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Rabbi Seth Daniel Riemer
as told to Susan Armstrong

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When I asked Rabbi Seth where he grew up, he said, "In a shtetl. Do you know what that is?" I answered, "You mean in Russia?"  "No,” he said, “in New Jersey." Well, it turns out he didn’t grow up in New Jersey, but he comes from a long line of Jews who had settled in Freehold. His great -grandfather was the founding Rabbi of the Jewish community there.

Seth was born in a hospital just outside of State College, Pennsylvania, where he resided for most of the first 11 years of his life. He spent much of his youth learning about Judaism at one of the first campus Hillel Houses, just a short walk from his house. When he was eight, he went to Austria with his family, where they stayed for nine months, and then toured Europe for the next three months. By the time he returned to State College, he held a worldly view of humanity.

The Riemer family moved to Milwaukee when Seth was 11, and there he completed middle and high school. His exposure to Judaism at that time was in a Reform temple. Musically inclined, he started writing songs (including, eventually, settings for Jewish Liturgy). He was also discovering a strong draw towards the theater. After graduating from Harvard, (cum laude in Medieval History and Literature) he even enrolled in an MFA playwriting program at Brandeis, but that didn’t last too long. So, he decided to “drift” for a while to find out where he might end up, and that just happened to be as a PhD candidate at Cornell. He graduated cum laude in Comparative Literature – unlike most drifters!

Graduate school, marriage, and three children followed. After receiving his PhD, Seth decided to become a rabbi. He attended the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, Pennsylvania. There he received a Master of Arts in Hebrew Letters along with his new title of Rabbi. He went on to serve as a rabbi, full-time in Wooster, Ohio and Middletown Connecticut, later combining part-time rabbinic work in Wethersfield, CT, with college teaching as adjunct professor and full-time teaching at a Jewish high school.

The draw to the stage came calling again, and for a brief time he co-led a Jewish theater company, which put on a full-length comedy he wrote.

In 2017 he returned to the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College to receive a Doctorate of Divinity and four years later made Aliyah, becoming an Israeli citizen. He now holds dual passports. He and his new partner, Martha Hurwitz, have an apartment in Zikhron Yaakov, Israel, south of Haifa, on the Mediterranean Sea. They try to spend a few months a year there. Between their time in Israel and here in Vermont, they are finding great happiness.  
After arriving in Bennington on April 20, and coming on board officially as Rabbi here in July, Seth has been meeting with members of the congregation and community at large, learning of congregants' interests and priorities, and collaborating on initiatives relating to Jewish learning, culture and values.  He is excited to be here and looking forward to a fruitful partnership with the people of CBE.

Rabbi Seth

Stacy & Laurie Boxer
as told to Susan Armstrong


As soon as I turned right onto the Boxer driveway, I smiled. Their private road has  a special name – and I knew I was headed into my kind of place. That feeling continued as I drove up and up their long driveway. I gasped as I stepped out of my car at the incredible views of mountains and forests. Laurie and Stacy came out to welcome me and introduce me to their two Irish Wolfhounds, Guinness and Jameson. They said that everyone thinks they know how big Wolfhounds are, but until you see them up close and personal, you realize you never really knew just how big they are.

Laurie and Stacy both grew up in Yonkers, NY. They didn’t live near each other, but when a group of friends all went to Carvel’s ice cream one afternoon, their paths crossed. Later, they each got their own apartments, right across the street from one another. Two years later they married. Laurie was a dental hygienist and Stacy a contractor. He had always dreamed of building his own house, so they bought land in Cross River, located in northern Westchester County. It took them both two years to complete the house. Laurie hammered nails right alongside Stacy. It was truly a labor of love. They lived there for ten years, during which time, their daughter Alexis was born. Then, exorbitant taxes forced them to the lovely town of Brookfield, Connecticut.


Stacy was asked by the congregation they had belonged to in Yonkers to move the Ark from Yonkers to Mt. Vernon. The members had sold their building to a church and planned to re-open in the next town. The Ark was 21 feet tall and had to be carefully dismantled and stored away for two years before they were ready make the move. It wasn’t easy after all that time to rebuild it, especially after Stacy realized the new space was two feet shorter than the Ark. He said, “Well, I just took out the first two commandments to make it fit.” It was several seconds before I discovered he was kidding.

While in Brookfield, Stacy began to look at his life and realized that, as a contractor, he was working six days a week. Then on Sunday, he was ordering all the supplies he would need for the coming week. He and Laurie saw an opportunity to open a counter top business, and jumped at the chance. Laurie having been a dental hygienist for 30 years, then became showroom manager for the countertop business and life continued along smoothly for 27 years, until the word retirement began to creep into Stacy’s mind. They both knew they wanted spectacular views and lots of land. Their first search began in the Catskills. That turned out to be a disappointment because it had changed over the years and not in a good way. A friend suggested that they look in southern Vermont, which had never occurred to either of them.


They came up here on a foggy day in December of 2019, and drove up and up that long driveway. It was the first and only house they saw, and they were hooked immediately. Stacy remodeled the kitchen, with the last counter tops he had fabricated in his business. He added two bathrooms, a sunporch and a porte-cochere. Then for fun, he built a 300-foot zip line that has a circular stairway around an old Oak tree, and a long cable for lots of speed.

As I got up to leave, there was one more funny story to share. Stacy said he wanted to be buried when he died and Laurie said she wanted to be cremated. She then continued, if he dies first, he’ll be cremated, too. Stacy added, if she dies first, she’ll be buried. I asked if they wanted me to write that and they both laughed and said yes!


Ellie Roden
as told to Susan Armstrong

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Ellie has been a member of CBE since 2009. She grew up in Meriden, CT, and was the only girl in a family with four boys. Both of Ellie’s parents emigrated from Europe, her father from Poland in 1913 and her mother from Germany in 1933 after a run-in with Hitler’s brown shirts. She lived in Amsterdam until she was able to come to the US in 1939. Many of her relatives were not so fortunate and perished in the holocaust.

Ellie’s father was a farmer and the Rodens lived on a beautiful 200-acre working dairy farm. It was an idyllic place for children. There were many family reunions, and school groups and synagogue groups were always welcome to hold events at the farm. 

