Archive | November 2012

Camp Ramah Open House @ TBE Rochester this Sunday 12:30

Ron Polster, Director of Camp Ramah in Canada, will be visiting Temple Beth El in Rochester this Sunday, 12:30 to 1:30. If you have a child third grade and up and want to give them a fantastic Jewish camping experience, this is the place. Our entire family has cultivated so many meaningful friendships from Camp Ramah in Canada. Because of Ramah, there are already families looking out for us as we transition our lives from Rochester to Detroit. It has given my kids friendships and a Jewish identity that will last lifetime. Won’t you spend just one hour hearing about Ramah?

Stacy Gittleman

When people ask me where I send my kids to camp, I tell them I send them to Camp Ramah.

Now, when you live in a town where traveling even 30 minutes to get somewhere seems like traveling to another planet (and I’m guilty of this as well), they then reply, Oh, the Camp Ramah in Toronto.

And then I say, “Nooo, it’s actually two and a half hours further. North of Toronto. In a region called Muskoka.”

The response I hear is: Isn’t that far?

And truthfully, Yes.

Yes. It’s very far.

Yes, I send my kids for a month, and now for my oldest two months, six hours away.  Many see this as a sign of bad parenting. Many cannot fathom why we’d want to get rid of our kids for a month or even two. But, I have a friend who has five boys. Once, when we…

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Welcome to Ottawa

For something completely different, the family took a weekend getaway to Ottawa, the capital of Canada, over Thanksgiving break. The second coldest capital in the world after Moscow, Ottawa is a great small city with a population under 900,000, very walkable and beautiful, if you can take the chill this time of year. Somehow when temperature is given in Celsius and not Fahrenheit, it always seems colder.

We stayed at the Sheraton blocks away from Parliament Hill, known to be one of the world’s most iconic government buildings:

My boys loved its “Hogwarts“esque architecture complete with stone walls, huge doors:

a clock tower, and gargoyles galore:

I remember coming here as a kid and posing with a guard, but even the winter chill is too much for the guards in their tall fur hats. To experience the changing of the guard, I guess we’ll have to come back in the summer.

We walked to breakfast to get out of the cold:

After a great breakfast at eggspectations,  we went to warm up in  the city’s Museum of Civilization, which is actually in Quebec. Here, you can learn about Canadian History, size up to some totem poles and Native American Art and take in great views of the river:

painted domed ceiling hovers over huge spiral staircase

the back of Parliament looks much like Notre Dame (at least to a person who has never been to Paris, that’s me!)



After a day at the museum, we headed to Ottawa’s historic Byward Market, where we met up with friends who treated us to afternoon cupcakes at the Cupcake Lounge.

Along the streets, the air smelled of fresh pine from the trees and wreaths sold by local vendors:



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Israel ministry of Tourism: Don’t cancel your travel plans to Israel this winter

Got plans to visit Israel this winter?

I am so jealous … I mean….you are so lucky! So happy for YOU! 

A year ago Chanukkah I was there, with the whole mishpucha (family). We toured, we ate falafel, we hiked, we sang and we cried.

We enjoyed every minute (okay, maybe not the flight…)

One of the worst byproducts of when Israel is embroiled in conflict with her neighbors is that tourism drops.

Israel’s Arab neighbors know this. Israel’s neighbors want this.  Don’t give them what they want.

I’ve been in Israel in 1982 during their invasion with Lebanon. In 1989 during the first intifada. I did not notice the conflict.

I know several families who are planning a trip to Israel this summer with their children. I can’t wait for when they return to hear all about it and how this trip transforms your life and perspective on the Jewish people like no other.

So Go! And take lots of pictures.

But don’t take my word for it. Here is the official statement from Israel’s ministry of tourism:

Dear Friends and colleagues,
I am writing to update you on the current situation and to thank you sincerely for standing with us during the recent challenging period.

During the last week, and despite the headlines, thousands of tourists continued to arrive in Israel undaunted. No airline flights were cancelled and while certain tour itineraries were necessarily adjusted to meet the exigencies of the situation, there was neither panic nor overt concern. Altogether, some 100,000 tourists continued traveling in our country and we in Israel were honored by their presence.

