PALS Makes a Pal out of Local Singer

Above: From the left are PALs volunteers Judy Dean and Adam McInnis, North Shore Bank’s Mariellen Hayward, and
​PALS volunteers ​Carol Fournier and Lorrie Kmiec /©tfiphoto/barry kaplan
By Shelley A. Sackett

Salem resident Julie Dougherty has been singing since the mid-sixties, performing all over the country and playing many styles of music, including folk, Irish, country-rock and jazz and blues combinations. She also has a soft spot for cats, starting with her own two older indoor cats, and extending to any cat in need. Over the years, she has taken in many a stray cat that has wandered to her back door.

Recently, she was looking out her window and noticed an unfamiliar straggly cat in her yard. “It was so skinny and timid, I thought it was a young cat,” she said. “I left out food, but noticed he wasn’t touching it.”

She knew the cat needed medical attention, but the first two places she called were no help. Then she remembered she had heard that the PetSmart store at 10 Traders Way had a stray cat program. “When I went in, they were so helpful. They sent a PALS Animal Life Saver volunteer out the very next day,” Dougherty recalled.

PALS is the only all-volunteer organization on the North Shore that rescues and rehomes local homeless, abandoned and surrendered cats and kittens. Since 2007, it has been a PetSmart Charities adoption partner, with ten adoption cages in the Salem PetSmart location.

The rescue took quite a while. The cat was an elderly cat that had been abandoned quite a while ago “because we see a fair number of cats running through the neighborhood and I had never seen him before,” said Dougherty. The volunteer worked for two to three hours to get him out from under the shed where it seemed he had gone to die. “He no teeth and I don’t know if he was mistreated, but he certainly was abandoned,” Doughtery added sadly.

The PALS volunteer, who prefers to remain anonymous, rushed the cat to the Northeast Hospital in Peabody Venter, PALS’ volunteer vet, but the cat did die. “At least his final moments were in a very nice, loving environment,” Dougherty said.

Julie Dougherty

Julie Dougherty

She was so moved by the PALS volunteer’s dedication, that Dougherty went to the PALS office and made a donation the very next day. “I also told the staff that if they ever did a fundraiser and they wanted to put some musicians together, they should give me a call,” she said.

Carol Fournier, long-time PALS volunteer and its funding coordinator, did just that and on November 4, the PALS Animal Life Savers fundraiser, “Banding Together,” will be held at Finz Seafood & Grill on Pickering Wharf from 7 to 9 p.m. Julie Dougherty will headline a concert by her friends and local favorite musicians, Woody Woodward, the Errin Brown Band, the Guy Ford Band and Dave Balin & The Bailouts. Finz will offer a limited menu and there will be a cash bar, raffle items and… dancing!

“There are only 80 seats available, so people should pre-order on line,” Fournier said, noting that they wanted to make sure there would be enough room on the dance floor for everyone. Tickets are $25 and availailble at or by calling Fournier at 978-745-7705. If there are still tickets left, walk-in may purchase them at the door.

“This is a bonus,” said KrisTina Wheeler, who started as an FCS (feed, clean and socialize) volunteer in 2006 and is now the PALS President, Managing Director and Treasurer. “The challenge with fundraisers is that we have such a small staff that we don’t have a marketing or advertising budget, so putting these events on really takes the time of a select few people,” she said. Other than the space and cat food donated by PetSmart Charities, PALS relies on donations and adoption fees to fund its work.

According to Wheeler, PALS rescues about 280 cats a year. Of those, between 200 and 230 are adopted. Some of the rest are strays that are returned to their rightful owners and some, like the cat who wandered into Dougherty’s yard, don’t make it.

PALS started in 1995 in Peabody by the animal control officer and a local firefighter. Originally, PALS operated out of Borash Animal Clinic in Peabody and assisted both cats and dogs.

In 2003, PALS was accepted as an adoption partner at PetSmart’s then-new store in Salem. By the next year, PALS left its Peabody location and focused solely on cats in PetSmart’s Traders Way store.

“It’s a great location and good exposure for our cats,” said Fournier, who started volunteering at PALS in 2003 after retiring from the corporate world. “I always loved animals – I had them my whole life – so I was drawn to PALS,” she said.

Once a cat is rescued, it goes to the veterinarian (“91% of all of our expenses is vet care,” said Wheeler). A network of foster homes cares for cats waiting for one of the ten cages to become available in the PALS Adoption Center located in the Salem PetSmart.

Approximately 40 active volunteers work each day to clean cages, do the laundry, feed the cats and socialize with the animals. They also do community outreach, with tables at the Salem Farmers’ Market and a couple of the blessing of the Animals local events. They participate as an exhibitor, trying to build more community awareness of their program.

Volunteers include college students, professionals, mothers, retirees and local animal lovers.

“I’ve been volunteering because I grew up with cats my entire life. I really wish this was all I needed to do, that I could be a full-time volunteer, because it is extremely rewarding,” said Wheeler, noting every one of their cats ends up being adopted. [Wheeler is also Assistant to the General Manager at the Hawthorne Hotel].

PALS has grown from $45,000 in expenses in 2011 to $75,000 in expenses in 2014, with $62,000 of that going to veterinary care. Half of PALS’s income comes from adoption fees and one-fourth is from private donations. The rest comes from fundraising and grants. Wheeler said the organization is looking to set a record in 2015, with over 235 adoptions and close to 300 cats helped.

With part-time volunteers who all have other jobs and responsibilities, Wheeler said that PALS’s biggest challenge is having the manpower to do what needs to get done. “Somehow, we get through it and end up saving 280 cats a year, which is pretty good for 40 people,” she said.