"Harry's Garden" by Ellie Roden

Ellie graduated from the University of Hartford, where she received a BA and an MA in early education and began teaching in Wallingford CT for four years. In 1970, she decided to move to Vermont to ski and teach at Readsboro Central School where planned to stay for just for one year. But, as she remarked, “After I arrived, it never entered my mind to leave Vermont.”  Not long after her arrival, she met her husband, Phil. They were together for 18 years before getting married. If there’s one thing Ellie doesn’t like, it’s rushing into things!

Ellie loved working at the small Readsboro school where she could get close to the students and their families. In the early 1990’s the K-8 school received a 3-year grant to work with a facilitator from New Zealand on child-centered literacy learning. Readsboro’s literacy program became a model for many other schools in New England.  She taught first and second grade for 41 years before retiring in 2007.  “The gratification and fun of helping 6- and 7-year-olds become independent readers, writers, and thinkers will stay with me forever.”

Gardening, especially flower gardening, is one of Ellie’s passions. As she was nearing retirement, she began pressing flowers and creating art with them. Her husband encouraged her to enter an art show in Pittsfield, MA. Much to her delight, she sold almost everything.  And that was the beginning of her business, “Vermont Pressed Flowers”, which has been flourishing for the past 17 years.  One of her customers at that first show was the curator of the Norman Rockwell Museum, who just had to have a certain piece because it reminded him of his grandmother’s sofa.

Family history research is Ellie’s other passion. Her family was seriously impacted by the holocaust on both sides. Like many survivors, her parents rarely talked about the losses their family had endured, and sadly, Ellie didn’t ask.  In 1999, after her father died and when her mother’s memory was dimming, she began delving into her family history with a vengeance. She traveled to Germany four times, spent several days in the archives of the US Holocaust Museum in Washington DC and millions of hours on the computer tracing the fates of over 40 relatives who perished in Auschwitz, Sobibor, Majdanek, and other camps.

Her research wasn’t only about the family she lost; it was also about the family she found. Her search led her to Susi, a cousin, who had survived several camps, a death march, and had made her way to Baltimore in 1947.  Susi married another survivor and together they had 4 children.  Ellie and Susi’s family quickly became very much a part of each other’s lives and have shared many simchas together. She also discovered cousins in California and South America and remains in contact with them to this day.

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And, totally by accident, or maybe it was “beshert” (it was meant to be) Ellie met a third cousin, thrice removed, right in her own studio one May afternoon in 2012. Rachel and her Israeli husband Ori had just moved to Whitingham (only 6 miles from Ellie) and had decided to take in some local art.  If Ellie hadn’t done the research, she never would have known that her great grandfather and Rachel’s g-g-g grandfather were brothers in a small town in rural Germany back in the 1800’s It was an unbelievable discovery and from that moment on Rachel, Ori, Ellie and Phil became a close family. Two years later Rachel and Ori moved back to Israel where they are raising their three sons. But they come to Wilmington every summer for 4-6 weeks and rent a house right next door to Ellie, who has been to Israel three times visiting her new cousins. The boys consider her to be their grandmother.  They connect almost daily via WhatsApp and Ellie often reads bedtime stories to them on Facetime.                                                           
The rewards of researching her family history have been greater than Ellie ever imagined.

Ellie and family (Son number three had not yet arrived.)


Ari Gradus
as told to Susan Armstrong and Diana Gradus


Ari Gradus arrived on a ship to New York harbor from the port of Haifa in 1964, at the age of twenty. He had one hundred dollars in his pocket after being cheated out of his other hundred, but that’s another story.

Both of Ari's parents emigrated from Poland to Israel, where they met, in the 1930s, prior to the war. They married and moved to a small agricultural village named Karkur, known for its bountiful orange groves. The family was quite poor, like all the other new settlers. They lived in a two room house, with no electricity or indoor plumbing. Water was drawn from a well outside. They grew their own vegetables and raised chickens and ducks for their weekly Shabbat dinners.

Ari’s first story is about the family's ducks. As a young boy, around seven or eight, he loved to play with them, but one in particular caught his fancy. He named it Mish Mish, because of its many colors, and would spend hours  playing with it.

Every Friday, upon returning from school, Ari's job was to take one of the chickens or ducks to the shochet, the village kosher slaughterer, for his mom to prepare for Shabbat dinner. One Friday, the unthinkable finally happened. The last duck left was Mish Mish, since Ari had tried to postpone its inevitable fate. Poor Ari knew there was no choice. So, with a heavy heart, he decided to give his beloved duck one last experience of seeing the world before its life came to an end. Holding Mish Mish in his arms, Ari spent the rest of the day taking it through the entire village and its surroundings. He showed Mish Mish the trees, gardens, orange groves, fields, a fishpond and even his elementary school classroom. As the duck's tour guide, Ari was careful to describe everything they were seeing together.

By the time the tour was completed, it turned out that the shochet had left and and was en route to the synagogue for erev Shabbat services. Now Ari had to return home with a very much alive Mish Mish in his arms. To put it mildly, his mother was not pleased. Not only had she been worried about her missing son, but now there was to be no soup or main course for the Shabbat meal.

The following Friday, Ari's older brother, Yehuda, was now given the task of taking the duck to the shochet. Later that day, their mother began to prepare the duck for cooking. As she plucked its feathers, Ari begged her to give him Mish Mish's head. The next day, when the family sat down for a delicious Shabbat meal, Ari was unable to take so much of a taste of duck. He kept Mish Mish's head on the windowsill beside his bed for some days, refusing to part with it even when it began to smell. One day, while Ari was in school, his mother disposed of it. To this day, he thinks sadly and fondly of his beloved Mish Mish. Today Ari lives outside of Hoosick Falls, where he now has seventeen ducks, none of which will ever be eaten!

Next week I’ll share with you what happened to that other $100.

Part 2 -------------------------

At age twenty and a half, after completing his army service, Ari left his small Israeli village of Karkur. He had his life savings of $200 in his pocket when he boarded a ship in Haifa bound for New York City, anxiously awaiting the adventures that lay ahead.

