It’s The People Who Make PSC
Stories are a bridge for connection. By sharing the stories of our fellow PSC friends, we begin to more genuinely understand what makes our community special. We hope that you will read these stories from within our community, stories of vulnerability, authenticity, struggle, strength and light and feel inspired to reach out and connect with others. May these stories paint a picture of our diversity and uniqueness as a sacred community, inspiring us to more deeply and relationally know one another.
MEET ROBYN AND LOREN SHALINSKY
Interviewed by Sari Spector
Fortunately for all of us at PSC, Robyn and Loren found their way to us about twenty five years ago. Here is their story:
Loren’s parents were both the first generation born in the United States and both to families of limited means. They relied on the support of their families and their communities in order to survive. His Dad, Leo, was 7th of 8 children, born in 1929. His father was ill for as long as his Dad could remember. At a young age, Loren’s Dad and his siblings always worked, including the young kids who would try to sell clothes and other items on the street. The older siblings did whatever they could to hold the family together and to put their siblings through college (pharmacy school). His maternal grandfather was very ill and “lived” at an out of town hospital for treatments. His Mom’s family also relied on close relatives and their surrounding community for support. Because of the support they received as children, Loren’s parents have instilled a strong sense of community and Jewish values in both Loren and his siblings.
Loren and Robyn moved to California about 25 years ago. They met Rabbi Marv Goodman at a lecture and were chatting with him. To be clear, he was not giving the lecture, he was an attendee like they were. He did not tell them he was a Rabbi until later in the conversation. They were “shul shopping” at the time, so they decided to try PSC. Of course as soon as they went, they were greeted by the warm presence that we all know so well. They felt right at home with Cantor Doron and Rabbi Marv, and the congregants that they met. That was the end of their shul shopping!
Growing up, Loren’s friendships were shaped through his involvement at synagogue, participation in youth groups, and attendance in immersive experiences like summer camp and (youth) Israel trip. Loren was involved in his high school youth group and formed lifelong friendships through this connection. They were both looking for a Jewish home in California and found it at PSC.
They often get asked why they drive all the way from Mountain View to Foster City. They both agree that it has always been worth the drive to be with their wonderful PSC community. Robyn and Loren were married at PSC, the weekend before the major construction project rebuilding PSC in 1999. It has been their home ever since!
Final question – Something that most people may not realize about Robyn is that she considers herself to be extremely shy. She has learned to push herself to be friendly and outgoing, but the truth is she is an introvert. Although she enjoys “schmoozing” with people at kiddush or the Community Shabbat Dinners, she says she is much happier in the kitchen potchkying around by herself or with one or two people max. Loren is actually much more outgoing than Robyn (although he also considers himself an introvert!)
MOLLYANN BRODIE AND NEAL GOLDSTEIN – A HOMETOWN STORY
Interviewed by Sari Spector
Neal and Molly met originally through the brother/sister chapters Chai BBG and Machar AZA of the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO). PSC served as the home base of both chapters way back when. For both of them, being so involved in BBYO had profound influences on them in terms of them meeting and eventually getting married, and certainly in terms of introducing them to some of their still closest friends. But it also mattered in terms of who they are today as human beings especially in the context of their Jewish and community identities.
Neal joined Machar AZA originally because it was a way to compete in more sports!! (As those of you who know him know – sports is his original love and his ongoing passion. He is now the varsity head coach of the San Mateo High School Bearcats Baseball program). But, perhaps surprisingly to him, it turned out to be his way of continuing to connect with Judaism and in establishing his Jewish identity as a young adult. He expected to be done with both synagogue and learning Jewishly after his Bar Mitzvah, but through AZA, he developed his own relationship with Judaism and his Jewish practice beyond what was dictated and expected by his parents and family, which shaped who he is today.
Molly joined Chai BBG originally at the urging of her parents, but she stayed for the friendships. In retrospect, Chai BBG and Central Region BBYO (she was the Regional N’siah) became a conduit for her to learn and practice leadership skills, community involvement and “committee” synergy. In a nutshell, Molly doesn’t think she would be the team leader at work, committee chair at PSC, or community volunteer that she is today if it hadn’t been for her practice, experiences, challenges and opportunities that she had with BBYO.