Moreover, we were deeply moved by how the travel industry worldwide displayed admirable confidence in Israel tourism. You trusted our country’s ability to keep our travel industry operating, safe and intact. And, most importantly, you showed faith in our determination to ensure the security, safety and well-being of our visitors. We sincerely appreciate this trust.

As we move ahead, please be assured of the commitment of the Israel Ministry of Tourism and the Israel travel industry to maintain the momentum that, with your dedication, has made 2012 the best year ever for tourism to Israel.

Stas Misezhnikov

Does WordPress take an anti-Israel slant? I think so. Here’s why.

I’ve been blogging for about two years now on WordPress.

I’ve even been Freshly Pressed!

The one post that I got this honor was, ironically, a post about being Jewish!

This post was a tongue-in-cheek take  take on how Jews perceive Halloween. For a Jew to be funny on WordPress, that’s okay. Poke fun at themselves or at their religion, or express ambiguity at one’s Jewish identity, that’s cool too!

But to write about Israel from a pro-Israel standpoint? Apparently, that falls on deaf ears to the WordPress gods.

I wondered to myself in all the favorable posts I’ve written about Israel, in my writings about my travels there, why blogger love didn’t come my way.

As a Jewish educator and a Jewish mother, as a trained writer and reporter making multiple trips to Israel, I wrote thoughtfully.

In one post, after experiencing hostility towards women by the ultra-Orthodox, I wrote critically.

I added great photos of all I saw. I showed pictures of how Israeli soldiers keep ALL religious sites safe and accessible to ALL religions.

I’ve written about how Israel helps earthquake victims and how Israel develops state of the art agricultural and medical advances that can benefit all of humanity.

Still my stat counter didn’t budge. Maybe, my writing isn’t all that. But still, I wondered.

So, out of curiosity, I entered “Israel”  into WordPress’ search engine. This is what came up:

A blog post criticizing Israel for blocking backers of Palestinian protesters for entering Israel:

Israel Protests

Israel Blocks Pro-Palestinian Activists’ ‘Fly-In’ Attempt In Europe, …  activists barred from boarding flights to Tel Aviv, after Israel sent blacklist Voice of America – Jul 08 06:04
An IDF soldier, a “brave” one (as if only this one is brave, as if the rest are chicken shit) for speaking to the BBC (as if they are such a credible source of news) about the crimes of his country:

Brave Israeli Soldier Speaks Out On BBC Against the Crimes of His Government…Fiannaiochta

Oh, and what blog post popping up into my reader spewing falsities about Israel would be complete without calling Israel an apartheid state, Israel as apartheid state

PLENTY of those posts to go around. One, filled with so many lies I had not the energy or the strength to refute every lie this blogger claimed to be true, was Freshly pressed. WordPress Freshly Pressed not one but two diatribes all but legitimizing  and justifying Hamas and their industry of death.

Then, there are the tried and true tales of Israeli occupation of Gaza, never mind the fact that Israel withdrew from Gaza completely in 2005.(What, what about the blockade you say? If Gazans would only import food and clothing and construction supplies to develop an oasis of hope for a Palestinian state instead of using its resources and spending it on BOMBS imported from Iran smuggled in from Egypt, there would be no need for a blockade).

And genocide in Gaza, when the deaths of any Gazans are actually welcomed and glorified, that’s why the innocents are used as human shields.

All these blog posts delegitimizing Israel floated right to the top of my searches for posts on Israel. You know what else floats?

When I looked for Israel blogs that defended Israel’s right to defend herself from months and years of missile attacks from Gaza, or any post that gives the Jewish state any legitimacy, they were way down on WordPress’ search engine results.

Worse than the violence, worse than the missiles, worse than even the mothers in Gaza who cry for their martyred sons wishing they had more sons to give to Allah, is all the misinformation about Israel in the media, WordPress being just another guilty party.

When you’ve got Friends in Holy Places

Add your thoughts here… (optional)

Stacy Gittleman

The year mark of my most recent visit to Israel quickly approaches.  It was my fourth journey to the Jewish state. It won’t be my last. In fact, if I could, I’d have no hesitation to go there on the next plane.

