I N S I DE
Volume 35 Number 1 Spring & Summer 2014 $3.50
The Real Moses • Jewish Genetic Diseases • Multigenerational Businesses
V35 N1 SPRING & SUMMER 2014
Off-Peak Orlando • Surviving Leningrad • Israel Wants Your Family
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a letter from the editor “Tell me a secret.” “Can you keep a secret?” Is there a more darkly thrilling word in the English language? For years, I “saw” the word in a synesthetic inky green, a forbidding forest of the unknown. And among the secrets we keep, share and spill, the most potent are inevitably related to family. And when you think “family secrets,” you automatically find yourself in the tabloid section of your imagination, the term evoking highlight reels worth of failed businesses, gambling debts, lost children, found mistresses — what’s that? You don’t? Well, then, this is the issue for you. Because there are all kinds of secrets out there, ones that people are only too happy to share. Both Mimi James’ story about multigenerational boutique owners (p. 50) and Beth D’Addono’s story about a Greg Salisbury, editor father-daughter design firm (p. 54) explore families who have discovered the secret to loving each other while working together. But an issue devoted to family secrets wouldn’t be complete without pulling the curtain back on substantial issues, and they don’t get any more substantial than topics like Gail Snyder’s reporting on the long-
And then there are things that we keep to ourselves because we think they hold the key to who we are — and who we aren’t. term effects secret-keeping has on families (p. 22) and the longest piece we have ever published here, a first-person account of what one family had to do to survive the Siege of Leningrad (p. 40). We delve into all manner of the life less examined in this issue, but there is no judgment passed here. Secrets are as inevitable as they are essential. There are things people don’t need to know, there are things that people shouldn’t know, and then there are things that we keep to ourselves because we think they hold the key to who we are — and who we aren’t. And if those carefully guarded talismans of the self are ever proffered, whether you are on the giving or the receiving end, make sure you are seeing happy and safe colors when you hear them.
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The Jewish Lifestyle Magazine EXECUTIVE EDITOR LISA HOSTEIN VICE PRESIDENT/GENERAL MANAGER DAVID A. ALPHER EDITOR GREG SALISBURY SENIOR WRITER MELISSA JACOBS
Judaism isn’t just what we believe, or the prayers we recite or the laws we observe. It’s also about the way we live. How we interact with others. The values we practice. The customs and traditions we embrace and pass down from one generation to the next.
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“My father has taught me – as his father taught him – that Kedushah (holiness) alone isn’t enough. A Jewish life requires a passion for social justice, a devotion to community service and a commitment to tzedakah. The principles of service and charity passed from generation to generation kindle my involvement in such causes as Golden Slipper Club & Charities, Hillel of Greater Philadelphia and American Associates of Ben-Gurion University. They also inspire me to help ease the pain, stress and anxiety felt by others, especially at a time of great personal loss. L’dor, V’dor. It’s who we are. It’s what I am. Now in its fifth generation of family ownership, Joseph Levine & Sons continues to ensure that the memories of our loved ones live on in our hearts.”
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49 THE STYLE SECTION
PASS/FAIL/PRAY What it takes to get tested for Jewish Genetic Diseases Melissa Jacobs
IMPROVING 3G RECEPTION
Learning the secrets to multigenerational success Mimi James
A new generation brings new energy to Holocaust education Melissa Jacobs
SURVIVING THE SIEGE Life in Leningrad during the Nazi blockade Rachel-Lyudmila Merlina
THESE FAMILIES PUT FASHION FIRST
MANIFEST DESTINY A father-daughter design/contractor team works Beth D’Addono
RECLAMATION POINTS Finding the best used parts for your home Beth D’Addono
Photos: 36 From B2247: A Granddaughter’s Understanding by Sara Greenberg; 40 Boris Kudoyarov/RIA Novosti; 50 JA Kemp; 54 Courtesy Design Manifest; 58 JA Kemp
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volume 35 number 1
WHATâ€™S YOUR ISH?
Let My People Know Melissa Jacobs
Learn Your A-B1-B2... Carol Saline
QUAFF Kvetches of Spain Richard Pawlak
Orlando Enchantment Greg Salisbury
A Second Look at the Last Supper David Parsons
FRESS Moving Forward Greg Salisbury
LETTER FROM ISRAEL
All-Inclusive Israel Jessica Steinberg
JUST A MINUTE Alan Butkovitz
GENERATIONS Losing Confidences Gail Snyder
Photos: 70 Courtesy Elvi Wines; 72 Courtesy Avance
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LET MY PEOPLE KNOW What don’t you know about the man, the myth and the legend who led the Israelites out of Egypt? By Melissa Jacobs
eder traditionalists be warned: What some experts have to say about Moses’ real origins may upset the story upon which the Haggadah is based.
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Parts of Moses’ story — the baby in the basket in the Nile, the adopted son who became a prince — may have been borrowed, if not outright plagiarized, from legends belonging to another ancient culture: Assyria. There is no question that, wherever he came from, Moses remains one of the most inspirational and beloved leaders in JudeoChristian-Muslim theology. There is archaeological and social-scientific evidence that Moses was the first great leader of earliest Israel and, as such, he broke Egyptian control of his people, says Mark Leuchter, director of Jewish studies at Temple University. Even if there were not hard data to back up Moses’ legend, Jews would still believe in him. “The Moses of our hearts is the man we admire, no matter his true origins,” says Jonathan Kirsch, author of 13 Jewish-themed books, including the bestseller, Moses: A Life. Kirsch is a Los Angeles-based attorney, the book editor of The Jewish Journal and a frequent commentator on NPR’s Southern California affiliates. “But it is very interesting to read what the Bible actually says — and doesn’t say — about him and then put the whole story into historical context.” Part of that historical context includes Sargon. Although his name makes him sound like a character from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Sargon of Akkad was an Assyrian ruler, one of the most
Born to a priestess mother and a wild, mystical man who lived in the hills, the infant Sargon was put into a basket and floated down the Euphrates River. powerful in its history. “The story of Moses being floated down the Nile, then discovered and adopted by the daughter of the Pharaoh is — note-for-note — lifted from an ancient Assyrian myth about Sargon,” Leuchter says. Here is that legend: Born to a priestess mother and a wild, mystical man who lived in the hills, the infant Sargon was put in a basket and floated down the Euphrates River, Leuchter explains. Sargon was found and adopted by an artisan who raised him to adulthood. When he learned of his true roots, Sargon fulfilled his destiny, overcoming many challenges to become king of Assyria. To be clear, Moses came first; he lived about 1,000 years before Assyria rose to power. But the story of his origins — what is called a “foundation myth” — apparently morphed over that millennium. Isn’t it possible that the Assyrians borrowed Moses’ story? Not likely, says Leuchter. “Before the Assyrian period, the Moses story was, as
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faith far as we can determine, quite different and didn’t have the adoption component to it,” he explains. “It seems that the Israelites’ goal was to make Moses, the founder of their nation, as powerful a leader as the other.” Kirsch agrees that Sargon probably influenced biblical scribes writing in the Assyrian period. There are other possibilities. Kirsch points to a hypothesis about Moses that was offered by Sigmund Freud in the last book he wrote, Moses and Monotheism. In it, Freud contends that Moses was actually an Egyptian prince and not Hebrew. Like Abraham before him, Freud’s Moses rejects the polytheistic religion of his father and embraces monotheism, for which he is banished by his family. He then converts Egypt’s slaves to monotheism and leads them to revolt against Pharaoh to win their freedom. Attan is whom Freud names as the object of Moses’ monotheism, Kirsch explains. But the slaves had a pre-existing covenant with the Hebrew God, known to them by his holy name. “There are those who suggest that the god of the Israelites wasn’t the only god, but just the best of those gods,” Kirsch says, “as He well proved to Moses and Pharaoh, which may have been the point of the burning bush, the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea and the other divinely wrought actions explained in Exodus.” Where does this leave Moses’ siblings? The girl who watches the infant Moses float down the Nile is not named as Miriam; she is identified much later. As for Aaron, he was probably not Moses’ biological brother, Leuchter says. “In ancient cultures, ‘brother’ implied tribal kinship, not sharing DNA,” he explains. “Kinship was created in ancient cultures to create political unions between leaders, and that kinship bond was rock solid. The Israelites would have understood the alliance between Moses and Aaron, and it wouldn’t have mattered to them if they were actual blood brothers.” And does the historical truth matter? It doesn’t to Shoshana Silberman, author of A Family Haggadah, The Jewish World Family Haggadah, The Whole Megillah and many other books that provide education and insight into Jewish holidays and customs. “For me, it’s not a helpful direction to look at the story from a scientific view or to seek historical accuracy,” says Silberman. “I read the stories to find real truths — truths about my people, my religion and myself.” Those truths have not only held up over time but have become more relevant as present-day culture finds new dimensions to Moses’ story. The role of Moses’ Israelite mother and of his Egyptian mother particularly touch Silberman’s heart. She finds their stories repeated again and again through history: from Kindertransports during the Holocaust and Gentile families who hid Jewish children to modern-day Americans adopting children who are Chinese, Russian or African. “It speaks to the bond between women and children and women and other women,” Silberman says. “The earliest example of that is Pharaoh’s daughter saying that, no matter where the child came from, she will raise him as her own.”
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And whether Aaron and Miriam were Moses’ real siblings or not, Silberman says that trinity represents a very modern form of leadership. “Working with Aaron and Miriam was Moses’ way of establishing his credibility with the Israelites and it gave him extra understanding of his people,” she says. “Moses doesn’t pronounce himself the one and only ruler. He leads with them as, literally, a member of the tribe — something we see today in successful governments.” Kirsch sees another theme in the story of Moses’ origins: the threat of assimilation. “Wherever the Jews have gone, they have been tempted to give up their religion for power, privilege and wealth,” he says. “Whether Moses was a prince or not, he was an Egyptian — not a slave — and had a comfortable life. He gave that
“For me, it’s not a helpful direction to look at the story from a scientific view or to seek historical accuracy. I read the stories to find real truths — truths about my people, my religion and myself.” –Shoshana Silberman up and lived a very different, difficult life. The point may have been that we may have the opportunity to affiliate with the goyim, and that may make your life more comfortable. But you have to realize your true nature to be a ‘real’ Jew.” Finding one’s “real” self resonates with his college students, Leuchter says. Many see Moses as someone of mixed race, or of mixed cultures, including immigrants and first-generation Americans seeking freedom and opportunities in the United States. It may also resonate with anyone whose “real” self has been hidden for years, either from self-ignorance or for fear of disapproval. Through that lens, Moses is a role model because the wealthy trappings of his life were not enough to keep him from establishing a new, more authentic self-identity. He “outed” himself and had to deal with his Egyptian family’s disapproval before he found a tribe that accepted him for who he was. “Many people identify with the concept of creating family different from the one you were born into,” Leuchter says. All of these reasons are why the story of Moses is eternally and universally embraced, Kirsch says. “What you were born doesn’t determine your fate,” he says. “Your faith in yourself and your faith in God do that.” ❏ Melissa Jacobs is the religious affairs correspondent for Inside.
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A SECOND LOOK AT THE LAST SUPPER A group of theologians re-examines the links between Passover and Easter. By David Parsons/JNS.org
or Jews and Christians, Passover is a special time for reflection on the rich spiritual truths contained within this
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remarkable holiday. Indeed, we can all observe the command to “remember” the incredible Israelite deliverance from bondage in Egypt.
For Christians, the events of a momentous Passover some 15 centuries later have given added meaning to this holiday, so that the truths of the first are reinforced in the latter. Deliverance from Pharaoh’s taskmasters became freedom from slavery to sin. The blood of a lamb on the doorposts became a typology of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Yet the parallels between Pesach and Easter were lost for centuries to most Christians when the early Church fathers deliberately severed our faith from its Jewish roots. In time, this hostility to Judaism produced vicious blood libels against Jews at Passover. Today, however, multitudes of Christians are rediscovering our Hebraic roots. Indeed, TIME magazine recently identified growing Christian interest in our faith’s Jewish heritage as one of the 10 top trends of our day. Even respected Jewish scholars have started joining Christian theologians in rediscovering the “Jewishness” of Jesus and the Hebraic origins of Christianity. One notable in this regard is the late Prof. David Flusser of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, considered the leading Orthodox Jewish expert on the Second Temple era and early Christianity. Flusser placed Jesus within the pharasic tradition and viewed him as among the great sages of his time, such as Hillel and BenShammai. But Flusser concluded that the Galilean preacher went
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boldly beyond the classic Judaism of that day, for instance by proclaiming the advent of the Kingdom of God and espousing a radical ethic of loving one’s enemy. As a result of such groundbreaking scholarship, the Feast of Passover is one occasion when the lineage and cultural identity of Jesus as a “son of the covenant” now holds so much more meaning for Christians. In fact, nothing reattaches Christians to their Jewish roots faster than realizing the Last Supper was actually a Passover seder meal being led by a Jewish rabbi. Thus, we can now see in the Gospel narratives just how closely Jesus held to Jewish traditions in presiding over the Passover meal with his disciples — or rather, his talmidim. For instance, he followed the custom then developing in firstcentury Judaism of serving four cups of wine at the Passover meal to mirror the four great “I wills” of Exodus 6:6-7. When Jesus took the third cup — considered the “cup of redemption” — he used it to seal a new covenant with his followers. Interestingly, he also used customary Jewish words of betrothal at that same moment, promising to go build them all mansions in his Father’s house and to come back for them one day as a bridegroom for his bride (John 14:2-3). In serving them wine and unleavened bread, Jesus further played off the command to “remember” Passover by instructing his disciples to always partake of it “in remembrance of me.” Then, one of the most extraordinary moments of the Last Supper came when he washed the feet of his disciples. Like other great rabbis of his day, Jesus had developed a unique preaching style by telling parables, many of which are universally known to this day, such as the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son. But he was different in the way he also practiced what he preached. In washing the feet of his disciples, the rabbi Jesus taught by deed and not just words what it means to be a servant in His kingdom (John 13:14-15). And finally, Jesus demonstrated tremendous grace that evening when he gave the place of the guest of honor to his immediate left to Judas, even though he knew this was the one about to betray him. What a difference it would have made down through history if Christians had understood that Jesus was never bitter towards Judas. Sadly, it is too late to change that history. But we are witnessing a sea change in Christian attitudes towards the Jewish people today, as we understand better the Jewish matrix of our faith. This historic shift is helping to build Christian support for an embattled Israel at a critical hour. And just as importantly, it is shielding multitudes of people against modern-day blood libels and other anti-Semitic lies now being hurled at the Jewish state. ❏ David Parsons is an ordained minister who serves as media director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (www.icej.org).
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LEARN YOUR A-B1-B2â€™S... And your C, D, E, K â€” and the rest of the rapidly changing medical and conventional wisdom on vitamins. By Carol Saline
nybody who took a basic science course in high school has heard the story about the ship from the Spanish Armada whose crew began dying from a strange, undiagnosed disease on a long Pacific voyage.
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When they dropped anchor to bury the dead, one of the ailing sailors sated his hunger with a cactus fruit growing on the shore. His mates followed his lead and gathered up as much fruit as they could to take back to the ship. In two weeks, everyone on board was miraculously healed. A century later, scientists recognized that the men were suffering from scurvy due to an acute vitamin deficiency, caused by a waning supply of fruits and veggies on protracted trips at sea. By then, most ships had taken to carrying huge vats of lemons to deal with the problem — although they had no idea why that worked until 1928, when a Hungarian biochemist identified the cause of scurvy as a lack of vitamin C. Today, we have a far greater understanding of what vitamins are, what they do and why vitamin deficiencies cause certain diseases. Vitamins, quite simply, are organic compounds critical for maintaining life. There are 13 essential vitamins: A, C, D, E, K and B1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9 and 12. A serious lack of any one of them can bring on a variety of conditions like scurvy, rickets, pellagra and night blindness. These are no longer a big problem in the United States but still plague the developing world. Vitamins are essential components in all aspects of the human operating system. They’re involved in everything from vision, skin, immunity, DNA production, cell division, nerve function, building and maintaining tissues, muscles, blood cells and more. Once ingested, vitamins act as helpers or catalysts. “Without them, there would be no metabolism,” explains Dr. Hal White, a biochemist who has done important research into the role of vitamins in chemical reactions. “Bacteria, fungi, plants, humans — everybody needs them.” Simply put, without vitamins, we could not survive. Once upon a time — about four billion years ago — nobody got vitamins from an outside source; organisms were self-sustaining vitamin factories. But in the course of evolution, many species, including our own, lost that internal manufacturing capability. It’s speculated that this happened because as humans got more and more of their necessary vitamins from foods they hunted and gathered, they gradually lost the ability to make their own supply. As Darwin once postulated, why waste energy concocting a substance when it’s readily available all around you? Today, the only vitamins our bodies still make are D and K. There is universal agreement in the health sciences that food is the best source of vitamins. Period! If you want to follow a diet that fulfills your daily needs, Drexel dietician Nydee Dardarian suggests that good go-to sources for vitamins are: apples, bananas, brown rice, yogurt, protein, skim milk, bright-colored produce (she keeps frozen veggies readily available to add to every meal) and nuts like almonds, pistachios and walnuts. Nuts have become the latest wonder food as new studies find that people who eat nuts every day live longer. The big problem is that most of us have inadequate diets that
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health don’t supply all of the nutrients our bodies require. As Dr. Ara DerMarderosian, professor of pharmacognosy and medicinal chemistry at the University of the Sciences, says: “If you have three square meals a day, you don’t need vitamins. But who has that ideal diet?” No one I know has read, let alone can follow, the recommended diet from the National Institutes of Health’s Choose My Plate website (www.choosemyplate.gov). We eat on the run, grazing on whatever is easy to grab. Obesity is an epidemic. Fad diets have us eliminating one food group after another. Eternal youth from a bottle is viewed by baby boomers as a birthright. No wonder the supplement industry has exploded into a $40 billion-plus money machine by hawking vitamins and minerals to an audience eager to buy into its sometimes-outlandish promises. Ever since Linus Pauling claimed in his 1970 bestseller, Vitamin C and the Common Cold, that vitamin C could cure the common cold, we have come to believe in the magic of pills to improve our health. A recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control found that 40 percent of American men and women take a vitamin and mineral supplement. I am one of them because I can’t remember the last time I ate five portions of fruits and vegetables in one day. I take supplements to ensure that I am getting the vitamins I need. That’s why I was flabbergasted when, in the waning days of 2013, the prestigious Annals of Internal Medicine published an article damning vitamin supplements with the force of a rabbi condemning pork at a Bar Mitzvah. In a startling opinion piece, the authors — five respected physicians — stated that supplements and multivitamins are a total waste of money. Their thesis was based on the findings of three different studies. The first was a meta-analysis of 27 earlier studies that found no evidence that multivitamins prevent cardiovascular disease or cancer nor did they prevent early mortality. The second study looked at people who’d had heart attacks to see if multivitamins protected them against another occurrence. Unfortunately, so many people dropped out of the study that the findings were ultimately considered inconclusive. The third study followed 6,000 doctors for 12 years. There was no improvement in the cognitive function of those who took vitamins versus a placebo. Based on this evidence, the
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authors advised the American public to flush their vitamins down the toilet and buy broccoli and bananas instead. The report got tremendous attention in the media and was quickly heralded as the new gospel. I was highly suspicious — and confused. If vitamins are so critical to our well-being and most people have diets with nutritional holes, why shouldn’t someone want to swallow a daily multivitamin to fill the gap? Gladys Block, a professor of nutrition at University of California Berkeley, supported my skepticism. “Most Americans,” she says, “don’t have a healthy diet and don’t get the vitamins and minerals they need.” She noted that the men in the doctors’ study were well-fed physicians with no health problems, so their lack of cognitive improvement wasn’t particularly significant. It’s not as if they transitioned from a nutritional wasteland to a new regimen of nourishment where a change could really be measured. And as for the conclusion that multivitamins don’t prevent cancer and heart attacks, that’s not even part of argument for taking them. The primary reason is to maintain general health and wellness — and no institution is funding the study of anything that vague. Frank Duffy, a registered dietician at Temple Hospital, had another concern when he read the report. “For public health, you want to get nutrients to people who need them,” he says, “and the fallout will be that the people who think they don’t need vitamins may be the very ones who do.” DerMarderosian says that quite honestly, we really don’t know what conditions vitamins might improve and what, if any, boost they provide. “We can prove that too much of a particular supplement is a problem, but it’s nearly impossible to prove what specific vitamins help.” Or as biochemist White told me, “a daily vitamin shouldn’t hurt you. The question is, will it help — and how?” We may not know that answer yet, but there is no denying that vitamins and minerals are vitally important to our overall health; otherwise, we wouldn’t fortify so much of our food. I called Carol Haggans, a consultant with the NIH office of dietary supplements, for some guidance. She said, “People will take a multivitamin to help fill nutritional gaps in their diet and that’s fine, although it’s preferable to get the vitamins you need from food.