Molly joined PSC as a wee 3-year-old when her parents, Mel and Barbara Brodie moved to Foster City and became part of the earliest families of PSC. She fondly remembers the “Colonel” (being a little afraid of him), Rabbi Jay Krause, her kindergarten PSC Sunday School Director Jon Grushka and of course her PSC Hebrew school teacher Joyce Grushka. But mostly, she remembers long, late PSC building committee meetings in her parents living room as the community first sought to buy a piece of land, then designed a rectangle, then a phase two building with classrooms. It was sitting at the top of the stairs peeking in on those and other meetings, watching her parents volunteer as well as Friday evenings at synagogue followed by yummy Oneg Shabbats no matter where it was before PSC had its now home, that truly bonded her to this community for life. She celebrated and became a Bat Mitzvah at PSC and a wife under the PSC chuppah.
Neal had been raised at Beth El up the hill from PSC, but upon marrying Molly about 15 years ago he knew PSC would be his new Jewish home given her long and deep connection to the community. At PSC he reunited with former BBYO friends Mitch and Lisa Reitman and Vicki (Nahoum) Kalish, while Molly reunited with former BBYO friends Jessica (Fomil) Rosenbaum and Joy Shmueli.
While many people have seen them at PSC with their 4 year old granddaughter Presley, most people don’t know that in total they now have 5 grandkids – Presley being the only girl. The 4 boys: twins Lucus and Kayden who are about 18 months old born to Neal’s daughter Jennifer and brothers to Presley; and in Pennsylvania born to Neal’s son Nick and his wife Katie, is Casey who is 14 months old and baby brother Ari who is just 4 days old! For Molly becoming a Savta is the role she is most grateful for!
MEET ORNIT AND JACK ROSE
Interviewed by Sari Spector
I would love for you all to get to know more about our new President, Ornit, and her husband, Jack. Ornit and Jack met during Freshman orientation when they were just 18 years old. They were destined to meet at college, although their journeys to Stanford University were slightly different. Ornit traveled 4 miles (from Palo Alto), while Jack traversed about 3000 miles (from New York). After graduation, they relocated to New York City for graduate schools at Columbia University and then to begin their professional careers – Ornit in law, Jack in medicine. They certainly made their Jewish parents proud!
It was also in New York City that they found Shaare Tzedek, the first synagogue that together they called home. In retrospect, it was very similar to PSC which probably explains why they so quickly fell in love with PSC! It was an established Conservative shul with a small, older membership. Yet, it was lucky to have recently hired a young, charismatic JTS rabbi who reinvigorated and grew the congregation. It also had a moving, talented cantor! They connected so strongly with their rabbi that he graciously agreed to travel to the Bay Area to marry them in 1999. That early congregational experience revealed to them exactly what they were looking for in a spiritual home.
After moving to California, establishing their careers and four kids later, they realized something very important to them was missing. In a lucky coincidence, they stumbled upon PSC when looking for a Conservative synagogue for their kids’ religious schooling. How could they have known from the first meeting with Cantor Doron and then getting to know Rabbi Corey that, in a matter of a few years, PSC would become their spiritual, Jewish home and also the place where they have found so many close friends and cherished community. They are delighted that three of their four kids have already celebrated their B’nei Mitzvot at PSC and their youngest will complete the quadfecta in August 2022.
Jack’s family still lives on the East Coast and, about every other year, they take a family trip to visit them. Stone Harbor, at the southern tip of New Jersey, is a beach town that Jack’s extended family has been vacationing at for over 65 years! It is their family’s favorite vacation spot and an important family tradition. They are also hoping in the near future to visit Ornit’s extended family in Israel–it will be the first time the six of them visit the Jewish homeland together.
