Not Your Zayde’s Cheder

Darkeinulogo

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.

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Residents whet their whistles at Swampscott Public Library

Shelley A. Sackett

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Adam Denny Golab (at left), brewer and head cellarman of Lynn’s Bent Water Brewing Co., and Joe Nunnari, owner of Craft Beer Cellar in Swampscott, treated the over-21-year-old crowd at Swampscott Library to “Beer Tasting 101.”

 

Shelley A. Sackett

Despite rumbling skies and threats of downpours, over two dozen people ventured out last Friday evening to whet their whistles another way — by attending the Swampscott Library’s “Beer Tasting 101.”

For more than two hours, Adam Denny Golab, brewer and head cellarman of Lynn’s Bent Water Brewing Co., and Joe Nunnari, owner of Craft Beer Cellar in Swampscott, treated the over-21-year-old crowd to an evening that can best be described as, “everything you never knew you didn’t know about craft beers.”

Most importantly, after describing the brewing process and explaining in detail the differences in tastes among six beers, they circulated throughout the library’s reading room, pouring sample of the beers. Patrons cleared their pallets with pretzels, chips and cheese and crackers.

Nunnari, who says his wife, Kim, “kind of volunteered him” to sponsor the beer tasting (Kim is a volunteer at the Swampscott Library), hopes people learn a little about the complexities and subtleties of beer.

“There’s more to this than just opening a can,” he said with a laugh.

The library’s philanthropic arm, The Friends of Swampscott, captured the proceeds from the $20-per-ticket admission to the beer tasting event. The nonprofit provides volunteer help, conducts the annual book sale, sponsors programs for adults, purchases all museum passes, funds the library newsletter and underwrites many Young Adult and Children’s Room activities.

The tasting offered four different and distinctive genres of beer: an original German lager beer (Weihenstephaner Original); two malts (Murphy’s Stout and Mayflower Porter); two India Pale Ales (Bent Water’s Sluice Juice and Thunderfunk), and two Sour or Acid beers (Bent Water’s Cosmic Charlie and Destihl Wild Sour).

The history and intricacy of each beer was detailed before patrons had their first sip. IPAs, for example, were developed from pale ales in England to be shipped to India, where the hot climate demanded a lighter beer than typical English stouts. Hops were added so the brew would survive the journey.

Golab pointed out that hop flavors can be personal to the taster, with women, “for some unknown reason,” more prone to taste garlic. The hoppier the beer, the less bitter it tastes.

Some describe IPAs as hazy, chewy or mouthy, he added.

Nunnari also explained the importance of the “three-sip rule” when tasting beer.

“Never trust that first sip. Always sniff the beer first and drink it from a glass, not out of the bottle,” he advised.

Golab attributes Bent Water’s superior flavor to Lynn’s water, the “best water in the area” since it comes from the Lynn watershed instead of central Mass. The different profile minerality-wise gives Bent Water’s beer a different quality.

“After all, beer is 98 percent water,” he pointed out.

Like Nunnari, his interest in beer brewing started with the gift of a home-brewing kit from his parents. He has been brewing beer professionally for four years and the activity reminds him of family life as a child.

“I grew up in a house that cooked together a lot. Combining ingredients that create flavors that are unique and fun and work together well is a creative process,” he said.

He hopes after the tasting people realize there are more styles of beer than their usual go-to brand.

“There are so many different kinds of beer. There is something out there for everyone,” he said.

Sitting at café-style round tables of six, patrons chatted between sips, getting to know each other and the different brews. Anthony Cerra, a Swampscott resident whose father was a soda bottler and beer distributor from Pennsylvania, likes to support the Friends of the Library and likes to taste different kinds of beer. He used to brew beer before he had children.

“I guess it’s in my blood,” he said.

At a nearby table, Andrea Mercurio marveled that this was the first time she had been in the library.

“I love it. I want to wander around. I think I spend too much time at work. I definitely need to hang out here more,” said Mercurio a newcomer to Swampscott, she found out about the event on a Facebook page and thought it would be an excellent way to get out and meet people in the community.