That way, you also get other things like fiber that donâ€™t come from a pill.â€? Haggans worries that vitamin hype, combined with our â€œmore is better culture,â€? will encourage people to overload on vitamins, which can be dangerous. In large doses, for example, vitamin A can cause birth defects, B6 can cause neuropathy, D can cause calcification and iron can be fatal. On the other hand, there are categories of people who should take vitamins. White says vegetarians need B12 because the primary source of that vitamin for humans is beef, which they eschew. For people on statins, he recommends coenzyme Q, and for pregnant women, folic acid. Everybody in the Northeast, where we get limited sunlight for the long months of winter, should be taking vitamin D. And Haggans supports the use of calcium and vitamin D supplements for bone health and fracture prevention. Thatâ€™s especially important for teens who are building bone and postmenopausal women who are losing it. If you do decide to take a daily multivitamin, look for a brand thatâ€™s approved by an organization like Consumer Lab, NSF International or U.S. Pharmacopeia. They test for proper manufacturing practices and give a seal of approval, which you can find on the bottle or look up on the Internet. Some of the brands that carry the U.S. Pharmacopeia seal are Nature Made, Kirkland (sold at Costco) and Berkley & Jensen (sold at BJâ€™s). To be safe, read labels. Many supplements add herbals, botanicals, amino acids and enzymes that may not be good for you. â€œBe very careful of supplements with the words â€˜Megaâ€™ or â€˜Super,â€™ â€? cautions Temple dietician Frank Bruni. You want only a standard multivitamin that provides the RDA (recommended daily allowance) or DV (daily value) established by government agencies. Nothing else is necessary for healthy people. Itâ€™s also worthwhile to choose a vitamin targeted to your age and gender, as the amounts we need vary over the course of our lives. There are also some good government websites should you want to explore the controversy in greater depth. Two that I liked were ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/list-VitaminsMinerals and ods.od.nih.gov/ Health_Information/ODS_Frequently_Asked_Questions.aspx#Brands Despite the hoopla created by the report trashing supplementary vitamins, the â€œto take or not to takeâ€? question has not really been resolved. Even the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements straddles the fence. One of its fact sheets states: â€œBased on current research, itâ€™s not possible to recommend for or against the use of multivitaminâ€“minerals to stay healthy longer.â€? Given their uncertainty, I have opted to continue to pop my daily vitamin. I side with DerMarderosian. â€œTaking vitamins is a form of long-term insurance,â€? he says. â€œIn a perfect world, weâ€™d get everything we need from food â€” but who lives in a perfect world? So I turn to vitamins because Iâ€™m not taking any chances.â€? â?? Carol Saline is the mahoff for all things medical at Inside and the Special Sections of the Jewish Exponent.
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LOSING CONFIDENCES Dealing with — and breaking free from — family secrets can take a lifetime. By Gail Snyder
n 1972, Elaine Wolf was 23 and looking forward to a night out with her husband and 25-year-old cousin when her pleasant evening evaporated.
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Forty-two years later, the 65-year-old Wolf can still picture the scene. She was wearing a long-sleeved ivory dress with navy buttons, waiting her turn in the restaurant’s buffet line. Out of nowhere, her cousin said, “I don’t understand your family — all the secrets about your mother. Why can’t we talk about them? “For starters,” the cousin continued, “just the fact that she was married before and divorced; why doesn’t anybody know that?” Wolf was stunned. Her mother, a German immigrant, had never said a word about a previous marriage. So how did her cousin know? Wolf’s cousin had thoughtlessly opened a family secret in the worst possible way. “I was embarrassed to tell my cousin that I had no idea what she was talking about,” Wolf said, adding that she felt as though a seismic shift had occurred when she discovered that her parents were not who she thought they were. When she got over her shock, the Northampton, Mass., resident telephoned her parents. Her father answered the phone. “Dad, why didn’t you ever tell us Mom was married before?” she remembered asking him. Her father feigned ignorance. She then told him what her cousin had said and asked if she had any half-sisters or brothers. Her father said, “We don’t talk about that — and don’t be ridiculous. Of course you don’t have any half-siblings.” Her father made it clear that no further conversation was possible. As it turned out, her mother had kept other secrets. For years, she had maintained that she was four years younger than Wolf’s father when, in fact, she was four years older. The children found out one by one and were sworn to secrecy when they applied for passports as teenagers. Although Wolf conceded that her three siblings were not bothered by their mother’s truth-bending, to her it was significant. She worried that her parents might have hidden other things as well. And even though she grew up with a mother and father who loved each other, she nonetheless felt betrayed by them. The desire to keep secrets from other family members or within the family is more common than you might think. Every family has secrets, said Evan Imber-Black, author of The Secret Life of Families: Making Decisions About Secrets, and a marriage and family therapist who has studied secret-keeping in families for more than 20 years. In her book she wrote, “Every secret is like a member of a family, reflecting familiar patterns handed down generation after generation, while simultaneously embodying its own unique soul.” Often, the secrets we keep are about what embarrasses us, could lead to our being ridiculed or excluded or are just too painful for us to confront: a marital failure, an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, an illness such as cancer, a sexual matter or even ongoing pain from a long ago event such as the Holocaust. Of course, not all secrets cause problems. In an interview, ImberBlack pointed out that there is an upside to keeping some secrets such as the surprise party planned for a family member. Moreover,
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generations adolescents need to keep some aspects of their lives hidden from their parents. She said, “I worry about kids that can’t keep secrets because of too much closeness” to their parents. “To find out who you are, you need to step away a bit and keep some things you are trying to yourself or to your friends — and as long as they’re not dangerous, that’s a good thing.”
“Surely, dealing with secrets is the high-wire act in the circus of life.” – Evan Imber-Black She pointed out that each secret, and the circumstances that surround it, needs to be evaluated on its own. “Surely, dealing with secrets is the high-wire act in the circus of life,” Imber-Black observed. In helping her clients, Doris Jeanette, of the Center for New Psychology in Philadelphia, knows firsthand the isolation and distance that secret-keeping can have on families. She said that by closing the door, as Wolf’s parents had done, it kept their children at a distance — a situation in which everyone loses. However, some secrets are best left unspoken. Lori Kanat Edelson, a clinical social worker and marriage and family therapist in Troy,
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Mich., recalled the intractable position of one young Orthodox woman who spent nearly two years in therapy with her more than a decade ago. The mother of two had become attracted to another woman in the Orthodox community. Their friendship graduated from attending playgroup together to having a sexual relationship. Edelson’s client began withdrawing from her husband, who resented the time his wife was spending with her friend. Their marriage grew tense but neither considered divorce an option. In the end, the woman left therapy and, as far as Edelson knows, stayed in the marriage. She chose to live a lie within the Orthodox community rather than face the ostracism she would have experienced for her forbidden attraction. “When you have to fit in, with little wiggle room for diversity or individuality, there is greater likelihood secrecy will occur and cause tremendous pain for members of the community,” Edelson said. She added, “Not every story has a happy ending; not every therapy, in all good conscience, encourages people to be as open as they possibly can be. Repercussions can include being disowned, ostracized, excommunicated and parted from children. It’s a real dilemma.” Even so, Edelson said, “in my field, I have seen how revealing secrets and opening up and talking about events people were ashamed or embarrassed by or victimized by is typically a healthy experience.” Ruthy Kaiser, senior staff therapist at the Council for Relationships in Bryn Mawr, recalled one couple who came in for counseling after 30 years of marriage. He was a professional whose business began to fail. Ashamed to tell his wife that he could no longer provide for her as he had in the past, he began to gamble, losing the couple’s retirement money. Despite what had happened, the couple still loved each other. They were willing to work with Kaiser on the husband’s shame issues and to repair their breach of trust. The couple has now reconciled. What advice do therapists have for people who suspect there are family secrets; for those who are contemplating opening a secret; or even for parents who want to make sure that secrecy never takes hold in their families?
Is There a Family Secret? Is it OK to broach the topic of a suspected family secret? ImberBlack encourages doing so. She said, “What’s the worst that can happen? We have to respect that some things just may be too painful to talk about, but by not asking, we may eliminate the opportunity to talk when the person is ready. The worst thing that can happen is the person will say they don’t want to talk about it.”
Suppose You Are the One With the Secret “As a psychologist, I know that the more secrets I can get my clients to reveal, the faster they will relax, the better they will feel and
the stronger they will get,” said Jeanette of the Center for New Psychology. “We can’t be self-confident, mentally secure and healthy if we are keeping secrets.” What people may not think about, she added, is that it takes a great deal of energy to keep a secret hidden. And secrets have a way of isolating those who keep them.
Once the decision is made to let go of a secret, care needs to be taken with whom the secret is confided. Often, though, when people think about telling their secrets they focus more on the potential risks and disasters that could occur as the result of telling and less about the benefits of unburdening themselves, said Imber-Black. Instead, she wishes they would think: “If I open this, there will be some work for a while — and my family may be rocked for a while — but at the end of the day, I will be in a better situation with people I care about.” Once the decision is made to let go of a secret, care needs to be taken with whom the secret is confided. “We need to share our secrets only with those who are emotionally safe and will not judge us,” Jeanette said. So before a secret is shared with a family member who is likely to be judgmental, it should first be broached with a caring friend, a therapist and/or a rabbi. That way, the person can gradually prepare to deal with the consequences of telling the truth to the person that matters most.
How Parents Can Encourage Openness The most important thing parents can do is to not keep secrets themselves and to create a safe, loving, supportive family atmosphere. For example, Kaiser of the Center for Relationships told her children that they could tell her anything without being ridiculed, punished, judged or rejected. Wolf shares a similar message when she gives talks about her young adult novel, Camp: Every Secret Has a Price. Wolf found her own closure by writing the book, which is about a young girl with a German immigrant mother who kept her own secrets after fleeing the Nazis. As an unexpected bonus, Wolf found that second-generation Holocaust survivors embraced both her and her book. Previously, she had not self-identified as a second-generation Holocaust survivor because her parents never talked about the war. But now, she said, “I feel as if I am so much more grounded, know who I am and understand myself better.” ❏ Gail Snyder writes from Chalfont and is a frequent contributor to Inside.
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What’s Your Ish? What being a Jewish Philadelphian means to you. By Greg Salisbury Photos by Joseph Kemp
bitter cold winter evening may not have been the best time to be talking to people about Passover, but there we were at the second annual Bubby’s Cook Off, a culinary competition to benefit the Friendship Circle of Bucks
County. The event, held at Vie in Center City on Feb. 26, featured some of the region’s best chefs cooking their versions of Jewish comfort food. In the end, Laura Frangiosa of Lansdowne’s Avenue Deli was declared the people’s choice winner
for her chopped liver arancini. In between forkfuls, we wanted to know: If you could add a Fifth Question to the seder, what would it be? As usual, your answers, er, questions, didn’t disappoint.
Sara Strugger, 21, Philadelphia, Meir Miskin, 22, Temple Esther Shemtov, 20, Yardley We need to ask ourselves the question, “What am I doing and what am I giving to further Judaism to enhance the Jewish experience not only for myself but for those around me?”
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Meir: The Jews were slaves for years — why didn’t Moses get them out of slavery before then? Sara: What is the greater significance to all the rituals and traditions and how does it tie into being a Jew?
“What am I giving to further Judaism?”
“How can we make the seder shorter?” Jade Barnes, 25, Philadelphia I think about this little boy who said, “Moses is so smart, he made it through the desert. I have ADHD and I would have gotten so lost.” I would want to ask how Moses got all of those people through the desert.
Adam Levine, 35, Alina Levine, 40, Bala Cynwyd Adam: Questions are meant to spark other questions, specifically for younger people who don’t have the education about the seder, so I would ask, why is there still anti-Semitism in the world? Alina: How can we end the seder earlier? I have a 2- and 3-year-old and I don’t want to be up too late.
Zalman Blecher, 24, Brooklyn (with wife Chaya) When is the messiah coming? We are celebrating the redemption, the exodus, and Passover is a time to think about when we are going to go home to Israel.
Eric Rubin, 44, Lower Merion Where do we see the future of Judaism going — and how do we get there? INSIDE SPRING & SUMMER 2014
What’s Your Ish?
“Why not cook for 40?”
Lee Weiss, 22, Yardley Lois Yampolsky, 70, NE Philly Why can’t I have more people at my seder? 20 isn’t enough. If I could, I would like to have everybody at my seder — if I’m cooking for 20, why not cook for 40?
What cultural values and traditional values of Judaism have we retained and how have they changed and how have they stayed the same?
David Kaplan, 32, Elkins Park How do we, as Jews living in America, live meaningful, purposeful lives surrounded by all of this technology?
Jesse Goldstein, 19, Philadelphia Ari Goldstein, 17, Wrightstown Jesse: Why is this night better than all other nights? Ari: Why were the firstborn killed? 28
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Lucy Goodwin, Haverford, Garrett Snider and Hope Cohen, Bryn Mawr, Jayne Perilstein, Penn Valley Hope: Why can’t the menu be more varied? Jayne: They can send a man to the moon — why can’t they make better Passover desserts? Lucy: Where is the good wine?
Sarah Couzens, 17, Yardley Allison Levine, 18, Yardley Sarah: Why is Passover eight days instead of seven? In Israel, it’s seven days. Allison: Why don’t you say a blessing when you wash your hands for the first time at the seder?
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PASS/FAIL/PRAY The life-and-death task of convincing prospective parents to get tested for Jewish Genetic Diseases. By Melissa Jacobs
t was going to be no big deal — Dr. Scott Zalut was sure of that. But his wife, Jenna, insisted that getting screened for Jewish genetic diseases was important. Zalut felt less compelled. Yes, he knew that one in four Ashkenazi Jews is a carrier for one of the 19 JGDs. During medical school, he had encountered information about many of those diseases. But Zalut was finishing his residency in anesthesiology and working long hours, and the odds of both him and his wife being carriers for the same disease were slim. They decided on what seemed like a logical approach: Jenna would get screened, and if she tested positive for one of the 19, Zalut would then get tested.
Fanconi anemia. That’s the disease for which Jenna tested positive as a carrier. And then, through Einstein Medical Center’s Victor Center for the Prevention of Jewish Genetic Diseases, Zalut also tested positive for it. “Stunned” is the word both of them use to describe their reactions. “And while all of the Jewish genetic diseases are bad, Fanconi anemia is particularly nasty,” Zalut says.
The Victor Center describes Fanconi anemia as a rare blood disorder that causes malformed or missing thumbs, intellectual disability, abnormal skin pigmentation and defective kidneys. By age 7 or 8, bone marrow failure is expected, as is childhood leukemia. Lifespan is limited. Because both of them are carriers for Fanconi anemia, their children have a 25 percent chance of having the disease. “We wanted to have children,” Jenna says, “but we didn’t want them to have a lifetime of illness and pain.” So the Zaluts faced decisions about having children. Dr. Adele Schneider, director of clinical genetics and medical director of the Victor Center at Einstein Medical Center, emphasizes that undergoing genetic testing gave the Zaluts the ability to make proactive decisions instead
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Pass/Fail/Pray of letting biology determine the fate of their family. “Knowledge may be difficult, but it is power,” she says. “That’s what we want to give to every Jewish family. That’s the goal of Screen For Nineteen.”
REACHING OUT TO RABBIS Screen For Nineteen is an awareness program launched through Victor Centers in Boston, Miami, Atlanta and Philadelphia’s Einstein Medical Center. The goal is to get Jews to undergo screening before they have children so that they can make informed decisions about their family planning. To reach young Jews, the campaign is going where they go: college campuses, at which free screenings have been held, and synagogues, specifically rabbis who officiate at weddings. In 2013, Screen For Nineteen sent informational packets to 1,600 rabbis in the United States. Included were brochures on the 19 JGDs, posters and pseudo-prescription pads imprinted with information on the nearest genetic testing facilities. Screen For Nineteen is funded by Pfizer and Protalix BioTherapeutics, an Israel-based company. They enlisted Schneider to provide the information given to rabbis to give to their congregants. Pfizer and Protalix produce pharmaceuticals that treat two JGDs, but the educational materials include information on screening for all 19 diseases. Why is this program needed? While knowledge of JGDs is not new, it has been for the most part limited to Tay-Sachs. “People are not getting screened as much as we would like because there is a lack of knowledge about what is possible, even within the medical community,” Schneider says. “If an OB-GYN doesn’t have a big population of Jewish patients, the doctor may do what his or her professional association recommends, which is screen for only four genetic diseases.”
Gaucher disease type 1, glycogen storage disorder type 1 A, Joubert syndrome type 2, lipoamide dehydrogenase deficiency (E3), maple syrup urine disease, mucolipidosis type 4, nemaline myopathy, Niemann-Pick disease type A, spinal muscular atrophy, Tay-Sachs disease, Usher syndrome type 1, Usher syndrome type 3, and Walker-Warburg syndrome. (See sidebar for more information.) Children born with these diseases often end up at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia under the care of Dr. Marc Yudkoff, chief of CHOP’s division of child development, rehabilitation medicine and metabolic disease. Yudkoff has treated children with JGDs at CHOP for more than 35 years. But neither time nor technology has produced success in treating JGDs. There are therapies for some, cures for none. The majority of JGDs are fatal if no medical care is provided, Yudkoff says. That care is sometimes delayed because of pediatricians’ misdiagnoses. It’s not through negligence, Yudkoff emphasizes, but through inexperience. Many pediatricians have never seen patients with JGDs, so they don’t think to screen for them. Pennsylvania law mandates that newborns be screened for 29 genetic diseases, but only two of them are JGDs. “That is why it is so important that adults be screened before they have children, so if there is a problem, parents have information to share with their physician,” Yudkoff says. Even with a proper diagnosis and available treatment, most JGDs affect brain development and create a lifetime of debilitating physical problems. In too many cases, that lifetime is tragically short. “Even with treatment, some Jewish genetic diseases will cause children to die in their infancy,” Yudkoff says.
