Swampscott author explores a 430-year-old mystery

 

NOVEMBER 2, 2017 – SWAMPSCOTT – About five years ago, Deahn Berrini and her family were enjoying dinner at their Swampscott home. Her son, knowing of her interest in Native American people, mentioned that researchers had just discovered a clue to the lost colony of Roanoke Island, off the coast of North Carolina.
“I said, ‘That could be a good story.’ And then my son said, ‘Hey, mom. You could write that,”’ said Berrini, the daughter of an Air Force father, who was born in Wiesbaden, Germany. A member of Temple Emanu-El in Marblehead, she grew up in Ipswich and attended Brown University, where she majored in history, and Boston College Law School.

When her son brought it up, she found herself drawn to that unsolved puzzle of the mysterious disappearance of 115 British men, women, and children in 1587. Once she started her research, she knew she wanted to write the story, but not from the colonists’ point of view.

Some have speculated that Native Americans attacked and killed the English colonists. Others theorize they tried to return to England and were lost at sea, or might have been killed by Spaniards who came north from Florida. One theory suggests the settlers were absorbed into friendly Native American tribes.

When Berrini approached the story from the point of view of the people who were already there – the Croatoan Native American tribe – her heart and her imagination followed. “The characters came to me fully formed,” she said.

“When we think of the story we’re taught in middle school, it’s from the white British point of view. We’re never taught to think about the native peoples who were living there before the Europeans arrived. It was a thriving place up and down the eastern seaboard. We have very little consciousness of that.”

Four years and three rewrites later, Berrini hopes to change that with the publication of her third historical novel, “A Roanoke Story,” on Nov. 30. She will launch her book tour by reading from and discussing the book at the Swampscott Public Library from 7 to 9 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 13.

In addition to broadening our understanding of history, Berrini also sees a clear connection between “A Roanoke Story” and the abiding Jewish tenet of social justice. As head of Temple Emanu-El’s social action committee for the past five years, she has championed shedding light on unfairness and untruths.

“A lot about our country’s origins has been mythologized to make it easier to swallow,” she said. “I hope readers will look at the colonization of this country with a greater sense of the people whose land we invaded. Telling the story from the point of view of the marginalized people, that’s the social justice component.”

The Swampscott Public Library is at 61 Burrill St.
For more information, visit swampscottlibrary.org or call 781-596-8867.

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Swampscott library hosts tea sommelier

Tea sommelier brings book to life at Swampscott library

By Shelley A. Sackett

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Hillel Bromberg, a certified tea sommelier, as he prepares to present his tea tasting at the Swampscott Public Library.

 

Last Wednesday night, over 50 people sat and chatted in the Swampscott Library at tables set with white cloth tablecloths, teacups, tea lights and tea biscuits. Promptly at 6:30 p.m., a spry, bearded man in a colorful vest stepped behind a table adorned with a variety of artistic teapots and addressed the crowd.

 

“Thank you for coming to take tea with me,” said Hillel Bromberg, certified tea sommelier.

 

For the next 90 minutes, Bromberg talked about the history of tea, its many heath benefits and the proper (and improper) way to brew an authentic cup of tea. He also conducted a tasting of several distinctive styles of teas. “I really like tea, and it turns out I’m not alone,” he said.

 

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Bromberg carefully pours water heated to just the right temperature into the cast iron tea pot.

 

The inspiration for the program came from the book, “The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane” by Lisa See, which was the library’s Popular Titles Book Group selection for September.

 

Laurie Souza, head of circulation, had just read the book and wanted to learn more about tea. She had heard about Bromberg from other libraries and suggested to the Friends of the Library that they bring him to Swampscott. “They thought it was a great idea,” she said.

 

Bromberg, who lives in Newton with his coffee-drinking wife, was introduced to tea as a child. He grew up in an observant Jewish home where the family and guests enjoyed a “full-blown Shabbat dinner” every Friday night. After dinner, they would sit around for quite a while, sipping tea, eating dessert and “schmoozing.”

