Highlights

Original Article in The Times Of Israel:

Despite a decade age gap, Julia and Lina Glushko are inseparable — on and off the court

When Julia Glushko began playing on the pro tennis tour in 2004, her sister Lina was a little girl of four. Fourteen years later, Lina is following in Julia’s footsteps — no mean feat, considering the trail her older sister is blazing.

On July 29, the elder Glushko won the $60,000 women’s singles title at the prestigious International Tennis Federation tournament in Granby, Canada. She upset top-seeded Arina Rodionova of Australia for the win.

Julia is currently ranked 196 in the world; Lina is 838.

The sisters recently added “doubles partners” to their impressive resumes, joining an elite club of professional tennis-playing siblings which includes the Bryan brothers, the Williams sisters, the McEnroe brothers and more.

At the April 2018 Fed Cup women’s tennis tournament in Athens, Greece, Israel’s team captain Tzipi Obziler and coach Sandra Wasserman decided to pair up the Glushko sisters in a doubles match.

“It was more than natural to let them play together,” said Obziler. “The combination of Julia, the experienced sister, together with Lina, who got her first chance to play matches in the Fed Cup, brought a very good high level doubles team,” said Obziler.

Wasserman agrees. “During practice sessions in the days before the competition, we saw that they were very motivated to play together. They played well and had good communication, so we gave it a chance,” she said.

The Glushko sisters became accustomed to each other on court during an intense four days of matches versus Norway, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Luxembourg and Denmark. After winning the first three deciding tie matches, they lost the semifinal 6-3, 6-4 to Emile Francati and Maria Jespersen of Denmark.

“The Danish girls were better the last day,” said Wasserman, their coach.

One love

Lina, who spoke with The Times of Israel by phone following her first week of basic training in the Israel Defense Forces, remembers the many years Julia — her “best friend” — was constantly on the road.

“I was a little girl, and she was in her 20s,” she said. “I don’t feel like she is 10 years older — we are more like twins. In the last two years or so, we talk 24/7 and we are very connected.”

When they’re in Israel, they practice together. “Now, I am no longer a little girl who doesn’t understand what is going on on the court,” Lina said.

Lina recently graduated from Ironi Gimel high school in Modiin, where she excelled in English (“It was really easy for me!”), her third language.

The Glushkos moved to Israel from the Ukraine in 1999, one year before Lina was born, and speak Russian at home. They are a true tennis family with both parents and 25-year-old brother, Alex, working as tennis coaches.

Alex has served as Lina’s coach for the past two years, taking over for their father, who had previously served the role.

“One match, my father wasn’t able to come, so Alex came instead. He made me feel so relaxed and good on court. I made it through to the finals, and we have been working together since then,” said Lina. “My dad was happy that I found my place with my brother.”

On the court

According to Lina, the Fed Cup pairing was not their actual debut as a doubles team.

“We played doubles for the first time in 2015 in Israel’s nationals,” she said, admitting that she “didn’t like to play doubles before.”

After that tournament, the Glushko sisters continued testing the waters as a doubles team.

“We played for fun in a tournament to see how it would go — we won first place. Then, we played in a [higher level] 15K tournament,” Lina said.

Representing Israel at the Fed Cup was memorable, though Lina didn’t learn she would be playing until 30 minutes before the Norway match.

“I was so nervous. My hand and racket were shaking. There was so much pressure. But I got used to it. I was so excited — to play with Israel on the back of my t-shirt and with my sister on court. The energy was so good. We played so good together,” she said.

Sibling doubles teams with Jewish roots include Brian and Larry Gottfried — and there are probably others, according to Sandra Harwitt, sportswriter and author of “The Greatest Jewish Tennis Players of All Time.”

“At just 18, Lina Glushko has the benefit of following in her big sister Julia’s sneakers onto the professional tennis scene. Being 10 years older, Julia has a great deal of tour insider information that can help Lina as she’s really just starting her journey in the game. Undoubtedly, this shared sister experience will make the Glushkos feel like a part of a special club in the game,” notes Harwitt.