Who should be tested? People who have even one Jewish grandparent. “Jewish genes don’t get lost,” Schneider says, “and it is better to have the information and make decisions, than have a child who suffers with a lifetime of illness.”
The most common JGD is Gaucher disease type 1. One in 15 Ashkenazi Jews is a carrier for it, making it more prevalent than Tay-Sachs and cystic fibrosis, the next two most common. According to Einstein Medical Center, Gaucher can cause severe and debilitating symptoms, including enlargement of the liver and spleen, various forms of bone disease, easy bruising, anemia and neurological symptoms.
Having both parents tested is ideal, but one will suffice if finances are an issue, physicians agree. Screening is done via a simple blood test at the Victor Center, Schneider explains. Results are returned within four weeks. The test has a 90 to 98 percent accuracy rate.
Yudkoff explains how Gaucher advances through the body. “All healthy genes produce enzymes that cause biological reactions,” he says. “A gene defected through Gaucher can’t produce a specific enzyme, and that causes the body to accumulate fat in the bones, liver and spleen.”
Aren’t 19 JGDs a lot? “It does seem so,” Schneider acknowledges. “Nineteen is more than most other population groups carry. Or perhaps it’s that we have discovered more within the Jewish population because they are easier to find among people who intermarry. The good news is that we know what to screen for, and that allows us to take action.”
There is a quasi-effective treatment for Gaucher, through a drug produced by Pfizer, but it involves a lifetime of bimonthly infusions. “The medication replaces that missing enzyme,” Yudkoff explains. “It is possible to cleanse the liver and spleen of the accumulated fat. Unfortunately, eliminating the fat from bone has been disappointing and less than effective. But there are new, experimental treatments that look promising.”
The 19 JGDs are: Bloom’s syndrome, canavan disease, cystic fibrosis, familial dysautonomia, familial hyperinsulinism, Fanconi anemia type c,
Even though the lack of advances in treating JGDs is discouraging,
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“People are not getting screened as much as we would like because there is a lack of knowledge about what is possible, even within the medical community.” –Dr. Adele Schneider
Yudkoff echoes Schneider in touting the effectiveness of screening for them. Not only is knowledge power, he says, but prevention is a form of medicine. In fact, Yudkoff thinks that many prospective parents — not just Ashkenazi Jews — should be tested for genetic diseases. For example, people of Irish descent have a high incidence of being carriers for Tay-Sachs — one in 60, Yudkoff says. They, too, should be screened. So are we looking at a future in which family planning is dictated by genetic testing? “Well, why not?” Schneider asks. “Why wouldn’t you give your child the best future possible? We’re not saying that people who are carriers for genetic diseases cannot have children with one another. We’re saying that we want to give them information to help them make decisions.” Which is where Scott and Jenna Zalut found themselves in 2010. Newly informed that they were both carriers for Fanconi anemia, the Zaluts were resolute in their desire to have children. Their question wasn’t if, but how.
CHOICES FOR CARRIERS What happens if a man and a woman test positive for the same JGD? With technological assistance, they can have biological children. The
first option is in vitro fertilization and preimplantation genetic testing, Schneider explains. The couple goes through IVF to create embryos. Those embryos are then tested for the JGD that the parents share. Only the embryos that do not have the disease are implanted into the woman. Those who have qualms about the use of IVF and possible destruction of embryos should know that Jewish law allows for both, Schneider says. “An embryo has no standing in Jewish law until it is implanted in the womb, and genetic testing is done well before that,” she explains. But that doesn’t take into consideration the emotional effect of embryo destruction, or the cost of IVF and preimplantation genetic testing. Schneider’s response: “The effects of being the parent of a chronically sick child, watching him suffer and, in all likelihood, die far outweigh the emotional and financial effects of IVF.” The second option is chorionic villus sampling (CVS). Couples conceive a child the old-fashioned way. When the fetus is 11 weeks old, a physician extracts placental tissue in a procedure similar to an amniocentesis. That tissue is sent to a lab to test it for the specific JGD that the parents carry. Results take at least two weeks, often three.
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Pass/Fail/Pray The math is clear: the fetus can be 13 or 14 weeks old by the time parents learn of its health, and they then need to make a decision about how to proceed. The procedure itself has risks. Because the placenta is invaded, even though it is by a small needle or catheter, there is the chance that disturbing the fetus will result in birth defects or outright miscarriage. Despite all of the risks, CVS is what the Zaluts decided to do. It took their decision out of the world of statistics and gave them information about their specific fetus. Jenna underwent the extraction when she was 11 weeks pregnant. They waited three weeks for the results. They decided not to tell family or friends about their pregnancy until they got the test results. And? “The results were negative,” Jenna says. “Our baby did not have Fanconi anemia.” That baby is now a healthy 3-year-old. The Zaluts followed the same procedure for their second child, another boy, born
that she was negative for all 19 of the JGDs. So when Samuel Sernovitz was born in September 2008, his parents were sure that his medical problems had nothing to do with a JGD. “He was failing to thrive and people told us not to worry, that it was just how some babies are,” Sernovitz says. “But we knew something was wrong, and we went from doctor to doctor until a specialist told us to look into familial dysautonomia, or FD. We said it couldn’t be that because my wife tested negative for everything. But then we finally called the OB-GYN who did the testing. It turned out that doctor had not read the results personally. When the paperwork was found, it showed that Rebecca was a carrier for FD. Had we known that she was a carrier, I would have been tested, too. And those tests would have shown that I am also a carrier.” What would they have done? What they did with Daniella, their nearly 2-year-old daughter. The Sernovitzes conceived her naturally and then,
“I strongly hope that Ashkenazi Jewish couples — and maybe everyone — will get tested for genetic diseases before they get pregnant,” –Rabbi Jill Maderer in 2013. “We won the Jewish lottery twice,” Zalut says. “We are incredibly grateful.” What would they have done if the fetus tested positive for Fanconi anemia? “We didn’t have that conversation,” Jenna says. “My focus was to get through the waiting period and not make myself crazy thinking about the steps after that.” But the Zaluts didn’t have to stretch their minds to imagine raising a child with a JGD. They had seen it in real life. The rabbi who married them has a son with familial dysautonomia.
THE LIFE OF SAM SERNOVITZ Long before he became a rabbi, Larry Sernovitz was a student at the University of Pittsburgh, where he became an Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity brother. In 1992, AEPi held a campuswide, free screening for TaySachs and Sernovitz got tested. His results showed that he was not a Tay-Sachs carrier. Sernovitz didn’t think about JGDs again until 2008, when he and his wife, Rebecca, were expecting their first child. Because they are both of Ashkenazi descent, their OB-GYN suggested that they get genetic testing — on themselves, not the fetus. If they tested positive for a JGD, they could then test the fetus. Because they knew that Sernovitz was not a carrier for Tay-Sachs, they decided that his wife would undergo testing. A few weeks later, the OB-GYN told the Sernovitzes
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like the Zaluts, did chorionic villus sampling of their daughter’s placenta. It showed that, while she is a carrier for FD, she does not have the disease. But Sam does. Having FD means that Sam’s nervous system malfunctions, and that results in fluctuating blood pressure and body temperature, an insensitivity to pain and a malfunctioning sphincter and esophagus. His life lurches from one dysautonomic crisis to the next, each including uncontrollable vomiting, sweating, an inability to eat enough food to sustain himself and high then low blood pressure, all of which necessitates hospital stays or, at the least, days in bed. Now 5 years old, Sam has missed half of every school year, and because of that and a learning disability, the natural intelligence that his father describes is stunted. “I want to be clear that we love our son completely and consider it a blessing that we have him in our lives,” Sernovitz says. “But watching him suffer with illness is incredibly difficult.” And avoidable. Because of the Sernovitzs’ genetic testing debacle, they are fierce advocates for screening done at places like the Victor Center, not just through OB-GYNs. Sernovitz, now the rabbi at Temple Emanuel in Cherry Hill and a member of the Screen For Nineteen advisory board, believes that it is every rabbi’s duty to discuss genetic testing with couples about to be married. “We have to educate our own
community and not leave the responsibility to the doctors,” Sernovitz says. “Rabbis are on the front line of this issue and we can create change.” Sernovitz doesn’t just discuss screening for JGDs; he insists on it. He will not marry a couple unless they first get tested. “Often, people don’t know that there are 19 diseases and how serious they are,” he says. “But ultimately, every couple wants to have healthy children. No one in my congregation has had a problem with taking the test before I marry them.” But other rabbis aren’t sure that is the best approach.
Zion Temple in Penn Valley, does not believe that couples should be required to get genetic testing before they are married. His wife, Adira, agrees. But they have very different opinions on how a JGD would affect their family planning. Knopf poses the following scenario to his wife: If they were both carriers for a JGD, would she want to adopt, get pregnant then do CVS, or do IVF and preimplantation genetic diagnosis and use only the embryos without the gene for the disease? Knopf chooses CVS. His wife chooses IVF. This shocks Knopf. “You wouldn’t rather bear the risk — which is only 25 percent — and have a baby the old-fashioned way?” he asks her.
RABBINIC RESPONSES Rabbi Jill Maderer of Congregation Rodeph Shalom in Center City is also on the Screen For Nineteen advisory board, but her opinion differs from Sernovitz’s. “I strongly hope that Ashkenazi Jewish couples — and maybe everyone — will get tested for genetic diseases before they get pregnant,” she says. “But I do not feel that couples have to get tested before they get married, nor do I require them to do so.” To which Sernovitz says: Why not? “Some rabbis don’t want to be that assertive because they think that it will chase away the couple,” he states. “I believe that it empowers them by giving them information. And I believe that it is our duty, as rabbis, to ensure the continuity of the Jewish people by helping people have healthy children and, eventually, eliminating JGDs.” Sernovitz makes another point: Couples turn to rabbis for premarital counseling but not prepregnancy planning, so rabbis have to intercede during wedding preparations. Here, Maderer sees his logic. “The danger is that they will forget or think it is somehow unimportant, and this alleviates that,” she agrees. “Having couples get tested before they get married is definitely something for me to think about, although I don’t think that I would make it a requirement.” Rabbi Michael Knopf, the assistant rabbi at Har
JEWISH GENETIC DISEASE Where To Get More Information Bloom’s Syndrome bloomssyndrome.org Canavan Disease canavanfoundation.org Cystic Fibrosis cff.org Familial Dysautonomia familialdysautonomia.org Familial Hyperinsulinism victorcenters.org Fanconi Anemia fanconi.org
Absolutely not, she states. “If I could prevent my child from having a lifetime of illness, I would,” she states. “I want to give my child the best life possible from the beginning. Only if we couldn’t afford IVF would I do the testing after I was pregnant.”
Glycogen Storage Disorder Type 1 A victorcenters.org
Knopf asks, “What if the fetus tested positive?”
Joubert Syndrome Type 2 jsrdf.org
His wife doesn’t know if she would terminate the pregnancy or not — and there’s more to it than that. “If I knew that my child was going to be born with a genetic disease, I could be prepared medically and psychologically,” she explains. “I would research it, meet with doctors, prepare the rest of my family and do whatever I needed to do to create those support systems. If there is a medication or a therapy that would help my child, I would be ready with it. I would do whatever it takes.” Knopf says, “Well, we’ve just discovered the difference in my marriage — and probably in a lot of marriages — about this subject.” Told of the conversation, Schneider expresses delight. “That’s exactly the point of Screen For Nineteen,” she says. “Let’s hope everyone has these conversations.” Melissa Jacobs is the former senior editor of Inside and the Special Sections of the Jewish Exponent.
Gaucher Disease Type 1 gaucherdisease.org
Lipoamide Dehydrogenase Deficiency (E3) victorcenters.org Maple Syrup Urine Disease victorcenters.org Mucolipidosis Type 4 ml4.org Nemaline Myopathy muscular-dystrophy.org Niemann-Pick Disease Type A nnpdf.org Spinal Muscular Atrophy fsma.org Tay-Sachs Disease ntsad.org Usher Syndrome Type 1 Usher Syndrome Type 3 usher-syndrome.org Walker-Warburg Syndrome victorcenters.org
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The third generation of Holocaust survivors finds new ways to tell their stories. By Melissa Jacobs
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ill the Holocaust’s crimes and lessons be forgotten? Who will speak for survivors when they can no longer speak for themselves? Historians and academics have asked those questions for years and the answer is becoming clear. The so-called 3Gs — the thirdgeneration grandchildren of survivors — are now old enough to share the responsibility for carrying on their families’ histories. And many of them are doing so by wielding technological tools that not only preserve those stories, but disseminate them to people around the world.
3Gs unique, Biterman says, and binds them to one another. There are other commonalities. Their grandparents were refugees who came to the United States in the 1940s and ’50s with little to no money. And all of their grandparents immigrated to the United States at about the same time and lived in Europe at about the same time, creating a collective memory of not just the Holocaust but of life before the Nazi regime came to power.
“My grandfather talks about his love of, or at least warm memories of, PoSara Greenberg, 26, created a short film, B2247: A Granddaughter’s Underland,” says Greenberg. “I think many of us feel a connection to those homestanding, to document her grandparents’ lives before, during and after the lands via the stories our grandparents told us about their childhoods.” Holocaust. Like Greenberg, Aaron Biterman, 31, is the grandchild of two survivors. Wanting not only to honor his grandparents and share their story but Just as there is affection for the countries of their childhood, there is a fierce also connect with other, like-minded 3Gers, he created Sara Greenberg and her grandfather, an international forum via Facebook. Grandchildren Of Joseph Gringlas, a survivor, Holocaust Survivors (facebook.com/3GsWorldwide) are shown here joining an IDF has close to 11,000 “friends” from around the globe. delegation to Auschwitz, in a scene from Sara’s film, B2247. Other 3Gs, like 16-year-old David Gordon, are taking a more direct route. Gordon, the grandson of a survivor, is involved with a student-led Holocaust education group at Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy in Bryn Mawr. Of course, 3Gs active in Holocaust awareness are following in the footsteps of their parents, the secondgeneration children of the survivors. But when it comes to learning of their families’ connections to the Holocaust, 3Gs have had very different experiences from their parents. First and foremost is that the passage of time gave many survivors perspective on how to speak about the Holocaust — something they may not have been able to do for decades, when their minds were filled with fresh memories of inhumane treatment and, in too many cases, the deaths of family members. Time has also allowed for different iterations of age-appropriate Holocaust education, the creation of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and, of course, the Internet — all tools for survivors and 2Gs to educate their 3Gs. “When I was young, all that we had were the horrible movies and pictures about the Holocaust, and I would feel sick and have to leave the classroom when they were shown,” says Jodi Gordon, David’s mother and the daughter of a Holocaust survivor. “Now, we have ways to gently introduce the topic and discuss the lessons we can learn from the Holocaust without focusing only on the atrocities.” This different approach seems to inspire, rather than horrify, 3Gs. Gordon, Biterman and Greenberg each use the word “hero” to describe their respective grandparents. Survivors don’t use that word to describe themselves, seeing only that they were somehow able to withstand what was done to them.