Arriving in Greece, the ship docked at the port of Piraeus. Passengers were given time to do some exploring before continuing their voyage. Ari excitedly disembarked and headed straight for the market, where he could view all the worldly goods that had been out of his reach in Karkur. He had always been drawn towards anything artistic, so when he passed a tourist shop with statues in the window, he stepped right in. He strolled around, viewing an assortment of merchandise, until he found himself standing in front of a marble replica of the famous sculpture, the Discus Thrower. Noticing Ari's interest, the shop owner came over to tell him that the statue was created by a very famous Greek sculptor and was valued at $3,000. Ari was aghast at the cost and said that it was way out of his price range and continued to look around. After a few moments, he found himself drawn back to the statue. Approaching Ari again, the owner asked, “How much money do you have?” Ari innocently replied that he had $200. The man said that because Ari was young and so in love with the statue, he would make a huge sacrifice, which he'd never done before, and sell it to him for the bargain price of $200. Fortunately, Ari knew that he couldn’t spend his entire fortune on one statue, so he dejectedly left the gallery, returning to the busy, crowded market place.

Just when it was time to return to the ship, Ari felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned around and there was the gallery owner with the statue. He said, “I decided you could have it for $100.” Ari was a little uncertain, but decided that he could not pass on this opportunity to invest in his first work of art. He gave the man half his fortune and proudly walked up the gangplank carrying the Discus Thrower in his arms.  

Ari shared a small room in the lower portion of the ship with seven other men. He placed his precious statue on the sill of the single porthole so that he could gaze at in the evening before drifting off to sleep and first thing upon arising.

Ari awakened one morning to find to his horror that the arm of the discus thrower had fallen off and was resting on the floor. How could such a thing have happened? Grabbing the statue and its detached appendage, Ari raced up several flights to the deck.  There he found the ship's doctor, whom he had befriended. Trembling, Ari showed him the statue. "I hope you didn't spend a lot of money for this," the doctor said. To Ari's bewilderment, he was told to lick the broken joint. It tasted salty! Sad to say, the statue was made of salt, with a polyurethane coating, to give the appearance of marble. The doctor sadly informed a devastated Ari that there were thousands of these cheap reproductions being sold to unsuspecting tourists. With no further ado, Ari picked up his worthless treasure and cast it overboard for it to dissolve back into the waters of the Atlantic.

And so went half of Ari's fortune
and a significant part of his innocence.

Part 3 -------------------------


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Jerusalem 3000 Years by Ari Gradus


So, we’ve learned about Ari at age seven with his pet duck Mish Mish and about him losing half of his savings when he was twenty-one. Now let’s find out about another of Ari's adventures when he was  twenty-five.

Ari met his future wife, Diana Reh, while both were in the cast of an off-off Broadway show. At the time, Ari was teaching Hebrew at the Huntington Hebrew Congregation on Long Island, NY. He decided to ask Diana out on a dinner date and suggested that she choose the restaurant. And so they planned to meet at 7:00 PM in Chinatown, in front of a restaurant on Elizabeth Street. Ari finished teaching at 6:00, which he thought would give him sufficient time to get there. It was important that everything go right on this first date.

Ari's car was a beat up old Ford Falcon, for which the previous owner had asked $100. When Ari came to look at the vehicle, the seller took pity on this nice young man and tried to talk him out of buying it. But Ari was insistent, since this was all that he could afford. The seller ended up giving Ari the car for free!

Fast forward to Ari's date with Diana. The car ended up breaking down in Long Island City, not far from the Manhattan Bridge. Chinatown was just on the other side, so Ari decided to leave the car behind and hurry across the bridge to Elizabeth Street. Noticing that there was some major construction, he decided that his best option would be to make his way across on a ramp that spanned the bridge. As Ari traversed the ramp, it gradually became more and more elevated, since in actuality it was meant to be used by maintenance workers, not pedestrians. This realization did not dawn on Ari, since he was intent on trying to get to his date on time. After a while, he noticed that a police car was speeding toward him, its siren blaring. As it arrived and kept pace with the jogging Ari, one of the officers inside began to solicitously address him. Puzzled, Ari bent over and, much to his surprise, was abruptly grabbed and shoved into the car, which was immediately locked. The policemen were convinced that Ari was planning to jump off the bridge into the East River!

Worried and anxious about missing his date, Ari tried hard to explain his predicament. Skeptical at first, the officers at last agreed to drive him to the restaurant. But when they arrived, there was no restaurant to be found. It had gone out of business! And there was no date to be found either. Diana was late! (While there are many qualities that Ari loves about his wife, punctuality is not one of them.) Ari insisted to the policemen that his story was a true one. Unsure as to whether or not Ari actually needed an emergency> psychiatric assessment, they kept circling the block. Fortunately, at last Diana appeared. The couple set off to find another Chinese restaurant. Diana treated Ari to dinner and many more dates followed. This year they celebrated their 47th wedding anniversary.


Karen and Michael Levin

Karen and Michael Levin
as told to Susan Armstrong

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What a surprise it was to learn that our board treasurer grew up in Dallas, TX. There’s not a hint of that in her manner of speaking. She moved there as an infant when her father chose to do his MD residency there. All of Karen’s family lives in New England, but this branch ended up remaining in Dallas for the next 45 years. She had a wonderful childhood. Her parents were raised Orthodox, but there was no kosher butcher in Dallas, so her mother had their meat shipped in from Chicago.  Karen’s dad was also a musician and his claim to fame was winning the Ted Mac Original Amateur Hour competition multiple times. Eventually they built deep roots in Dallas and became founding members of a new and more progressive synagogue named Temple Shalom, following a Conservative/Reform tradition. It’s where Karen celebrated her Bat Mitzvah and Confirmation.

Because there were very few Jewish families in Dallas at the time, Karen’s mom sent her and her younger sister to Greene Family Camp. It was a small camp, in its sixth year. During her summers there, she and her fellow campers became like family and then lifelong friends. She still goes back to visit when she can. It’s now a huge camp, she said, and is in its 46th year. She became president of her Jewish Youth Group on a local level and was active in B’nai Brith. She traveled to Washington, DC for the National Federation of Temple Youth convention. Her next trip to DC was to attend American University, where she majored in International Relations, with a focus on the Middle East. She also interned at The White House during her senior year under the Bush II administration.