Looking forward

Fed Cup captain Obziler believes “Lina has great potential,” noting Julia’s recent success on tour.

“Julia is in a great run in the last few months, and the sky is the limit for her,” Obziler said.

Julia recently began working with a new coach, former Israeli tennis player Amir Haddad. She has consistently advanced to the late rounds of recent tournaments in Asia and North America and has won tournaments in Singapore and Thailand.

In a phone interview from a tournament in Gatineau, Canada, Julia told The Times of Israel that the last year was “tough,” with “a lot going on.”

She took three months off, spent some time in Israel “to reflect on things” and changed her coaching staff. She is now “back on track” with her new coach and fitness trainer and feels more self-confident.

“There is lots of positive energy around me, and people who believe in me,” Julia said. “Of course, I train very hard, day in and day out. And I am enjoying my time on court.”

Based on Haddad’s advice, Julia is focusing on smaller tournaments and playing many matches. “I have a nice North American summer ahead of me. I am really excited,” she said.

As a sports mitztayenet (elite athlete) in the IDF, Lina will serve for the next two years with adequate time for tennis training. Her near-term goal is ambitious – finishing the year in the top 500.

And in the not-so-distant future?

“Of course, like everyone, my goal is to win a [Grand] Slam,” Lina said. “And to be #1 in world, kind of obviously.”

Filed under: Times of Israel (Source: https://www.timesofisrael.com)
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Original Article in The New York Jewish Week:

Highlights of Canada’s first-ever Jewish disability conference.

The “Pushing the Boundaries: Disabilities, Inclusion and Jewish Community” conference, April 15-17th in Toronto, truly pushed the boundaries. A severe ice storm and brief power outage may have been minor inconveniences, but they were not going to stop a diverse group of 175 people from such places as Winnipeg, Calgary, Vancouver, Montreal, Minneapolis, New York and various cities and towns in Israel, from attending the first conference of its kind in Canada. The conference has been in the planning stages for three years!

The extraordinary people attending and presenting, the wide range of relevant and timely content, the excitement and enthusiasm in the main conference room, and the always supportive and nurturing feel helped make this conference very special. Attendees included people with disabilities, family members, advocates, community members, foundation representatives, professionals from schools, camps, agencies and a wide range of Jewish organizations–even a Canadian member of Parliament.

The conference, scheduled to begin on Sunday evening April 15th was delayed in starting due to extremely icy and snowy road conditions. Starting the conference Monday morning allowed for more attendees and presenters to arrive—and for the all-star tech staff to make provisions for presenters stuck in Washington, New York and beyond to join and present by video conferencing. All sessions were consolidated in to two action packed days—everyone left exhausted and happy, armed with notes, handouts and inspiring quotes to guide them in their ongoing work.

Connie Putterman, a parent, advocate and chairperson of Itanu, UJA Federation’s Inclusion Committee, introduced Monday morning’s keynote speaker, renowned disability rights activist Diane Richler, and participated on Tuesday’s advocacy panel. Attendees will always remember Putterman’s brilliant insight: “Advocacy is telling your story in a way that other people can hear you!”

Diane Richler, Joseph P. Kennedy Jr Foundation International Fellow, past chair of International Disability Alliance, a leader in the negotiation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and a member of the the Ruderman Family Foundation advisory board, delivered a talk, “Inclusion Without Limits: What Has to Change.” Richler was impressed with the Canadian Jewish community which she observed, “has made much progress in the last few years in promoting inclusion…With creative energy, we can leapfrog over the traditional ways of supporting people with disabilities and make the Canadian Jewish community a model for others.”

All conference attendees learned from panels on such topics as housing, employment, innovations from Israel (including Alut, Krembo Wings, and Israel Unlimited/JDC) and from case to cause—the power of advocacy. They also attended specialized breakout sessions, taking place throughout the very impressive campus of the Lipa Green Centre for Jewish Community Services at the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto. Topics included recreation, aging education, person-centered models, education case studies, dating and relationships, camping and creating inclusive shul communities.