 

“We drank your basic Lipton that I usually loaded up with lemon and sugar,” Bromberg recalled. He has continued that ritual in his own home. When his son and daughter left for college, he made sure they left home with a hand-selected supply of their favorite teas.

 

He received his tea sommelier certification from the International Tea Masters Association. During the four-month training (one intensive weekend of study and three months of weekly online assignments), he learned about different teas from different countries. “When I started drinking tea, the whole world opened up to me,” he said.

 

Bromberg captivated the audience with his lively condensed version of the history of tea, peppering the fascinating chronicle with amusing tidbits such as the difference between high tea and afternoon tea, and the Lexington Tea Burning, which pre-dated the December 16, 1773 Boston Tea Party by three days.

 

The audience learned what is tea (white, green, yellow, oolong, black and post fermented teas, which all belong to the camellia sinensis species) and what is not tea (all fruit and herbal teas, known as tisanes).

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A proper cup of tea can only be brewed using a proper tea strainer which, according to Bromberg, allows the tea leaves to “stretch out.”

 

In addition, properly steeped tea must take into account three specifics that differ with each variety of tea leaves: the amount of tea leaves in the strainer; the temperature of the water, and the amount of time the tea steeps before drinking.

 

Throughout the presentation, Bromberg demonstrated the proper way to brew a pot of tea, which can only be accomplished with a proper tea strainer. He brewed five different teas, including white tea, oolong tea, a pineapple flowering tea and black tea. He set his electric teakettle to different temperatures for each, and poured a taste into each participant’s white ceramic teacups.

 

Somehow, he magically made a small teapot stretch to accommodate all.

 

Next came instruction in the proper way to taste tea. Since 80% of the taste of tea is from its aroma, smelling it is an important first step. So is slurping — and the more noise the better.

 

One thing the mild-mannered Bromberg is unequivocal about is his abhorrence for tea bags. “They are horrible, vile and disgusting,” he said with the trace of a shudder. “They were invented in the United States by two women who tired of cleaning leaves out of pots.”

 

Strainers are designed to let tea leaves come to life; tea bags are designed to steep quickly with macerated, tightly packed leaves that lose their flavor. “Tea wants to stretch out,” he emphasized, as he passed around the strainers with post-steeped tealeaves as evidence.

 

Bromberg had just borrowed “The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane” from his local library when Souza contacted him to arrange the Swampscott tea tasting, so the timing was perfect. He liked the writing a lot, especially the way the author described the hard work the tea pluckers, who were almost all women, did for very little pay. “I like to make people aware of the strong and patient women who were at the very beginning of the tea making process,” he said.

 

Izzi Abrams, who has run book groups at Swampscott Library for over 18 years and is co-director of the library’s children’s department, was delighted that Bromberg excited the crowd with his knowledge and experience. “A program like this evening makes a book come alive. It makes it experiential,” she said.

 

For more information about Hillel Bromberg and his Tea Oasis business, visit http://www.teaoasisboston.com

 

 

 

Local couple buys Swampscott-based Craft Beer Cellar

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Kim and Joe Nunnari a re the new owners of Craft Beer Cellars in Swampscott, which also sells Kim’s homemade beer soap, displayed on the counter.

 

The Swampscott store will sell regionally brewed beer, other beverages, chocolates — and beer soap.

About 20 years ago, Joe Nunnari’s in-laws gave him a home brew kit as a Christmas gift.

“I didn’t know a whole lot about beer, but soon learned all about the craft after brewing a few good batches,” the Swampscott resident said.

“I brewed some bad ones as well,” he added with a chuckle.

Little did he realize it at the time, but that gift sparked an idea that would take two decades to ferment. Last month, Nunnari and his wife, Kim, became the new owners of Craft Beer Cellar Swampscott on 450 Paradise Road.

When CBC Swampscott opened in February 2016, Nunnari was its first hire. Eighteen months later, when the opportunity to purchase the franchise arose, he jumped at the chance.

“Being an employee here first for a year and a half has certainly helped being able to move into the ownership position,” he said.