Gordon, Biterman and Greenberg say they aren’t sure how knowledge of their grandparents’ strength — and their enslavement — has shaped or at least tinged their own personalities. Questions and issues like those make Left: The Hall of Names at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem
loyalty to Israel among the generations of survivors’ families. “We are not bendable or breakable on the issue of supporting Israel,” Biterman avers. “It is the one place where our families could go after the war and it is still the place where all Jews who are being oppressed can go.” Gordon expresses another issue. “I know a lot, but I don’t know everything about my grandfather’s life during the Holocaust,” he says, “so I have turned into something of a Holocaust researcher.” Biterman voices the same sentiment. “It’s a constant quest to understand something that is impossible to fully comprehend,” he says. “I scour the Internet all the time and I’ve read a ton of books. And I still have the same questions: How? Why?” From Dachau to Facebook This is what Aaron Biterman knows about his grandfather, Edward. Before the Nazi occupation of Poland, he worked in sales and lived in Hrubieszow, Poland, with his wife and two children. They were killed in either Sobibor or Belzec; Aaron Biterman’s grandfather was kept in Hrubieszow to loot the Jewish houses and turn over the valuables to the SS. He was a good worker, so much so that he was sent to 10 to 12 labor camps, including Budzyn, Flossenbürg and Dachau, where he did both factory work and hard labor. At one of those camps, his forearm was tattooed with “KL,” which stood for Konzentrationslager, the German word for concentration camp. Biterman never saw
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Improving 3G Reception that tattoo or met his grandfather; he died before Biterman was born. Even if he had lived longer, it’s not likely that Biterman would know more about his Holocaust years; Biterman has been told that his grandfather wasn’t generally forthcoming with details. Biterman knows much more about his grandmother, Tauba, because she is still alive and is a big presence in his life. She was born in Zamosh, Poland, and had a nice childhood until the Nazi threat neared. With her family, she fled east toward Russia. In Dubno, Ukraine, she fell in love and married. But when the Soviet Union entered World War II, her husband was drafted into
liquidated in 1944, Dubner and his mother were transported to Auschwitz. Dubner was 19 when he stepped off the train and into his first Auschwitz selection. Someone told him to make it known that he had a skill so that he would be chosen for work instead of death, and he was. But his mother was not, and she disappeared into the gas chambers. Dubner’s skill was no guarantee of survival. The camps underwent constant selections and random killings. “They were lined up one day and the officers were shooting people all around my father,” says Jodi Gordon, Dubner’s daughter and David’s mother. “He started singing the ‘Shema.’ The SS said
His grandmother’s fluency in European languages saved her life; Biterman’s fluency in the digital language of social media is preserving her story. the Red Army; he was later killed in action. Meanwhile, the SS overtook Dubno and Jews were confined to a ghetto. Biterman’s grandmother spoke Polish, German, Yiddish and enough Ukrainian to get by, and with help from Gentiles she knew in Dubno, she escaped from the ghetto, got false identification papers and traveled from town to town, passing as a Christian. “She did such a good job passing that when she ended up in a DP camp after the war, the Americans didn’t believe that she was Jewish,” Biterman says. “She had to go before a rabbi and convince him.” His grandmother’s fluency in European languages saved her life; Biterman’s fluency in the digital language of social media is preserving her story. Biterman was one of Facebook’s early adopters; he heard about the website when it spread to the campus of American University where he was a student in 2004. In 2006, Biterman created Grandchildren Of Holocaust Survivors to connect with other 3Gers. Not all of the “friends” are related to survivors; some just support those who are. But the page has become a forum for news related to the Holocaust, present-day anti-Semitism and Israeli topics. It also serves to connect people with this shared family history, uniting them in a digital show of power. The Nation of Israel Dubner “Hear O Israel” are the words that saved Israel Dubner’s life, and HEAR is how his grandchildren are honoring it. The Holocaust Education And Reflection Club at Barrack Hebrew Academy was founded by Arielle Belfer, Dubner’s granddaughter, and is now manned by her brother, Joel, and their cousins Michael Slotnick, David Gordon and Simon Gordon — all of them Dubner’s grandchildren. “That I do this with members of my family to continue our grandfather’s legacy makes it very special,” David Gordon says. That legacy began in Lodz, Poland, in 1925 when Israel Dubner was born as the second son of an Orthodox couple. They lived comfortably in a nice apartment and enjoyed a family-centric life filled with Jewish observance and Zionistic activities. After the German invasion of Poland in 1939, the Dubners were forced into the Lodz ghetto. Israel Dubner’s father and brother died in the ghetto; he and his mother survived it. When Lodz ghetto was
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that he had a voice like an angel and spared his life.” Dubner made it to the end of the war, staying alive in Auschwitz until he was transferred to Kaufering, a subcamp of Dachau. As the Allies closed in, the Germans transported prisoners to yet another camp. Dubner was on one of those trains when he jumped off, hid in nearby woods and waited there until American soldiers arrived, his daughter says. Following the war, Dubner went to Italy, then Israel, where he fought in the War of Independence. In 1952, he immigrated to the United States, eventually graduating from Yeshiva University and becoming a cantor at a synagogue in Scranton, Pa., a post he filled for 30 years. Jodi Gordon says that her parents did the best they could to educate her and her sisters about the Holocaust. One transformative experience was the trip that Gordon took with Dubner in 1993 to Poland — but not to any concentration camps. Instead, they focused on Dubner’s life before the war. “We flew into Warsaw, then went to Lodz and its cemetery, then even went to the home in which he was raised, which was still standing,” Gordon remembers. “It was an opportunity for me to appreciate the people, communities and culture that were lost in the Holocaust.” When Gordon and her sisters had their children, this became part of their approach in educating them about the Holocaust and their connection to it. “It’s not just hitting them over the head with the horrors of the camps, but putting it into historical context that is also age-appropriate,” she says. “But, listen, there is no manual on how to teach this to the descendants of Holocaust survivors, so I’m not saying that my way is the right way. Everyone does what they think is best.” Gordon began with simple things, like turning off the lights in the house on Yom Hashoah and explaining that it was to remember the family members who had died. When her sons were in third grade, she took them through the child-appropriate “Daniel’s Story” exhibit at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Gordon herself spoke to her sons’ classes. When they were 10 or
11, she spoke at Barrack about the Jewish community in Lodz and her family’s life in the city. How did she describe it? “That each family had a story and they were all beautiful,” she says. “They would celebrate Shabbat like we do and make chicken soup and light the candles. But not all of them survived. Many of them were killed, including my grandparents and uncle.” Gordon’s sons and nephews are following in her footsteps through HEAR. Working with other HEAR members, they create a calendar of educational activities that are open to all Barrack students and sometimes expand into schoolwide assemblies. Although the USC Shoah Foundation video testimonies and Centropa’s online archive on Jewish Eastern Europe are tremendous resources, David Gordon says that the live testimony of survivors is still the most effective approach. “But not just any speaker,” he clarifies. “We learn the most from survivors who were old enough at the time of their experiences to talk about them but are vibrant enough to be energetic when speaking and healthy enough to speak clearly. Finding them is getting more and more challenging.” David Kovacs, a speaker who came to Barrack in December 2013, got Gordon thinking. “He was very compelling and refreshing because he had a lot of energy and made us relate to the story — and the story he told was his father’s,” Gordon says. “He was a second-generation survivor, and we hadn’t had that before. He was so great that after the event, I thought that if he could do it, my mom could definitely get up there and talk to the school in front of everyone. She could tell my zayde’s story — speak for him. That’s definitely one way to keep his legacy alive.” B2247 Schindler’s List was a motion picture epic that brought the Holocaust to new audiences, and B2247: A Granddaughter’s Understanding is a 13-minute, zero-budget documentary that is doing the same. B2247 has been shown at the United Nations and at international film festivals; it is also being added to the Anti-Defamation League’s Bearing Witness educational program. Gladwyne’s Sara Greenberg, who has, like the rest of her generation, grown up with easy access to picture-taking and filmmaking, made the film. She put that technology to work to tell the stories of her maternal grandparents, both of whom are survivors. “My grandmother was from Czechoslovakia and was a hidden child,” Greenberg says. “She was taken into the mountains when she was a baby. Her immediate family went with her, but her mother — my great-grand-
mother — died before the end of the war. My grandmother’s uncles and aunts adopted and raised her.” Greenberg’s grandfather, Joseph Gringlas, had a different journey. Born in Poland, he was imprisoned in several concentration camps, including Auschwitz and Buchenwald. B2247 are the numbers tattooed on his forearm. Not until a 2005 family trip to her grandparents’ hometowns did Greenberg fully understand their Holocaust experiences. “The point was not to make a film,” she says, “but I brought along a camera to document what we were doing, because I felt that it was a unique experience that we should record.” The footage stayed with the family until 2009, when Greenberg was a senior at Yale University. She was enrolled in a class titled Family and Jewish Tradition, taught by Dr. Ruth Westheimer, who escaped the Nazis via a Kindertransport. For her final class project, Greenberg took the footage of her family’s trip and created B2247. Something that makes the film unique is its 3G perspective. “It is not just ‘This happened,’ but also, ‘And here’s what we think about it today,’ ” Greenberg says. “That keeps the legacy of survivors alive in a way that modern audiences can relate to it.” By 2012, B2247 had reached Israel. Maj. Gen. (Res.) Yitzhak Gershon, the national director of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, was so moved by Gringlas’ story that he inPhotos posted on vited him to join an IDF delegation traveling the Granchildren of Holocaust Survivors to Auschwitz. “My grandfather believes that Facebook page. Israel’s strong military defends not just that country but Jews around the world and that because of it, the Holocaust will never happen again,” Greenberg says. “So of course he agreed.” Greenberg and her mother, Marcy Gringlas, joined Gringlas, documenting it on film and in writing (“Witnesses In Uniform,” Jewish Exponent, April 2013). Gringlas marched through the gates of Auschwitz in a dramatic fashion: holding the hand of an IDF soldier who, in his other hand, held an enormous Israeli flag. From Poland, the group traveled to Israel, where Gringlas got a hero’s welcome: He was hoisted onto the shoulders of an IDF soldier while Israelis danced around them. Greenberg then added it to B2247. “It was a triumph for my grandfather and for all survivors,” she says. “And it shows that the story is never over and will never, ever be forgotten.” Melissa Jacobs is a nationally published journalist and author
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A first-person account of what it was like to live through the Leningrad Blockade. By Rachel-Lyudmila Merlina
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Editor’s Note: Rachel-Lyudmila Merlina, a native of Leningrad, was in her mid-20s and working as an engineer when her city was surrounded by Nazi troops on Sept. 8, 1941. Now 98, the Northeast Philadelphia resident originally wrote this account of her experiences in Russian. It was translated with the help of family and friends, and edited for clarity by Deborah Hirsch and Greg Salisbury for an abridged version that appeared in the Jan. 30, 2014 issue of the Jewish Exponent. Merlina’s story was so compelling, especially in light of the 70th anniversary of the lifting of the siege in January and Yom Hashoah on April 27, that we have decided to run it in its entirety here.
ith passing years, the Blockade of Leningrad during World War II is becoming a long-forgotten history, something unfamiliar, especially here in America. In Leningrad and elsewhere in the world there are few people still alive who survived those horrifying times. I worked the whole 900 days in the city surrounded by the enemy, and would like to remind those who were there — and those who know nothing about it — about the way people worked and lived. I will not dwell upon the military actions of our troops near Leningrad, I will only tell the smallest part of what I lived through and what is still fresh in my mind. I first came in contact with the enemy’s treachery in August 1941. Besides regular work, each Leningrader had to dig trenches for the defense of the city against the approaching Nazi forces. On that particular day, a large mass of people was gathered for trench digging at the Baltic Train Station. We waited for the train for a long time. At last, a freight train arrived with a lot more cars than usual. At sunrise, the train stopped in the fields after the Vaimari station. Everyone got off. The train left. There was no one to supervise the work. Dig where? How? With what? We didn’t even have a shovel. No one knew what to do, or where to go. A plane appeared in the sky. We didn’t know yet how to tell if it was ours or the enemy’s. After circling the field, the plane came low and began to shoot the crowd with a machine gun. Everything happened in one moment. We reacted when we heard the first screams of the wounded and dying men. People started to fall next to me. Then, feeling death coming closer, the scared and unguided crowd started running on the road toward Vaimari. A truck appeared on the opposite side. An officer was standing on the side screaming: “Get down!” The enemy’s plane was methodically circling the crowd, shooting and shooting at it. We were such a good display in our brightly colored clothes that the bullets easily reached their targets. After running out of ammunition, the plane flew away. But we kept running. At first we ran so fast, but after the shooting was over, many came back for the wounded. Some of us had first-aid kits. They did not last long. We began to tear our handkerchiefs, shirts — anything that we could use to bandage the bullet wounds. After treating the injured, we carried them on the road, turning around and looking at the sky with fear, waiting for the enemy’s plane to come back any minute. I do not remember how we got to the nearest railroad station. But it was
Rachel-Lyudmila Merlina at an event commemorating the siege in 2013.
destroyed. We put the wounded in the shadows by the one wall that was left. Among us were some medical students who stayed with the wounded while we continued to walk, completely exhausted. By nightfall, we made it to Volosovo station. From there we called the hospital and told them about the wounded. At night, the train for Leningrad came. And in the morning, everyone went to work as usual. What was that? Why weren’t there any officials? Why didn’t we have tools to dig with? Why were we shot at? What did the people die for? Better not to ask or talk about this shame; the truth was too bitter.
The enemy approaches At that time, I was working in the secret construction bureau of the Polsunov’s All-Soviet Scientific Research Institute. In that bureau, we were working on creating a new jet engine. Our leaders were the famous Soviet scientist Arhip Mihailovich Lulko and professor N.S. Vinogradov. Our team was supervised by Eduard Burvin, a very thoughtful and organized man. At that time, the Soviet industry did not make some of the equipment necessary for our research so we had to make it ourselves. Eduard was always the best at it, despite the fact that he only had one arm. Each one of us first calculated and later constructed parts of the experimental model. We loved our work and did it with great enthusiasm. But we did not know the end results of the experiments due to the secrecy of our work. With the enemy advancing toward Leningrad, the question of evacuation arose. An unknown anxiety took hold of us. What does it mean, evacuation? Leave the city? Maybe leave our families? Uncertainty and the fear of reality were in front of us In the office of the director of the institute (at that time it was Dr. Andrei Konaev), the supervisors of bureaus and labs gathered while the workers waited in the lobby. One by one, we were called into the office. It seemed that your destiny was decided there. When I was called in, I was offered a chance to leave with Lulko’s group to a
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Surviving the Siege safer area. I refused. The fascists were rapidly advancing on Leningrad and I felt that evacuation was a betrayal to my city in peril and to my family.
The enemy got really close to the city. The districts of Verfi, Avtovo and the Kirov plant were not only suffering from air raids, but also from artillery fire.
On the first day of war, my husband and I went to the military draft office. I asked to be sent to the front lines but was refused: “You are on a special list, so work where you are supposed to,” I was told. My husband, however, immediately enlisted and became a tank battalion commander.
Damaged tanks arrived at the Kirov plant for repairs, either by themselves or towed. It was a direct connection with the front. Our work group began to prepare the material of the then-famous KV tank to be sent to the safe zone. Only a few of us were left and there was an incredible amount of work to do. The deadline for sending all the blueprints and calculations was, as they say, “yesterday.” Bunk beds were built in the basement of the plant. People went there to sleep after work.
My mother — a doctor — had worked in the hospital in the little border town of Enso since the Finnish War. She was to be evacuated with the rest of the hospital staff, but decided to stay in Leningrad. The research institute’s board was insisting on me leaving, promising to send my mother after me on the next train. We refused — my husband was on the front lines and here in Leningrad we would be closer to him — we would defend our city. As it turned out, the train we were supposed to take that day was bombed by the enemy.
I was refused the front lines again, so I enrolled in evening classes for nurses. There were never enough doctors and I was sure that I would be sent to the front as a nurse. VSEVOLOD TARASEVICH/RIA NOVOSTI
A street smolders after a German artillery raid during the blockade.
Learning a new life
Saying goodbyes If I managed to get home on Vasiliy Island before sunset, the world appeared in some other dimension. There were no bombings — the people on the island hadn’t even heard about them. People were waiting in lines like in peaceful times. You still could buy something in stores with rationing cards and even without them.
Once it was decided who was staying in Leningrad and who was not, the actual packing began at the institute. Everyone had to take apart their experimental models and send the necessary material to the safe That whole hot August, the city was zone. The whole institute looked evacuating intensively. Everything like an ant house wrecked by a bear. and everyone was going to the safe All the doors were wide open, even zone. Whole factories, offices and those that had a special coded lock — most important — children were and a short list of workers allowed leaving. Each Leningrader had to RIA NOVOSTI there. Everywhere there were pa- A slice of bread baked during the Leningrad blockade, and WWII bread work for the city’s defense during pers with calculations and equa- ration cards are exhibited in the Baking History Museum, St. Petersburg their free time, watching over the tions on them, folders with docurooftops (the fascists dropped a lot of ments lying on the floor — the same folders that had to be turned in at explosive bombs), working in the bomb shelters and assisting the evacuation. the end of every workday. This shameless nakedness of our secrecy was a punishable offense before; now it was just unpleasant, like we were carrying I had to participate in the children’s send-off. A large crowd of parents whose cargo that no one wanted. children were leaving was gathered. A young man stood in front of me. He held a blond boy in his arms. The boy was hugging his father’s neck with both All the workers remaining in Leningrad were transferred to the Kirov plant. arms. He put his head on his father’s shoulder, and it looked like no forces in In that bureau, they were also working on jet engines, but using a different the world could separate them. It was as if the boy felt something and he held method. The supervisor was Syniaev, who later received a laureate degree for even tighter to his father. I was the force that had to separate them. I met the this work. His team was also soon evacuated. father’s eyes — they were full of fear, despair and tears, and I was scared for
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them. I moved away, unable to suppress a lump in my throat. Meanwhile the loading of trucks was coming to an end. Someone yelled, “Hand over the boy, you’re slowing everyone down!” I reached my arms for the boy. The man’s eyes were burning with hate and the boy began to cry, not like a baby, but like an adult. I came closer. I hugged them and cried with them. The three of us walked to the truck. Someone’s strong arms took the boy. Crying, he flew over us and appeared in the general crowd of kids. His father stood still for some time. Then he sat down on the ground and cried. It was sad to see a strong man cry. I left without being able to say anything. In my head a thought hammered away — will they ever find each other again? There was so much grief at that time in Leningrad.
Destruction from above In the first month of the war, food ration cards were given to us. At first, the bread rations were big. Nothing predicted the famine yet and still I was saying to myself: “I am not scared of the shells; I am scared of the famine.” At the end of August, a huge fire started in the main food warehouse — Bodaev’s. It was either a bomb or arson. The bitter stench of burnt sugar lingered in the air for a long time. People looked through the remains, in hopes of finding something edible. The ring of blockade came even closer. The rations for bread and other food were shrinking. Shelves in stores were empty. There were only cans with coffee beans and shelled walnuts. My mother bought some and it really helped us for some time.
That first moment people froze, unable to comprehend, until the survival instinct prevailed. People ran into each other, fell down and ran again. Then, the explosion happened. The bomb fell in between our building and the warehouse. The building was built right before the war. As always, the construction workers left all the pipes and radiators and such on the ground. The bomb fell on that pile. Luckily, it was not a big bomb. In our building, some walls came down, doors and windows. Our director, Syniaev, was hit with a piece of shell right under his heart. He was taken into the safe zone on the plane and survived. There weren’t many wounded. A few people were hurt by the pipes that flew all over the compound. When I came through the debris to our room, there was a piece of wall where my table used to be. Later, I joked that the soup saved me and I didn’t even eat it. If I didn’t go to the cafeteria, I wouldn’t be writing this now.
The siege begins Practice began in the nursing classes. At nights, after work, we worked in Gorky Palace by the Narva Gates where the square was covered with red stones in memory of those who spilled blood for Revolution. After another air raid or bombing we had more than enough practice. I didn’t need to go to the front lines — it came to us.
Our situation was getting even worse. All of us were doing unbearably hard labor in the factories. Winter came without notice.
Autumn came. At dusk, the city was buried in darkness. All the windows were blocked from the light. The local anti-raid guards made sure there were no cracks that could serve as a target for the enemy’s planes. One evening, I did not go to class and I did not go home. The trams almost did not run. Usually I walked home more than 10 kilometers, bringing my mother a pea soup. At our plant it was given without ration cards. Even though it was late, everyone was working hard. There was a phone call — “The cafeteria is closing, hurry up.” We all walked out together. The only one who was left was director Syniaev. We heard the air raid signal. We were used to them and continued to walk. Suddenly a nervous voice came over the local radio: ”Attention, attention, everyone on alert — a parachutist is in the air above the plant, don’t lose him!” Everyone was imagining how much damage an enemy parachutist could bring to the plant in the total darkness. With our heads raised to the sky we all watched the slowly descending parachutist, ready to attack him, however, not without risk — of course he is armed and will shoot. When he was very low, the same voice on the radio screamed: ”It’s a bomb on the parachute — hide!”
The ring of blockade closed. We were cut off from the country. The enemy was in every direction. The bread portions dropped. Factory workers got 250 grams a day, office workers and dependents got only 125 grams. You couldn’t even call it bread. Something was mixed with it.
Public transportation was not working for a long time. I got a message from my husband. A truck from his division came into the city. “Whatever it takes, come with this truck; it will take the cargo and leave tomorrow night.” I went to Rybazkoe, where my husband’s battalion was stationed. Some other relatives came there as well. We were invited to supper. I was surprised: On the table were canned fish and real bread and some other food. At that time, famine was already gripping our throats. When I told my husband that in order to fix the samovar (we were using it in peaceful times) I had to exchange three days’ worth of bread portions and the week’s worth of grain, he became depressed. It was clear that they did not know what was happening in the city. Then he told me, “Soon it will be easier, you’ll see. We are getting ready.” I understood that he wanted to see me before a difficult attack and he was sure that they would break the blockade. It was Nov. 5. On Nov. 13, I received the message that he was killed. From his whole brigade, only a few survived the first battle. Our situation was getting even worse. All of us were doing unbearably hard labor in the factories. Winter came without notice. At first there was too much snow. No one was cleaning it up. Then the severe cold set in. The city
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Surviving the Siege was quiet, but it was an inhumanly hard life. Everything was against us. We had no fuel — no warmth inside the houses. No light. No sewer system, no water. We went to Neva River with kettles and pans, trudging through frozen piles of snow. Creative people began making iron stoves called “burzuiki.” I think they had them during the New Economic Policy (Editor’s note: this was a Russian economic stimulus plan in the 1920s) and gave them the same name. The smoke from them was going either into chimneys or through the windows. To buy such a stove, you had to pay with your bread and grain, there was no other way. The stove was giving out warmth only when it was burning, and we were burning anything we could find — furniture, wooden fences, etc. Light came from the tiny flame made from the can. Even the smallest rations were delayed. And that small piece of bread did not look like bread. People fell on the streets from hunger and no one had the strength to lift them back up. To this, another disaster was added: The enemy began to strike the damaged, frozen city with daily air raids. That meant more wounded people, more deaths and many hours of air raid signals. After a hard day’s work, you couldn’t go home, you had to sit in bomb shelters, humid and crowded.
the weak ones. The victims were certain to die from hunger if no one helped them. Often on the streets you’d see a lonely figure who, with their last effort, was dragging a sled with a dead body on it. Often, the corpses were piled on the roads. The special brigades couldn’t take them all away. In the morning, walking to work, I saw the frozen bodies. I tried to walk by faster; I couldn’t help them anymore. Some people who couldn’t stand the suffering of hunger cut off the buttocks from the corpses. It isn’t proper to talk about this, but it is the bitter truth. The cats and dogs had disappeared much earlier. Sometimes, the truck came covered with a blanket and under it the arms, legs and heads were sticking out.
