Part of a continuing series of interviews with members of our Metrowest Jewish community
by Julie Wolf, Jewish Family Network
Over the past year, we’ve talked to many parents and grandparents in our Metrowest Jewish community. Some have long been involved in the Jewish community, while others are taking their tentative first steps into it with JFN. While they come from many different backgrounds and approach their lives in different ways, one thing they all share is a connection to their Judaism, some personally, some professionally. Here are some excerpts from interviews we ran during 2012.
Lauren Fishman (January 2012)
Mother of three, blogger, and former educator, Lauren Fishman has always sought out involvement in the Jewish community, even before her children were born. When we spoke with her last year, she talked about the importance that Jewish activities have long played in her life.
You’ve been very active in Combined Jewish Philanthropies and Jewish Family Service of Metrowest. In fact, you are one of three organizers of the annual JFS Hanukkah party. Why is it important to you to play a leadership role in local Jewish organizations? How did you first become involved?
I became active in CJP’s YLD [Young Leadership Division] in my 20s, especially when I met my husband, Dave. We went to many events together and with friends, and I slowly became involved with committee work. When we moved to Natick from Boston, we found ourselves involved in tangents of CJP out here in Metrowest, trying to get more young couples and young families involved with CJP and Jewish life in general. It’s important to both of us to take part in helping to build the Jewish community, and community in general, here in Natick and the Metrowest area. This was my third year serving on the Board of Directors of Jewish Family Service of Metrowest, which is an incredible community organization that helps everyone from children to families to the elderly. My involvement with JFS started just from my being a mom and attending some of the programs that were offered for moms and babies, as well as community family programs.
This organization is such a great resource for those living in our area. We want to set a good example of involvement for our children, about building community, giving back, volunteering, and helping others in need. We feel that CJP, Temple Israel, JFS, and other local organizations have provided us opportunities to do just that.
Arinne Braverman (March 2012)
Why is Thursday morning different from all other mornings — at least at JFS? For many families, Thursday mornings are spent in the JFS Children’s Room at Playtime Meet-up, run by Jewish Family Network connector Nissa Weiss. Without question, the adults enjoy it just as much as the kids. In March we spoke with a group of last winter’s Tuesday-morning regulars. Whether families have been coming for a few weeks or a few months, they all spoke of the warmth and friendship they feel in that room. This fall Playtime Meet-ups moved to Thursdays, from 9:30 to 11:30, where it continues to be a favorite program of Jewish Family Network. Of the playgroup which she’s been running for close to two years now, Nissa jokes, “I realize the importance of being surrounded by other ‘Yiddishe mamas.’ We can complain as much as we like — and it’s all good….”
One of the regulars was Arinne Braverman. Arinne and her wife, Carrie, live in Needham with their two sons, Noah and Jacob (“Coby”). After being at home on maternity leave following Coby’s birth, Arinne returned to work full-time for Hillel, where she is a program director. While at home, though, she and her sons were regulars at their newfound playgroup.
What is it about the JFN playgroup that makes you pack up the two boys each week and schlep out to Framingham?
I decided to give the group a try after e-mailing the coordinator, Nissa Weiss, while still recovering from the birth of our second child. I’d had a c-section and was eager to get out of the house and meet other mommies, but couldn’t yet handle the physical tasks involved in driving the boys there solo. Nissa hadn’t even met me yet, but generously volunteered to help out in any way she could — and she’s a mom of three herself! I was very touched by her offer of support for a newcomer — the group felt haimish [Yiddish for “homey” or “friendly”] before I’d ever even attended!
I was delighted to see that the group was Jewishly affiliated. Before our children were born, we attended shul weekly. Since the boys can’t help being disruptive during services at this age, we only make it to temple a few times a year for now. We “do Jewish” at home on our own, but try to take advantage of every opportunity to provide them with a Jewish community experience as well. Noah, my [then]-22-month-old, LOVES to be read to, and I was thrilled when I saw all of the new Jewish books in the play space. He enjoys reading a new book from the JFN space during each visit.
Miriam Bolkosky (April 2012)
There’s no shortage of music and noise coming from Miriam Bolkosky’s house, but it’s not always her twin sons, Samuel and Ethan, who are responsible for it. Miriam and her husband, Ben Wright, are both professional musicians. Miriam is a cellist who has performed with the Boston Pops and the National Lyric Opera, among others, as well as a soloist on numerous classical and popular recordings; Ben plays trumpet with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Here, Miriam discussed the personal impact of a project she had the opportunity to work on more than a decade ago, a project which brought her into contact with a painful part of our Jewish history.