Although the store carries ciders and some wines, it focuses on retailing craft beer from local breweries, such as Notch and Old Planters, as well as a curated selection of regional and international breweries. “Craft beers are higher-end beers. Small brewers make these beers in small amounts. They are not mass produced, so they don’t have that mass-produced taste,” Nunnari explained.

Like all CBC Swampscott employees, Nunnari is a Cicerone Certified Beer server, ensuring that his customers receive knowledgeable answers to their questions.

Although he and Kim have only owned the shop for a month, they’ve already made significant changes. They have added a larger selection of beers — including 12-packs — as well as chocolates made by CB Stuffer, a Swampscott company, and hot sauces and marinades supplied by a central Massachusetts vendor.

The most exciting beer-related merchandise, however, is Kim’s homemade beer soaps. A retired registered nurse, she has been making soap for almost 10 years, selling them at farmer’s markets and craft fairs.

“You can use any solution for the liquid when you make soap, so I started using still beer because it was on hand,” she said. “It gives a different quality to the soap, making it a little more lathery and bubbly.”

She gave them as gifts to her family and the response was so positive that the couple is now retailing them at CBC Swampscott.

Nunnari also plans to host beer tastings classes to help people increase their awareness and knowledge of “great tasting beer.” “I love talking beer with our customers, and I’m looking forward to continuing to do that,” he said.

Nunnari credits his previous careers with providing experience that help in his new venture. He spent 20 years in the airline catering business and seven years as a quality control manager in a high-end bakery production plant. “Both places were 24/7 operations that required a lot of my time. Both jobs definitely helped pave the way for my being a business owner,” he said.

Although Kim doesn’t officially work in the store, her husband recognizes that they are very much a team. “To say that she has been a huge help in getting the changes underway would be an understatement. I wouldn’t and couldn’t have done it without her,” he said.

Gesturing at his store and the beautifully displayed merchandise, he beamed. “It’s great to have an idea and be able to run with it,” he said with a proud smile.

For more information, visit swampscott.craftbeercellar.com or call 781-715-8495.

Neshama Carlebach headlines Swampscott inclusion celebration

By Shelley A. Sackett

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Neshama Carlebach will headline Swampscott’s Shirat Hayam’s Shir Lanu Inclusion Initiative Celebration on October 27 and 28.

 

Singer/songwriter Neshama Carlebach, a passionate advocate for inclusion in synagogue, will headline Congregation Shirat Hayam’s Shir Lanu (“One Song-Every Voice”) Inclusion Initiative Celebration October 27 and 28.

“When you’re accepting people who are different than you, it means that you have acceptance and love in your heart. Period. And if you don’t have love and acceptance in your heart, that’s not a place to pray,” the six-time entrant in the 2011 Grammy Awards said by phone last week from her New York City apartment.

One of Shirat Hayam’s stated missions is to support and provide opportunities for families and individuals with special needs as well as the LGBTQ community, interfaith families, elders and everyone who seeks a genuinely respectful, compassionate and responsive synagogue experience.

“I believe that hands down, this is one of the most important missions in the Jewish world right now. Every single synagogue should have this mission attached to their synagogue statement,” Carlebach said.

Last May, the synagogue received a selective Ruderman Synagogue Inclusion Project (RSIP) grant to further its inclusion work. The Ruderman Family Foundation is a Boston-based philanthropic entity that advocates for and advances the inclusion of people with disabilities throughout society.

Michele Tamaren and Amanda Clayman co-chair Shirat Hayam’s Shir Lanu inclusion committee and attended the gathering for the cohort of new 2017 RSIP affiliates. There they met Neshama Carlebach, who performed for the group.

“We were deeply moved by her soulful ability to lift hundreds of us in that room,” Tamaren said. She and Clayman stayed and connected with her after the concert. When the Shir Lanu committee started planning the October inclusion event, Tamaren and Clayman invited Carlebach to be the weekend’s artist-in-residence and to perform a community concert Saturday night with her gospel band, The Glory to God.