MICHAEL TRAHMAN/ RIA NOVOSTI
A woman and a girl drag a corpse along Nevsky Avenue during the blockade.
As much as I was afraid of famine, at first it was not that hard for me. However, my mother was suffering greatly. She smoked for many years and could not live without it. The soldiers were given tobacco and you could get it at the market. I secretly traded my bread rations for tobacco for her. There was one shameful moment for me. One time I came home from work across the whole city. I laid down to rest because at night I had to be on the rooftop. On the window, there was a jar with some jelly. It was dark brown and there was very little of it. In peaceful times it was probably used to lubricate machine parts. I wanted so hard to try a piece. But a voice in my head said: “No, it is for me and mom for 10 days.” When I woke up, the jar was empty. I was terribly upset that I couldn’t resist the scary famine instinct. But my stomach was not upset; it took everything.
At the same time, we were sharing our last portions with those who were worse off than us. In those extreme situations, people’s true faces came to light. While helping others, people were really risking their lives. You saw kindness, attention and understanding of another person’s suffering. Of course, there were those who profited from death. Some dishonest people had a way to get the food and ration cards. They traded them for fur, gold and works of art. But I am certain that those luxuries acquired in such a disgusting way did not make them happy.
I remember Dec. 5, 1941. I came home from work hungry and was waiting for my mother to bake pancakes from the coffee mush. The air raid signal went off. And right after it, an explosion, very near to us. Drywall construction fell off, windows shattered, we couldn’t see anything in the dust. We clung to each other. In the silence, someone screamed for help. I rushed to the door. It wouldn’t open. Perhaps there was no more staircase. Destroyed? I went into the room. On my pillow there was a huge piece of ceiling and glass. Death passed me by again. This time, the coffee mush saved me and I didn’t even get to eat it. There was a horrible cold outside and the same in the room — the windows were nothing but emptiness. My mother and I sat in the corridor. We wrapped ourselves up in the blanket and waited for help. Later, we covered the windows with wooden boards, but it was impossible to warm up the room. Sometimes in the morning, our hair would be frozen to the pillow.
Death on every street There was a day when 17,000 people died of starvation. More men died than women; they took the famine harder. So many times in cafeterias I saw husbands grabbing food from their wives’ plates, gorging and stuffing it in their mouths. Or on the streets, the strong ones took bread and ration cards from
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Despite the enemy’s ring of blockade, people continued to work. Factories were fixing damaged tanks. Those factories that were not evacuated did everything for the front. Hospitals tended to the wounded. Power stations produced the energy for factories and hospitals only. Bakeries went
on baking their so-called bread.
The miracle of flour I remember one hard night in the end of December 1941. The bakery across from our house was closed. There was a bread line. People wrapped themselves in pieces of cloth, tightened up with belts or ropes — it was warmer that way. All you could see were the tips of noses sharp from hunger. In the deep silence, people stood and patiently waited for their priceless pieces of bread. From time to time, someone fell down because of swollen legs. Silently, a few people would pick him up and prop him against the wall or walk him to the nearest building entrance. It was way past midnight when the bakery door opened. Everyone walked in quietly. A dim lantern lit up the person behind the counter, who was wrapped up in something just like us. Someone lit a little flashlight. The shelves were empty. What happened? Will they really not give us bread? Our legs were giving up just from that thought. We stood motionless and defeated. The person holding the flashlight said dully: “Why did you open if there is nothing left? What were we freezing for?”
tory. I had to rest on the porch. During the day, the night’s frost switched to the bright sun and warmth. Some forgotten feeling took over me, and moved reality far away. In my imagination, I saw pieces of another life. Some rhythmical sound attracted my attention. I knew that sound a long time ago, it was associated with something nice. But I couldn’t remember what. I raised my head and saw: From the roof of the nearby house a crystal icicle was crying in the sun, dripping its shiny tears on something solid. And in my head I thought, “God, what is that? Does the spring still exist? Do we even have the right to feel anything other than this pressure above us? I have to overcome my weakness. I have to work. I have to make it today.”
I had dystrophy and scurvy. My gums were bleeding. My teeth began to get loose; you could’ve pulled them out as easily as a carrot from the soil.
“We have flour instead of bread. It’s even better. You can make a soup or porridge.” Flour? In the first minute, I couldn’t even remember what that was, flour. Yummy pancakes appeared in front of my hungry eyes and my mouth watered. The flour was different from bread — people who were supposed to get 125 grams of bread would only get 90 grams of flour and people with rations of 250 grams of bread would get 190 grams of flour. However, we weren’t arguing. Just give us the flour! But where can we put it? We had no paper to wrap it in, no bags either. It was poured directly into our frozen, wood-like hands. My mother and I cooked the soup-porridge from that flour on the iron stove. It was a royal treat.
The power of “have-to” In February 1942, I became sick and could not go to work. I had dystrophy and scurvy. My gums were bleeding. My teeth began to get loose; you could’ve pulled them out as easily as a carrot from the soil. My legs were swollen and I did not have the strength to move them. My mother managed to exchange some clothes for fish oil. She gave me small portions of it. And I started walking again, nothing but skin and bones. I left for work. I couldn’t make the distance between home and the factory in one day. I had to sleep under the staircase in some building. It was then when I got frostbite. I remember that Feb. 19, 1942, very well. I made it to the fac-
“Have to” were the words that made us take it, made us survive with the constant feeling of hunger. You had to get rid of that feeling, but it wasn’t easy. If I stopped working even for a moment, I immediately started seeing images of “old-fashioned” food, which was making me sick. But we had to survive. I had to help others survive. That day, I quit working at the factory. One week later, I was working in the military hospital. Today, it is hard to believe that you can do so much in one day.
The 92nd Hospital was located in the high school on the 12th Line of Vasiliy Island — a long hallway with classrooms turned into hospital wards. One nurse had to tend to more than 120 wounded. We often did not have assistants. You had to do everything yourself — take the temperature, give the shots, change the bandages, distribute medications and many other tasks. Our hospital specialized in treating “lower and upper body parts,” but we had many other cases such as frostbites, pneumonia, burns and abdominal bleeding. Besides physical exhaustion from the large number of responsibilities, the moral exhaustion was just as hard. We saw patients who had arms and legs amputated, people who had lost their sight or had their faces transformed. They imagined their future completely ruined and were becoming very depressed. They refused medications, food and even life. Since the nurses spent more time with the wounded than the doctors did, they had to help them find some support and hope for survival. They had to raise their spirits up, talk to them, make them feel better. For that, we did not care about time; we often stayed there after work. Their healing was our reward. During the shift there was only one goal: to get everything done, to not forget anything. When the shift was over, the exhaustion would overcome you. Along with my work, I was also running a physical therapy course. I had special training for that. With the recovering patients, we made some facilities. After a long time of not moving, their joints had to be restored, which took another half-day of my shift. On top of that, I had my classes with the main surgeon of the hospital — Valentina S. — a fragile blonde woman with a character of steel, golden hands and ornate language. She taught us how to
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Surviving the Siege assist in surgeries. During the war, the nurses had to know everything. And in the morning, I had to be back on my shift. Often, there were times when, as soon as I would get home at the 11th line of the Vasiliy Island, someone from the hospital would come for me and I had to leave. More trucks came. More wounded arrived. I helped carry them off the truck, free them from bloodstained bandages, take them through the baths, take them into the wards or to the operating table to assist the surgeon. After that I couldn’t even make it home, even though it was so close, especially with all the fences burned so you didn’t have to walk around them.
In the first days of the war, they couldn’t evacuate all the children, and those who were left in the city were sick with dystrophy and scurvy. They did not have enough food, heat or water. To look at them, to tend to them while they were dying, was beyond human capacity. Those faces, those sunken eyes, bodies wrapped up in skin — they couldn’t move, but they were so heavy to lift. Sometimes after work, you came to the orphanage to find no adults. A lot of nurses had dystrophy as well. You hurried up to do everything you could for the kids — give them medications, bring water from the Neva River, heat up the stove, warm them up, cuddle with them. Working in the hospital with blood, death and suffering was tough. But with kids it was even tougher.
Terrible responsibilities Working in the hospital with its blood and wounds and suffering and an everyday fight with death for young lives was not easy but very necessary, and it made me stronger. The nurses also had social duties, which we performed in our free time. In the first winter of the blockade, we were sent to take apart the wood houses for heating. A few people would break off the boards from the roof and the pieces fell down in the emptiness. My head was spinning; I thought I’d fall down, too, with the next board.
BORIS KUDOYAROV/ RIA NOVOSTI
Children crippled by Nazi shells recuperate in a Leningrad hospital.
The closer the spring came, the less strength we had left. A lot of scurvy cases were all around us. Then came an order to collect pine needles from the trees. We were to make tea from them and give it to the wounded and also to drink it ourselves. The sun was getting hotter in spite of the enemy. But with the advancement of warmth another problem came — the threat of infectious diseases since we had no water or sewage system. No one was cleaning streets or courtyards.
A city comes together
As soon as it became warmer, the snow melted. Little rivers were running through the streets and it Another responsibility was to read seemed like the hardest part was the letters to the wounded, write BORIS KUDOYAROV/ RIA NOVOSTI over. When not busy at work, everytheir responses, look for their rela- These girls were on rooftop duty to provide early-warning air defense. one came out to clean the streets. The tives and sometimes go into their spades had to be lifted by three people — one couldn’t do it. And we cleaned houses. Sometimes their relatives were very sick and we had to make sure the streets and yards. Not one person got sick with infection. We loved our they were admitted to the hospital. It was very distressing, but we felt good wounded city, the city without lights or heat. We burned our furniture and because we were able to save another life. even our books. We broke down and burned all the fences and old wood houses. But we did not cut down nor burn any trees. We were saving our city. We had one more responsibility, the most depressing one. We were given the addresses of apartments from where no one came for rations cards. It meant Under the spring sun the enemy “melted” as well and continued with air that something had happened, because no one could survive without ration raids. During the winter’s bitter chill, the fascists were a little quiet. cards. In most cases, we found extremely weakened people … or dead ones. Often, the children were still alive and lying on the floor next to the dead. We Oh God, can something grow fast on the trees and from the ground already? took those kids and carried them to orphanages in which sometimes there City officials suggested that people start vegetable gardens. Anyone who was was no regular staff. We took shifts there after our work in the hospital. able to started digging the soil in parks, boulevards and courtyards. Seeds and
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potato skins appeared on the market. Potato skins were traded for silver and other expensive things. It was said that you could grow potatoes from them. The first green tender buds appeared on the trees. At first, we didn’t want to break them off. But you could make such a wonderful salad from the maple leaves! During winter we had to eat glue that damaged our throats and God knows what else, and here we had actual vitamins! My mother died in August 1942. I was left all alone. I didn’t even have any old friends left. They say a person is always alone in the world. In the earthly sense, loneliness is a dangerous feeling. It eats up your soul and dissolves any desire to live. A person needs to live for someone. It was good to have a lot of work; it saved me. In the district health administration office, I was asked to work freelance at the hospital where my mother had worked. One time, they brought in a fragile teenager whose legs had given up. No one came for her when she checked out and she could only move a little bit at a time. We became friends and shared everything. To save fuel during winter, we sat together near a small stove and slept under one blanket. In the mornings, our braids were frozen together on the pillow as if to mark our great and devoted friendship.
The “road of life”
soldiers among the public. It was hard to believe that you could dive into the music and for some time forget your troubles and worries. The curtain went up. The forgotten feeling of holiday took hold of me. And almost right away, the curtain went down: the unbearable air raid signal. Everyone jumped up from their seats, crowded the exit and ran down to the bomb shelter. I felt so sad and depressed. Cry or don’t cry — it won’t help. The long-awaited joy was over.
Victory January 1944: The blockade was lifted. We found out at night and ran out to the streets. They were lit — the street lighting was back on. People were celebrating, screaming “victory!” and hugging. The boards came off from the windows. It seemed unbelievable that you could walk freely without a badge at night. It felt as if you had taken off a heavy cast that was binding your moves and always hurting you. In the first few minutes, your head spins a little bit as if you had to use your body for the first time and get used to the freedom of movement. There was no shooting. No curfew. No darkness. There was running water. The lights were working. Perhaps one day I could go to the theater without an air raid. Maybe the bath houses would work again … No, that was too much dreaming.
The blockade was lifted. We found out at night and ran out to the streets. They were lit — the street lighting was back on.
The second winter of the blockade was already familiar, and so it was not much worse than the first one. In cruel battles with great human casualties, our troops broke up the blockade ring. The “Road of Life,” as it was called, came across the frozen Ladoga Lake. The trucks carried people to the Great Land, to the safe zones. Trucks also went in with ammunition and food for us. Fascists were constantly bombing this road so trucks with people or food and ammo were going under. I did not know that road. I only saw it after the war. The breaking of the blockade did not bring any real changes to our lives. All we got was a little more bread. In 1944 I was called away from the hospital back to my regular work in the Leningrad Electric Power Station, where people knew me. I was made the senior electrical engineer at the 7th Electrical Station. There were no wounds there, no one was dying. But the responsibility was enormous. We provided energy to the district around the station, to the nearby factories and offices that worked for the defense — North Cable Factory, Sluzkaya’ Factory, etc. We never had enough people. The fuel was always scarce. If we were to, God forbid, create a critical situation, it was considered “sabotage in the time of war” and had dire consequences. But we had our fun as well — the Theatre of Musical Comedy (Editor’s note: The Leningrad State Musical Comedy Theatre, begun in 1929, performed throughout the blockade, playing to an estimated 1.3 million audience members by the end of the blockade in 1944) was working again! We walked to the show straight from work. There were always a lot of
The war was over. I ran to the Palace Square because I was told that the tank battalions were there. The tanks were lined up on the perimeter of the square decorated with flowers. The soldiers were sitting on top of their tanks. They were tanned, dead tired but happy. It was the end of the terrible and the beginning of new life presented to us by destiny.
I ran along the tanks looking at faces and hoping that maybe my husband would return, maybe it was a mistake and he did not die in 1941 and I would meet him, those things happened. But it was not for me. My memory mercilessly brings back the events of those days; old wounds physical and personal hurt me again and again. But they are necessary for those who carry them and for those whose lives were saved at the cost of millions of other lives. Not only lives, but our whole existence was saved when slavery under fascism did not happen. It is necessary to remember so those whose lives were saved will treasure them. We should ask if we are worthy of lives saved at such expense. Are we doing everything we can? Are we kind to relatives and strangers? Maybe there is something to be changed. Suffering, whether personal or not, can cleanse your soul. When you look closely at the outside world, some things gain value and some lose it. When you look closely into the eyes of a stranger, you can see his sorrows and by doing so, perhaps take some of it upon yourself. Rachel-Lyudmila Merlina still organizes annual commemorations of the end of the blockade, most recently at Tabas House in Northeast Philadelphia.
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50 These Families Put Fashion First 54 Manifest Destiny 58 Reclamation Points
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These Families Put Fashion First What’s behind the doors of Philadelphia’s multigenerational boutiques? By Mimi James
PHO TOS/JA KEMP
t’s in the “jeans.” What else can explain the legacy of Jewish families owning Philadelphia’s finest clothing stores? At the turn of the 20th century, tailors and milliners turned South Philadelphia’s streets into fashion runways. Decades later, readyto-wear retailers made the Northeast a shopping destination for generations of families. And toward the end of the century, boutique owners migrated to Rittenhouse Square, City Line Avenue and the suburbs.
Top: necklaces galore at Barbara Ellick; bottom: jewelry and gowns on display at Gabrielle; right: a cruisewear collection at Bedazzled
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Marilyn Cooper and Susan Cooper at Gabrielle
What’s changed: Ever-increasing competition from department stores, malls and online shopping. What hasn’t changed: independent stores’ focus on customer service and a targeted retail mix that larger stores can’t match. Susan Cooper, co-owner of Gabrielle and Lizzy G in Bala Cynwyd, says, “Customers tell us that they still wear dresses that they bought from my mother-in-law 15 years ago. Knowing that we’ve helped a woman buy something that she loves and will wear for a long time makes us feel that we served her well.” But how do these families get along with one another? Does the difference in age and taste create battles? Quite the opposite, says Ruth Krass, owner of Bedazzled Boutique in Newtown Square and Margate. Incorporating the views of her 27-year-old daughter, Sabrina, helps Krass craft her boutique’s approach and appeal to clients of different
ferent things as their lifestyles change,” Wallace says. “My mother and her friends wear jewelry that is very different from what my friends and I wear, and that’s different from what my kids wear. We reflect all of those tastes in our store. We have the flexibility to do that because we’re not trying to appeal to a mass market of national customers. We’re trying to appeal to customers in our community.” How did these women learn about the boutique business? None went to business school; all graduated from the school of hard knocks. Krass, Cooper and Wallace learned from their families, via the “nose to the grindstone” curriculum. Susan Cooper’s mentor is her mother-in-law and partner, Marilyn Cooper, who learned the business from her mother’s family. In 1912, Marilyn’s maternal grandfather and his three sons opened a men’s
“Knowing that we’ve helped a woman buy something that she loves and will wear for a long time makes us feel that we served her well.” –Susan Cooper, Gabrielle & G Lizzy ages, sizes and budgets. “Her taste reflects her generation, while my taste reflects my generation, which is ... older,” Krass says with a laugh. “But the age difference between us is one of the biggest benefits of a family-run business.” Debbie Ellick Wallace agrees. She co-owns Barbara Ellick Jewelry in Narberth with her mother, after whom the store is named. “It’s true in jewelry as it is in everything else that different generations want dif-
clothing store in Paterson, N.J. They sold suits and high-end sports clothes until the three sons retired in 1975, just as Marilyn’s career was getting started. Armed with a business degree from Drexel University (and the title of Miss Drexel, which went to the prettiest and best dressed co-ed at the university), Marilyn worked as a marketing research analyst until she had children. Then, her innate love of fashion took over and she went into the clothing business.