A few things made last year’s trip during Chanukkah very special.

The first is family. Unlike my first two trips to Israel, this time I went back as a wife, a mother of three children accompanied by their grandparents, both sets. Seeing Israel’s historical and religious sites through the eyes of three generations was once-in-a-lifetime goosebumps every single minute.

Secondly, we have Israeli friends. Friends from teaching. Friends made in summer camp. These friendships deepened our connection to the land of Israel more strongly than any tourist or archeological site.

Nearly every day of our trip, friends met us for dinner or lunch in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem

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When you’ve got Friends in Holy Places

The year mark of my most recent visit to Israel quickly approaches.  It was my fourth journey to the Jewish state. It won’t be my last. In fact, if I could, I’d have no hesitation to go there on the next plane.

A few things made last year’s trip during Chanukkah very special.

The first is family. Unlike my first two trips to Israel, this time I went back as a wife, a mother of three children accompanied by their grandparents, both sets. Seeing Israel’s historical and religious sites through the eyes of three generations was once-in-a-lifetime goosebumps every single minute.

Secondly, we have Israeli friends. Friends from teaching. Friends made in summer camp. These friendships deepened our connection to the land of Israel more strongly than any tourist or archeological site.

Nearly every day of our trip, friends met us for dinner or lunch in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. My son reconnected with his friend, son of two rabbis, who met us for lunch after we celebrated my son’s Bar Mitzvah.

Friends came and met us wherever we were on tour.

They hung out with us on the beach near our hotel.

My good friend from Modi’in met up with our group not once but twice.

She’s An artist. A teacher. A true intellect. We have shared our different perspectives and deepened our understandings of what it means to be a Jew in America and what it means to be  a Jew in Israel.  I’ve connected with few people in my life as I have with her, though we will seldom see one another face to face. On a wintry day by Tel Aviv standards, we chatted on beach chairs with our spouses and watched our daughters play in the waves.

two friends: one American, one Israeli, play at the beach on Tel Aviv

Or they accompanied us to the Israel museum in Jerusalem.

There are the friends we did see and the friends we couldn’t see. I spent one night on a very long phone conversation with a friend from high school now living in Modi’in. At the time, she was newly diagnosed with breast cancer. All the plans we made almost a year in advance to get together, to spend time, to celebrate Shabbat, were reduced to that one phonecall.  I was thankful just to be in the same time zone as her as I listened to her talk about the hard choices and treatments that lay ahead.

Now. Now the bombs fall.

When you have friends and family in Israel, focus on anything else has been nearly impossible. Eating? Making meals? Even taking walks? Just a temporary diversion until I can get back on the computer again and check in.

I read an update from my tour guide who heard the bomb sirens and made it on time to the nearest shelter.

I read updates from people who sleep with shoes on and who get tips on how to get to sleep again after they settle into their cot in their safety room.

I read an update from my Modi’in friend, now done with chemo treatments but who must now train her daughters how to run to safety depending on where they are when the siren sounds.

I read an update from my neighbor, now visiting in Israel describing what it was like to see the Kotel plaza evacuated.

Is this any way to live a normal life? What is normal? Why must this be accepted as the status quo?

What to do? Whether you’ve been to Israel a dozen times, or have never been there, whether you can name dozens of Israeli friends or never met anyone from the Middle East’s only true democracy, there is something we as freedom loving Americans can do.

We can tell the world the truth. We can expose Hamas for their lies and their brainwashing. Social media can expose how Hamas truly operates as nothing more than a brain-washing hate cult that glorifies death enough to seduce its women and children into becoming human shields.

When you have Israeli friends and family, the latest flare up between Israel and her Arab neighbors is not just a news story, it’s a personal attack.

I know I’ve been posting about this nonstop if you follow me on Facebook. But please, don’t ignore Israel’s fight for hearts and minds. Their war on terror is ours. Do what you can do from far away to defend her.