 

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Neshama Carlebach has sold more than one million records, and performed and taught in cities worldwide.

Neshama Carlebach is the daughter of renowned Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, the folksy, guitar-playing Orthodox rabbi who created hundreds of uplifting melodies, including many that are part of Shabbat services in synagogues all over the world. She sang with her father until his death in 1994, when she launched her own professional career.

She has sold more than one million records, performed and taught in cities worldwide, and co-authored the Broadway play, “Soul Doctor,” based on her father’s life. In 2016, she was inducted into the Brooklyn Hall of Fame, where she received a Certificate of Congressional Recognition for her work.

 

Carlebach credits her father for instilling in her the desire to bring inclusivity, love and wonder to the world. “My father gave that to me in my ear and in my heart from the moment I was born. That’s what he stood for. There’s no way I could have been any different,” she said.

She has done several events with the Ruderman Family Foundation. “I have never cried so much in my life, sitting and hearing these inspirational people talk about how they have struggled in their wheelchairs and how doors have been shut in their faces,” she said.

As the weekend’s artist-in-residence, Carlebach will provide inclusion teachings at the Friday, October 27 evening “Holy, Happy Hour Minyan” and the Saturday, October 28 morning “Nosh and Drash” Shabbat services. “Her teachings will focus on the Jewish imperative of inclusion,” Tamaren said.

Saturday evening, she will perform with her band and members of the spirited New York gospel choir, The Glory to God Gospel Singers, at Congregation Shirat Hayam, 55 Atlantic Ave, in Swampscott.

Reflecting on today’s divisive political climate, Carlebach thinks her father would be broken-hearted about the pain in the world and would have tried to do everything he could to bring healing. “Under his influence and in my own heart, I hope to try to do the same,” she said.

“There’s a song I sing called, ‘Y’hi shalom b’haylech’ – ‘May there be peace in your borders and tranquility in your castles.’ My father spoke about that all the time, that true peace comes from within the castle,” she said.

She paused for a few moments, then added, “I know you can’t heal what’s going on now with a song, but it would be great if all the world was waiting for was that one right niggun (Jewish religious melody).”

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit shirat­hayam.org/Neshama or call 781-599-8005.

Swampscott cantor hits it out of the park with new CD release

Shelley A. Sackett, correspondent

 

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Cantor Elana Rozenfeld loves her job at Congregation Shirat Hayam (CSH) and last Sunday, her congregation gave her a big “back atcha” with a “Song of the Sea Soirée” that honored her six years as their cantor and celebrated the release of her new CD, “Hallelu!”

 

The sold-out crowd of over 260 guests was treated to an elegant evening of food, camaraderie and — most importantly — music as Cantor Elana and her six-piece band performed a repertoire that included several songs from the new CD and ranged in genre from Yiddish theater to a popular Israeli radio hit song to liturgical music.

 

Rabbi Michael Ragozin introduced her as the “biggest engine and vehicle” that has strengthened the temple’s ability to forge life long, meaningful relationships. “Her music brings us together in powerful ways that I haven’t experienced anywhere else,” he said. “This is the space where I want to be and it is all because of our cantor.”

 

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“I’m an artist. That’s what fills me up, it’s what gives me something to give. If I take away the giving part of what I do, I’m not happy,” she said.

 

That generosity of spirit and artistry were on full display during the 70-minute concert and fundraiser that brought the audience to their feet for two standing ovations and had many wiping away a tear after her soulful encore rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

 

Each of the 14 songs took on a special meaning after Cantor Elana’s informative and anecdotal introductions. The musicianship of her band (violin: Yaeko Miranda Elmaleh; guitar: Lautaro Mantilla; percussion: Jeremiah Klarman; bass: Simón Willson; back vocals: Sarah Nissenbaum; piano: David Sparr) added special texture, color and professionalism to the evening.

 

In the audience, 17-year-old Rachel Nissenbaum and her parents, Lilly and Jerry, were thrilled that Berklee vocal student and Rachel’s sister, Sarah, was sharing the stage with Cantor Elana as back up singer. “It’s so nice to see so many people here supporting the cantor. It’s very beautiful,” Rachel said.