MEET ALLAN AND JANUARY
Interviewed by Sari Spector
Allan Jaffe was born and raised on the San Francisco Peninsula. In fact, he has lived his whole life in the Bay Area with the exception of one year that he participated in a Junior Year Abroad program during college. That year was probably the most significant in his Jewish life because he spent it at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
He started this program in early July,1968, about 13 months after the reunification of Jerusalem during the Six Day War. It was a heady time to be in Jerusalem and Israel – there was a sense of a bright future and tremendous pride in being Jewish. Allan found it fascinating to move from a Reform Jewish home on the Peninsula to a place where Shomer Shabbat was taken for granted, where buses and taxis stopped running during Shabbat and where non-kosher food was the exception rather than the rule. His closest friends in the dorms where he lived ranged from Reform to very Orthodox. They cooked and ate together and Allan learned to adopt the typically Israeli attitude that Judaism is not a religion – it is a way of life, a culture, and a common history.
When he returned from Israel, he kept his Reform affiliation but he also kept his attitude that religion is only a small part of being Jewish. Allan’s “conversion” to the Conservative fold came later when he became involved with January. They needed to find a middle ground between her Orthodoxy and his Reform bent – Conservative is how they ended up. PSC was the natural home for them. At PSC, Allan was able to fit in with many like-minded contemporaries as well as take up a leadership role that felt natural – both of his parents were leaders at Temple Beth El and both served as Temple President among many other roles. We have certainly benefited from Allan’s years-long dedication to PSC!
One of the things Allan learned during his year in Jerusalem was Israeli folk dancing. On Saturday evenings (Motzei Shabbat, the big “night out”) a hundred or so foreign students and Israelis alike would gather in the basement Rec Room of one of the dorms for folk dance teaching and dancing. Allan brought his love of Israeli folk dance back home and has continued to be involved in it to this day. The friendships Allan has made over the years in the Bay Area dance community have been an important part of his life.
Allan’s wife, January, grew up in a large family. She knew she had a Jewish lineage through her father’s red headed grandfather, who had traveled from Poland to Mexico. There, he married January’s great grandmother and left a genetic remembrance of his spirit: one person of each generation after him had red hair, too (her grandmother, father, sister, and niece). As January learned in college, some call this spirit a “gilgul,” kind of like reincarnation.
While in college, January wanted more exposure to the Jewish part of her heritage and intended to go live on a kibbutz. Aliyah required a formal orthodox conversion; knowing how comfortably Judaism fit, January began her studies and a year later the process was complete. January also studied Hebrew in adult school and at Hillel, and took up Israeli folk dancing at Hillel as well. But it was moving into a new Jewish Cooperative in Berkeley that really cemented her Jewish identity and future. It was the 70s, and co-ops, communes, intentional communities and alternative living styles were not uncommon. She learned hands-on how to live Jewishly in a kosher home. Friendships and memories were made as they took turns cooking, shared chores, grew vegetables, and kept Shabbat and holidays, often learning as they went along. Though she never made it to the kibbutz, the exposure she had been after was more than fulfilled at the co-op.
A friend suggested she check out a chavurah in San Francisco. It was an exciting singles group with a focus on educational and social events. It was also where she first met Allan. Three years later, they married at sunset in the Faculty Glade of UC Berkeley, where they both had gone to school.
Their first child, Nathan, was born on 8/8/80. He turned 8 on 8/8/88, by which time he had a brother, Adam. They had been looking for the right synagogue for religious school and that took some searching. There was the woo-woo end of the spectrum in Marin (as January called it) and the more Orthodox end in the South Peninsula. Nothing quite fit until they tried PSC, where John Segall greeted them very warmly, Lou Harris also made them feel welcome and they were pleased to encounter so many young families. They found their synagogue—small, haimish, Conservative and not too far away. I met Allan and January many years ago at PSC. January and I bonded over our mutual birthdays in January and that we were both teachers and Moms.
Thirty five years later, one thing that people know least about January is that she trained for ten years as a modern dancer and performed for several years in community theater musicals. Then, after learning Israeli folk dancing, she and Allan joined a San Francisco performing troupe called Rikudom that was part of the Folk Dance Federation of California. Though they no longer perform, they still meet every year for a birthday reunion. That’s a lot of birthdays for a group that formed in1952!