Keynote speaker, Ari Ne’eman spoke on “Disability Inclusion: Where We’ve Been, Where We’re Going,” comedian and inclusion and inclusion advocate, Pamela Schuller entertained Monday evening with her routine, “What Makes Me Tic,” and Tuesday speaker, Maayan Ziv, wowed the audience in a session on innovation and inclusion. Maayan Ziv, a photographer & entrepreneur who also has muscular dystrophy, shared how she has continued to turn obstacles into opportunities. “I have accomplished what I have WITH my disability, not DESPITE it.” She has developed her Access Now app; she and her team are working to document what is accessible in the world. Two of Ziv’s insightful, inspiring quotes will surely travel home with the conference participants. “Accessibility is a mindset that can lead to inclusion;” “People are not disabled- environments are disabling.”

Attendees enjoyed the opportunity to meet colleagues and to share resources. Many extended their already long Monday day session in to night by visiting a program entitled DANI (Developing and Nurturing Independence) for a tour and dinner.

As the conference drew to a close Tuesday after lunch, and participants continued to comment on the unusual weather (it was snowing again!), many exchanged business cards, hugged new friends, and affirmed commitments to ongoing collaboration as we all continue to push boundaries even further!

Howard Blas was the director of the Tikvah Program at Camp Ramah in New England and is now director of the National Ramah Tikvah Network. Howard also serves as a teacher of Jewish studies and bar/bat mitzvah preparation to students with a range of disabilities and “special circumstances.” He holds masters’ degrees in both social work (Columbia University) and special education (Bank Street College of Education). Howard received the S’fatai Tiftakh Award from Boston Hebrew College’s Center for Jewish Special Education in 2012 and the 2013 Covenant Award for Excellence in Jewish Education. He writes regularly for many Jewish publications.

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Original Article in Jerusalem Post:

A look at how one Chabad rabbi is helping Jewish families confront mental health issues.

It was 12:46 on Shabbat afternoon at the Chabad House in Salt Lake City Utah. Rabbi Benny Zippel glanced at his watch, looked at his son, Rabbi Avremi, and looked around the lunchroom. He counted several women and exactly 10 men.

“In 14 minutes, if you stick around, we can daven minha [the afternoon prayer] with a minyan and Torah reading,” Zippel said. “Let’s first hear from our two guests – one from Israel and one from New York – about what they do and what brought them here today.”

In many ways, it was a typical Shabbat for Zippel, who is responsible – along with wife Sharonne, Avremi and daughter- in-law Sheina, for all aspects of religious life at the Chabad House and essentially in all of Salt Lake City. It was not a surprise that Zippel was looking for an opportunity to daven minha with a minyan. He is a Chabad rabbi, always in search of opportunities to help people perform just one more mitzva.

By the time of the communal kiddush lunch on this particularly cold, snowy day, Zippel had already led all davening (prayers), greeted all male and female worshipers by name (and hugged a few), reminded the crowd of the upcoming megila reading and Purim bash later in the week, asked for volunteers to deliver Passover matza, and apologized for the unusually small crowed, noting, “It seems a lot of people stayed home today due to the snow and ice.” Snow is not an unusual occurrence in Salt Lake City, which on the average gets 27 cm. of snow in February.

Zippel’s somewhat unconventional sermon during services and his speech at the kiddush lunch offered a clue to the uniqueness of his work as a Chabad rabbi in the heart of Mormon Utah.

Both times, the rabbi asked the congregation to pray for Devora, a teen from the East Coast who tried to commit suicide by strangulation. He shared the sad, moving story of this young woman who was participating in one of Utah’s many wilderness treatment programs for children and young adults with mental illness and addiction issues. She was experiencing difficulties on this wilderness program and needed to be transferred to an inpatient psychiatric hospital in Salt Lake City. Just after her mother and sister left for home, Devora tried to kill herself.