 

“I’m so excited! I can’t wait!” added Lilly.

 

“Oy Mame,” a Yiddish love song, had the crowd clapping along to Cantor Elana’s exaggerated theatrical gestures and tapping their toes to Elmaleh’s klezmer-like violin accompaniment.

 

“Shavim,” a popular Israeli song about equality and inclusion, was dedicated to CSH and its “tireless effort to support all people in our spiritual home.” The cantor underscored her point by signing the words as she sang them.

 

Other songs urged listeners to look inward during these challenging times. “History Has Its Eye On You/Oseh Shalom,” a “mash up” of a song from the musical “Hamilton” and a Hebrew prayer for peace, is about life, regrets, mistakes and hope for a better future. “It should remind us that it’s up to each of us to make a change and to make peace,” she said.

 

“Seven Years,” a female rewrite of Lukas Graham’s top 40 hit, considers what kind of legacy we want to leave for our children. “I want to make the world a better place. Isn’t that the point of art? Isn’t that the point of music?” she said earlier in the week during an interview.

 

Cantor Elana is known as much for her love of teaching children as she is for her exquisite voice. The Chai Notes, CSH’s all-girl teen choir, is her pride and joy.

 

They performed Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” at the soirée fresh on the heels of their June 13 performance of “Star-Spangled Banner” at Fenway for Jewish Heritage Night.

 

How they got to Fenway is inextricably related to the CD celebrated at the soirée.

 

The girls recorded the song “Hatikvah,” the Israeli national anthem, for Cantor Elana’s new CD. While working with them on that track, she became aware of Fenway’s upcoming Jewish Heritage Night and a light bulb went off in her head. “I thought, ‘We need to do Fenway’” she said.

 

Congregant and choir mom Amanda Clayman contacted the Red Sox and found out how they selected singers and what The Chai Notes would need to submit for consideration. Since they already had studio time for the CD, they were able to quickly record the requisite “The Star Spangled Banner” in three-part harmony and then send it in.

 

“They responded immediately, ‘Yes. We want you.’” Cantor Elana said. “And then we practiced. A LOT.”

 

Although her impressive resume includes NYU’s Tisch School for the Arts, the Jewish Theological Seminary, and cantorial posts at Temple Beth-El Mekor Chayim in Cranford, N.J. and Park Avenue’s eminent Park Avenue Synagogue, her reasons for wanting to make a CD have nothing to do with personal gain or fame. They are all about promoting the synagogue she calls home.

 

“People are starting to know me in the Jewish world and to know Shirat Hayam. We’re this hidden gem and I want us to be less hidden,” she said. “No one would know that a shul (synagogue) like this would exist in Swampscott,” Cantor Elana said.

 

The CD also allows CSH to put their liturgical music on their website. “This is a fraction of the musical legacy of CSH,” she said, adding she hopes people will hear the music and say, “Yeah. I want to go there.”

 

All the money earned by the CD goes to CSH for music programming. Although she owns the copyright to her own music, Cantor Elana does not reap any personal financial benefit from sales.

 

She hopes that people will buy CDs for themselves and for “100 of their closest friends” to support the work she is trying to do.

 

“We say it supports music at Shirat Hayam, but music IS Shirat Hayam. If someone gives money to the Hebrew School or preschool, there’s music programming in both of those. Everything we do is around music,” she said.

 

Rabbi Michael is especially pleased that the CD contains most of the musical prayers which comprise the Friday evening and Saturday morning Shabbat services, giving CSH the ability to reach beyond the weekly live prayer/performance experience and give others access to these same connections any time they want.

 

“Many of the things we do are aimed at increasing accessibility and giving someone this CD also gives them tremendous accessibility to what we’re doing here at Shirat Hayam,” he said.

 

For more information or to buy the CD “Hallelu!”, visit https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/cantorelanarozenfeld.

Creating intergenerational bonds the old fashioned way: by writing letters

by Shelley A. Sackett

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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