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Sculptor Susan Ferrari Rowley goes in New Directions with Minimalism

4-2-2, Susan Ferrari Rowley, photo courtesy of AXOM Gallery

Here is my article on Susan Ferrari Rowley’s Rochester exhibit which ran in the November 11, 2012 Living Section of the Democrat 7 Chronicle: 

In the male-dominated world of art, it’s tough to be a woman sculptor. Women artists seldom get the space they deserve in the pages of an Art History 101 textbook.


The exclusion of works by women is further evidenced in the inventory of American museums, where only about 5 percent of museum collections include works by women artists, according to the Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. An even smaller percentage include sculptures by women.

That is why Robin Muto, who is the co-curator of one of Rochester’s newer galleries, AXOM Gallery & Exhibition Space, jumped at the opportunity to show the work of Rochester-based minimalist sculptor Susan Ferrari Rowley in an exhibit specifically designed for the studio’s airy, high-ceilinged space.

New Directions,” on exhibit at AXOM, 176 Anderson Ave., through Saturday, offers the viewer a range of human emotions in stark white fabrics, stretched and sewn onto soldered aluminum frames. The works will head to New York City’s OK Harris gallery in December.

Contrast in form

“New Directions” reveals Rowley’s current migration from creating larger outdoor and public sculptures to works scaled for private residences. Asymmetric pieces likeInseparableCentered and Off-Balance exude an edgy tension as they balance precariously on pedestals Rowley custom designed to be just big enough for their footprint.

The “living on the edge” quality of these smaller works also suggests anatomical elements of a body, legs and arms. A calming, translucent glow that seems to start from within the sculptures hints at an inner soul.

Rowley’s sculptures are a contrast of materials and moods. They are large and imposing, yet they invite the viewer to come closer. Through cloth and metal and angular and curved lines, the exhibit of about a dozen abstract pieces can be experienced by stepping around, over and through them.

Outside the main gallery is the story of the art through photos of Rowley making them in her Scottsville studio.

The dominating work in “New Directions” is 4-2-2, a 10-foot composition of three geometric forms. This construct of three white, billowy shapes gives off a peaceful, translucent glow made possible by the carefully placed overhead track lighting. At the same time, three enormous metal poles that extend from the floor to the 14-foot ceiling impale the composition. The very moment of this piercing appears to be captured within the tension of the cloth.

Though abstract and stark in composition, 4-2-2 was created out of a very human emotion: the heartbreak of impending loss. Rowley says it was inspired by the death of her dog Tu-Tu (pronounced tiyu-tiyu), who was a loyal companion for almost 14 years.

Rowley melds techniques like sewing, traditionally regarded as a feminine skill that she learned from her grandmother, with the more masculine crafts of soldering metal and machine tooling. The combined media make each sculpture confrontational in its large scale, yet lightweight and vulnerable in overall appearance.

“I like to work in opposites,” says Rowley, associate professor of fine arts at Monroe Community College. “Metal is hard, and poly fiber fabric is soft. There are male and female qualities, a vulnerability yet strength in my work that are emotions I needed to embrace in my own life as I evolved as an artist.”

A cause in jewelry

“New Directions” also includes Angular Extremes, wearable bracelet art that is the result of Rowley’s tenacious three-year campaign to convince American machine tooling factories and other manufacturers that they can make art and jewelry.

The aluminum bracelets are cast in a Milwaukee factory that did not think they were cut out to manufacture jewelry until Rowley talked them into it. The bracelets are shipped to Rochester, where another company provides the black-and-white nickel color coating.

She then designs the boxes, made from post-consumer recycled materials, with New York’s Jamestown Container.

It is a company where her late mother-in-law spent most of her working life. The label for the packaging was produced by another American company.

These bracelets are also part of the AXOM exhibit and available for purchase at Shop One2 Gallery on the Rochester Institute of Technology campus and the Memorial Art Gallery Store.

Influences on work

Growing up on Long Island, Rowley developed an appreciation for the arts by making treks into New York City. She found art in museums, but also in the windows of Macy’s or in the hand-drawn fashion advertisements in the Sunday New York Times.

On a sixth-grade field trip to the Museum of Modern Art, Rowley fell for a sculpture of abstract feminist sculptor Louise Nevelson. Rowley had found her calling.