MEET LISA AND MITCH REITMAN
Interviewed by Sari Spector
I first met Lisa and Mitch in the mid-1990s when Mitch and I worked together at United Synagogue. Our friendship really grew when I joined their chavurah fifteen years ago. They are part of a four generation PSC affiliation. Here is their story:
In the summer before high school, Lisa’s family moved from the San Mateo Highlands to Foster City. One of the first people she met was a girl in her complex and they became fast friends. She was Jewish and a member of Chai BBG in Foster City. She invited Lisa to come to their next event. Lisa’s Mom had been in BBG when she was a teenager and her Grandmother was very active in B’nai B’rith Women in Los Angeles so Lisa was eager to join. This shaped her life as Lisa had the opportunity to meet new people, make lifelong friends and take part in Jewish education, programs and social events.
And of course, there was this guy!!!! At one of the joint BBG & AZA events, Lisa met Mitch. They started dating about 3 years later and the rest is 36 years of marriage, 2 sons, 2 daughters-in-law, and 2 grandsons.
They joined PSC for the welcoming community that it is. It was local and they knew many members, especially all the long time Foster City families. Their boys, Jeremy and Adam, began their Jewish education while Lisa became involved with the re-invention of the Sisterhood including many years as PSW president. She was also on the ground floor of the PSC Gift Shop. After being a worker bee for many years, Lisa now enjoys being the co-manager. They have made so many friends at PSC, especially our fabulous Chavurah. We have been together almost 15 years and plan an activity almost every month. Lisa also had the honor of being asked to be on the PSC board where she held several positions and then spent 2 years as PSC President. It was one of the highlights of her Jewish journey and now her focus is on Sisterhood and the gift shop.
Their family is blessed to recently become a 4 generation PSC family. Lisa’s mom, Diane, is a member, along with their sons and daughter in laws, Jeremy and Anna, and Adam and Deb and grandchildren, Jordan and Noah. PSC has a special place in their hearts!
Lisa added some things people might not know about her: she loves country music, she has an aversion to mayonnaise, and she has worked at the same insurance agency for almost 30 years.
Mitch’s family moved to Foster City when he was in the fifth grade. His family joined Peninsula Temple Beth El. He was one of those few kids who actually liked going to Hebrew School. He enjoyed going to Camp Swig weekends and singing Debbie Friedman songs. Mitch became an assistant teacher for Hebrew School three or four days a week and would go to the synagogue office early to help the staff with mailings and other projects. The synagogue was a primary community for Mitch. He became involved in BBYO and became chapter president of a combined BBYO chapter (Chai BBYO) at age 13. This is where he met Lisa. When the chapters grew to become sustainable, they split into separate chapters. Mitch decided that he wanted to work in the Jewish community as a rabbi or at a Jewish organization at a young age.
Mitch attended San Diego State University and became involved with Hillel and had the opportunity to learn about the organized Jewish community. Mitch and Lisa continued a long-distance relationship when he was in college and graduate school but they always spent all of their time together on school breaks. Mitch went to graduate school in Baltimore and received Master’s Degrees in Social Work and Jewish Studies. They married right when Mitch completed grad school. He began his 35-year career in social services, with more than half of those years working for Jewish organizations and in the synagogue world. They were members of Temple Beth Jacob until he left his job as Executive Director there and had the good fortune to decide to join Peninsula Sinai Congregation where both of their sons went to religious school, had their B’nai Mitzvah, followed in Dad’s footsteps by becoming assistant teachers and got involved in youth group. Jeremy and Adam were both very involved with the USY chapter at PSC as well as the region. Mitch is glad to have served on the Religious School Committee, chaired an Educator search committee, and now serves on the Religious Practices Committee. It seems that most people know Mitch at the synagogue as Lisa’s husband or Jeremy and Adam’s Dad!
Things you may not know about Mitch: He has a twin brother that also works in the Jewish community. Mitch helped to found the Foster City BBYO Chapter as a teen: Machar AZA, a small fledgling group in the 1970s. Today, Machar AZA is one of the largest AZA chapters in the region.