Four years ago, the Swampscott Library hosted a beer tasting, and the library’s executive director, Alyce Deveau, thought it was time to do it again.

“It’s summertime and people drink beer in the summer,” she said. “People will get a lot of information and have a chance to come in and see the library and what they’re missing if they haven’t been here before.”

Reference and Teen Librarian Janina Majeran, who helped serve cheese and crackers between beer “courses,” thought the evening was fantastic.

“It’s really great for the library,” she said. “It is great exposure and something different than just books.”

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!”

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.

 

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.

 

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.

Swampscott Library hosts fabulous Friday night out for the ladies

By Shelley A. Sackett

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Mandy Roberge, owner of Wicked Good Henna, gives Brenda Cohen her first henna tattoo.

 

Last Friday night, over seventy women left their families, pets and chores at home and trekked over to the Swampscott Library for Ladies Night Out, the fabulous Friday fundraiser sponsored by the Friends of the Swampscott Library with help from library staff.

 

The evening was a heaven-sent respite from the wintry ravages of March. Jazz wafted through the library, transformed to resemble more of a cocktail party than house of culture and learning. Attendees were treated to a stress-free evening of pampering, chatting, eating and drinking. Women received one complimentary service with more available to purchase, and they enthusiastically signed up for henna tattoos, Reiki, massage, Tarot and Angel card readings, and personal image consultations. Exciting raffles, pop-up boutiques, speakers and sumptuous appetizers donated by Whole Foods were the icing on the cake.

 

Becky Brandt, owner of Nurture Massage and Wellness in Swampscott, brought her massage chair and complimentary goodie bags to the event. The Swampscott native, who has practiced massage therapy for 7 years, was delighted to be part of the evening. “This looks like a really fun night. There’s a little bit of everything for women to come in and enjoy,” she said.

 

The area that created the biggest buzz, however, was Mandy Roberge’s henna tattooing table. Women gathered to watch Roberge ply her craft and to pick out which design they wanted when, at long last, it would be their turn. Roberge, who lives in Leominster and owns Wicked Good Henna, was invited to participate by one of librarians, a friend of hers. “This event is a nice way for libraries to treat their patrons and also to bring in new people,” she said as she put the finishing touch on a tattoo by sprinkling it with pink sparkles.

 

Alison Kenney, a Marblehead resident and Swampscott Friend for 20 years, heard about this type of event from another library and thought it would be a great fit for Swampscott. “We were looking for new ways to engage the community and raise money and this came out of a brainstorming session with some of the librarians, ” she said. “The library is 100 years old, but it is very vibrant tonight,” she added, as she excused herself to go to her Reiki appointment.

 

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Phyllis Sagan, owner of Sagan Realtors in Swampscott, captivated the audience with her humor, advice and personal tales of running a business.

 

Two speakers, Life Coach and Certified Yoga Instructor Molly Williams and Phyllis Sagan, owner of Sagan Realtors, addressed the standing room crowd. Sagan talked about her experiences starting and growing her business, now in its 34th year, peppering her talk with humor and sage advice. “I live by the motto, ‘No challenge, no business,’” she said.

 

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Alyce Deveau, Swampscott Library director, and Izzi Abrams, co-head of Children’s Services, prepare to draw the winning raffle tickets.

 

The Friends is a tax-exempt entity that provides volunteer help, conducts an annual book sale, sponsors programs for adults, purchases all museum passes, funds the library newsletter and underwrites many Young Adult and Children’s Room activities. The evening’s $50 cost included a year’s membership to the Friends, which holds its open meetings in the library on the second Monday of each month at 7:00pm.

 

Ellen Winkler, a longtime Friend and new Trustee, beamed as she looked around the room. “We’re going to try to reimagine the building from the inside out,” she said with pride.

