Nuite; Erin Huggard and Lynn Murray. Current members missing from photo: Tony Keck, John Roberts and Beth Gillette. (Emeritus-members who have been active for over 5 years and who now choose to staff events, etc. and are not obligated to come to meetings.)

 

By Shelley A. Sackett

In 2008, Julie Rose had been at her job in the Salem City Engineering Department for about a year when Mayor Kim Driscoll decided that her department would manage the city’s recently negotiated trash contract, which included new recycling guidelines.

 

Rose realized the engineering department had a lot of work ahead of it to educate the community about the importance of recycling. “We didn’t have a lot of staff, but I had heard about volunteer recycling committees in other communities,” said Rose, currently Business Manager of the City of Salem Engineering Department. She wanted to start one in Salem.

 

She worked with Jason Silva, then Mayor Driscoll’s Chief of Staff, and Sharon Kashida, the Northeast District 2 Regional and Solid Waste Coordinator for the Mass. Dept. of Environmental Protection. They looked at various recycling committees throughout the North Shore.

 

By talking to other communities, they learned they would need volunteers from various fields such as graphic design, communications, the law, and others. “We needed a committee with strong and diverse skill sets to help us pull off what we wanted to do,” Rose said.

 

Collaboratively, Rose, Silva and Kashida came up with the structure for Salem’s recycling committee. SalemRecycles would be a 12-member committee that is charged with developing ways to increase recycling throughout the city and promote other green efforts. Members’ backgrounds would include environmental studies, graphic and fine arts, business, law, public health, communications and education.

 

Mayor Driscoll appointed the inaugural SalemRecycles committee in 2008 and ten years later, Rose, the committee’s only paid employee, proudly points out that of the current 12 members, 3 have been involved since the beginning and 3 more have served for 8 years or more.

 

Last month, SalemRecycles celebrated its 10th birthday, and Mayor Driscoll presented its members with special commendations for a decade of work.

 

“The Salem Recycling Committee has been such a wonderful driver of positive change in our community. Their dedication and passion for sustainability has been instrumental in so many highly successful projects, events, and initiatives in Salem over the last decade, making our city more green and more livable for all. The volunteers who devote their time to the committee and its many efforts are committed to Salem and to our planet,” Mayor Driscoll said.

 

Since 2008, Salem has become a recycling leader on the North Shore, improving recycling rates by 3 times, holding 20 events per year and pioneering many initiatives. The recipient of many grants, awards and special recognition, SalemRecycles was the winner of the 2017 Mass Municipal Award for Innovation.

 

Kashida, as municipal recycling coordinator for 39 communities north and northwest of Boston — including Salem — is in a position to compare SalemRecycles to other communities she serves, and she gives Salem high marks. “I have been able to see how Salem Recycles has enabled the City to accomplish so much more. This is not your standard volunteer committee,” she said.

 

“Under Mayor Driscoll’s continued support and Julie Rose’s aegis, the committee is empowered to work with the City to help it achieve its waste reduction and recycling goals and be on the cutting edge,” she added.

 

Among the Salem programs Kashida cites are: trash limits; dual stream recycling education campaign with the former Newark industries; E-waste collections; book swaps; an annual textile drive; an annual swap and drop; a newsletter and blog, and the recently enacted plastic bag ban.

 

Two initiatives, the food waste collection pilot and the twice-yearly Repair Café, are firsts in her district. “SalemRecycles has served as a role model for other communities to replicate, so its impact goes beyond Salem,” Kashida said. “The SalemRecycles Facebook page is considered the “go-to” source for up-to-date vetted information.”

 

Seven or eight years ago, when she first joined SalemRecycles, Nancy Gilberg took on the primary administrative role for the Facebook page. She grew it from several hundred followers to about 1,850.

 

“I enjoy writing, editing, and building positive community. I create and promote the FB events, and draw from dozens of other recycling pages and everyday life experiences to create and share content,” she said. While the committee’s primary goal is to educate and to provide recycling and diversion opportunities, “we also want it to be fun and easy.”

 

Lynn Murray has been a member since the committee’s inception and served as its Chair for a year and a half. She remembers how its initial emphasis was to educate Salem residents about the then new recycling initiative. While education remains a prime focus, social media now makes the job easier and more far reaching.