Karen met her future husband in DC, Michael Levin, from Santa Monica, CA.  Michael also had a wonderful childhood and his family was involved in the entertainment industry.  He appeared on “Art Linkletter’s, Kids say the Darndest Things” and was a character in a local cartoon strip.  He moved to Washington to go to graduate school at George Washington University. He was working at the Brookings Institute and volunteering for the Clinton campaign when they met. Michael edited Brookings’s publications about the Soviet Union, which subsequently collapsed. He then transitioned into a career at a think tank in DC as the IT Director.  Karen climbed her way up the corporate ladder working as a Finance Director for large PR Agencies on K Street and currently owns her own business management firm.  

They ended up staying in the DC area for the next 30 years where they were very politically active and have attended more protests and marches than she can count.  Karen was also a volunteer at the Washington Animal Rescue league. Michael formed and performed with several bands, became a yoga instructor and was the first political podcaster to broadcast live on Radio Row during Obama’s first inauguration.  They are also animal lovers and have adopted and fostered multiple dogs over the years, and currently have three.

Michael’s parents moved from California to Vermont 18 years ago. They purchased a 55-acre farm in the town of Berkshire, near the Canadian border where Michael and Karen were married. The family loved retreating to “The Farm” for R & R whenever they could get away.  After Michael’s father passed away, Karen and Michael wanted to move closer to Michael’s mom and work remotely. They also couldn’t wait to escape the negative political atmosphere that had developed in DC during Trump’s presidency. They moved to North Bennington in September of 2018 and bought a house with an in-law apartment with the expectation that Michael’s mother would move in with them, but that didn’t happen. She’s now in Fairfax, VT, where they visit often to be involved in her care.

The couple also opened up a yoga studio in the Berkshires but closed it 6 months later due to the Covid lockdowns. Keep an eye on a new studio popping up in the next year or so in Vermont as they continue to build their roots in this beautiful state.

K Levin

Dr. George z''l and Gail Glanzberg
as told to Susan Armstrong

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A sense of peace came over me as I turned on to the winding driveway heading up the hill to the Glanzberg home. I drove past the old barn with a silo and continued on to a huge lilac bush and then by a sign that read, “Hate is not welcome here.”

Their house is perched high on a hill in North Bennington, overlooking acres of open meadows, woods and a pond. This corner of tranquility represents everything that George and Gail Glanzberg have spent the past 61 years molding and nurturing into their lifelong dream.

    Gail and George by their pond; a good place to fish!

George grew up in Brooklyn in a large Jewish enclave. Although the family was not deeply religious, he did become a Bar Mitzvah. Shortly thereafter, the family moved to Teaneck, NJ. George graduated from high school and then went on to the Wharton School of Business at University of Pennsylvania.

Meanwhile, Gail, was growing up in Peterborough, Ontario. It was a small city with a tightly knit Jewish community. Gail’s family was also not religious, but their lives were centered around their Jewish circle. She had two older brothers. She attended the University of Toronto where she majored in liberal arts. She continued her studies at the university’s School of Library Science. One weekend her brother invited her down to visit him at the Wharton School. She traveled there with her friend, who would later become her sister-in-law. There she met her brother’s roommate named George Glanzberg. It wasn’t love at first sight, but later on, when she received her diploma, her parents gave her a trip to New York City as a graduation gift. Who do you suppose met her at Penn Station and gave her a grand tour of the city? George Glanzberg, of course.  

The two later married and moved to Leonia, NJ where George worked in a trucking and warehousing business for the next 15 years. Gail worked in New York City for the public library system. While in Leonia, four children were born – two boys and two girls. When their youngest child was three, they looked at each other and began to wonder what they were doing living in a crowded suburb, caught up in the daily rat race of work and commuting, with little time for their children and the values they really held dear.

At 35 years of age, George was accepted at the prestigious University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School. He sold his trucking business and the family moved to Rose Valley, PA outside of Philadelphia where George would attend school. Gail found a progressive school where all of her children could attend. It sat in the middle of an apple orchard and had a nurturing, holistic environment. Gail worked in the school’s library during their four years there.

When George completed his schooling and became Doctor of Veterinary Science, they moved to Vermont and experienced a pretty rocky start. The family rented a house in Shaftsbury that suffered a sewer backup which sent them into a mobile home. By this time, they had purchased land in North Bennington that had no house, just a big barn. They parked their mobile home in front, where they lived for the next six months with four children, two dogs, two cats and chickens outside. It sounds like a good setting for a sit-com.

The big barn and silo became the location of George’s veterinary practice. The entire family worked there at one time or another. Gail was the receptionist. Early on, they bought a book of house designs at Greenberg’s Hardware Store and chose one they loved. Forty-six years later, the setting is bucolic. Gail proudly pointed out that not one single tree was on the hill where they chose to build their house. It is now surrounded by large trees, a flower garden, rock walls and George’s impressive vegetable garden. Blue bird houses hang from posts that can be seen from the patio in the back.

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Their children have prospered. Fred works is a forester for the New England Department of Forestry; Deborah is a Reconstructionist rabbi; Paula is a social work manager at Temple University Hospital and Michael is a Philosophy professor Rutgers University. We mustn’t forget their six cherished grandchildren – Eliana, Kielle, Noam, Ari, Eve and Max.

George is thrilled to have been able to create a small, personal practice where he was able to integrate alternative therapies along with traditional medicine.

When he finally retired in 2015, he and Gail started a free Veterinary clinic in Bennington called Help A Pet, which they held once a month. They were pleased to be able provide free care for pets in need and their families. They continued this work for five years until the pandemic forced them to close the doors.This is an honest-to-goodness dream come true story.   

Here is George with one of his prize Guernsey cows named Crocus.
She was loved by the entire family.