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These Families Put Fashion First Following a buying trip to New York, Marilyn began selling clothes from her first boutique: her Oak Hill apartment. “I took out my Mary Quant stationery and wrote letters to 150 people telling them what I was doing and that I had these wonderful dresses that they could come to my home and see,” she says. “Word spread — and kept spreading.” After her neighbors reported her for doing business out of her apartment, Marilyn acquired a storefront in Narberth and opened it
and other passengers. Mom called the people in Santa Fe and said, ‘Send me more.’ ” Ellick started selling jewelry out of her house in Merion; by 1975, she was designing her own pieces for Saks Fifth Avenue and 100 other stores. “I remember sitting in front of the TV watching The Brady Bunch and stringing necklaces,” Wallace says. “It seemed perfectly natural to be surrounded by gems, turquoise, silver and gold. Wasn’t everyone’s house like that?”
“I remember sitting in front of the TV watching The Brady Bunch and stringing necklaces.” –Debbie Wallace, Barbara Ellick Designs Barbara Ellick and Debbie Wallace at the eponymous jewelry store
as The Clothes Garden in 1978. In 1983, she moved to a larger store in Wynnewood. In 1999, Marilyn retired, sort of. “She had loyal customers who had depended on her for decades,” Susan Cooper says. “Marilyn kept taking them to New York on buying trips. Eventually, I said, ‘I don’t think they’re going to let you retire.’ ” Susan was then a successful lawyer and mother, and she turned out to be the perfect partner for Marilyn. They opened Gabrielle, the women’s special occasion boutique, then G Lizzy, which caters to teenagers. The mother-in-law/daughter-in-law dynamic mirrors the partnership that Marilyn had when she started her business. It was Marilyn’s mother who handled the business end of The Clothes Garden. Like Marilyn, Barbara Ellick’s talent and flair emerged in the mid-1970s and after she had children. “It started 45 years ago on a trip that my parents took to Santa Fe,” her daughter says. “They met a husband and wife who were traders and jewelry makers. My mom bought $2,000 worth of jewelry from them. She wore some it on the flight home — and ending up selling all of it to the flight attendants
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The business soon outgrew the house; Ellick opened a New York showroom and a smaller shop inside a Merion dress store. Eventually, she merged them into the Narberth store. By then, Wallace had graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in child and family studies. “It was interesting, but I didn’t love it,” she says. “My mom and dad suggested that I work at the store for a few days a week until I figured out what I wanted to do — and I never left. That was 24 years ago.” But Wallace did have to get schooled on jewelry. She admits to having a “hearts and flowers” style with no real sense about what would sell to women who wanted more sophisticated pieces. “Mom educated me about the world of jewelry, but in a very gentle way,” Wallace says. “At the same time, I brought my generation’s fashion sense into the store and that proved to be essential to keeping us current and appealing to new customers.” Ruth Krass’ fashion family tree grew differently than the Coopers and Ellicks. Krass married into one of Philadelphia’s legendary fashion families: the Krass Brothers. Famous as “the store of the stars,” as the ubiquitous TV ads touted, Krass Brothers on South Street was run by
turning her love of fashion into a business; Bedazzled opened in 2006. That spurred Sabrina to follow the path that her mother had started. She studied fashion design at the University of Delaware, then went to work at Bedazzled. “I thought that my career would start at a large design firm or a department store where I could be involved with buy-
Sabrina followed the path that her mother had started. She studied fashion design at the University of Delaware, then went to work at Bedazzled. ing decisions and working on the floor with customers,” she says. “But then I realized that I can do all of that at Bedazzled — and work with my family. What could be better than that?” Mimi James believes that a person’s fashion sense is all relative.
Undergarments for Every Occasion • specialty bras • lingerie • hosiery • shapewear • sleepwear
Sabrina and Ruth Krass at Bedazzled
Harry and Ben Krass. Its success spawned other locations in Philadelphia run by Harry’s three sons, one of whom is Victor, Ruth Krass’s husband. Ruth married Victor almost immediately after she graduated from Springfield High School in 1979. She attended Penn State for two years, then matriculated at the Philadelphia College of Textiles (now Philadelphia University) to pursue her interest in the clothing business. “I loved it there because I found people who were just like me: artsy and fashionable and not afraid to try new things,” she says. “I fit in.” Despite her interest in design, Ruth decided to be a stay-at-home mom. “I didn’t want to miss a single thing,” she says. “Our kids were my top priority.” Not until her children were grown did she think of
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Manifest Destiny A family business’s blueprint for success By Beth D’Addono
s far as Andrew Stein knew, none of his four children were anxious to join him in the family business. Stein, who was born and raised in Lower Merion, founded Design Manifest, a full-service residential contracting firm with a specialty in artisanal craftsmanship, in 1974. Stein and his wife, Carol Parker Stein, always encouraged their children to follow their dreams, which led his oldest daughter into fashion design, his youngest to teaching and his middle daughter, Naomi, into the mortgage business. Their son is still in school, but other than working summers, he isn’t planning on following his dad’s lead. “It’s a tough business,” said Stein. “It’s dirty and very physical — it’s not for everybody.”
Dressing room by Design Manifest
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A modern bathroom by Design Manifest
So it is easy to imagine his surprise when Naomi, the middle daughter, came to him “completely out of the blue” with a written proposal in May 2004. “She was doing well selling mortgages, but she didn’t love it,” recalled her dad. In the proposal, Naomi outlined what areas of the business needed improvement and why she should be the fixer. “She even proposed how much I should pay her. Turns out, she was right about everything.” “I didn’t want to rest on my laurels and join my dad’s company right away,” said Naomi, 32. “But I found the mortgage business stressful and boring. I wanted to get my hands dirty.” Although her idea was to “turn the business around in a year or two,” Naomi found it took more like six or seven — not to turn the business around, but to learn the necessary skills and make her mark on the company. Dynamics between fathers and daughters are always interesting. Add working together on a daily basis into the mix, and there can be challenges. The road’s been a relatively smooth one for this family duo, though, with Stein leading the charge on the construction side, working closely with Naomi as she’s gradually taken over and developed the design aspect of the business.
European Craftsmanship Stein’s own parents weren’t thrilled when he informed them that he was pursuing construction as a career. “They’d been grooming me to be a lawyer or something like that,” he recalled. His dad was in the financial business, and tinkered around the house as a hobby. “Grow-
Naomi and Andrew Stein
ing up, I was always helping him. He was always building something and I took an interest in it. By the time I was 13, I was better at it than he was.” What his folks considered a temporary summer job as a teen turned serious when he apprenticed with Otto, an old-school, Old Country carpenter from Czechoslovakia. “Otto taught me some of the old methods of working that a lot of people aren’t doing anymore,” said Stein. While he is constantly staying up to date with new advances in his field, knowing traditional methods is something that has set his career apart for more than four decades. Stein, 60 (“Sometimes at the end of a hard day I feel 80!”), is a veteran carpenter, as well as a skilled tile-setter, cabinetmaker, craftsman and designer. The company maintains a wood shop to handle custom work. Recognized by the National Kitchen and Bath Association as a certified kitchen and bath designer, Stein works primarily in the Main Line and takes tremendous pride in personally overseeing all projects. Like virtually every other contractor, Stein said that working on a renovation while the clients are living in the home is especially challenging, with the care and management of the construction dust the No. 1 concern on all sides. “It’s very important to communicate to the client, prepare them for what to expect and how to live most comfortably through the project,” he elaborated. Job costs include equipment and time to set up exhaust fans to maintain negative air pressure and prevent dust from migrating. Main Line clients have a reputation for being particular, which suits Stein just fine. While working on a full-home mold remediation job in Gladwyne, the crew covered all of the house’s beautiful wood floors with 160 sheets of 1/8-inch Masonite, a steam-cooked and pressure-molded hardboard. “The floors were perfect at the end, and that cost just got built into the job,” Stein explained. “The end result — a happy client — is paramount to us. “Everybody is in such a hurry to get things done with a close eye to costs,” he continued. “Obviously, I’m in business and I’m conscious of costs, too. But there’s a way to do a job properly without cutting
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Manifest Destiny A classic Craftsman kitchen as created and crafted by Design Manifest
corners. It’s about educating yourself, knowing what works and giving a damn.”
Old School Meets New School When Naomi first approached her father, the idea was to put her business degree to use by managing the office. “She wasn’t a great office manager,” her father said. “Both of us are creative — we don’t like doing the paperwork. Naomi found her passion with design, and I hired an office manager. It was the right move.” Unflappable in the face of the problems inherent to construction, Stein considers himself a practical contractor at heart. Although trained in design, it isn’t his favorite flavor. “It turns out, with Naomi’s talent with design, we make a great team,” he said. Naomi jumped in with both feet, learning skills like CAD on the job and taking classes through the National Kitchen and Bath Association and Moore College of Art & Design. “I trust my dad completely,” she said. “If there’s any way to make my vision a reality, he can do it.” As is the case in every successful family business, keeping home and work separate is critical. “We’ve always gotten along well,” said Andrew. “That being said, there’s a built-in tension between designers and builders. Builders always want to build and get it done efficiently; designers want to elaborate with detail, to pursue all options.” Longtime clients get a kick out of the father-daughter dynamic at meetings. “We sometimes bump together in a good way even if we don’t always agree,” he said. “It produces the best compromise
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What’s trending now? Design Manifest VP Naomi Stein offers her picks for design trends this year. Mixed metals “We recently did a kitchen with a brass-and-black range and hood mixed with stainless sink and faucets. I do see stainless moving out of favor, but right now, it’s pretty necessary in kitchens for certain things like wall ovens. For refrigerators, we like to use panel fronts whenever we can — they feel much less bulky.” Gray for kitchens and baths “Recently, we have been doing more gray stains instead of paints. There is an extra depth to stain that
you don’t get with paint. I like being able to see the wood grain through the color.” Accent tiles are out “Instead of a row of glass tile on a kitchen backsplash — which often gets covered up by toasters and general counter ‘junk’ — we like to bring in color and pattern through rugs, lighting, counter stools and window treatments. Generally, I favor more neutral permanent fixtures — cabinetry, flooring, tile, counters — and bolder colors for wall paint and accessories.” Faux-wood porcelain tiles are all the rage in bathrooms “My clients like that it
between design and practicality.” Now the company’s vice president and principal designer, Naomi admits that sometimes she finds her dad set in his ways. “The problem is that a lot of times, his ways are right. I bring a different energy into the mix, though, which is good.” One area of disagreement has to do with the locations of the company’s jobs. Her dad doesn’t like commuting past the Main Line; Naomi
gives off the warm organic feel of wood. Oftentimes, bathrooms can feel so sterile otherwise!” Shaking things up in the kitchen “Our clients have been coming to us to do something a little different than your typical Shaker cabinet you see everywhere. Recent examples include a two-tone black-andwhite island and custom doors to give the wall cabinets extra detail. The general desire is to have clean lines with interest. No one wants ornate anymore, but they want custom, tailored, classic yet head-turning.”
is interested in working in Philly. “I sometimes take on design projects outside of our usual area if the job is really special,” she said. Another way Naomi has impacted the business is through her design blog on the company website (www.designmanifest.com/blog/), an approachable, chatty forum for her experiences with everything from rugs and color schemes to lighting and girly glam. “Both my dad and I like interesting custom details and beautiful finishes. We may have different tastes, but together, they mesh perfectly.” Beth D’Addono is a longtime contributor to Inside.
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Reclamation Points For a new look around the house, go back to the future. By Beth Dâ€™Addono
verything old really is new again when it comes to home and commercial design. Call it what you like â€” reclaiming, recycling, architectural salvage. But the notion of incorporating existing materials into new construction and renovation projects is about as hot as it gets right now. As is so often the case, restaurant designers have led the charge, weaving the likes
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Heartwalk, a sculpture made from reclaimed Atlantic City boardwalk pieces, is shown here on tour in Brooklyn.
Some area restaurants featuring reclaimed materials include (left to right): Fette Sau, La Fia and JG Domestic
of barn boards, found objects and industrial materials together to create urban chic spaces warmed by a lifetime of past use. You may not have noticed it, but if you’ve eaten at Bryan Sikora’s lovely La Fia in Wilmington, any of Jose Garces’ spots, Jake’s in Manayunk or Stephen Starr’s Fette Sau, you’ve been in the presence of recycled building materials and rescued architectural finishes. Artists have long been
marble fireplaces, claw-foot tubs, ornate radiators and handcrafted decorative hardware — and continue from there. Chris Stock has found beauty — and profit — in materials destined for the wrecking ball. The designer/builder opened his company, Philadelphia Salvage, three years ago when the prices of reclaimed materials became prohibitive. Stock loves the contrast created by pair-
As to what can be recycled, the sky’s the limit — the list can start with aged barn wood flooring, furniture, doors, marble fireplaces, claw foot tubs, ornate radiators and handcrafted decorative hardware — and continue from there. hip to this karmic win/win, using found objects to create jaw-dropping masterpieces of all stripes. Heartwalk, a 30-foot wooden heart sculpture installed in Atlantic City last November, was created by Brooklyn, N.Y., design firm Situ Studio, which used reclaimed wood from Hurricane Sandy-battered boardwalks. Reusing building materials isn’t just an aesthetic choice, according to Use It Again PA (useitagainpa.org), a statewide recycling site. It’s a way to preserve and connect to “Pennsylvania’s rich tangible history. The salvage and reuse of building materials helps to preserve historic and antique fixtures, furniture and building materials, prevents more waste from entering landfills, reduces the consumption of new resources and opens up new markets and job opportunities.” Salvaged items can come from buildings slated for demolition, churches and commercial properties. As to what can be recycled, the sky’s the limit — the list can start with aged barn wood flooring, furniture, doors,
ing high-tech materials with vintage goods — say, installing a frameless glass shower and a dual flush toilet with vintage subway tiles and a recycled industrial cast iron sink. His clients range from big names like Ralph Lauren and the Starr Restaurant Group to small restaurants like Earth, Bread and Brewery in Mt. Airy and area homeowners. He finds treasures in all kinds of unexpected places, including many donated items that local contractors can’t bear to see disappear into the dumpster. “The classic line is, ‘If I bring one more thing home my wife is going to kill me,’ ” said Stock, who tries not to fall in love with any of his inventory despite his passion for American industrial design. The availability of particular items ebbs and flows — although there is always a glut of something as ever-present as doors of all shapes and sizes. “You need 1,000 doors to sell one,” he said. “But when it’s the right one, that’s when you get your ‘wow’ moment.” He maintains a 25,000 sq. ft. warehouse that also houses a shop for cus-
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Selections from the ever-changing inventory at ReStore
tom furniture making. “It’s the same principle as buying local, just on a bigger scale,” he said. “You can spend $2,000 at a place like Restoration Hardware and buy a dining room table made by somebody earning $50 a day working in terrible conditions, or you can get a totally custom-made table
from salvaged materials made in this country by people buying houses, supporting a family, contributing to our economy. We know where our materials come from. We have 30-foot timbers that can be turned into an amazing conference table. It’s almost always cheaper to make it custom than to buy something you’d find in a catalog.” Using recycled and reclaimed goods in home and restaurant décor may be at the center of the design zeitgeist but that’s not the reason Mike Supermodel (yes, that’s the name he goes by) opened his first Jinxed store nine years ago. What started as a place to buy eclectic T-shirts, books and toys off of South Street has grown into three locations selling all things vintage and reclaimed, from ’50s chrome tables to shelving, lighting, furniture and more. Supermodel is understandably reticent to reveal where he finds his goods, now carried in three different locations. His staff uses social media, Instagram in particular, to send virtual shout-outs to a growing legion of followers, a savvy and interesting way to move product. “Nothing really lasts for too long,” he said. “We turn over most of our stock within three weeks of getting it.” One of the reasons for that: Jinxed prices are COURTESY JOHN DORETY very affordable. “I like to say we’re John Dorety buys, sells and builds with reclaimed architectural items. Some of his jobs include (clockwise the alternative to IKEA,” said Sufrom top left) a wine cellar made from reclaimed redwood; a room salvaged from the Regina Mundy Convent permodel. “You go to IKEA and you and reinstalled into an 18th-century farmhouse addition; the Belgian Café in Philadelphia; and a shore house kitchen. can still get a couch for $400. Ours is
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maybe $150, and it’s got lots of character.” Although it’s hot to use reclaimed materials, that’s not why he’s in the business. “I do what I do because I like it. I’m not paying attention to the ‘what’s happening now’ crowd. Before long, the trend will be
over and everybody will want new stuff. And I’ll still be around when that happens.” Beth D’Addono was reclaiming before reclaiming was cool.
This page: selections from a recent visit to Provenance Architecturals
Recycle, Reclaim, Reuse Here is a partial list of Philly-area outlets for architectural salvage noted on useitagainpa.org. Provenance Architecturals (phillyprovenance.com) has an architectural salvage store called Provenance, which includes salvaged items from the historic Divine Lorraine Hotel among other Philadelphia landmarks. 912 Canal St.; 215-236-6677 Architectural Antiques Exchange (architecturalantiques.com) boasts an extensive inventory of artifacts from the 1700s to 1930s from Europe and the Northeast Corridor. 715 N. Second St.; 215922-3669. John Dorety Antiques (johndorety.com) sells architectural antiques and manufactures custom pieces such as doors, mantels, columns,
corbels, trim and more. 9th and South Sts.; 215-625-2728. Kevin Brooks Salvage LLC (kevinbrookssalvage.com) is a full-service materials management company that develops innovative and cost-saving opportunities to remove and reuse discarded materials — think sustainable demo. 1320 N. Fifth St.; 215-848-5029 ReStore (re-store-online.com) is a Philly-based architectural salvage clearinghouse. They buy and sell numerous fixtures and accessories, and offer deconstruction services and design consultations. 3016 East Thompson St.; 215-634-3474 The Warehouse at Urban Artifacts (urbanartifactsonline.com) is a 14,000 sq. ft. warehouse filled with all kinds of antique furniture and architectural notables. 2702 Roberts Ave.; 215-951-9343
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RESISTANCE IS FUTILE There is a reason why so many people succumb to the charms of Orlando over and over again. By Greg Salisbury
’m not sure when the feeling started. It could have been that first night, when the kids ignored a steady, chilling rain to gleefully clamber next to a bronze statue of Mickey Mouse to pose for photos in front of Cinderella’s Castle.
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Above: An instructor at Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ Jedi Training Academy attraction. Right: The Hoop-De-Doo is a throwback good time. Bottom: EPCOT’s Mission: Space is a must-ride VR adventure.
