Currently living in: Swampscott
Alma maters: Roxbury Memorial School for Girls, Boston University
What was your Jewish background
I did most of my growing up in Dorchester, and I had a very traditional Jewish upbringing. We belonged to what then was Mishkan Tefila. I went to Hebrew school, I went to confirmation class, I went to Saturday services because it was mandated that you had to. And at home, my mother and grandmother were very conservative, and traditional, and everything was done the way it was supposed to be done. So I had a very firm, Jewish background.
Later on, as I got older and was going to college – in those days, everybody didn’t sleep away, they went to college near home – I got involved with Hillel, and then my mother and my sister moved to Newton. At that point, I was in the middle of college. There was a group at Temple Emanuel in Newton for what they called “young people” and a lot of singles that were going to college or were out in the workplace, and it was a very good social activity – meeting all kinds of people, again in a Jewish setting. Incidentally, from that young peoples’ group, when I moved [to Swampscott] after I got married, I met some of the people I had met way back then.
Did you give your own children a similar Jewish upbringing?
It changed. We didn’t – there was still a conservative background, and my kids went to Temple Sinai [in Marblehead], they went to Hebrew school, the whole thing, bar and bat mitzvah, and so forth. So it was really a continuation, maybe more modern, maybe a little different in methods of teaching, in what the curriculum was. After I got through with my stint as president of Temple Sinai, I became president of the [now defunct] North Shore Hebrew School, which I was chairman of for five years, and it was changing radically then. The move was to get the kids to Hebrew school, but some kids, they didn’t go … they might want to go skiing, or they might be in a dance group, and we were supposed to adjust the Hebrew school schedule to their schedule … it was an uphill battle.
What other work have you done in the community?
Most of it was involved in Temple Sinai – I recently got involved with the Jewish Federation, which became CJP [Combined Jewish Philanthropies]. I was instrumental in starting the Jewish Women’s Endowment Fund of the North Shore, which is an ongoing, self-sustaining, stand-alone organization that depends on donation from women in the community, and we give annually about $20,000 to $25,000 in grants to programming that’s submitted by the various women’s organizations.
In your opinion, what is the state of the Jewish community on the North Shore?
The demographics are changing rapidly. I don’t know where everyone is going, but they’re not coming to Swampscott and Marblehead. When we came, it was thriving. People were moving from Chelsea, Revere, and that end of the North Shore to Swampscott and Marblehead and Beverly and Salem, but now, I don’t know where they’re going – if they’re here, they’re not joining synagogues. It’s not that I’m not optimistic. I think everything has a cycle. This happens to be a difficult time of the cycle.
What is the biggest societal change you’ve witnessed in your life?
I was thinking that one of the big changes that’s about 20 years old is women opening their mouths and letting it be known about domestic abuse. The openness and acceptance of people that are different than you – because we were a very closed society when I was growing up, and we didn’t talk about those things, because Mother wouldn’t like it. But there was a whole different attitude. We don’t brush stuff under the rug anymore. I think we’ve saved a lot of severe psychological problems, I think there’s a tremendous difference when people don’t have to be ashamed of who they are, or what they are, or what they’ve done. It’s more of an open society, and I think it’s for the better.