As Zippel explained, for safety reasons, she was not allowed to have any possessions or fabric clothing. She was now required to wear paper pants and shirt. “If she tried to kill herself, the paper would rip.”

He told the moving story of visiting her in the very small isolation room where there was only a mattress. He sat with her for 45 minutes and spoke about the happy month of Adar, and told the story of Purim, where events miraculously changed from sad to happy.

“When she heard the story, she smiled for the first time in weeks.”

Just another typical day for Benny Zippel.

When he left his home in Milan to pursue rabbinic studies in the United States, Zippel was excited to serve as a Chabad shaliah (emissary). His posting in Utah was blessed by the late Lubavitcher rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, just before a stroke in 1992 left him unable to speak. Zippel could never have imagined what his daily and weekly “to do” list would come to look like.

On Shabbatot and holidays, he looks and functions like most Chabad emissaries from Boston to Brisbane to Barcelona, serving tens of thousands of Jewish locals and travelers.

Even on Shabbat, the day of rest, Zippel never stops thinking of the 300 to 500 Jewish children like Devora – from Israel, the Far East, Europe and “from everywhere” – who he estimates attend wilderness therapy and residential treatment programs each year across the state of Utah. He speaks knowledgeably about the goals and structure of these programs and effortlessly rattles off “outdoorsy” names of wilderness treatment programs such as Aspira Adventure, Evoke Therapy, Second Nature, Outback, and Red Cliff Ascent.

“Wilderness therapy is eight to 12 weeks in the wilderness. Then they go to residential treatment centers for nine to 18 months to apply life-copingskills taught in wilderness therapy to everyday life,” he explained.

These young Jewish imports make up nearly 10% of Utah’s Jewish population, estimated to be between 3,000 and 5,000.

“When I came in July 1992, I wasn’t aware of residential treatment centers or wilderness treatment programs. I had no advance warning or knowledge.

I had to hit the ground running and deal with it,” reported Zippel. “When I got the first phone call, in December 1992, from a father who said his son was in therapy in Provo, Utah, and wanted his son to have a chance to celebrate Hanukka, I just had to go visit this boy.”

He quickly realized that this boy was only one of dozens of Jews in the school, and that there were many more Jewish children in similar nearby programs.

According to the Utah Department of Human Services, there were 116 licensed private residential youth treatment centers and 11 outdoor treatment programs throughout the state in 2016.

It makes perfect sense to Zippel why Utah has more than triple the national average in the number of such programs.

“The legislature in Utah saw what an impact it has on the financial infrastructure. In the state of Utah, you can bring a young man or young woman suffering from all kinds of mental health-related issues for therapy, provided they are under age 18, and it does not require their consent. There are programs on the east coast, but they require his or her consent to be taken there.”

WHEN I first reached out to Zippel by phone, he was unable to speak. “I am on three calls at once – please call back later,” he said.

When we connected, he elaborated.

“Every day of the week, I am on the phone with potential parents, current parents, past parents, and/or their kid or their therapists. For example, they may tell me they just discovered their child had been molested, and they are clueless about how to overcome the trauma. I try to guide them.”

When not on the phone, Zippel traverses Utah to offer support, teach and bring Jewish ritual objects and kosher food to Jewish residents of these intensive, long-term therapy programs, which cost between $10,000 and $12,000 a month.

“I have a route. Some days I go north to Ogden, Brigham City and Logan. I go south to Utah County – to Springville, Spanish Fork, Mapleton and Birdseye.

And I go east and west. I try to go out and visit as many treatment centers as I can,” he said.

Not only has Zippel learned more about the geography of Utah than nearly every Jew on the planet, he has learned that “the spiritual component is fundamental.” He elaborated: “I have come to notice, over the course of 25 years, that the average teenager today is totally unaware of his or her inherent meaning and purpose – meaning, the fact that they were created is not a random occurrence. I remind them that if Hashem [God] created them, there is a reason for it. In most cases, this is a complete novelty to them!” Zippel calls his program Project HEART, which stands for Hebrew Education for At-Risk Teens.