MEET RICHARD SPECTOR
Interviewed by Sari Spector
Richard’s story must have begun at birth, no pun intended as “the story” involves a “calling” which appears nascent. A point of departure occurred upon his graduation from college on his journey into a law career which started at an early age.
In his fourth year of sociology study, Richard became very interested in the historical activism of youth. He became aware of the importance of passing on the tested wisdom of the elders especially as was apparent from his studies of native American society.
As he also began to do some tutoring, the importance and bonding of “teacher” and student became apparent and gave him a perspective of actually having influence over and responsibility for developing the intellectual acumen that would decide the future of his students as potential leaders and responsible citizens.
Something inside him “clicked” so he decided to dedicate a year of his life to attaining training as an educator and securing a lifetime secondary teaching credential. Richard felt driven to do this but continued the momentum, if not the calling, of a law career.
In hindsight, the momentum decision instead of the calling was a mistake as, shortly after retirement, forsaking many of his anticipated retirement activities, Richard became a substitute secondary school educator. Further indicative of the calling, instead of occasional educator gigs, he became full time. Although each day it is his option to teach, he experiences a bad feeling any school day that he is not involved with the educational process.
Furthermore, rather than performing the traditional role of simply supervising the room and the self-contained lesson plan, as he does not have subject matter expertise, he considers himself as an educator of focus and motivation. To that end, his objective is to communicate the significance and enjoyment of learning. Richard feels that education is a responsibility to self, family and society.
A major challenge he encounters is in special education classes consisting of developmentally challenged young students. Here, the goal is not so much to teach substance, except it is, often the accomplishment is just to engage. Often the student is distant and dealing with their own, not focused, idiosyncratic agenda. An example is where the student comes in at 8 am and puts their head on the desk and stays that way until early afternoon. It is heartbreaking. The rewarding experience for Richard is to approach the disengaged student and by caring, patient entreaty have him or her arise and begin to read with him or even just communicate. The joy that he experiences from this type of encounter truly illustrates who he is!
Continuing the “story”, Richard is about to join a group of 18 to 25 year olds as a volunteer at the Aleh Project in the Negev. The program was started by an Israeli general where people are recruited to volunteer to work in a facility for severely
disabled children. The work is committed and involves dealing with both unpleasant manifestations of physical illness and the frustrations of the difficulty of communicating with persons with severe intellectual debilitation. A further challenge of this location is that he needs to be prepared to rapidly reach a bomb shelter as at any time, rockets can approach from Gaza.
It has been suggested that at his advanced age, he might be better off devoting his efforts closer to “home”. Richard rejects that as his deep and strong connection with Israel is the motivation that urges him to take on this expedition and challenge, so enriching compared to touring.
Something that you might not know about Richard is that he also ran a “fashion house”. His late wife, Elizabeth, was a fashion designer most notably for Levi Strauss. After leaving that organization, they set up a couture business known as Ethnic Couture. As Linda Harris knows, he enjoys couture. In the process of running this business he learned a lot such as cutting on the bias. They began by importing some of the remarkable embroidery from Hungary and expanded to their own fashions. Weekend trips from Carmel to South Tahoe were enjoyable sales trips. Unfortunately, the business was cut short due to his wife’s illness but he still feels it was an accomplishment to have broken even in the process.
Another experience he owes to her was his art smuggling adventure. Elizabeth’s mother had in her possession a valuable etching by Albrecht Durer, a very well-known artist, which was a registered national treasure of Hungary and was not to leave the country. Well, stealing a National Treasure from a Communist regime?? He actually asked compatriots about conditions in Hungarian jails. SOOO, it came time to start the smuggling, through all of Europe, as they were on a driving tour. Where to hide it?? NOT.
“Just put it in the suitcase, they will be happy with all the receipts and money spent on all the packages and won’t check,” his wife said.
Sure enough, they took their passports and disappeared for what seemed a long time (time extends when you are smuggling and the authorities take your passport). Well, he looked in and the guard was watching a soccer game. Nevertheless, he did send them on their way.