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Moshav: You Can Go Home Again

“Moshav,” the internationally acclaimed American/Israeli group, began when Yehuda Solomon (vocals, percussion) and Duvid Swirsky (vocals, guitar) met as youngsters growing up four doors apart on the Moshav Mevo Modiin. The religious communal settlement in central Israel was founded by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach and attracted a group of eclectic individuals, including Solomon’s and Swirsky’s parents.

“My parents were living in a hippie commune in northern California and they moved to the Moshav and never left,” said Solomon, who is in his late 30’s and lives in Los Angeles with his wife and three young children.

Swirsky arrived at the Moshav on Shabbat when he was ten years old. “I remember Shlomo as a Santa Claus-like character,” he said. “Everybody danced and sang, banging and screaming and jumping up and down. It was a very accepting and comfortable environment.”

“A lot of us kids from the Moshav are singers, spread out all over the world. We run into a lot of them when we travel,” Swirsky added. He also lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two-year-old son Lev (“heart” in Hebrew).

The duo was singing at the Moshav when they were discovered by some American students traveling in Israel who heard their band play and raised money to bring them to the United States to play for a college tour in the 1990’s. “Moshav” was born and relocated to Los Angeles, where they recorded their first album in 1998.

“Shabbat Vol. 1, released in November 2014, pays homage to the many Sabbaths they spent with their beloved Reb Shlomo in the small synagogue packed with family and friends dancing late into Friday nights. “This record brings us back to our childhood,” said Solomon.


Moshav 2014 Moshav Music

The 15 tracks include original, traditional, and Carlebach compositions that the two recorded at their home studio in Los Angeles. “We tried to give it a raw vibe, like we’re all just hanging out again and jamming on the Moshav,” said Solomon.

“This record feels like home,” said Swirsky. “Shabbat is music. Shabbat is roots. Shabbat is open. Shabbat is no judgment.”

Among the songs are “Lecha Dodi,” “Adon Olam” and “Havdallah.” With its mixture of reggae, middle-eastern and traditional styles, and instruments that include bouzouki, banjo, cello, trumpet and oud, the album is an exciting and refreshing way to celebrate Shabbat. “It shows all our colors,” said Solomon.

Standout tracks are a meditative “V’shamru” with its overlay of cellos, the lively reggae-middle eastern styled “Boi Beshalom,” and the catchy, folksy “Shiru.”

“We try to make music that we really love and connect to. We draw from our Jewish roots and heritage, but hopefully the result is universal, something that also sounds really interesting and cool to someone who isn’t Jewish,” Solomon said.

Pictured at top: Duvid Swirsky (left) and Yehuda Solomon met as kids growing up at Shlomo Carlebach’s Moshav commune in Israel.

‘The Soul Doctor’ is In

“Soul Doctor” is a Broadway musical based on the life of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. The Rebbe, who died in 1994, was known as the “rock-star rabbi.” A colorful character, Carlebach transformed liturgical music during the 1960’s, recording over 25 albums and performing with such luminaries as Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and the Grateful Dead.

A brilliant Torah scholar, his progressive and unique views on everything from prayer to women inspired a generation to seek connection to God and to each other through his songs.

The play starts with a flash-forward to its last scene: a 1972 concert in Vienna, at the height of Reb Shlomo’s Haight-Ashbury “House of Love and Prayer” commune phase. The actors enter from four aisles, singing and dancing, sporting vibrant hippie-era clothing and hairdos. I felt like I was seeing “Hair” again. The Jewish version.

This playfulness is unfortunately short-lived, as we begin our plodding, chronological journey through the life of Shlomo, played with subtlety, warmth and charm by the stellar Eric Anderson.

We start in 1938 Vienna, where we meet 13-year-old Shlomo and his middle class family. The heir to a dynasty of Orthodox rabbis, young Shlomo exhibits his rebellious, passionate and determined nature. His Rebbe father moves the family to Brooklyn, one step ahead of the Nazis. He starts a strictly Orthodox yeshiva in his strictly Orthodox shul. Both, Shlomo tells his father, “are bankrupt. The bank accounts are fine, but the seats are empty.”

Shlomo sets off to find a different way to rekindle their passion of head and heart. He doesn’t have to go far. The Chabad-Lubavitch movement has set up shop nearby, and Shlomo, as his father fears he will, “goes to the Hassidim as a tourist, and comes back as a tour guide.”


The late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

Wandering New York’s streets late one night in 1963, Shlomo drifts into a lounge where the classically-trained Nina Simone is singing sultry, smoky blues and jazz. With Nina’s appearance (played by the polished and riveting Amber Iman, in her Broadway debut), the show wakes up and turns an important corner. She’s not exaggerating when she sings, “I Put a Spell On You.”

Meeting Nina is the watershed event of Shlomo’s life. They are kindred souls, both unconventional children of clergy (a Baptist minister in Nina’s case). She plugs him in to his inner neshama (soul/spirit), giving him the tools to express his heart through his music. She is his muse; he is her cheerleader. Their 25-year friendship is a celebration of the secular and the sacred, of mutual respect and support, and of the limitless possibilities available to those of open hearts and minds. Their parallel rises to fame and popularity are as spiritual and uplifting as the songs each sings.

Yet not all the songs are hits. Of the 35 musical numbers in the show, those saddled with new English lyrics feel long and monotonous. The jazz, gospel and Hebrew songs (especially “Ki Va Moed” and “Sim Shalom”) are infectious and stirring.

“Soul Doctor” is not just a valentine to Shlomo Carlebad (although it is definitely that). It raises important questions such as: What are the roles of tradition and revision in modern American Judaism? How do we connect with one another and with God? When have we strayed too far from our roots, for the sake of filling the empty shul?

The play doesn’t offer any easy answers. But it does, per Jewish custom, offer a question. As Shlomo said to his father, “You brought us to America. What did you expect?”