He described three different levels of openness to his work on the part of the schools. “Some are really supportive of the Jewish component of the rehab; they are very encouraging, let me come every week and be an advocate for all Jewishness – Shabbat, kosher, mishloah manot, Purim meal. Others are neutral – they are not supportive but don’t fight me coming. And two in Utah are very adamant I not come and visit; they feel very uncomfortable with me visiting.

I tell parents – if you want your kid to have a Jewish connection, choose the right program.”

Fortunately for the Loren family of Westchester, New York, an observant family with five boys under 15, their son’s program is very open to Zippel’s visits. They met Zippel when their oldest son graduated from a treatment program in Idaho and relocated to a program in Heber City, Utah, about an hour from Salt Lake City.

“Since arriving in Heber City,” reported mother Miriam, “Matt has met with Rabbi Zippel several times, including a Hanukka party…. Matt had fun with Rabbi Zippel, and Matt’s therapy team believes that the absence of his religious community is very deeply missed by him and can be a big part of his healing and therapy program. For us parents, it’s been a relief to know that in this environment, Matt can still be a part of the greater Jewish community.”

While in Idaho, the Lorens found Boise’s Chabad rabbi, Rabbi Mendel Lifshitz, to be a great source of general and Jewish support. “Rabbi Lifschitz made it a point to come to Cherry Gulch out in Emmett, Idaho, at least every two weeks to visit the 40% of the student body that was Jewish. Having Matt across the country from age 12 was supremely difficult on all of us. Not having a strong Jewish community made it in many ways even more difficult. Rabbi Lifshitz lessened this significantly by hosting the boys and us for hagim [Jewish holidays] and Shabbatot, and he emphasized the joy in Judaism for these boys,” Miriam Loren said.

She noted that her son was not the only Shabbat- and kosher-observantstudent at his school in Idaho. “He and another boy from Brooklyn put on tefillin every day after his bar mitzva.”

And she noted there are Jewish children there as young as 10 with extreme anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.

The journey for the Lorens has not always been smooth. While the treatment centers are generally supportive and accommodating of the religious needs of Jewish children, they don’t always understand the nuances and minutiae of Jewish observance. The program in Idaho facilitated Matt’s weekly Skype meetings with his bar mitzva teacher in White Plains, New York.

“He and a Muslim friend from Dubai motivated each other. The friend said, ‘I will pray, and you practice for bar mitzva!” Loren related.

A school trip was planned to Zion National Park in southwest Utah – on Yom Kippur. “They hadn’t realized it was the holiest day of the year,” reported Loren, who was proud of her son, and flew out to be with him and attend a shul with him in Utah. “At times, Matt has felt isolated, homesick, and so far removed from the Jewish world.”

While Zippel feels there has been some progress in the Jewish world in acknowledging and speaking about mental illness, he was quick to emphasize: “some but not enough. A lot of work still needs to be done.”

Mental illness is not a topic discussed often around the Shabbat table, at a shul kiddush, or from the pulpit of most synagogues.

Zippel lives this issue every day and strongly encourages the Jewish world to be more aware and active in addressing the issue of mental illness in the Jewish community. “My No. 1 message is: Quit being in denial! More and more, I notice a lot of parents and educators and rabbis are in total denial and think that if we don’t address it, it will go away – like with a bad dream. We wouldn’t dare say that about a physical ailment. If a 13-, 14- or 15-year-old were screaming with excruciating head, leg or stomach pain, we would never not deal with it. We would take them to a doctor to have it properly assessed – they made need surgery, medication or some other treatment.”