Of course, five minutes later, red lights and sirens appeared in the rear view mirror!! Stolen art! Panic!! Well, it seems like he was driving too fast. He was quite observant after that. Meanwhile, he carried the contraband all over Europe. Up and down stairs and cross borders. Then came US customs who confiscated their GOOSE LIVER but not the art. They didn’t know it was a national treasure. Got it home. Next, they wanted to donate it to UCSF as they cared for Elizabeth. Just so happens, a pencil mark was found on it reducing it to minimum monetary value although it was truly original. It ended up in the living room of her surgeon. What a story!!
Richard would like to take this opportunity to express his sincerest gratitude for the circumstances which brought him to PSC, its community and spirituality. It was a transition from, not a wholly but somewhat non-observant Jew, to one of observance
and membership and commitment to the community. The ease of transition was due to a secular Judaism which was so “Jewish” with its to observance of High Holidays, Yiddish, “Jewish jokes”, embrace of being Jewish, its customs, principles, tzedakah, caring for others, doing mitzvot and great cuisine.
He would also like to acknowledge Naomi and Ken Preston, committed PSC members who convinced him PSC was the place to be! And then there is Rabbi Corey. His warmth, perceptiveness and intelligence brought Richard into the fold and then, Cantor Doron, who has been a force in cementing his commitment to the community. Richard concluded by saying that PSC is the best group of people he can imagine!
MEET BARBARA AND DAN FREEMAN
Interviewed by Sari Spector
I first met Barbara and Dan when I solicited them at their home to hopefully make a donation to our capital campaign to build what is now our current PSC home. Several years later, we became friends when I joined their chavurah. It has been fun to get to know them even more as they shared answers to my questions. I first asked what has shaped who you are today. Barbara said that although she had been minimally involved Jewishly in college, what really changed the course of her life was a 1978 Federation leadership mission to Israel. Stepping foot in Israel for the first time, Barbara felt that deep and intimate connection to 5,000+ years of Jewish history and to the Jewish land and people. Their small group of 20 men and women had the most amazing education and experiences. What she learned and felt on that trip caused her to enter a whole new world of Jewish activism, of connection with Israel and of religious observance. After that, Barbara chaired 3 more trips to Israel, became chair of the Lawyers Division of the Federation in Los Angeles and served in many other Jewish community roles in both LA and Cleveland, before moving to the Bay Area.
The most significant inflection point in Dan’s life happened when he turned 18 and was required to register for the draft. The U.S. was mired in a long, hard-to-justify civil war in Vietnam between the North and the South – with famous rationalizations for U.S. involvement based on stopping the “domino effect” of communist aggression. His father was a proud U.S. Marine and near the end of WWII was studying to become an Officer. When Dan asked him to help him write his application for conscientious objector status, he never hesitated to provide all his energy, wisdom, writing skills and his name to reach out to the references Dan needed, including their Rabbi, in order to help him complete a powerful application. While he did not agree with Dan’s views on the war, his father never once uttered an adverse comment and he made no attempts to change Dan’s views. Despite his beliefs in the US political and military structure, he put helping his son above his personal views.
That changed Dan.
It changed how he viewed and still views requests for help – be it from his children and family, friends, the Jewish Community or the larger world community.
I am always curious as to what brings people to join PSC. When Barbara and Dan moved to Hillsborough in 1997, they went “shul” shopping. Dan had grown up at Kol Emeth in Palo Alto but that seemed a bit far for them. So they visited several synagogues in the North and Mid-Peninsula. In those days, PSC was small, informal and very “haimish.” They loved how tolerant everyone was of “enthusiastic” children (those who might happen to make some noise!) and were particularly attracted to the teaching and sermon style of Rabbi Marv Goodman. They joined PSC in January 1998.
Lastly, I asked if there was something that most people don’t know about them. Barbara replied that people don’t know that she is an attorney. After practicing for many years as a partner in a mid-sized LA law firm, she became Vice President and General Counsel at a public company where she served for 5 years before retiring to raise their children: Rachel, a communications manager at Nueva School in Hillsborough and a current PSC Board of Trustees member, who lives in Foster City, and Laura, a high fashion merchandise planner currently with Lacoste, who lives in Paris with her fiancé. Barbara added that most people also don’t know that she hates lima beans!