Millennial Jews finding ways to connect on the North Shore

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Alex Powell and Toby Jacobson discuss the Six13 North program. Photo by Steven A. Rosenberg/Journal Staff

 

By Shelley A. Sackett

 

Last November, a group of young Jewish professionals gathered at the home of Congregation Shirat Hayam Rabbi Michael Ragozin to brainstorm ways to engage their fellow North Shore millennials. Ranging in age from 22 to 45, few of them   had met before and most knew the rabbi only minimally.

Yet all shared the same longing to create a vibrant local community of Jewish friends. They quickly focused on their purpose: To maximize the number they would connect with over the next six months.

They decided to apply for a $2,500 Combined Jewish Philanthropies Young Adult Community Grant to start the group. Named Six13 North after the 613 mitzvot in the Torah, it defines itself as “an open community of young professional Jews and friends with the stated mission to design environments to create, grow, and deepen connections on the North Shore.”

Within two days, recent college graduates Alex Powell and Axi Berman delivered a draft business plan. The group collaboratively revised it and on Dec. 21, CJP awarded the grant and Six13 North was officially launched.

Its first event, Hometown & Homeland, will feature a tasting of local spirits and Israeli wines paired with light snacks at the Bit Bar in Salem at 8 p.m. on March 8.

“We wanted to create a fun, low-barrier social gathering for young, professional Jews and their friends,” Rabbi Ragozin said. 

Subsequent plans include a cooking class, a networking event, and an outdoor recreation get-together.

“Many millennials have the view that temple doesn’t have to be a weekly trip for them to have faith,” Powell said. “My hope is to create a social experience in which participants take the lead and decide what they want to get out of it.”

The Swampscott native attended Temple Israel and Shirat Hayam and grew up in a religious family where Shabbat dinners were frequent and family and friends always gathered to observe Jewish holidays. As a recent Franklin Pierce University graduate, he thinks traditional temple affiliations are more appealing to young families than to “a post-grad still strapped with student loans. There are other means to feel connected.” 

Elliot Adler-Gordon attended the inaugural Six13 North meeting with his wife, Jenna. “People choose to be involved with religion when they find it to be meaningful, and I think that the synagogue-oriented Judaism that many people have grown up with over the past 40 years can be difficult to relate to,” he said. “This is why there needs to be a focus on creating alternative opportunities.” 

Adler-Gordon grew up as an “involved Conservative Jew on Long Island,” attending Jewish day school through high school and Jewish summer camp. He was very active in Jewish life at the University of Pennsylvania and met his wife during a junior year abroad in Haifa.

A product marketing manager at GCP Applied Technologies in Cambridge, Adler-Gordon moved to the North Shore a few months ago from the Brookline/Brighton area after Jenna was hired as the second-grade teacher at Epstein Hillel School. They left behind a strong group of Jewish friends.

“We knew, moving to the North Shore, that there is not much of an involved Jewish young professionals community, so I was glad to hear Rabbi Ragozin was looking for a group to create such a community,” he said.

In addition to sponsoring large events, Adler-Gordon hopes Six13 North helps people meet friends who share interests such as hiking in the mountains or sharing Shabbat dinners. “I am optimistic there are people who live on the North Shore who are looking to be part of a Jewish community,” he said.

Rabbi Ragozin’s plans go far beyond that. By empowering organic leadership within the group, he hopes this self-organized leadership team will design experiences that “create such a buzz that there’s a natural flow of millennials from Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Somerville, and Jamaica Plain into the North Shore.

“I’m speaking with as many millennials as possible. They’re hungry for spirituality and meaning. They’re looking to their faith tradition – Judaism – but not finding models from their childhoods that excite them today. They want the spirituality of social connections, Shabbat dinners, service projects, etc. Their first point of exploration is within Judaism, but up to now, they haven’t found it within existing North Shore Jewish institutions.

“Six13 North flips the script. We say, ‘You are the institution. You make it happen.’” 

To buy tickets ($10) for the Hometown & Homeland event March 8, visit bit.ly/Six13North01.