“I remember on the train ride home thinking, ‘Making sculptures and placing them on pedestals, that’s what I want to do with my life!’ ” she says.

Later in graduate school, Rowley wanted to find additional 20th century female sculptors to emulate. She had studied the work of Constantin Brancusi and Marcel Duchamp. Then she found fiberglass artist Eva Hesse and sculptor and printmaker Nancy Graves.

“When I read about their lives and how they struggled as women sculptors, their drive inspired me. I knew if I was driven, I would be OK,” Rowley says. “I had to live up to my potential; I had to produce and show as a woman sculptor.”

More than 30 years into her career, Rowley still possesses that drive. She sometimes works alone in her studio. Sometimes she is “making it happen” on group collaborations. In 2004, she proved to be a quick study on zoning and construction codes when she designed relief art for noise-barrier panels placed along Rochester’s western highways for the New York Department of Transportation.

Rowley also made a suspended sculpture for the set of Garth Fagan’sLight Night and Melanin.

The diversification of work, trying to make it fit in several situations, is what she tries to impart to her MCC students, says Rowley, who received the 2011 SUNY Chancellor’s Award of Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities.

“I tell my students that our brains have tremendous capacity to diversify,” she says. “Artists today have to have communication and business skills as well as artistic talents, especially when they are commissioned on a piece and will need to work with those with non-artistic backgrounds.”

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Former NYC, NJ Rochesterians come together to Help Sandy victims

Here is my column that appeared online in this week’s D&C, plus a little bit more that was shaved off. I’m still thinking of all of you in Staten Island, Queens, and on the Shore

When Anderson Cooper shows up to cover a natural disaster in your old neighborhood, it must be bad. The CNN correspondent who was on the ground reporting the likes of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the earthquake in Haiti walked the streets of my Staten Island childhood.  He put the spotlight on the remains of bungalow homes that lined the quiet streets where I rode my bicycle.  He interviewed people as they shivered waiting to sign up for FEMA assistance in a field where my brother played soccer.

For me and many other Rochesterians with ties to downstate New York and New Jersey, to say that Sandy hit home is a huge understatement. Carole Diamond Frankel of Brighton also took in the scenes of her devastated hometowns of Oceanside and Long Beach with a heavy heart. She wished she could physically be there to help but did what she could from afar.

“I can’t stop thinking about it,” she said, as she kept updated with friends through Facebook and email. Within days, she coordinated her own collections of clothing and supplies, which she then drove to the Sea Breeze Volunteer Fire Association in Irondequoit. Her collection melded into the hundreds of bags and boxes of other donations given from the Rochester community.

I want to personally thank this organization, especially April Handel, the associations’ president, and volunteer Garrett Bastuk. They drove a 26-foot truck to affected sections of New York. One such collection center is hosted by a Staten Island church where I had fond memories of making “Shrinky-Dink” key chains and other crafts in a summer day camp program. This relief center is so close to my parents’ home that they recently walked there to pick up batteries for their flashlights and bleach to clean out their flooded basement.

Another group of families from Brighton and Pittsford with downstate roots have also banded together to help with a bagel breakfast fundraiser called “Sand-Aid” taking place this Sunday, Nov. 18.  For a donation of $15, patrons will be treated this Sunday morning to Bruegger’s
Bagels, cream cheese, fruit and the Sunday’s Democrat & Chronicle to be picked up in Pittsford Plaza. For $20, breakfast will be delivered within a 10-mile radius of Pittsford Plaza. All funds will be donated to The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. This is a 501(c)(3)  not-for-profit organization giving long and short-term hurricane relief and restoration to the worst affected areas.

“My cousin in Hoboken jokes that he now has two pools: one in his basement and one that used to be his backyard,” said Pittsford’s Phil Schaff, whose three children have actively publicized the fundraiser.  Schaff’s  parents, both in their 80’s, have also endured days with no power or heat in East Brunswick, N.J.

The fundraiser generated such a large response that there may be a second Sand-Aid bagel breakfast in the near future.  If you would like to have a Sunday bagel breakfast delivered to you as a thanks for contributing to Sandy relief, please email  to be included.