Dan responded that his family lived in Israel for 3 years when he was in 3rd – 5th grades. His father was part of a U.S. State Department group of experts consulting with Israeli businesses, Kibbutzim and on a reorganization of the Prime Minister’s Office. Dan asked him if he could speak with the President of Israel about some ideas he had for supporting Israel after they returned to the U.S. His father explained how in Israel, the Prime Minister was the person he needed to speak with rather than the figure-head President. His father could easily arrange a meeting with the Prime Minister because he was working for the PM but it was much more difficult for him to arrange a meeting with the President. But Dan insisted on the President. After all, he knew the President is the most important person in the United States. So Dan ended up with a private 20-minute meeting with President Yizchak Ben Zvi (whom you’ve probably never heard of) instead of a private meeting with Prime Minister David Ben Gurion! I love that story!
And one more thing about Dan…despite its spelling, his name is pronounced “Don.” This is because his mother, who was born in Palestine (before it became Israel), spelled his name in Hebrew that when translated to English is spelled Dan. This is similar to Kibbutz Dan (pronounced Don in Hebrew) and the tribe of Dan (pronounced Don in Hebrew) and even the Dan Hotels in Israel (pronounced the Don Hotels).
MEET DR. LIZ LYSTER AND MICHAEL SHIFRIN
Interviewed by Sari Spector
Liz and Michael were both drawn to PSC in 2011 yet did not actually meet each other until 2016. Michael was shopping for shuls after his father died in 2011 and PSC happened to be the third shul on his list. Immediately upon walking into PSC for the first time, he was met by Cantor Doron who introduced himself and then asked his name and his reason for being there that day. As we all know about Doron, he was incredibly warm, welcoming and friendly. He introduced Michael to everyone else that Friday night where he was saying Kaddish for his father. He kept coming back! This January will mark ten years as a member of PSC.
Liz moved to Foster City in 2011 with her two sons, then ages 10 and 13. Like Michael, they set out to “shul shop.” Coming from a Reform Jewish background, they went to PSC first as Liz felt that her kids would surely prefer the Reform temple that they were planning to visit the following Friday evening. Ironically, their first Friday evening at PSC was also Rabbi Corey’s first Shabbat as the new Rabbi so there was a full house! Friday night is the main time when people attend Reform services so Liz commented on how impressed she was at the really great turn out at PSC! It was a long time later when she learned that PSC usually has a tough time even getting a minyan on a Friday night. During their first visit, Judith Shmueli, of blessed memory, introduced herself as soon as they walked in the door. During the service, the other kids took her kids out into the hallway to play games. They all agreed that they had a wonderful experience at PSC and decided to join.
You can see from these two stories that both Liz and Michael were in attendance at PSC until August 2016 without meeting each other! They met the first day that Michael decided to stay for kiddush lunch after Saturday morning Shabbat services. Just one year later, Rabbi Corey officiated at their wedding!
When I asked them each who or what has helped to shape who they are today, Michael told me that when he was a service manager at the Jaguar dealership in Redwood City, the general manager gave him some very solid advice. Should something contentious arise with an employee, mention it to them and tell that person that you will discuss it again in the morning. The reason is that everything the following day looks different. Michael says that this advice has proven to be very helpful and has helped him to grow tremendously and approach and resolve conflicts in a more palatable manner.
Liz recounts that when she was in her OB/GYN residency training program, she was working very long hours and was impatient with the people she was supposed to be teaching and training under her. She was fortunate that two mentors took her aside over a period of a few weeks to give her very helpful advice that helped her learn to be a better leader and teacher. They both really helped her grow into the person she could then become.
What most don’t know about Michael is that contrary to his usual serious deadpan outer appearance, he is actually a big softy from whom you can get a lot just by saying please and thank you! What most people don’t know about Liz is that she is not fond of running her own business because she would rather be doing favors for everyone and giving everything away for free. Luckily, she now has Michael to help her run her business.
In their free time, Liz and Michael love to workout, hike, dance the Argentine Tango, and travel. In just the past four years, together they have been to Mexico, Costa Rica, Argentina, China, South Africa and Kenya – the last destination for a Rotary service project. I wonder where they will travel to next post-pandemic!