Swampscott’s Saris takes LEAP into educating those in need

Above: LEAP for education cofounder and executive director Linda Saris (center) with brother and sister Josward Santana of Peabody (at left) and Idekelly Santana King of Lynn. Josward is a sophomore at Middlesex Community College and works full time at Citizens Bank. Idekelly graduated from Northeastern University in 2017 with a degree in mechanical engineering.

By Shelley A. Sackett

JANUARY 25, 2018 – SALEM – Linda Saris’ stellar resumé reads like every parent’s dream. A degree in economics and urban studies from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from the University of Chicago led to a career that culminated in the senior vice presidency of RSA Security, a fast-growing tech company with 1,300 employees and $320 million in worldwide sales. Her leadership and entrepreneurial skills reaped increasing responsibility and commensurate compensation.

Yet through her quarter-century career, she always felt something was missing. “As a mother and full-time employee who traveled a lot, there was little time for community engagement,” the Swampscott resident said. “I did work in support of women’s advancement opportunities in the workplace, but looking back, I should have done more.”

Her “wake up call to do something different” came in 2001, when the tech bubble burst after 9/11. Saris took advantage of a generous severance package and left the private sector to start a nonprofit with a mission to teach tech skills to young people and their parents.

“It was my time to give back and honor my family and cultural tradition of tzedakah,” she said.

Named Salem CyberSpace, the startup began as part of a larger nonprofit called North Shore Community Action Programs and served seven Salem students in 2003. Today, after going solo in 2004, it is known as LEAP for Education, and a $1 million budget allows it to reach over 800 students per year, primarily in Peabody and Salem.

With its mission to help low-income and first generation American students succeed in middle school, high school, and college, LEAP also educates parents on the college process and financing. It now has a staff of 17 and over 100 volunteers. Saris is understandably proud of LEAP’s 100 percent high school graduation rate and 85 percent college access and retention rates.

While LEAP continues to focus on teaching tech skills and emphasizes STEM – a curriculum based on science, technology, engineering, and math – it has adapted to changing demographics by also providing arts programs and English literacy for the growing immigrant population for whom English is a second language.

According to Saris, organizations like LEAP are especially important during this current administration. “LEAP helps to support, educate, affirm, and make feel welcome young people [and their families] from a variety of countries,” she said.

When new and longtime citizens meet and build connections across ethnic and cultural lines, Saris thinks the resulting familiarity and understanding creates respect, tolerance, admiration, and affection among a diverse citizenry.

“Those qualities are the antidote to prejudice, ignorance, and scapegoating,” she said.

Saris was raised in West Roxbury and attended Congregation Mishkan Tefila in Newton (now in Brookline), where she became a bat mitzvah in 1965 and attended Hebrew school through 11th grade. While her home life was “not overly religious,” her parents and temple educators stressed the importance of charity and community engagement.

As a high school student, she volunteered at ABCD in Dorchester, tutoring young children. “I talked incessantly about the inequities I saw in our community and my parents pushed me to put action behind my words,” she said.

Growing up during the 1960s empowered Saris. “It was a decade of citizen empowerment, of despair and of hope,” she said. “The events around me, my family, my Jewish cultural roots, all foreshadowed the path I decided to take.”

Her sister Patti Saris, older by 11 months, serves as chief judge of the federal court in Boston, and it is evident the sisters share views on immigration that are at odds with the current administration. Last September, Judge Saris issued a temporary order stopping the Trump administration’s deportation of Indonesians without due process.

At a hearing last week, The Boston Globe reported she compared the Indonesian Christians facing possible torture or death in their Muslim-majority homeland to Jewish refugees trying to escape the Nazis on the St. Louis, a boat that left Germany with 937 passengers, mostly Jews, that was turned away by the US government in 1939. Many were later killed in the Holocaust.

“We’re not going to be that country,” Judge Saris said in court, according to the Globe.

“My sister has always been a source of inspiration and someone I always looked up to,” Linda Saris said. “She was very supportive when I changed my career. However, the drive to do what I did came from within me, with a lot of help from my family and the events of the day.”