Spencer Jarrett and Marcia Levin
as told to Susan Armstrong

The two were born on opposite coasts – Marcia in Seattle and Spencer in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. Spencer’s father was from an Orthodox family, so Judaism was an important part of his youth. He continued to attend Hebrew School at a Conservative synagogue after his Bar Mitzvah. Marcia grew up in Seattle, with a similar devotion to her faith. She married while there and had two children, who attended Jewish Community Center preschools and later Jewish Day School. Her family belonged to a Conservative synagogue after moving to Marin County in northern California.

While in the Bay Area, Marcia took a job with the Jewish Community High School in San Francisco as the Director of Admissions and Marketing. She continued to work there for 15 rewarding years. At the same time in the same city, Spencer continued his career in corporate communications and events. A friend who played the guitar for a black gospel group invited him to join the group as a musician and he performed with them for over 20 years. The strong personal faith of the group’s members encouraged him to deepen his Jewish practice. He became an active member of a daily Orthodox minyan in San Francisco. Here’s Spencer playing his blues harmonica:


He and Marcia met in San Francisco and later moved back up to Marcia’s hometown in Seattle. While there, Spencer served as the shammas (sexton) of a small Chassidic shul, where he often led davening. He also became an active member of the local Chevra Kadisha.

When Marcia’s daughters chose eastern colleges – Mount Holyoke and Bennington College, visits to New England created pleasant memories for the pair, which made the move east that much easier for them. Both Spencer and Marcia will become new grandparents this year – Spencer’s daughter-in-law i
n Los Angeles and Marcia’s daughter here are expecting.

Before the grandchildren arrive, the couple got a puppy to ready themselves for the hectic life of grandparenting. They named their young lab Ruth Bader Ginsberg. “I am so happy to be joining my daughters in Vermont,” remarked Marcia. Spencer followed with, “We knew this would be a great place to live.”

Welcome Marcia and Spencer to Bennington and Congregation Beth El.

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In late December of 2019, Spencer Jarrett and his wife Marcia Levin, now members of CBE, sat in the historic sanctuary of Congregation Beth El and began to feel at home. They were moving to Bennington from Seattle to be near Marcia’s two daughters and escape the expensive environment created by the tech culture.

This location would also prove to be advantageous for Spencer’s life long involvement with blues music, as it would allow him to play in Albany and easily hop a train to NYC. They house hunted and found the perfect spot to settle here in historic Bennington. Spencer joined the CBE Board of Directors this year and has become involved in the Greater Bennington Interfaith Council. Marcia is working part-time in the office at St. Peter’s Church.

In Memory of Lotti Morris z''l
by Rabbi Yaakov Gross

Bennington was a wonderful place to be a kid. In the winter there were pristine white snowbanks towering over our heads. In the spring lots of black mud which to dig little holes perfectly crafted for shooting marbles over the soft earth into those muddy holes. The summer brought swimming in the ice cold creek, which was my father’s delight, and for the kids, swimming in the pond in our friend’s backyard. The autumn brought cool winds with a visual treat of painted trees and busy squirrels hiding their acorns.

There was the good: going on Sunday mornings with my father to buy the Sunday newspaper and if I deserved it, a small package of marbles; sometimes the small marbles for a dime and sometimes large ones for quarter. The bad: Peter (my friend who lived next door) whose father was a severe alcoholic, a drunk, and an abusive parent. As a child I had hardly grasped my friend’s situation, now I can only imagine what a horror his life must have been. The ugly: one of the few black children in Bennington elementary being blocked into an exterior nook in the building structure by a mob of about 10 to 20 boys and then pelted with stones. Wow, did I learn a personal lesson! I was pulled in front of the principal and asked to explain why I had joined the mob. I was shocked by the accusation and I vociferously explained that when the mob formed I ran over to see what was happening from beyond the edge of their violent activities. I watched the pelting but had nothing to do with it. Fortunately, the principal accepted my excuse. Unfortunately, I was hit over the head. The principal explained that my excuse was lame and that one does not just stand by and watch such an event (that taught me something for life) and second, as a rabbi’s son,I was to be held at a higher standard (and that taught me something for life).

So now you might guess that I was Rabbi Chaim Gross’s son. The son of the rabbi described in the CBE brochure (during the 80s and 90s) as the last Orthodox rabbi of CBE. My name is Yaacov Gross back then it was Yaki. And my idyllic childhood was about to vanish with a rude awakening.

I remember that cloudy day in November 1970 when Mrs. Lotti Morris, my mother’s best friend in Bennington (and afterwards), ran into school and rushed myself and my sister home. We discovered that our father had passed away. The blur of the next day was a funeral in CBE with me watching my father’s casket draped with an Israeli flag, followed by the burial at the Jewish cemetery south of the city (where you can see his grave near the upper opening to the Jewish section) and where at the age of eight I said Kaddish for only one time in that year, in his memory. The next year was excruciatingly painful and a deeply sad time, especially for my mother. She reiterated to me that one of the few positive assistances that she received was the support, comfort and friendship of Lotti which helped her make it through the sorrows of the year after my father’s passing. My mother was ever-grateful for that. In fact I saw how the friendship lasted when years after we moved from Bennington, after a visit to my father’s grave, we stopped by the Morris home to greet Lotti, in person, and to have a heart to heart talk discussing the events of the intervening years.

In the past three decades I lived in Boston and now Miami but in the summer I make a pilgrimage to visit my father’s grave. With beautiful green mountains surrounding and towering over the cemetery, an incongruous thought often crosses my mind: this must be the most inspiring and beautiful place to be buried. My sister and brother usually do the same visit in the autumn, closer to our father’s yahr-zeit which occurs in late October or November, and so they even have a chance of seeing the beautiful mountains capped with snow. After visiting the cemetery (and praying there every year to G-d that our father should always be proud of his children and grandchildren) I generally wander around town looking at how things have changed (lots of new stores, no Pennysaver etc.) and how things have remained unchanged (Deer Park, monument etc. ). I also visit CBE usually from the outside, but sometimes I’m able to see the hallowed inside and how it too has changed over the years.