 

SalemRecycles has a Trash and Recycling page on the City website (Salem.com/trashandrecycling), the GreenSalem website (GreenSalem.com), the SalemRecycles Facebook site, videos, an e-newsletter, occasional articles in local newspapers, appearances on SATV, door hangers, flyers and more.

 

The committee’s efforts to help residents think more broadly about recycling efforts make Murray especially proud. A twice yearly book swap (attended by up to 850 people at each event), an annual Textile Drive (where 7 tons of textiles were collected last November), and the Spring Swap and Drop are examples of recycling’s reach beyond just curbside collection.

 

Murray has loved her decade serving on SalemRecycles. “The committee is made up of volunteers who represent nearly all wards of the City, are passionate about what they do, yet have a lot of fun carrying out the various initiatives. Because the volunteers are from all over the City, we serve as emissaries to neighborhood groups encouraging participation in events and answering questions,” she said.

 

Murray credits the Mayor and Rose for the committee members’ commitment and longevity. “The Mayor has given us a lot of latitude, which has allowed for the expression of creativity and the development of initiatives beyond the scope of the City-mandated recycling programs,” she explained.

 

Rose’s management style and leadership have also been crucial to SalemRecycles’ success. “She delegates work effectively, empowers committee members to come up with new initiatives and always gives credit to and focuses on the accomplishments of committee members,” Murray added.

 

Past chair and current committee member Anthony Keck is no less passionate about SalemRecycles and its mission. He pointed out how Salem’s status as a tourist destination is a mixed blessing. “Hundreds of thousands of visitors arrive in the city each year. They bring tourist dollars with them, and they also bring and create trash from their single use items,” he said. SalemRecycles is attacking this problem on several fronts.

 

Visible recycling bins are now placed throughout the City. SalemRecycles became involved with charitable walk and run sponsors and found ways to reduce trash and to recycle, “saving the City by reducing trash tonnage.” The committee introduced cigarette butt recycling bins and placed them around the city.

 

“Feedback from visitors has been encouraging and many have commented with gratitude for encouraging and providing recycling collection to them,” Keck said.

 

He considers launching the Repair Café, which teaches how items can be repaired and reused rather instead of being tossed in the trash and replaced, one of SalemRecycle’s most significant initiatives.

 

“Raising the consciousness of all residents and stakeholders to the importance of reducing trash continues to influence how people purchase products,” Keck said. “Everyone can find ways to reduce, repurpose, reuse, repair and lastly recycle.”

 

SalemRecycles holds regular meetings, open to the public, the first Tuesday of the month on the 1st floor of 90 Washington Street at 6:30 pm. For more information, visit salem.com/recycling-and-trash, greensalem.com or Salem Ma Recycles on Facebook.

 

 

Salem ‘Bring Your Own Bag’ ordinance rings in the New Year

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Shelley A. Sackett

On Jan. 1, Salem residents will have more to remember than just writing the correct year on the checks they write that week. They will also have to remember to bring their own bags with them to the grocery store, or be prepared to buy one.

That is because single-use plastic checkout bags — those provided at the point of sale by retail and food establishments — will no longer be legal in any Salem business after Jan. 1, when a “Bring Your Own Bag” ordinance goes into effect. The new initiative promotes the use of reusable bags in all forms, such as paper, heavy plastic, canvas, and net mesh.

Plastic bags of four millimeters thickness or less create problems for the city and for the environment, clogging storm drains, getting caught in trees, and finding their way into waterways, according to a Dec. 20 press release form Mayor Kimberley Driscoll’s office.

A group of Salem High School students working with Salem Sound Coastwatch spearheaded the initiative, and the Salem City Council passed the plastic bag ordinance in the Fall 2016 with a Jan. 1, 2018 start date. Salem will join 60 other towns and cities in Massachusetts in restricting use of these bags. Boston recently announced approval of a similar ordinance to go into effect in 2019, the press release reads.

The city has collaborated with many local organizations to educate the public and reach out to the business community. Salem Main Street, the Salem Farmers Market and the Salem Chamber of Commerce distributed free recycle bags to shoppers. SalemRecycles started educational outreach in early 2017 to provide resources to Salem businesses and to help residents make the transition. They too distributed free reusable bags at their events around the community.