Or it could have been when three different cast members helped me look for an outlet to charge my phone during the Hoop-deDoo at Fort Wilderness. It could even have been when I was standing in my winter coat, slurping hot chocolate in between bites of churro on a very convincing streetscape set, watching other people use whatever tools they had at their disposal — blankets, slankets, beach towels — to stave off those unexpected 40-degree January days. But by the time I was midway through a 55-minute wait for the Tower of Terror, there was no getting around it. Somehow, some way, I had drunk the Kool-Aid. Waiting almost an hour for a four-minute thrill ride, I was enjoying myself at Disney World. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not a hater; I am just familiar with my idiosyncrasies — like aversions to crowds, long lines and having to overpay for something because it’s the only game in town. Check, check and check. That said, this Orlando vacation wasn’t for me — it was for my 11-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter. The deadline for taking a vacation with them while they would still voluntarily spend time with their parents was fast approaching, so I swallowed hard and made the reservations, happy to take them to the Happiest Place on Earth thanks to eight years’ worth of accumulated points from a Disney Visa card and finally filling up our “Disney Jar” (the $251.05, or an average of $50 a year in loose change, contained within, paid for all of their souvenirs). So what happened? Why did I become that dad, comparing notes with their mom on future trips, timeshares vs. airBnB? How did I go from treating the trip like a campaign, marshaling resources and checklists to make sure each child’s wish list was fulfilled in the most costand time-effective way, to simply enjoying the ride? I don’t know. Honestly. Although it is impossible not to get swept up in the joie de Mickey — everyone, from the toddler girls parading down Main Street USA in their best Disney Princess costumes to the honeymooning couples to indulgent grandparents — is happy to be there. On the monorail between the parks in the morning, people are smiling. Watching the glassblowers create crystalline Donald Ducks, people are
smiling. Settling into a prime viewing spot for the nightly fireworks at EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, although one witty cast member interpreted it as Everyone Mostly Comes Out Tired), people are … you get the idea. And why wouldn’t they be? Disney World does exactly what people expect it to do. No, it actually does more. This place — comprised of The Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, EPCOT and Animal Kingdom — is immaculate, with perfectly manicured flora, freshly painted everything and constantly improving hardware. The cast members — no one is referred to as an employee; everyone is literally performing a role to make sure you are enjoying Disney the way you dreamed you would — are the engine that take this experience to the next level. To a person, they are smiling (of course), knowledgeable and completely focused on the person they are engaged with, no matter how many people are waiting in line to ask their own questions. About those lines — they are unavoidable at some point. If you want to go on the most popular rides and see the shows you’ve heard so much about, rest assured that everyone else wants to do the same. Even though we went in mid-January — the consensus is that the best times to visit are between mid-January and mid-February, as well as the first three weeks of May, late August and all of September — there were hour-plus waits for Toy Story Mania, Aerosmith’s Rock-and-Rollercoast-
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travel er and Mission: Space. It could have been worse — we could have been there during Christmas week, when Magic Kingdom got so crowded they turned visitors away. If you have read this far, you know that I did my research. I can sum up the best strategy for Disney World in one word: Fastpass. This free, timed ticketing system is made possible by the amazingly accurate crowd control algorithms they use. The Fastpass is basically your placeholder — when you first get to a park, head straight for the rides and attractions you most want to do. You will see screens telling you how long the current line is, as well as Fastpass availability, which is a one-hour window a few hours away. For example, if you get to EPCOT at 10 a.m. and discover that the line for Test Track (where you build and race your own virtual car) is 75 minutes, grab yourself a Fastpass good for entry between, say 2 to 3 p.m. and then spend the next few hours checking out everything else there is to do, like the fascinating and educational Living with the Land, a boat ride through the different agricultural climes around the world and a glimpse into new farming technologies. Yes, I realize how boring that sounds — just trust me. You can also take a spin through Spaceship Earth, the instantly recognizable geodesic sphere (not a dome) visible from everywhere at EPCOT. Even if you have to wait sometimes, as we did for Mission: Space, it’s worth it for the experience. Strapped and locked into a virtual-reality spaceship, this ride is as close as I want to get to zero gravity. I didn’t hyperventilate, but let’s just say there was a lot of deep, cleansing breathing going on during this manned flight to Mars, complete with crash landing. Definitely do not eat before trying this one — it was the first ride to ever come equipped with air-sickness bags. When you do decide to eat at Disney, make it count. Some of the best opportunities to meet characters are during mealtime. Cinderella’s Royal Table is the ne plus ultra for meeting the princesses, and books up six months in advance. We had a great time with Hawaiian Mickey, Lilo and Stitch — and a pretty terrific all-you-can-eat breakfast served tableside — at Ohana in the Polynesian Resort. In fact, we didn’t have a bad meal the entire visit, and the prices were much more reasonable than I expected, especially since visitors are basically a captive audience (you are allowed to bring in your own food and beverages as long as they’re not in a hard cooler). The best dining experience we had during the trip, though, was a huge platter of nachos sent to our room by the staff at the Ritz Kids Program at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes, located 15 minutes from
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Hoillywood Studios’ Tower of Terror ride includes a hair-raising free-fall experience.
Disney. Why didn’t we stay at a Disney hotel? It was an easy decision. Even though there are numerous benefits to staying on-site, like reduced-rate meal plans, extended park hours and the supercharged line-beating option of Fastpass+, I wanted a change of environment for the downtime, especially since we would already be spending close to 12 hours a day at the parks. Well, that and the thought that it would be nice to be taken care of in a hotel consistently ranked as one of the best in the country and the world by Travel + Leisure, among other publications. When we were leaving Ritz Kids, we mentioned we were going to cheer on the Eagles in their playoff game against the Saints. By the time the game started, room service was knocking on the door. Unfortunately, that is the only positive memory I have of the game. The attention to family-friendly detail didn’t stop there. It started when we opened the door to our room to find the In-Room Camping Experience: a two-person tent, complete with feather bed, miniature LED Coleman lanterns, Charlie and Lola books and Gund alligators. The tent set the tone for the unusual dedication to environmental awareness evident everywhere at the 500-acre property. The hotel engages in active water management, and it operates an organic garden that provides produce for its foodservice operations, including Primo, the sister restaurant of the acclaimed Primo in Rockland, Maine. Melissa Kelly, the chef/owner of the restaurant, began the garden based on the full-circle farm-to-tale experience she created in Maine. The most visible aspect of the hotel’s relationship with its central Florida environs is also its most hidden. Running through the Greg Norman-designed golf course is Shingle Creek, the northernmost headwaters for the Everglades. Named for the cypress trees lining its shores that were long used to make roof shingles, the pristine waters offer mildly intrepid guests like us the chance to take early-morning guided canoe tours, paddling through a silence that doesn’t seem possible just yards from the busy sprawl of Orlando. It was too cold for gators, but we did catch a distant glimpse of an otter, and our guide pointed out numerous types of birds waiting for a breakfast of fish and insects. All of that paddling and walking meant only one thing: for me to continue functioning at peak ability, I would need to check out the spa. No big deal, it’s just a 40,000-square foot haven that has been ranked one of the top 100 resort spas in the United States by Condé Nast Traveler for the past six years. Despite its size, the spa achieves an intimate feel, with secluded and
You’ll have a Grande old time: The Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes’ many charms include (clockwise from top left) canoeing through Shingle Creek; a massive pool; a fully staffed Ritz Kids facility; and an award-winning spa.
sound-insulated treatment rooms and a rooftop eco-garden where you can indulge in the Hammock Experience. You are ensconced in a hammock, surrounded by plants while being attended to by one of the spa’s massage specialists. I wasn’t that daring, although I can report that when they list “deep tissue” on the massage menu, it’s like Han Dynasty mentioning that a dish is very spicy. As an added bonus, anyone receiving a spa treatment gets to use the facilities for the day, including a sauna so powerful that I stumbled over someone while trying to find the bench. No harm, though — we were both wearing towels. I think. As much as the adults in our party enjoyed the Ritz-Carlton, the kids enjoyed it even more. How much more? On our last full day, they told
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO If I haven’t mentioned this already, and you haven’t heard it ad nauseum from everyone else you have asked: do your homework! The most popular restaurants at Disney book up six months in advance, so start there.
There are numerous apps for your phone, including the essential My Disney Experience, which can assist you with everything from restaurant reservations to finding out which characters are appearing where and what the wait times are park-wide.
us — after only four hours at Hollywood Studios — that they wanted to spend the rest of the day by the pool and in the tent. After so many years of looking askance at friends and family as they chose to spend vacation after vacation at Disney World, I finally understand. It is that rarest of experiences: You know exactly what you’re going to get, they know exactly what you want, and there will always be something new to experience. It’s too soon to say there is definitely a return trip in the future, but for some reason, I still haven’t canceled the credit card I swore I would cut up the moment I cashed in those points. ❏ Greg Salisbury is feeling goofy.
The best book I read is also the one recommended by Disney: Birnbaum Guides’ Walt Disney World. It is exhaustive and offers excellent advice on planning your visit.
The best unofficial website I found is mousesavers. com — lots of spot-on information on what to pack, the most affordable dining options and tips and tricks for getting the most out of each park. There’s no reason not to go to the source, of course: disneyworld.disney.go.com; 407-939-5277 There is no way to do this on the cheap. Prices range from $142 for a one-day
Parkhopper ticket — unless you know you are only going to one park, this is the way to go — to $440 for a 10-day Parkhopper ticket. Unless you are bringing your own food in, figure on at least $50 per day per person for dining, more if you decide to try some of the better restaurants like La Hacienda de San Angel, the Mexican restaurant at EPCOT that offers amazing views of the nightly fireworks. Room rates at the Ritz-Carlton vary; the best way to find the best price is to call. Be sure to ask about their Walt Disney World Theme Park Package. www.ritzcarlton.com; 1-800-542-8680
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letter from Israel
ALL-INCLUSIVE ISRAEL The country’s culture takes “family-friendly” to unheard-of levels. By Jessica Steinberg
he first time I realized the extent of Israel’s family friendliness was prior to having my own kids. I was reviewing hotels and restaurants for the Jerusalem section of Fodor’s Israel, and had to check which restaurants, cafes and hotels could be flagged as welcoming to families.
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One of the more recent developments in all this encouragement of familymaking is in the single-parent and LGBT communities. The state also implemented fertility measures. The socialized health care system once allowed women an unlimited number of subsidized in vitro fertilization treatment cycles, which has since been capped at a maximum of eight cycles. This is in contrast to the United States, where a round of IVF costs an average of $12,000, and is currently an insurance coverage option in only 15 states. The point of all this? Israel wants its families to have babies — and Israelis are complying. Add in the fact that all Israeli citizens
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Here was the thing: Virtually every place I visited was just that — from high-end bistros to mom-and-pop cafes — and nearly all included high chairs and a selection of kidfriendly menu options. Now that I have kids of my own, I’m not all that surprised by Israel’s family focus. This is the land where families are front and center. According to the country’s Central Bureau of Statistics, there are 1.87 million families — out of a 7 million-plus population. Most — 63 percent — are two-parent households, and the average family has 3.72 kids. It’s a country where Family Day — Yom HaMishpachah, the 30th of Shevat — is celebrated rather than the American-style Mother’s Day. Kids are welcome everywhere because family is everything in Israel. It’s a concept that’s been in place since the country’s 1948 rebirth, when world Jewry was reeling from the loss of six million Jews and the Jewish homeland was all about renewal — and demographics. This is a country that provides financial allowances for each child, a system established in 1959 in order to help increase the Jewish population as one way to counter the effects of the Holocaust, worldwide Jewish assimilation and the much larger Arab population. In Israel, mothers receive three months’ paid maternity leave (better than the United States’ Family and Medical Leave Act that allows for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, but it still doesn’t compare with the Netherlands’ fully paid 16 weeks) and a modest lump sum from the government upon birth.
have to serve in the army for two to three years from the age of 18, and it’s no wonder that Israelis savor those early years, given the inherent worries about the future. Even after the army, it’s not unusual for young adults to live at home for a time, bringing home girlfriends and boyfriends, creating one big, happy family. One of the more recent developments in all this encouragement of family-making is in the single-parent and LGBT communities. The Central Bureau of Statistics shows that the number of single women who gave birth in 2010 nearly doubled compared with the year 2000. And while there aren’t any definitive numbers, it is relatively common for religious single women to have a child or two as a way to feel more part of the community. Leah Leeder, a practicing chiropractor who is the single mother of a 4-year-old daughter, found that her identity has changed since becoming a parent, in part, she said, because of the intense focus on families in every aspect of life. “Before I gave birth, I was who I was, and now I’m ‘the mother of Raphaela,’ ” she said, referring to the common terminology used in local preschools, when other parents may not know the parent’s name. “Adults I know through her will say, ‘Hi, Mom of Raphaela.’ I kind of enjoy that identity. When you are ‘Mom of’ in this country, it gives you a context.” It’s a similar kind of experience for LGBT families, particularly gay couples, who have to leave Israel in order to have children, and have been doing so in increasing numbers, having surrogate pregnancies in the United States, India and, now, Thailand. The prime destination for foreign surrogacy used to be India until last year, when the Indian government made it illegal to be a sur-
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letter from Israel
rogate for same-sex couples. Then Israeli same-sex couples turned to Thailand, but a recently introduced Thai law automatically grants citizenship and full custody to the babies to their birth mothers, and any attempts to take a Thai baby out of the country can be construed as kidnapping. Although there is an Israeli consulate in Thailand, the Israeli government has been warning gay couples to avoid surrogacy in Thailand, given the inherently complicated diplomatic procedures there. While there have been a series of political issues of late for Israeli gay couples having surrogate children in Thailand, it’s still overwhelmingly acceptable for same-sex partners to have families in Israel; in fact, it’s expected. Irit Rozenblum, the founder of New Family, a leading family rights organization in Israel, commented that Israel is fairly advanced when it comes to rights for LGBT families. “Israeli society is particularly family-friendly, whatever the sex of the parents,” said Rozenblum. “One can even say that the perception toward gays is changing in their favor when they choose to grow and multiply.” Among gay couples, it’s common to use money set aside for mortgages in order to pay the tens, and sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars necessary to afford surrogate pregnancies, said Avi Rose, an informal Jewish educator in Jerusalem who, with his partner, has 2-year-old boy-and-girl twins born in India. And despite “changing the rules of the game,” said Rose, who has mostly positive things to say about the governmental intervention in their surrogacy experience, he finds that his kids sometimes
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call him “Ima,” the Hebrew word for Mommy, when they’re upset. “It’s such a mother culture here,” he said. At the same time, even here, in the “startup nation,” where most families include two working parents, it’s rare to come across a family where both parents don’t show up for their kids’ preschool birthday party (or the Rosh Hashanah/Chanukah/Shavuot celebration), and fathers pick up kids from school almost as regularly as do mothers. A Tel Aviv University study comparing family policy and public attitudes in Germany and Israel looked at other societal factors that have affected Israel’s family-friendly structure. There was the large 1950s immigration from traditional societies in North Africa, bringing their dominant family structure, religious observance and high fertility rates. While that population has clearly Westernized in the ensuing decades, their concept of extended family wrought a significant effect on Israeli society. So while most families may not eat dinner together every night of the week — the main meal of the day is often lunch, whether it’s the schnitzel and ptitim (known elsewhere as orzo) served at school, or rice and meat patties made at home by Mom or Grandma — they certainly gather every Friday night for Shabbat dinner, even if it’s a staunchly secular family that often includes not just parents and kids, but grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. It’s also not surprising to find kids, even toddlers and preschoolers, accompanying Mom and Dad or Grandma and Grandpa for an evening jaunt to the mall, the movies or a late-night snack at the local cafe. A friend and his family told of visiting a vegan bar in
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Haifa, where intellectuals, students and musicians like to hang out. The owner made balloon animals for the girls and they ended up staying for a performance of Greek music. Other examples abound. Who hasn’t made a visit to a government office with a baby in tow, handing off their bawling infant to a clerk in order to sign some paperwork? It’s unusual to walk down the street with a newborn — whether in a stroller or baby carrier — and not have some grandmotherly or grandfatherly type stop you with a “Tut-tut,” exclaiming over the lack of a hat or what they consider warm-enough clothing. And whether in the playground, sidewalk or parking lot, it’s common to see a mother or father pulling their toddler or preschooler to the side, allowing them a quick pee in the weeds, rather than waiting to find the nearest bathroom. Israeli culture can be a bit “vulgar” in that sense, commented Noam Rizi, a father of three young children and the owner of four restaurants in Jerusalem, including Adom, a bistro in the city’s renovated train station complex. “But that’s our behavior, for better or for worse,” he said. “We’re easy, we’re warm and we’re family-friendly. We don’t create obstacles for families, whether it’s in a restaurant or on the street. Kids create noise and a certain kind of atmosphere, but you can’t let
“Even in a five-star deluxe hotel, it’s about families,” said Alex Herman, vice president of marketing at Jerusalem’s Inbal Hotel. “The experience is for the whole family, even on Passover, when we serve snacks to the kids during the long seder, like they get at home.” Not everyone has children, of course, and for those who don’t have kids, there can be a significant, difficult sense of being left out of society, excluded from something essential in Israeli life. And as warm and inclusive as Israelis are with family and friends, they often miss the boat when it comes to warming up to those who aren’t familiar to them, whether long-time neighbors or someone they just met at a party. But as a place to raise kids? It can’t be beat.
It’s not surprising to find kids, even toddlers and preschoolers, accompanying Mom and Dad or Grandma and Grandpa for an evening jaunt to the mall, the movies or a late-night snack at the local cafe. yourself not be child-friendly, because that’s what people expect.” Consider weddings, often held on weeknights, and almost always including kids on the guest list, because the wedding is considered a family affair. It isn’t unusual to see Grandpa kicking up his heels with his granddaughter, or for Mom and Dad to boogie on the dance floor, baby held firmly in his Ergo. Even Israeli hotels are meccas for families. With the exception of Isrotel’s Carmel Forest spa, where kids aren’t welcome until they’re 16 or older, and several other smaller boutique hotels, kids are welcome everywhere, even at the priciest five-star places, where meals are often served family style.
Leeder, the single mother, uses the holiday seasons as an example of why she loves being a parent in Israel. The various holidays, which form the backbone of the calendar year, are often family events that revolve around the kids. She has also found that she enjoys holidays more now that she’s a parent. “It’s this experience, it’s just this enthusiasm and pure joy,” she said. “And kids make it a part of something bigger.” ❏ When she’s not busy with her twin 5-year-old sons, Jessica Steinberg is the culture and lifestyles correspondent at the Times of Israel.
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KVETCHES OF SPAIN Why is there only one place in the area to find Pesadichah Spanish wines? By Richard Pawlak
ine wine can be found in almost every corner of the globe these days, but sourcing a decent, if not exceptional kosher wine, well, that may take some legwork â€” unless you know where to point your palate.