While denial continues to be an important issue, there are efforts across Jewish denominations – at conferences and at synagogue gatherings – to speak more openly about mental illness. At the January 2017 Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance conference in New York City, women, men, and high school and college students packed a large classroom at Columbia University’s Lerner Hall for a session titled “De-stigmatizing Mental Illness in the Orthodox Community.”

Dr. Esther Altmann, a New York-based clinical psychologist and director of pastoral education at Yeshivat Maharat, shared useful insights and incidence data on mental illness. She framed the conversation by noting, “Mental illness is known as mahalat hanefesh, illness of the soul. It [the term “mahalat hanefesh”] doesn’t reflect our understanding of the brain, but it captures the essence of what it means to struggle with mental illness for the person or the family. It reminds us that psychological suffering happens to each of us at some junctures, just as we experience mahalat haguf, illness of the body.”

Altmann shared the following data on mental illness, which was followed by a discussion of innovative programs that exist to address these issues in the Jewish community. In any given year in the United States: • Approximately 20% of adults experience some form of mental illness.

• Approximately 4% experience a serious mental illness that substantially interferes with or limits their functioning in one or more major life activities.

• 1% of adults live with schizophrenia.

• 2.6% of adults live with bipolar disorder.

• 7% of adults have had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.

• 6% of the adult population reported heavy drinking.

• In 2014, the surgeon-general stated that the growing number of deaths from prescription painkiller overdoses is an urgent and growing health concern.

• Suicide is a leading cause of death for young people aged 15 to 24.

Altmann’s fellow panelists at the JOFA conference – Rabbanit Alissa Thomas-Newborn of B’nai David-Judea Congregation in Los Angeles, and Dr.

Erin Leib Smokler, director of spiritual development at Yeshivat Maharat, are doing their part to support and educate congregants and professionals on issues of mental illness.

In 2015, Thomas-Newborn, who is a board-certified chaplain, noticed that no conversations were taking place in her synagogue on mental health. That changed when she organized a well-attended mental health awareness Shabbaton, where people shared their experiences.

“People who knew each other for 25 years realized for the first time that they each had relatives with schizophrenia,” she said.

That Shabbat, Thomas-Newborn spoke about her brother’s mental health issues, and there was a professional panel.

Next steps for the synagogue included a Shabbat focused on the issues of postpartum depression and anxiety; suicide prevention training; mental health first-aid treatment; a mental health support group; a session for teens on body image and eating disorders; and an interfaith clergy roundtable.

There are also programs around the country for Jews dealing with addiction issues. Some examples include: • Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent Persons and Significant Others.

JACS also offers a Sober Birthright Israel trip.

• Beit T’Shuva, based in Los Angeles, also serves people with addiction issues.

Its website notes, “Our mission is to guide individuals and families toward a path of living well, so that wrestling souls can recover from addiction and learn how to properly heal. The Beit T’Shuvah faith-based model, founded on authenticity and wholeness, integrates spirituality, psychotherapy, Jewish teachings, the 12 Steps, and the creative arts.”

• Camp Ramah in the Rockies (Colorado) recently started BaMidbar Wilderness Therapy, a wilderness-based recovery and treatment program for Jewish young adults.

Dr. Andres Martin, the Riva Ariella Ritvo Professor in the Child Study Center and professor of psychiatry at Yale University, is pleased such programs exist and sees an important role for rabbis and Jewish communal professionals. He stressed that “mental health treatment is not at odds with religion, and that forging alliances with culturally competent and informed providers can be a huge help not only to the identified patients, but to them [rabbis], so that they can do best what they do.”

Martin, who this past summer completed a cross-country bike ride to raise awareness of mental illness in children, further suggests, “It behooves rabbis and other community leaders, who are held in such esteem and respect, to become familiar with common mental health issues, challenges and illnesses – depression, anxiety and substance abuse (to name just three) are very common, and early identification and treatment can be key to long-term recovery.”

He is unaware of reliable current data on mental illness in the Jewish population, but suspects overall rates (like the ones cited above by Altmann) are similar to the general population.