Impact on stores

Grocery stores expect to bear the biggest impact of the new rules. “People have gotten used to taking a plastic bag even if they really don’t need it,” Salem Sound Coastwatch outreach coordinator Susan Yochelson stated in the press release.

Dawn Stanley has been a clerk at Steve’s Quality Market on Margin Street for only two weeks, but she has heard plenty of comments about the new bag rules. “The elderly are mad because they’re going to have to remember to bring bags or buy them,” she said.

Patty Harkness, who has worked at Steve’s for 10 years, is more optimistic. “It’s good for the environment, and if they’re really smart, they can use the recyclables inside the big cloth bags so they don’t have to use a lot of water to wash out the big bags. So it’s a win-win situation,” said Harkness, who describes her position as “multi-tasker, everywhere and when needed.”

Less than one mile away, at Crosby’s Marketplace on Canal Street, Judy LeDuc agrees that the plastic bag ban will be an adjustment. “A lot of people walk here and are used to carrying their groceries home, two bags in each hand,” she said. The 30-year veteran Crosby’s cashier noted that some people use the bags to pick up after their dogs.

One Crosby’s customer is all in favor of the ordinance. “I think it’s a good thing and I think it will save time for the stores and help reduce the trash in the area from all the plastic bags,” said Salem resident Steve Hodge.

Rinus Oosthoek, executive director of the Salem Chamber of Commerce, believes the ordinance will help Salem businesses stay at the forefront of a larger consumer awareness initiative.

“It will also give the smaller downtown business a way to generate goodwill with consumers, using the conversation as an opportunity to show Salem as unique and customer friendly,” he said.

Oosthoek recently conducted an outreach initiative to the big box stores on Highland Avenue.

“Almost all of them will start using paper bags, and they already have recyclable/reusable bags for sale near the registers,” he said.

While most agree the new ordinance will take some getting used to for both employees and customers, he added: “It seems as if everyone agrees the time is right for this initiative.”

Penalties and enforcement

The ordinance specifically addresses what happens if a business violates the new rules. Sec. 14-503 Penalties and enforcement provides for a series of warnings, notices and fines for violations.

It states, “The warning notice issued for the first offense shall provide at least 14 days to correct the violation. No fine for the second offense shall be issued until at least 14 days after the warning is issued. This article may be enforced by any police officer, enforcement officer or agent of the board of health or licensing department.”

Police Capt. Conrad Prosniewski said the ordinance would be treated like any other ordinance the Salem Police Department has the responsibility for enforcing.

Driscoll said she feels Salem is in a great position as the new restriction goes into effect, after a year’s worth of public education and outreach to the business community.

“We’ve all seen stray plastic bags caught in tree branches or blowing down the street,” she said. “I’m hopeful this new change will bring about a noticeable improvement in Salem, while also taking another step forward in keeping Salem a sustainable and attractive community in which to live and do business.”

In 2017, Salem Council on Aging saw much change

Terry ARnold

Teresa Arnold, new executive director of Salem’s Council on Aging.

 

Salem seniors have much to look forward to in 2018.

In September, Salem not only broke ground on the Mayor Jean A. Levesque Community Life Center, but also appointed Teresa Arnold as Salem Council on Aging’s executive director.

“Terry is very highly qualified and has a wonderful reputation,” said Lynda Coffill, chairman of the Council on Aging Board of Directors. “She’s already established relationships with some of the seniors and has done a terrific job of communicating with the board.”

Mayor Kim Driscoll picked Arnold based on the Gloucester resident’s reputation, qualifications and management style amassed over a 25-year career, she said.

“Terry brings the kind of positive and supportive attitude that is so important for a COA director who interacts daily with our senior population,” said Driscoll. “I’m especially excited that she will be at the helm of the COA when we move into the new building this coming year.”

The city anticipates a 2018 completion for the 20,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art building on Bridge Street. The facility will house the COA, Veterans Services and Park and Recreation departments.

Arnold is delighted with her new job.

“I am very pleased to be part of a solid city with excellent leadership,” she said. “While I live in Gloucester, I’ve always been fond of Salem and its incredible history, not unlike my own hometown. However, I can help serve seniors and people living with disabilities, I certainly will.”