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For a change of pace this year, picking up a little Spanish may be the way to go. Although Spanish wines are often lost in the shuffle to grab the latest Beaujolais from Brouilly, Primitivo from Puglia or Cabernet from California, these Old World wines with a rich history are some of the greatest wine bargains anywhere. Drinking the Circle of Life Dr. Moisés Cohen knows his Spanish history well. Until as recently as 1976, Jews had been prohibited from owning land in Spain, going all the way back to the Inquisition. According to Cohen, he became the first Sephardic Jew in half a millennium to buy land in Spain when he purchased a vineyard in 2000. His company, Elvi Wines, in the Priorat region of Catalonia, southwest of Barcelona, produces the prestigious Clos Mesorah label, as well as several other outstanding wines. Winemaking and agronomy is in his family’s blood, says Cohen, who holds a Ph.D. in agricultural engineering from the Technion in Haifa. “To develop this vineyard, with its 105-year-old vines, with modern innovations and sensitivity to what has to be done properly, it has been very rewarding,” he says. Cohen’s wines feature grapes from a half-dozen regions in Spain,
all with approachable flavors that should mesh well with almost any dish you serve for Pesach. The Elvi Cava, a sparkling wine, bursts with round fruit notes of peaches, pears, green apples and almonds, and aromas of citrus and elderflowers. A blend of Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo grapes, it is a new mevushal Cava, and would make an elegant accompaniment for a pre-dinner nibble to welcome guests as they arrive, or post-dinner with sweets. The winery’s In-Vita, blended from Pansa Blanca and Sauvignon Blanc grapes grown in Alella, on Spain’s northern coastline, exudes tart lemon and grass scents, a fresh, mild melon note and a honeylike finish — and something else I could not identify at first. “The Pansa Blanca grapes grow on these rocky hillsides overlooking the sea,” Cohen explains. “The soil looks almost white, and what you get is that great mineral taste from the soil, but even better: You get the taste of the sea air, the salty air, just like you were drinking the wine there on the white hills.” Cohen’s eyes sparkle with excitement when he discusses his wines. Despite his technical and agricultural achievements, the romance of winemaking seems to consume him — in a good way. When he discusses some of the kosher red wines he makes, such
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quaff as Elvi’s 2010 Classico and Clos Mesorah, he is especially effusive. “The Classico is 100 percent Tempranillo grapes,” says Cohen, “very earthy with chives and grass, almost bone dry, but yet a very light body. You can drink four cups of this at Passover!” His greatest enthusiasm is reserved for Elvi’s flagship wine, the 2010 Clos Mesorah. “The 105-year-old Carignan grapevines are 40 percent of this wine, along with 30 percent Grenache and 30 percent Syrah grapes, and we age it in finely toasted French oak barrels. It is very elegant and rich.” I was able to sample this wine with Cohen when he visited the United States for the 2014 Kosher Wine and Food Expo last month in New York, and it was remarkable. Earthy, vegetal and full of blackberry, cherry, leather and even honeysuckle flavors, it was like tasting the entire cycle of the winemaking process in a glass. Cohen grabbed a bottle and pointed to its label, an intri-
cate Byzantine circle motif. “The circle of life,” said Cohen, “is precisely what Clos Mesorah means, the close family generations, the history, the transmission of tradition.”
Sourcing for your seder Now that your appetite has been whetted for something different and distinctive for Pesach, don’t rush out to your local PA Wine & Spirits store, or even some of the wine megastores in New Jersey and Delaware, unless you’re prepared to be disappointed. After several days of visiting state stores in Pennsylvania and big-box liquor marts in New Jersey, I found the selection of kosher wines to be, for the most part, lacking, although the Wine & Spirits store in Narberth carried a decent selection of kosher wines from California, France, Italy, Israel, Australia and New Zealand. Wegman’s Wine Liquor &
Clos Mesorah grapes fresh from the vine and their sibling wines in the bottle
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How Much Do You REALLY Know About Kosher Wine?
Beer in Cherry Hill also contained much more than the usual suspects, with wines from Italy, Australia, Chile, California and Israel. But none from Spain. So I’ll let you in on a little secret: think out of the big-box/state store humdrum and head to Bala Cynwyd to talk wine with Ruvane Ribiat. You will never pick a kosher wine the same way again. Ribiat manages Rosenberg Blue Star Wine, a kosher wine boutique in a busy Judaica store that houses an eyeopening selection of kosher wines from around the world. And he can offer detailed knowledge about almost every bottle in the shop.
“People don’t know about kosher Spanish wines,but they are tremendous values, even better than Chilean wines.” – Ruvane Ribiat, Rosenberg Blue Star Wine “People don’t know about kosher Spanish wines,” says Ribiat, “but they are tremendous values, even better than Chilean wines. They are Old World wines, which means they are not as big and bold as we think of American wines. The wines have greater finesse. Everything that Spain exports is quality, at one-third to one-half the price!” Two wines at Blue Star are perfect examples of Ribiat’s claim. A 2010 Ramon Cordova Granacha had a burst of berry fruit and pepper at first sip, followed by a smooth, cocoa-like finish. “Granacha, the grapes that make Rioja wines so popular, have great finesse and character,” explains Ribiat. Another red, a 2011 Capçanes Peraj Petita, was an oaky, jammy pour with vibrant floral notes of elderflowers and a silken finish — “absolutely perfect for Passover,” Ribiat enthuses. And if you’re in the mood to splurge a little this Passover, he even has a few bottles of that fabulous Clos Mesorah. ¡Feliz Pascua! ❏ Rich Pawlak is a frequent contributor to Inside.
Kosher wines must be created, bottled, opened, handled and poured only by Jews. If a non-Jew handles the wine (pours from or passes the bottle), the wine becomes not kosher. With one exception. If the wine is heated to near boiling, the wine can be handled by non-Jews. Wines that have been heated this way are called mevushal, and are so marked somewhere on the bottle. Sometimes the abbreviation Mev is used. Sometimes the mark is only in Hebrew. Usually, wines served at catered celebrations are mevushal, since both Jews and non-Jews can be present or handle the wine. Seven requirements that must be followed in order to produce a kosher wine: • According to the practice known as orla, the grapes of new vines cannot be used for winemaking until the fourth year of planting. • No other fruits or vegetables may be grown between the rows of the vines (kalai hakerem) • After the first harvest, the field must lie fallow every seventh year. Each of these sabbatical years is known as shnat shmita. • From the onset of the harvest, only kosher tools and storage facilities may be used in the winemaking process, and all of the winemaking equipment must be cleaned (sometimes up to seven times with hot water) to be certain that no foreign objects remain in the equipment or vats. • From the moment the grapes reach the winery, only Sabbath-observant male Jews are allowed to come in contact with the wine. Jewish women are allowed to harvest the grapes, but no other non-Sabbath-observant male may look at, touch or get near the wine after it has entered the winery. • All of the materials (e.g. yeasts) used in the production and clarification of the wines must be certified as kosher. • A symbolic amount of wine, representing the tithe (truma vama’aser) once paid to the Temple in Jerusalem, must be poured away from the tanks or barrels in which the wine is being made, sometimes given away to charity by some wineries producing kosher wines. From The Ultimate Rogov’s Guide to Israeli Wine, published by The Toby Press © The Toby Press 2014
THINK GLOBAL, SHOP LOCAL Blue Star Wine at Rosenberg Judaica 144 Montgomery Ave., Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004, 610-667-3880 PA Wine & Spirits 1 Station Circle Narberth, PA 19072, 610-660-6430 Wegman’s Wine, Liquor & Beer 2110 Route 70 West Cherry Hill, NJ 08002, 856-488-8948
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FORWARD PROGRESS Avance moves the goalposts on Walnut Street and beyond. By Greg Salisbury
K, letâ€™s get this out of the way up front. There is no way to discuss Avance without mentioning its predecessor. Le Bec-Fin, the landmark Georges Perrier restaurant held down the same Walnut Street address for almost 30 years before closing in 2013, the victim of numerous factors, including its own success at establishing Philadelphia as a city that could support fine cuisine of all types and price points.
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For those who enjoyed the pleasures of pressed duck, synchronized dome-lifting and dessert-laden gueridons, there will no doubt be a moment or two of cognitive dissonance. Gone are the trappings of long-ago Paris, supplanted by a modern, urbane and welcoming atmosphere. The emphasis on wood and greenery evident at the understated entrance to the restaurant are echoed in the Pomegranate Group-designed dining room. Tables are hewn from Vermont black walnut by a craftsman whom executive chef/partner Justin Bogle met during a sourcing trip through the Green Mountain state. Multiple living walls softly reflect the light from dozens of naked Edison bulbs hanging at different heights from the impressively high ceiling. This is a place comfortable in its own skin, designed to make guests feel at ease and impressed at the same time while the staff sets the stage for the rest of the meal. Watching the tailored crew glide across the dining room, seamlessly gauging and engaging each table’s wants and expectations, is indeed a bit like watching a choreographed performance. Among the uniformly exceptional staff on the night we dined at Avance were two holdovers from Le Bec-Fin — the bar manager, Bradford Lawrence, and the sommelier, Alexandra Cherniavsky. Lawrence, who holds
court in the restaurant’s downstairs bar — which has been given a sleek update from its Le Bar Lyonnais days — has developed one of the city’s most accomplished cocktail programs and one of its most eclectically named lists, featuring drinks like the Johnny Utah (bourbon, Amontillado sherry, three-pepper tincture and herbsaint mist) and See You Around the Bend, a concoction of Hendricks gin, sage, lime, rosemary and Strega that carried the promise of warm summer breezes belying the late-March cold snap whipping through Center City that evening. Be sure to ask if there are any off-the-menu additions. Ordinarily, as both a brown liquor drinker and as big a fan of Point Break as the next guy, I would order a Johnny Utah to start the evening, but there was no way I could resist Lawrence’s 10 Bells, which featured both Buffalo Trace and Booker’s — as well as Amontillado sherry, Antica Formula vermouth, Campari and gunpowder tea tincture — aged over Japanese charcoal for 10 days. Cherniavsky has assembled a deep and fascinating wine list, with plenty of heavy hitters, as well as a substantial section of wines priced at $80 and under. Her by-the-glass program is also exceptionally accommodating, whether you’re looking for a flute of Dom Pérignon or an austerely satisfying Blanc de Blancs from Varichon & Clerc. She was so enthusiastic and confident about recommend-
Opposite: Avance’s dining room features living walls and naked Edison bulbs suspended from an impressively high ceiling. Above: It didn’t seem rushed, but service moves fast during dinner.
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Clockwise from top: fine-tuning the foie gras appetizer; arctic char tartare; sweetbreads lounging in parsnip foam
ing lesser-known varietals and producers for each course that we decided to let her pick the wines for our first courses and entrees, but it was her selection for the mid-course — which we specifically declined to match with a wine — that still has me singing her praises weeks later. Explaining that she “just thought we would enjoy trying something different,” she brought out a Moscatel Dorado sherry from Cesar Florido to drink with Bogle’s foie gras. The pairing produced the kind of synergy that sauternes can only dream about. The honey traces from the muscatel grapes, tempered by the slightly dry nature of Spanish sherry, seemed to amplify the richness of the foie gras, which undulated across the length of the plate, hemmed in by a supporting cast that included pickled grapes and crumbles of black walnuts. Like everything else that was laid in front of us during the meal, this dish spoke volumes about Bogle’s commitment to both classic sensibilities and modernist cuisine. Using tart and crunchy compo-
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nents to set off the unrelenting richness of the liver while preparing the foie gras with a high-tech Thermomix blender allows the palate to enjoy elemental flavors in an unexpected manner. It is this type of thoughtful cooking that made the Roxboroughborn and Restaurant School-educated Bogle one of the area’s most watched chefs from the moment he announced he was opening Avance. And for good reason: The 33-year-old was most recently at Gilt in New York City, where he earned two Michelin stars three years in a row. (There are no Michelin-starred restaurants in Philadelphia at present.) The menu, like the décor, is a study in high-end restraint. Each dish lists its components, and nothing more, not even — refreshingly — the seemingly obligatory farmer roster, even though it is very clearly seasonally driven. Among the appetizers, a tartare of silky Arctic char, set off by antigriddle-frozen green apples, fermented elderberries and fennel
A brick of dry-aged duck flanked by winter vegetables
juice shed new light on this too-little-seen cold-water fish. Another highlight among the starters was the suddenly hot Jerusalem artichoke. The bulbous sunflower root was first cooked sous vide and then roasted and served with sheer tuiles of Seckel pear, yuzu (better known as the Sukkot staple citron), a tang of buttermilk and a sunflower seed brittle to bring it all together. Surprisingly, the most intense possession battle of the course occurred over the sweetbreads — the happy combination of pancrisped sweetbreads and ribbons of pickled pumpkin, parsnip foam and cocoa dust proved irresistible to former offal avoiders. I had fully intended to order the wild sturgeon as an entrée — I can’t remember the last time I saw it, either on a menu or in the wholesale market — but Kane Seydou, our server, gently but firmly insisted that the striped bass was the way to go. By this point, it was obvious that the Avance staff had fully mastered the art of advise and consent-restaurant edition, so that was the way we went. It was the right call — after all, I can always go back for the sturgeon. A brick of bass was given a generous coating of black truffles (not truffle oil, as Kane emphasized) and adorned with nothing more than pliantly yielding cabbage hearts and sweet potato batons in a “beermonté,” a play on the traditional beurre monté sauce that is made with Unibroue’s Ephemere beer instead of white wine. Luckily, Kane heartily agreed with our other entrée choice, a duck breast that had been dry-aged for 10 to 12 days in-house. I’m not sure why no one else has offered this yet, but it’s just a matter of time before dry-aged duck begins showing up on menus. Because it is delicious. The process gives the meat a finer grain and a markedly more intense flavor that is enhanced by a musky trip through the accompanying puree of black garlic and black trumpet mushrooms. The attention and intelligence applied to the previous courses left me eager to try dessert. Unfortunately, my dining companion wanted cheese, not least because it meant another chance to sample the wares of the in-house boulangerie. Claire McWilliams, Avance’s baker was the baker at Parc for the past three years, and the offerings here, served according to the course, are spectacular
with or without a dollop of the housemade butter. Not that I needed my arm twisted too much: Of the five cheeses offered, four of them are raw-milk varieties, including a standout Dunbarton from Wisconsin and a Majorero, a goat milk cheese from Fuerteventura, one of the Canary Islands. Keeping to the seasonal theme — and magical thinking, considering how the winter wouldn’t let go this year — we had a dessert featuring the season’s first rhubarb, welcomed by an Asian-inspired combination of matcha tea and toasted rice ice cream that flowed into white chocolate. If you’re unsure of what kind of coffee would go with this dessert, no worries — Zach Urbanski, the restaurant’s dedicated barista, can help. He is solely responsible for pulling the espresso drinks and doing the pour-overs of the single-origin beans provided by Elixr Coffee. If the El Injerto is still on the menu, get it — I didn’t taste all of the notes that the coffee menu listed, but I can tell you it was one damn fine cup, one that only got more interesting as it cooled. For all of the amazing things I experienced during my three hours in Avance, the most telling was what happened when I left — not a single thought about what had been there before; just reflections on how Avance was such an aptly chosen name for a place that has so quickly escalated the expectations for what a dining experience can be. 1523 Walnut St., Philadelphia avancerestaurant.com; 215-405-0700 Dinner for two: around $250 with drinks
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Just a Minute
QUALITY CONTROLS Alan Butkovitz happily engages in a lifelong struggle to better his hometown. By Greg Salisbury
Why public service? I wanted to do something that would impact and contribute to the well-being of a lot of people. I only have one lifetime, and I thought that the best use of it would be to engage in something that would benefit the entire community. Who do you draw inspiration from? My grandmother. She was an immigrant from Russia, wildly enthusiastic about democracy and the rights of workers. I used to read biographies to her — she liked the stories and I liked the attention. On Fridays while she was cooking, I would sit on a little red stool and read to her biographies about Roosevelt and Churchill — they were perennial favorites. The part she liked about Churchill was that he almost got thrown out of school, and he still turned out all right. She was always concerned about my development as a young scholar. I was not an A/B student when I was young. She thought, if Churchill could make something of his life, maybe I can, too. Why have you been such an outspoken advocate for different minority groups like the Sudanese people, your LGBT employees and lower-income Philadelphians?
I went to Hebrew School until I was 16. When the Sudan experience was occurring, it seemed to be a re-flaring of something that we had been taught would only happen once in history and that the world wouldn’t let happen again. And then it struck me that this was how the world felt about the Jews: “Why should we get involved in somebody else’s problem?” With respect to gay rights in the office: I had a pretty tyrannical, abusive father. We were always afraid for our safety. I felt bullied inside the house and I felt bullied outside the house. And the overriding thing I wanted to do was to be safe and have my family be safe. I wanted to help be a guardian. I wasn’t someone who was good with fighting physically, but I was good with English and arguments. I saw the opportunity to use the abilities I had to protect people not in a position to protect themselves — I had that experience. J A KEM P
orn in Philadelphia, a product of Overbrook High, a B.A. and J.D. from Temple, Bar Mitzvahed at Wynnefield’s Temple B’nai Aaron: For Philadelphia City Controller Alan Butkovitz, all politics really is local. Now entering his third term in the position after a 14-year career representing Philadelphia in the Pa. State House of Representatives, the 61-yearold Butkovitz has spent his life trying to improve the city and the way it works for its citizens. Oftentimes, his efforts lead to battles that play out across the media, like the Sheriff’s Department corruption scandal, failures at the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections and the puny return from the city’s Opportunity Zones — all of which could seem like sandbox tussles if, as has been widely bruited since his 2013 re-election, he decides to run for mayor of the city next year.
If you could change one thing about Philadelphia, what would it be? I would like to make Philadelphia economically vibrant again. We have had episodes of strong leadership that have made the most of the opportunities at the time, but we need to have it on a consistent basis. One of these days, we will take advantage of all of the opportunities we have in Philadelphia and it will be really exciting. Is that your way of saying you will be running for mayor next year? We have to approach that question very carefully. There is a City Charter requirement that states if I say I am running for mayor, then I would have to resign immediately as controller. We are doing a lot of good work in this office — there is a whole schedule of reports and activities coming out in the next few months that will have a big impact on the direction of the city — so the timing of making a definitive statement is going to have to be very carefully considered. The mayoralty offers one of the best opportunities to lead not only the government but also the business community and all of the people who have an ability to influence Philadelphia. It’s a tremendous leadership opportunity and I am certainly looking into it.
inside©2014, ISSN 0199-7602, is published four times annually April, 2 in September and November by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. 2100 Arch Street, Philadelphia PA 19103. One year subscription price is $10.95. Single copy price for regular issues is $3.50; $3.95 for special issues. General business offices: 2100 Arch St., Philadelphia, PA 19103. Telephone: 215-832-0700. Periodicals, non-profit postage paid at Philadelphia, PA and additional mailing offices. Postmaster: Send address changes to inside/CIRCULATION DEPT., 4th flr., 2100 Arch St., Philadelphia, PA 19103. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or part without permission is prohibited. inside is a registered trademark of the Jewish Exponent.
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g s w t
sunday, may 18, 2014 Q noon - 5 pm La ing, Phila delphia On the Wa terfront at Penn ’s nd Rain or shine! Philadelphia as we celebrate Israel’s Join the Jewish Federation of Greater Greater Philadelphia’s largest and 66th year of independence. This will be and of Jewish culture. most entertaining celebration of Israel
Musical headliner: David Broza
Delicious Food • Lag B’Omer Ga Ga Sports Area • K’NEX Flag of Israel A Mitzvah Project • Mummers • Craft Vendors • Community Organizations
jewishphilly.org/israel66 Corporate Partners as of March 13, 2014 Presenting Partner
Center City Film and Video Goldenbergs Peanut Chews
Join Federation and the Philadelphia Phillies for
Jewish Heritage Night THURSDAY, MAY 29, 2O14
The fun begins at 7:05 p.m. at Citizens Bank Park when the Phillies host the New York Mets Tickets are subject to availability! For groups of 25 or more, contact Matt Kessler in the Group Sales Ofﬁce at 215.463.5OOO ext. 5663. All groups of 25 or more will be welcomed on the Phillies side auxiliary message boards at the top of the 5th inning.
Order tickets by April 29th at
Jewishphilly.org/phillies Net proceeds from tickets sold through this offer benefit the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.