Back in Utah, it is another regular day for Zippel, teaching, counseling and supporting children, young adults with mental illness, and their families.

“People should know that help is available,” he stressed.

Rabbi Benny Zippel can be reached at rabbi@jewishutah.com

Jewish Utah

The State of Utah is best known for its natural beauty and its Mormon heritage.

Popular national parks in The Beehive State include Bryce Canyon, Zion and Arches. The Great Salt Lake – second only to the Dead Sea in salt content – is near the capital, Salt Lake City. An ad campaign at the Salt Lake City airport boasts, “Only 35 minutes from baggage claim to slopes,” as the ski resorts of Park City, Deer Valley, Alta and Snowbird are a quick drive from the airport.

Mormons, also known as followers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, make up 63% of Utah’s population of just over three million. Mormonism was started by Joseph Smith in upstate New York during the 1820s. After Smith’s death in 1844, the Mormons followed Brigham Young to what would become the Utah Territory.

By some reports, Jewish ties to Utah go back even further. Jewish trappers reportedly traversed the territory in 1826, and the Jewish daguerreotypist Solomon Nunes Carvalho captured images of the young Mormon community during an 1854 mapmaking expedition. That same year, Julius and Fannie Brooks became Utah’s first Jewish family. Other Jewish settlers followed, setting up various shops and businesses.

Utah’s early Jewish population was comprised of educated Germans who came between 1857 and 1874. More traditional Eastern European Jews joined them between 1890 and 1920. There were reportedly 100 Jewish-owned businesses in the downtown Salt Lake City area by 1930.

Very few signs of these businesses and synagogues still exist, but the careful observer may see treasures such as the Henriksen/Butler Design Group at 249 South 400 East Street. The Romanesque Revival building was built in 1890-91 and served until the 1970s as the second location for Congregation B’nai Israel.

A quick peek inside reveals still-intact stained glass windows on the lobby and balcony levels.

Rabbi Benny Zippel, the director of Chabad of Utah, has endeared himself to the local Mormon community, which is supportive of his work, including erecting hanukkiot in public spaces. Zippel has traveled to Israel with the governor and local leaders as part of various trade missions.

Zippel’s Chabad colleague, Rabbi Yehudi Steiger, and his wife, Devori Steiger, serve as co-directors of Chabad Lubavitch of Park City, home of the Sundance Film Festival and the Deer Valley and Park City ski resorts.

Park City Mountain Resort is the largest single ski and snowboard resort in the US. The Canyons Resort is home to Bistro Kosher Deli, the only kosher restaurant in the state of Utah.

The gregarious food and beverage manager Heath Blackerby, who is from Chicago and describes himself as “Jewish on my mother’s side,” keeps the seasonal (November through March) kosher restaurant running smoothly, assisting the wait staff to deliver food to hungry skiers, and helping the Chabad rabbi (a Bistro regular) identify potential participants for impromptu ma’ariv (evening) prayer services.

“Some 95% of my business is from the 917 area code,” Blackerby playfully comments about his New York-area visitors.


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Original Article in Jerusalem Post:

A new film spotlights a superlative musician and exceptional human who happens to use crutches.

In the disabilities world, we learn the importance of using person- first language. A person is not “wheelchair-bound,” rather he is a person who may also be a father, lawyer and expert Scrabble player who uses a wheelchair. He or she is not defined by the disability, rather, it is one aspect of the person, who also has many talents and strengths.

There is a very famous Sesame Street episode from 1981 where world-famous violinist Itzhak Perlman appears in a moving segment that illustrates this point. A young girl effortlessly runs up some steps to a platform and sits down with her violin. Perlman climbs the same steps with difficulty, using crutches.

“Some things that are really easy for you are really hard for me,” comments Perlman, who sits next to the girl and plays his Stradivarius in the magnificent manner viewers would expect. The girl, a beginner on the violin, replies, “Yes, but some things that are easy for you are hard for me.”