Disasters like Sandy magnify the significance of Thanksgiving. It is not about Black Friday shopping or football games but gratitude for life’s most basic comforts of a warm home and supportive circles of family, friends, and neighbors. In this spirit of coming together, the Victor Parks and Recreation Department has planned its annual Senior Thanksgiving potluck lunch for noon on Wednesday, Nov. 21 at the Victor Parks and Recreation building, 1290 Blossom Drive. For more information, go to or call 742-0140

Contact Stacy Gittleman at with news and notable people from eastside towns.

If You Go

What: Town of Victor Senior Potluck Luncheon

When: noon Wednesday, Nov. 21

Where: Victor Parks and Recreation building, 1290 Blossom Drive, Victor

Information: $1 fee. Bring a dish to pass. To register with the dish you are bringing to pass, go to or call 742-0140

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I’m not going to comment on this …. much. Ya know those puzzle pictures in the funnies that ask the reader: what’s wrong with this picture? I ask you, my readers, how many falsities about Israel can you find in this blog post? Then please list them on my blog and that of this liar, I mean, blogger.

Finding Light and Gratitude from a Very Dark Place

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 03: Doctor Rosanna Tro...


Saturday night, the night my parents went to a double wake for two Staten Islanders who drowned in their basement when the ocean came in, my faith was totally shaken.

I’m normally a person pretty strong in my faith, pretty sure that God has a plan and we can’t understand it. I pride myself in holding strong to my Jewish heritage and encourage my students to do the same.

But the other night, if just for a few hours, I gave up.

I went to bed in a dark place, filled with the images of helpless cold people from the neighborhoods of my childhood. I went to bed angry, completely pissed off at God. God, I thought, didn’t you promise to Noah never to destroy the earth again by flood? What was that about? Why do we humans have to see floods over and over again? How am I supposed to get up and teach my students tomorrow about your blessings, for blessing us with everything we need like food and shelter when there are people like my parents who are still without power and warmth in their own homes? When there is a wife who has lost a twin son and her husband AND her home in one single wave?

Lesson learned: when you go do bed angry at God, you don’t receive the blessing of sleep.

The next morning was Sunday. The sun shone brightly. Even when you can’t see it, there is the sun.

In New York City, it was Marathon Sunday. Fortunately, Mayor Bloomberg came to his senses and cancelled the marathon, but not before thousands of marathoners traveled just to be stuck and cold in the big apple. For me, it was off to teach  Hebrew school, which opens each week with me helping to lead a tefilah,or prayer service, for students 7th grade and up.

Before going to bed, I expressed my very dark thoughts about prayer and God very honestly to my boss.I wasn’t feeling very thankful to God after days of looking at the destruction, and learning how close death hit to home.

Thankfully, she sent me some reinforcement.  The rabbi of the temple Sunday morning addressed the kids so thoughtfully and patiently.  She told us, yes, we can still feel blessed by God for God’s daily miracles: for giving us the ability to stand, to see, for giving us food and clothing. We do not despair or feel guilty for the blessings we have but instead use tefilah, to inspire us to help others in crisis.  Just being together in a room of people joining together makes you realize you are not alone in sadness, and praying together can lead to hopefulness and action.

That afternoon I got a call from mom. She was overwhelmed with gratitude. She said Angels came to Staten Island that day. Would-be marathon runners took the ferry and ran around the island.

A group of marathoners who helped out my parents. A million thanks are not enough.

Thousands of them took to the streets, knocked on doors and started helping out and cleaning out. Several of them descended at my parents house and emptied the contents of my parent’s waterlogged basement.

Back here, in Rochester, many fundraising and relief efforts are underway including the Sea Breeze Fire Association collecting and then driving down a truck load of supplies to Staten Island and Long Island.

Brighton and Pittsford kids next week are organizing a bagel breakfast for pick up or delivery to benefit the New York Mayor‘s Fund for sandy relief, aptly named Sand-Aid.

These are indeed dark days and it will take a lot of fundraisers like this in the weeks and months to come, even after the media finds another story to cover. But with relief efforts like this, there will be light again.

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