I’ve been fortunate to meet some of the rabbis over the years and I even once crashed a board meeting in the basement of the shul. One year in the 80s (?), in fact I was lucky enough to arrive as the shul basement was being set up for a rummage sale and I was able to say hello to one of Lotti’s daughters who was there. That was the last time we had contact with the Morris family. Over the years my sister tried to reconnect and once went to their home (and probably ended up at the wrong address) and was told that “they had no idea of who the Morisses were.”

This was true until this past summer. My son and his wife, on their way to vacation in northern Vermont, decided to detour a little and stop by my father grave. Returning, he called me to tell me about his trip. He stopped in a local store in Bennington and something interesting had happened when a man came over to him and after commenting on not seeing a yarmulke in town for so many years asked him why he was in town. After responding, he told my son he remembered his father Yaki who had been his son’s, best friend and Yaki’s father who had been the rabbi in town. What I heard next I could not believe. The man’s name was Morris. That meant that the Morris family was still there. Quickly, I made up my mind to see if I could track down Lotti.

A few days later, being that it was summer-time, I made my yearly pilgrimage to the cemetery. On my way out of town I stopped by CBE, rang the bell on the office building, and was brought in by Susan (aka Susala, your wonderful administrative assistant). I explained to her that this building had been my home and I showed her where my bedroom had been and where my grandmother who was paraplegic had lain in bed for the last few years of her life. Then we started talking about what was happening in CBE and she brought me up to date. After talking for a while, I asked if she knew the Morrises which she did. Then I asked, “Is Lotti still alive?” She gave a sad look and said “Lotti had been in the Veterans Home for a while due to an illness, but I think she has since passed.” That was an awful moment. I had missed my chance to say thank you one last time. Disappointed, I was ready to drive home.

As Susan kindly walked me out, a little miracle occurred. Another woman was walking in with whom Susan stopped to chat for a moment. As they talked Susan brought up the sad occasion of Lotti’s passing. The other woman responded, “No, that’s not true, and I have never heard anything of the sort!” So back we went to call the Veterans Home. Moments later we had verified that Lotti was quite alive.

A few minutes later I was in the home making a right down the hall then a left down another hall and then another left in the opposite direction of the first hall. Arriving at Lotti’s room, I called out if I could enter and she gave me permission. As I stood in front of her I said, “Hi, Mrs. Morris, my name is Yaacov Gross. You might remember me as Yaki.” She responded, “Sure I remember you.” Her face scrunched up and was contorted in anger and she continued, “You’re the one who came to visit with your mom after you left town and to whom I offered milk to drink and who was scared to drink it be-cause it might not be kosher.” I almost turned white in shock and shame, and felt like sinking into the ground would be a good option. Then a bright-as-the-sun-smile shows up on her face (ha ha on me, a real I finally gotchya moment after more than 40 years!). “Of course I remember you. Please sit down.” As I sat down to talk I was overcome by feelings of an emotional, surreal and real dramatic moment, accomplishing my quest at close to the last possible time, as I saw her ravaged by disease, but tenaciously holding onto life. As we talked she told me how proud she was of her children, grandchildren and their accomplishments. I revealed to her that my mother had passed away two years earlier. Most importantly, I thanked her one last time on behalf of my mother as I knew that we would

be saying goodbye for the last time.

Recently, I saw on the CBE bulletin that Lotti had truly passed. I called Ira, her son and my former best friend and we talked for a short while and caught up on a synopsis of the events of five decades. I added my condolences and wished him and his family all well with the traditional Jewish blessing for every mourner, “May God comfort you together with all the Jewish people who mourn the destruction of Zion and Jerusalem” (if you’re not familiar with that blessing it definitely beckons explanation). I also told him that I knew that the Morris family would have a hard time finding a minyan to say Kaddish in memory of his mother. So I volunteered to say Kaddish in her memory for the year. Jews are all about gratitude. It’s the very least I can do. Hopefully, our mothers, the two best friends are friends again.

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The Graduation Gift • by Miriam Silver


My Grandfather was a dapper man. After he retired at the age of 50, he hennaed his hair red, wore spats, had a closet full of beautifully tailored suits, and always smelled of Knize, his favorite after shave lotion. But, he was rarely at home. He occupied a small alcove on the second floor of his family’s large home in South River, New Jersey. It must have been a walk- in closet. That was his private domain. His bed practically took up the entire space, and his many pairs of shoes were lined up neatly under it. As a little girl, I used to love sneaking into his tiny nook to get a whiff of my grandfather, even though he was not there. It was my secret thrill.

As I got older, I saw him come home mostly for holidays, where he joined his wife grown children and grandchildren around their dining room table covered with delicacies. After dinner, while the women cleared the table and did the dishes, he, my dad and uncles would sit in a large kitchen and play cards or dominoes. All the men around that table had purchased one of my grandfather's several factories after having worked for him until he retired. Sometimes among the cigar smoke and glasses of tea, there would be heated discussions of Roosevelt and the New Deal, Unions and the NRA (National Recovery Association). One uncle was a maverick and a Republican, but they were all Zionists. I didn't understand it, but seeds were planted there for my continuing interest in politics. The mood was always one of camaraderie. Often I sneaked behind my dad to see how much money he was winning or losing. Then someone would joyously knock on the table and say, "Rummy!" It all seemed quite gemutlich. 


Soon, my grandfather would disappear until the next time. Sometimes when he returned, he would bring us kids a gift from wherever he had been. I cherished a "shaker" from Havana, where he said he had vacationed with his cronies. Then he began frequenting Atlantic City for months on end. One year, we even had a family Passover seder at the hotel where he stayed. That was the first time it was not held in my grandparents' home. We all hated it. Soon it became very apparent that my grandmother was having a very difficult time accepting his absence.


Once my mother took her to visit him at the hotel where he stayed overlooking the boardwalk in Atlantic City. That was a mistake. He reserved a separate room for her down the hall. The visit was short and she returned home soon after she arrived. 

When my senior year in high school was almost over, my grandfather offered me a most unusual graduation present. "After you graduate, as a gift from me, I would like to pay for you to take a train trip to California in a private compartment all the way across the country to visit your Aunt Anna and her family."  I had never been to California and Aunt Anna's daughter, my cousin, was close to my age and we had once been dear friends. I truly missed her. It was an exciting prospect. Then he said, "I want you to take your grandmother with you and leave her there to live with Anna and her family." It was an offer I could not refuse. I wanted so much to please my grandfather.