In 1999, you performed on the album Holocaust Cantata. How did you get the chance to perform on this project? As a Jew, was it intensely personal for you? Did you approach this music differently from the way you approach other music you perform?
That was an incredible project. I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to play and record that. My dad is a Holocaust historian; he is very respected in the field and was involved in the development of some of the exhibits at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. He created the Voice/Vision Archive at UM Dearborn, has written several books and articles, and co-authored a curriculum for teaching about the Shoah to high school students. I was living in D.C. at the time the composer/conductor was looking for a cellist to perform the piece at the Kennedy Center. He heard my name, associated it with my dad, and called me.
My dad started taking survivors’ oral histories when I was very young, and the survivor community in Detroit became our extended family. Those friends and their stories were invaluable in my preparation of the Cantata. I felt I had an obligation not just to the composer (as in every piece, the performers strive to achieve the composer’s vision), but to the survivors, and the millions who couldn’t tell their stories. It’s a beautiful piece and I’m sure difficult for the audience to hear, but this generation and the next and the next must remember. It was the only way I could contribute to that memory.
Charles and Luciana Glazier (August 2012)
With nine children on two continents, ranging in age from preschooler to adult, Charles and Luciana Glazier are committed parents and professionals. After working in journalism and politics for about 10 years, Charles earned a degree in clinical social work and has been working with children, teenagers, and families for more than 25 years. He has two adopted children from his first marriage. Luciana is originally from Brazil, where she had four children during her first marriage. An aspiring children’s writer, she has a doctorate in psychology and works as a school psychologist in Framingham, where they live with their almost-4-year-old triplets. After traveling separate spiritual paths, experiencing different religions or no religion at all, they have decided together to incorporate Judaism into their family’s life.
Charles, you’re Jewish by birth but have never been a practicing Jew; Luciana, you’re not Jewish. Yet you’ve decided to bring Judaism into your home with the girls. How do you hope to connect with the Jewish community?
CHARLES: I was raised in a particular style of Judaism — the aggressively atheistic kind! I’m sure you have heard of it! Over the years I joined — and unjoined — a number of temples in the Cambridge/Somerville area. It was very hard to get into the groove without any knowledge of Hebrew, and it is hard to join a temple unless I can admit to being a total beginner to all things formally Jewish. But the girls have brought me back to a willingness to be a beginner and to try to learn. I see daily the centrifugal impact of American culture on children and families, and so I feel that as a family we all need the support, guidance, and clarity that a spiritual home could provide. Now that we are emerging from the all-involving demands of the first three years, Luciana and I have begun our explorations and our search for that home. I have been encouraged by my Uncle Len and Aunt Rhoda, from Allentown, Pa. He recently celebrated the 75th anniversary of his bar mitzvah!
LUCIANA: I never felt at home in the Catholic church. But in my childhood home, there were faith and charity, and I loved them both. In my adult life, I have wandered down many religious paths, experiencing the life of the Spirit and giving meaning to my solidarity and environmental consciousness. My older children are principled but not religious, and I regret that. It is a challenge to be free-spirited or independent and also be religious. I have always admired the Jewish commitment to living words and the attitude of mending the world. With Charles, embracing Judaism and offering the triplets a chance to grow up in a spiritual home is the realization of a long-felt wish. I’m hoping we can find a place for our souls.
Amy Kohen (December 2012)
For the past three years, our North-area connector and her husband, Doug, have hosted a Chanukah potluck, welcoming Jewish Family Network families into their Sudbury home to celebrate the holiday and enjoy the community Amy has had a hand in building. Amy has been with JFN for three years, since her daughter Ellie was a newborn. Since then her family has grown to include daughter Lucy, and her dedication to the Jewish community has grown along with it.
You recently took on more responsibility in Jewish Family Network while continuing to serve as the connector in your area. Why is JFN important to you, and what do you hope you can do for other Jewish families here who you meet as a connector through JFN?
Since having children, it’s been important to me to develop relationships with other moms in the community as well as develop my relationship with the Jewish community. I’m also on the board of Sudbury Family Network and work consistently with the Women’s Philanthropy branch of Combined Jewish Philanthropies. It’s so important to build a support network while raising children. It has really helped to keep me grounded. I’m laid-back, and I hope that my casual approach makes people feel more comfortable and hopefully lets people put their guards down and just start a relationship with a simple conversation.
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