Now, thanks to the delightful, recently released film Itzhak by director/ producer Alison Chernick, viewers spend 83 colorful minutes with Perlman in a wide range of settings and time periods, from his childhood in Israel, where he walked with leg braces and completed his initial training at the Academy of Music in Tel Aviv, to his appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1958 after he was discovered in a talent search in Israel, to his move to America where he attended the Juilliard School.

Perhaps most exciting is seeing Perlman doing ordinary as well as exciting and somewhat unexpected activities, including navigating the streets of Manhattan in a motorized scooter during a snowstorm, rehearsing (and eating Chinese food) in his townhouse with fellow musicians, bantering with Toby, his powerhouse wife of 50 years, sipping wine in his home with actor Alan Alda, sitting in his scooter on the field at a New York Mets baseball game (in a “Perlman” jersey), and rehearsing on stage at Madison Square Garden with singer Billy Joel.

There is a beautiful scene shot in a violin shop in Tel Aviv. “My cinematographer, Daniel Kedem, who lives in Tel Aviv, knew about this violin shop that happened to be on Perlman’s childhood block,” says Chernick, the award-winning writer and director of documentaries profiling contemporary artists and with credits including The Jeff Koons Show, Matthew Barney: No Restraint and The Artist is Absent.

“The shop is Amnon Weinstein’s – a wonderful man who restores violins and has been sent many violins from the concentration camps,” says Chernick. Perlman, whose parents immigrated to Israel from Poland, is shown many unique violins, including one with a swastika hidden inside.

“He brought this extra level of gravity to the film by giving us the history of these violins, which created a narrative platform for us to dive into Jewish history through these violins.”

Itzhak opened in New York City on March 8 and in Los Angeles on March 16; and will open in San Francisco on April 6. The schedule of openings in other cities is at ItzhakTheFilm.com. Chernick is pleased to report the film will soon premiere in Israel.”

Docaviv, the Tel Aviv International Documentary Film Festival, is the largest film festival in Tel Aviv and the only festival in Israel dedicated exclusively to documentaries.

Making a film about Perlman was clearly no easy task.

“The more celebrated the subject, the more pressure there is to deliver in a manner that justifies his legacy,” notes Chernick. She carefully completed all filming, digested the content and finally decided on the actual story to tell.

“For me, what became transparent after seeing my footage over and over again, were themes of Jewish identity, Jewish history, humor, love, love for life, love between Perlman and Toby and of course a shared love for music. These themes all emerged as unique story lines that would resonate independently.”

Itzhak is entertaining, enjoyable and filled with beautiful real-life scenes. Chernick covers a lot of ground. Yet, viewers expecting a comprehensive, year-by-year unfolding of Perlman’s life may be disappointed. An additional gap is not explaining what exactly sets him apart from hundreds of other talented violinists. How did Perlman – and not others – come to achieve this level of greatness? Viewers didn’t seem bothered by such omissions.

They were happy to catch a sneak peek at the film at the Marlene Meyerson JCC in Manhattan on February 13, nearly a full month before its release date, and they were treated to a Q and A with Perlman and his wife. They were amused that Perlman (who has likely seen the movie dozens of times) came a few minutes late, as he was looking for parking, and they loved his sense of humor as he apologized for wearing the same sports jacket that evening that he wore throughout the film.

After answering questions about whether he and Toby put up any boundaries in the filming and how they chose the musical selections, Perlman, the accomplished violinist who happens to have a physical disability, spoke passionately and openly about the lack of accessibility he has experienced on planes, in bathrooms, in hotel rooms and in nearly every place he has traveled around the world.

“I feel in many ways, those who are supposed to make things accessible are literally clueless! I would like to organize a seminar and discuss what it means to have accessible living spaces. We should be ashamed of ourselves – the richest country in the world….”

The talented, thoughtful Perlman left the audience with an important observation.

“We all have different problems and needs.”

In Itzhak and in person, Perlman offers a glimpse in to how we can begin to overcome these challenges.

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