So, in June, right after my graduation, we left on the Pennsylvania Railroad's Silver Bullet train to LA. I loved being on the train. When my grandmother was napping or already in bed for the night, I went to the dining car for my meals. I had cocktails in the lounge and met strangers with whom I held amazingly intimate conversations. I learned so much about people traveling by train and the details of their lives. 

I carefully coaxed my grandmother to join me in the dining car just once for some tea and crackers. In Yiddish I talked her into ordering dessert. I was on such a high! I was determined to make her comfortable. I wanted nothing to get in the way of carrying out my sacred mission.

At one point during the trip, a porter knocked on our door early in the morning. He wanted to know if I was the girl who could speak Yiddish. Apparently there was an elderly lady in a double decker refusing to move when he needed to make the bed into a coach seat. I was hoping my Yiddush could come to the rescue, but she held fast to her refusal. She had told her son she would not move until Chicago, when he would board the train. So, there she remained. She had special foods that had a familiar smell. She also had her quilt and prayer book, just like my grandmother. 

The summer was a catastrophe. My grandmother hated LA and she made my aunt's life unbearable. Yet, Aunt Anna tried hard and was always accommodating. My uncle was also unhappy, and I finally heard him say, "Either she goes or I do."

We returned to NJ together in a smaller coachette. We did not speak during the entire trip home. I felt like a failure having been unable to complete my mission. My grandmother returned to her old familiar ways of being as miserable to her daughters as before. My grandfather never returned to South River. He died in Atlantic City a year later. We all went to the funeral, including my grandmother. He left instructions to be buried there, and so he was. 

March 2, 2001

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Alvin z"l and Roberta Michaels z"l -- A Love Story


As told to Susan Armstrong


Al and Roberta grew up in Flatbush, Brooklyn, NY. Their families didn’t live very far from each other. They both attended Midwood High School where they began to notice one another. They went on a few dates together and then a few dates with others. They soon realized that they were right for each other. That was 74 years ago and they are still going strong.


Neither of their families was extremely religious, but both Al and Roberta were proud of their Jewish heritage and history. Ethics, good morals and doing the right thing were themes in both households. Roberta’s father, who was an attorney, would point out “bad actors” when he met one.

After graduation, Al went to the Brooklyn College of Pharmacy, (like father like son) Roberta went to Adelphi University to study teaching, (like mother like daughter). When Al graduated from pharmacy school, he asked Roberta to marry him. Roberta’s father said, “Not until you pass the board and become licensed, Al” And, so they waited a little longer. When they finally did get married, it was at the Brooklyn Jewish Center. Rabbi Levinthal performed the ceremony, just as he had done years earlier to marry Roberta’s parents.


Al was drafted into the Army in November after their wedding. It turns out that someone he knew switched their orders, so that he could stay in the states and Al would be sent overseas. Al figured out what had happened and reported it to the Inspector General. Al said, “If I have to go, that guy is coming with me.” Fortunately, Al ended up at Valley Forge Hospital in Pennsylvania and the other guy went overseas. 


When the war was over, their lives began in earnest. Roberta became a teacher in Brooklyn and Al began his career as a pharmacist. He worked at the Harlem Hospital, the Brooklyn Hospital and then opened his own business. Five years after their wedding, BonnieDara was born and eight years later, TammiRuth was born. Tammi had a learning disability, so Roberta stayed home for the next 10 years to give her the best possible start. After that, Roberta became the principal of a private school, Winston Preparatory, for special needs students in NYC - once more, always being there for TammiRuth. 


They loved to travel and were fortunate enough to visit France, Italy, England, Egypt, Spain, Israel and Morocco. Al told a story about their visit to Morocco. Tammi was small in stature and walked slowly. They took a tour out to a beach with a Moroccan guide. He thought Tammi was adorable and took her hand to lead her to the beach, which made her feel very special. On the way back, the Arab called her a “mini” and said in jest, “I’ll give you two camels for her.” They all got a good laugh from that.  


When Roberta was growing up, her family spent many summers at the Lake St. Catherine Inn, and Al and Roberta wanted to share that experience with their girls, as well. In 1995, after years of wonderful visits to Vermont, they bought a condominium in Manchester. By the year 2,000, they moved to Vermont permanently. Roberta had taken two years of training to become a docent to lead children through the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This was an enlightening experience for her, so she traveled back to the city for two years, several times a month to continue in this role. Al served on the Manchester Village Board for five very satisfying years, and on the Board of Trustees of Equinox on the Battenkill for ten years.


Their daughter, BonnieDara, who is the curator of the Yeshiva Museum, lives in lower Manhattan with her husband Dr. Michael Tunik and their daughter Melissa. 


I sat outside with them on their lovely deck surrounded by trees, watching the song birds at their feeders and  hummingbirds darting back and forth. They are loving and solicitous towards one another and clearly, still in love.  

Alan z''l  and  Alice Greenspan

As told to Susan Armstrong


Alice and Al both grew up in Perth Amboy, NJ, around the corner from one another. Al is four years her senior. When they were young, the depression was in full force, but both considered themselves privileged because they had comfortable lifestyles, despite all the want and need throughout the country. Their families belonged to the same Conservative temple – Beth Mordechai. Alice’s father was Treasurer of the board, “forever.” Because bat mitzvahs were rare at that time, Alice was confirmed. Al became a bat mitzvah and was tutored in Hebrew by the Cantor Efros, a well known composer of liturgical music.

Alice had a beautiful sister, seven years her senior, named Jacquie. Alan was quick to tell me that she looked like Ava Gardner. On Friday nights she would sit on the front porch and the boys would line up to talk to her. Mischievous Alice sat up in a second floor window throwing notes out to the boys. Alice said, “I had to grow up in the shadow of my beautiful sister.”  

