Monthly Archives: May 2017

Living My Values


Larry and I at Special Olympics in Florida

The Shabbat prayer book in our synagogue includes the following meditation: ”I harbor within—we all do—a vision of my highest self, a dream of what I could and should become. May I pursue this vision, labor to make real my dream.”

On Tuesday, January 20, Donald Trump was sworn in as our forty-fifth president. Leaders as well as friends have asked us to give the new president an opportunity to prove himself. Based on his appointments, his actions, his continued negative rhetoric, the growing scandals, however, I refuse to stand with this man.

As an American and as a Jew, I shudder at the uptick of racist acts, xenophobic proclamations and bans, and the proposed loss of funding and support for public education, the arts, health care, civil rights, the disadvantaged, the environment—the list is endless.

Despite or maybe because of the current political climate, it is more important than ever for me to find “my highest self.” I must do what I can to live my values in a time where our country is led by an individual whose values do not come close to mine. I must use my moral compass  to point me in a direction that counters his rhetoric of hate. “Not all of us can do great things,” Mother Theresa said. “But we can do small things with great love.”

Up until this past presidential election, I did not consider myself a “political” person. I was—admittedly—marginally involved in the Vietnam War protests and the 1972 Equal Rights Amendment fight. Although I have voted in almost every local, state, and national election, I  have minimally involved in campaigning. The possibility of Trump becoming of president, however, stirred a level of activism in me that had me expressing my concerns on Facebook and becoming actively involved in supporting Hillary Clinton.

Now that Trump is president, I continue to be an activist. I have joined a local grassroots organization to effect change at a local level. Along with contacting my legislators through phone calls, emails, and letters, I have met with my United States House representative in House to express my concerns.

I volunteer at Special Olympics and support financially other organizations that align with those values. I subscribe to the New Yorker and the New York Times to stay more informed with media that does not provide “alternative facts.”

And I continue to subscribe to The Jewish World. For fifty years, the Clevenson family has been the voice of the Capital Region’s Jewish community. Their bi-weekly not only gives local news and events but also fair and unbiased information about the United States, Israel, and the world. If you have not already done so, subscribe to their fine paper, and consider giving a gift subscription to a friend or family member.

Tikkun Olam, the Hebrew expression translated often as “repairing the world,” is the Jewish  moral principal that states every individual should leave this world better than he or she found it. This is the vision of my highest self.  Through my voice and through my actions, I hope “to do small things with great love”—to make our country and this world a better place for our own and future generations.

Mazel Tov! Six Couples Celebrate Fifty Years of Marriage!

Four of the happy couples: Goldbergs, Grossman’s, Plass, and Secans

What does The Jewish World have in common with the following six couples? All are celebrating their Fiftieth Anniversary!

Susie and Ed Goldberg met each other at a dance at The Laurels, a resort in the Catskills. Susie, who had just turned seventeen, came back to the room that she was sharing with a girlfriend and found several young men sprawled out asleep in the beds and couch of her hotel room. She called security to have them all thrown out. The story of the “Good Girl with Chutzpah” quickly spread through the guest grapevine. Ed was impressed “if I ever go steady again, I want my girlfriend to be just like you,” he said,and then asked for her number.

After casually dating for eighteen months, the two started “going steady” once Ed was drafted into the army. When he got his orders to go to Vietnam, Ed proposed. Despite parental pressure to wait until he returned, Susie and Ed chose to have a small wedding at Temple Israel in New Rochelle, New York, a month before Ed shipped out. Fifty years later, Sue and Ed agree that many factors that constitute a great marriage:  love, communication, empathy, patience, compromise, quality time with family, with friends, and especially with each other.

“Bubbemeises”—tales from a Jewish grandmother— brought Hedy and Harvey Flechner together. They were just sixteen and seventeen when they started dating as freshmen at CUNY City University of New York. The first time she met him, Hedy’s grandmother said he was an incarnation of  her own late husband, Frank. “I’ve dreamed about this day,” she told Hedy. “He’s the man you’re going to marry. Just finish your college degree first.”

On their one month anniversary, Harvey gave Hedy a red rose, a tradition he continues every month to this day. “When he was too poor to buy a rose, he’d steal one from a neighbor’s garden,” said Hedy. Six hundred and fifty roses later, they attribute their long marriage to carefully picking their battles and following Hedy’s beloved grandmother’s advice. “Never go to bed angry,” she told the young couple. “It will take away the fun of being in bed together!” Smart woman, that bubbe!

A grandmother also had a hand in the Plass’s marriage. While spending her summer on Far Rockaway on Long Island, Mickey was introduced by her girlfriend to “the cute boy who works at the penny arcade.”  After their first date, Grandma Spitz told the soon-to-be college freshman  to finish her teaching degree before marrying Richard. “I told her I barely knew him,” Mickey recalled, “but she insisted he was The One.” They were married—the summer after Mickey graduated college The Plass’ advice: Don’t marry anyone with expectations to  change them. “Why would you want to change someone you really love?” Mickey asked rhetorically.

Chris and Bernie Grossman met at a dance at Grinnell College at the beginning of her freshman year. Bernie, a junior,  was about to ask another girl to dance when Chris “got in the way.”  They dated while at college. As they both were from the Chicago area, they continued their relationship during school breaks and even after Bernie graduated. They got engaged during the summer after her junior year. Chris took Jewish conversion classes through her senior year, and  they were married the following summer after her graduation.  Chris and Bernie follow the advice that Chris’ parents’ offered at their fiftieth anniversary: “The secret of a long marriage is to always keep in mind that the little things that annoy you about your spouse are not that important in the grand scheme of things.”

The Secans met on a blind date. Phyllis’s sister-in-law and Joel’s sister, who were friends, gave Joel Phyllis’ number. Five months later, he finally made the call and invited Phyllis to lunch at Nathan’s in Oceanside, Long Island. They had such a good time that lunch was followed by a movie,dinner, and a commitment for a date on Monday night. By Tuesday morning, Phyllis knew that this was “the love of her life.” Ever since that first night, Phyllis and Joel have built on their immediate mutual attraction by anticipating each other’s needs staying “up” when the other was “down,” and, most importantly, finding ways to keep the romance going. “Having a date night is a must,” Phyllis said.

Betty and Steve Schoenberg were fixed up by their fathers, who knew each other through their jobs with the United States Postal Service. “Eighteen year old” Steve (he was really twenty-one) asked sixteen-year-old Betty to join him on a boat ride on the Hudson River. At first regarded as passing summer romance, Betty and Steve continued to date that fall. “It was hard to say we didn’t like each other when our own parents had set us up,” recalled Betty. They got married after Betty’s sophomore year at NYU. “A good marriage takes a great deal of patience, said Betty,” and a good sense of humor—a VERY good sense of humor.

Six couples. Six decades of marriage times five. Eleven children and twenty-one grandchildren later, all have no regrets. Phyllis Secan summed up all the couple’s life-long romances in her outlook on the future: “Our marriage just keeps getting better and better.” Congratulations to happy couples and The Jewish World on their Fiftieth Anniversary. May you all go from strength to strength.