The same night the Salem City Council confirmed Arnold, councilors also voted to move the executive-director position under the mayor’s supervision.

Revolving turnover

Salem City Councilor President Elaine Milo said she has seen a trio of COA executive directors come and go over a three-years time span.

“High turnover in any organization is not healthy,” she said.

Milo added she believes Arnold will bring a professional, positive atmosphere to the Council on Aging.

“My sense is that she will work hard to cultivate outside relationships with community organizations that have much to offer seniors and vice versa,” said Milo. “I look forward to working with her.”

Arnold is aware of worries over the revolving-door of leadership and expressed a confidence in current COA staff.

“I can understand the concern of the community not wanting to see a lot of turnover. I hope that my tenure here is lengthy and that we can move forward toward the new Community Life Center,” said Arnold. “We have some good opportunities ahead to make the center a vibrant hub.”

Arnold possesses experience across program and business development, operations, advocacy, government and board relations and clinical and quality management. She holds a master’s degree in management from Lesley University.

Before arriving in Salem, Arnold headed up the Greater North Shore Link in Danvers, an aging and disability consortium. She also worked in several senior-serving outfits from Caregiver Homes to SeniorCare.

In her appointment letter, Driscoll wrote: “Throughout her career, Teresa has been dedicated to leading programs that preserve the dignity and independence of seniors.”

Over the years, Arnold said she amassed a bag of successful programs to pull from. One in particular that she mentioned: Providing an enhanced evening-and-weekend schedule of medical rides for seniors.

“Transportation needs never go away,” she said.

Ensuring seniors, including those with disabilities, maintain a high quality of life and independence are top priorities, said Arnold.

“I’ve been able to provide seniors — as well as individuals living with a disability and their families and caregivers — the resources they need to access long-term supports and services in order to stay as independent as possible and to hopefully age in place,” Arnold said.

Nothing could make Andrew J. LaPointe, president of the Friends of the Salem Council on Aging, and Shubert, his seeing-eye dog, happier.

“Our seniors are Salem’s most valuable assets,” said LaPointe. “Terry will also work with me to include the many seniors with disabilities, so they can be a part of all the great programs that are offered.”

At-large Councilor Thomas Furey was the sole vote against Arnold. He argued for hiring someone who possessed institutional memory and a familiar face among local seniors, especially in light of turnover.

“There has been a revolving door of outside COA directors who come in and out. They leave it in a vacuum of leadership,” said Furey, “so I voted against the outsider from Gloucester. We need continuity and stability. There are several people inside the COA who could take over very easily.”

Filling the post came after a six-member search committee executed a lengthy vetting process: Advertising the open position, ranking qualified applicants, conducting initial interviews and sending the mayor an appointment recommendation.

Arnold ultimately rose to the top, and the committee supplied Driscoll with her name. The mayor performed the final interview and sent the Arnold appointment for the City Council’s confirmation consideration.

Arnold now leads a city agency annually serving more than 2,000 seniors, to whom the COA an array of services and support “to ensure all seniors can maximize of their lives,” according to council’s website.

During just one week in December, the COA will offer 34 activities: Meditation, quilting, creative writing, water aerobics, drum class, line dancing and trips to North Shore Mall and, for an evening concert, Salem State University.

Community Life Center

The new facility will be called Salem’s Community Life Center, a name that better reflects the diversity in age the COA serves. Currently, the COA seeks programs that broaden its appeal to a cross-generational age range of seniors.

“We go from 60 to 100 years old,” said Coffill. “We have to make sure we have activities geared to all age groups.”

Reaching out to younger seniors to pull them in the COA constitutes another priority on Arnold’s docket.

“Terry wants to introduce new opportunities for 50 and 60-years-old to join older adults at the new Community Life Center, to make it a central gathering place for all,” said Salem for All Ages Task Force Co-Chairman Pat Zaido.

The 14-member task force was formed the AARP and the World Health Organization certified Salem as an “Age Friendly City.” Members are currently executing a five-year action plan to ensure Salem remains age-friendly across transportation, social participation and social inclusion.

Arnold, in her role, sits on the task force, and she and Zaido have already had four or five meetings. She has been impressed by Arnold’s maturity, experience and passion.

“With 25 years of experience working with seniors and the disabled,” said Zaido, “it is obvious she is committed to this population.”