MEET LINDA AND LOU HARRIS
Interviewed by Sari Spector
I loved this opportunity to talk with Linda and Lou, one of the first people I met when my former husband and myself joined PSC more than 40 years ago. Our Midwest connection bonded us immediately. As they say, here is their story or “This Is Your Life.” We are definitely aging ourselves!
They were at an AZA – BBG social in a member’s home when they were fifteen. While they were in the same room for over three hours, they never really interacted. Two and a half years later, they were fixed up by three of Lou’s friends, two of whom Linda had dated. Part of the motivation might have been to see if Lou could have any luck. Apparently it took but they are still trying to figure it out! They both grew up in Conservative synagogues in an area of Chicago with a dense Jewish population and are both from European background families.
When they moved to San Mateo, one of their first explorations was the Jewish community. They connected with PSC which was the closest Conservative shul in their area. This small group of thirty-five families was meeting at the PJCC then located in Belmont. What was important to them was neither the building nor the size but the people. It was the type of “hamish” community that they were seeking – and they are still here forty-six years later.
As they say, there isn’t much that people don’t know about them. As was said in the 1960’s, they pretty much “let it all hang out.” Or, “what you see is what you get.” So, what people don’t know about them is that they know pretty much everything about them. Here are the basics: Linda loves Jane Austen. Lou loves the Chicago Cubs. They love their children, grandchildren, G-d, their Judaism, and Hawaii.
MEET SALLY AND PHIL (FISHL) KUTNER
Interviewed by Sari Spector
Probably one of our oldest members in age, they are as the expression goes, “young at heart” and full of energy! Before coming to California thirty-five years ago, they were both very active in Beth Sholom, a conservative synagogue in Fair Lawn, New Jersey. Fishl was President there and chaired the Fair Lawn Israeli Investment Club. When they attended a family wedding in California – their first visit – they fell in love with The Golden State. Sally decided they had to move here!
When they came to California, they visited five synagogues in the county and found the Conservative ones to be like the Reform ones back East. They first decided to join the newly founded OT AM Unit of B’Nai B’rith which satisfied their need to keep their strong ties to the Jewish community. They also served as joint Presidents. For the High Holidays, they attended Stanford Hillel.
They finally decided that they really needed to join a synagogue – or as Sally said to me, she told Fishl, “we are joining a synagogue” – and again visited the local ones. Originally, they chose PSC because it was Conservative and close to their home but that proved to be the best decision they have made since coming to California!
Many of you probably know Fishl because of his love of the Yiddush language. While they were both raised in households that spoke Yiddush, it wasn’t until 1991, the 75th anniversary of the yahrzeit for Sholem Aleichem, that he asked if the local JCC’s would do a joint celebration. He asked Sholem Aleichem’s granddaughter, Bella Kaufman, well known for writing the bestselling 1964 novel, Up The Down Staircase, if she would come and speak. She said ”Yes!” From there, his love of Yiddush continued to grow. Fishl shared with me a story of 5 people including Fishl and Sally, of course, sitting around a table in Washington, D.C. where the idea was seeded to start an international Yiddush group! Of course, you can guess who became its President! Fishl taught Yiddush at the former JCC in Belmont, in people’s homes, at the Oshman JCC and then the Foster City JCC. He has also published a book about his Mother’s stories. He has been interviewed by the Yiddush Book Center in Massachusetts. I loved listening to all his stories!
Back to PSC! Sally was elected to the Board of Trustees and they both served as volunteers for many garage sales. Sally also chaired the Kiddush Committee. Fishl has taught a Yiddush class for adults. Sally currently is a member of PSC Women and Fishl is a member of the Men’s group. They enjoy attending Rabbi Helfand’s classes. From the moment they joined, they have felt the warmth of our community and feel so welcomed. Sally said that what is so unique about PSC is that regardless of your Jewish beliefs and values, everyone is welcomed. Sally said that people do care about each other and they feel very much at home at PSC. They ended our time together by saying that they can’t wait for all of us to be together again in person!