When asked if anything had ever happened in their lives that changed everything, Alice immediately told about a giant explosion that occurred on two barges in the Raritan River, just two blocks from her family’s home. She was talking on the phone on the second floor when suddenly the explosion blew out all the windows in the entire house, including the room where she was standing. She was covered in blood and ran downstairs to see if everyone was okay. Her mother and father had both escaped injury. She grabbed her new spring coat and they all ran outside. Having not worn shoes, she ended up with bleeding feet as well. The city was put under Martial Law when it was discovered that the barges that had collided were smuggling arms to Pakistan. First aid stations were set up and Alice was patched back together.

Both Al and Alice attended Jewish summer camps, Alice in Monterey, MA and Al at Camp Kiowa in Honesdale, PA. They each had dogs in their families and still love them to this day. They attended local Perth Amboy schools until Al was sent away to a private school, as his mother wanted to shield him from his father’s illness. The George School in Newtown, PA. was founded by Quakers. Two of his classmates were Stephen Sondheim and Blythe Danner. The story goes, that Oscar Hammerstein’s son Jimmy, was also a student there. Stephen had written some music for a class play, and who just happened to be in the audience, Oscar himself. Bingo, that was the start of Sondheim’s brilliant musical career. The Greenspans attended Sondheim’s play, Applause on Broadway years later, and there was Stephen in the audience. Al went over to say hello and was greeted by name immediately. It was impressive to be remembered after all those years.

As Al grew up a little more, he sported a pompadour hair style like Elvis. He walked by Alice’s house one day and she just so happened to be outside. He flipped her nickel and said, “Call me when you’re 16.” What a move. He went off to Washington University, then on to grad school at Northwestern, where he earned a degree in Macro Economics. He then served in the 101st Airborne Division and fought in North Korea. After freezing in that country, he was sent to Oklahoma City (where he roasted) to teach Combat Intelligence – how to interrogate prisoners. During this time, both he and Alice had married other people and each had three girls.

Al had a sterling career on Wall Street with Rothchild & Co., Oppenheimer & Co. and was a Sr. VP at Morgan Stanley. For years he oversaw the NYC Pension Fund and had to forecast the economic future. Alice owned a successful Interior Design company while she raised her girls. In fact, she has an assignment right now to design the interior of a home in Burlington. Her creativity never stops.

They had not seen each other for 21 years, but their parents had their fingers crossed that they would meet again, because each was getting a divorce. Alice gave Al a hard time. As soon as they saw one another, he said, “We know each other well. Let’s get married.” She continued to say no, until the big day happened 11 months later. Together they raised their daughters and shared memorable mountain climbing adventures. They even made it to New Zealand where they scaled some of the mountains in the Southern Alps and hiked the Greenstone Track out of Queensland.

That was 47 years ago. Their families have melded together – all six girls. They now have 13 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren. They have remained happily together for over half of their lives.

They moved permanently to Wilmington, VT in 2003, after having spent years coming to Mt. Snow with their family to ski. In 1999 they began their association with Congregation Beth El. Al volunteered to manage the CBE investment funds over 10 years ago and has done a stellar job. Alice is a trustee on the Board of Directors. 



The table was laid out with fresh avocados stuffed with tasty salmon salad and an excellent olive tapenade on toast points. And then came the French rosé. I was in heaven. I won’t even attempt to describe the view.


Here it is...

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Ginny Granger --

Williamstown MA


As told to Susan Armstrong


As I enter Ginny’s lovely home on a high hill, just east of town, I quickly surmise that I am visiting a well traveled lady. Beautiful hand carved, antique Asian pieces of furniture are eclectically interspersed with newer styles. Oh, did I mention the dead wooden horse on the porch with no head? I’ll leave it at that.

Ginny grew up in Magaliesburg, a village at the base of the Magaliesburg Mountains in South Africa. Her father owned a General Dealer store that sold everything from “coffins to buttons,” as she put it. Men would ride up on carts pulled by donkeys to purchase their stockpile for the month.” The houses had no electricity and we collected rain water in a huge tank on the side of the house. We had a cow to give us milk and chickens that gave us eggs and a Sunday roast.  I
had a horse that I would ride to see the circus when it came to town once a year. There was a railroad station at which the daily train to Zimbabwe would stop. The big city of Johannesburg was a two hour drive away. I grew up with no movies, no TV and no friends!”

At the tender age of five, Ginny was sent south to Notre Dame Convent School. It was a boarding school and she only returned home on school holidays. She used to tell people she was adopted because she felt such a separation from her parents. She was raised a Catholic, but soon began calling herself a “recovering Catholic.’ After she fully understood some of the issues within the Catholic Church, she called herself a “fully recovered Catholic.” Many years later, she studied with Rabbi Josh Boettiger at Congregation Beth El and converted to Judaism, the religion she felt she was always meant to be.

Following her high school graduation, she entered the Durban College of Technology to study radiography, on the east coast of South Africa. She received her degree and soon found that taking x-rays of peoples’ bodies was not her cup of tea. Fortunately, she met her first husband just at the time she was trying to figure out what to do next. The couple moved to Zimbabwe where they ran a tobacco farm, but because of guerilla warfare, they had to flee to the family sugar farm in Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa. She now believes that both products, tobacco and sugar, should be banned. Together they raised three very successful children and the couple parted ways after 19 years of marriage.

Once again, she found herself at loose ends when in waltzed handsome Clifford Granger who danced her off her feet. He was an American (went to Williams College) who was born in Argentina. He worked for an international food corporation, so after their marriage her world travels truly began. First they lived in Hong Kong and then were transferred to Bangkok, where Ginny studied gemology at the Asian Institute of Gemological Science and lectured there on the subject of gemstones. They then moved on to Singapore where Ginny imported Copper Craft jewelry and other items from South Africa. Before retiring to the US, they had one more stint in Hong Kong.

That was 20 years ago. They settled in Williamstown, as Clifford had such fond memories of his time there at Williams. Throughout their retirement, Ginny kept very busy writing jewelry appraisals, entertaining friends, and taking part in the plays at the Williamstown Theatre Festival with talking and dancing parts. All went well until Clifford began to have a series of strokes, which eventually ended his life in 2007. She describes him as “the finest human being I ever met.” Surely, his memory is her blessing.

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