Chris Kelly-Whitney is the first recipient of the CBI Jewish Star award. Chris has been an active member of CBI since her conversion in 2000. It was clear from the start that she took her Judaism seriously and recognized the importance of availing herself, with her many skills, for many different responsibilities at the synagogue. She became an adult Bat Mitzvah in 2004, is a long-standing member of the Religion committee and has been a valuable Board member and a leader in the women’s Rosh Hodesh group. She has led Shabbat services in the Rabbi’s absence on many occasions. She has delivered several memorable d’var torahs.
Chris has been a participant in our Hand in Hand family education programwith her children since its inception, and for the past two years has been the paid teacher of the program, getting praise from children, parents, her fellow teachers and the director of the Sulamot Family Education Initiative, Shoshana Zonderman (part of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, our major Hand in Hand funding source.) The following is a quote from Chris’ evaluation from Sulamot, “I want to commend Chris on the thoroughness of her written reports. They provide a clear picture of the work that she is doing and they are both well written and comprehensive. She is a self-reflective practitioner who is continuously sharpening her program goals and skills to achieve that goal.”
All this does not include her enormous contribution as publisher/editor of our NEWSletter. The quality of this publication has made it something that many of us eagerly look forward to reading. The amount of work and dedication necessary to publish our NEWSletter six times a year cannot be underestimated. CBI would not be the same without her. We honor her work and thank her for all she has given!
- Joanne Ranzer
Chris brings her love of Judaism to everything she does, in the synagogue and beyond. She sparkles with it when she is reading a story to the children at Hand in Hand, when she carefully puts together our newsletter, when she cares for people in a time of grief, and when she celebrates with our women's Rosh Hodesh group. To say that she is an "asset" to our congregation would be far short of the truth; her energy is at the heart of what makes CBI such a special place.
The Jewish Star Award originated during Joanne Ranzer's presidency. Joanne always encouraged members of the Congregation to get involved in the organization. Whether it was to use special skills, or to fill in where there was a need, volunteering and especially a willingness to try out a leadership position brought her both gratification and pleasure.
The idea for the Jewish Star award came as a result of being sure to recognize and honor those individual members who over time, gave freely of their best selves, both at CBI and elsewhere in the community. The contributions might often be a less than glamorous task, in order to get a job done. A Jewish Star recipient would need to bring creativity and an outstanding showing of character and good judgment to their participation and contributions on a regular basis. The award would not necessarily be given annually, but the annual meeting would be a good time to publicly present it.
This year’s Jewish Star qualifies in every category mentioned above.
Dr. Len Radin and his wife Darlene joined CBI soon after they arrived in North Adams in 1973. Then in 1976 and 1983 came three beautiful daughters — Lens personal accomplishment he is most proud of: Michelle, a teacher of the deaf in Alaska, Chaya, a teacher of English as a second language in NYC, and Katie Rose a student at SUNY Buffalo, School of Dental Medicine.
The community activity Len is most proud of is the Drury Drama Team. What started out as a casual, voluntary extracurricular activity has morphed into a nationally known academic department of theatre with a reputation for innovation in educational theatre. He is very proud of his alumni who have used the arts to help make themselves more creative and interesting people. Len’s creation of Drury’s theatre program earned him numerous awards along the way, including the The Governor's Points of Light Award, the highest honor bestowed on a volunteer in Massachusetts. After 20 years of teaching drama, Len was considering retiring, until he was offered, and accepted another challenge. Len is now the paid District Drama Coordinator for all the North Adams public schools.
Len’s contributions at CBI are far-reaching. If he could manage the time, he would agree to serve when others could not. He has been a coordinating member of the Hevrah Chadisha Committee for 25 years. He has been a board member, treasurer and financial secretary for the past 8 years and has served willingly as a member of the executive committee. He created the naming opportunities for new trees and shrubs as we began the costly job of landscaping the grounds of our new building and he set up the process to make it happen. He, and wife Darlene, wrote an original Purim Play, which they both produced and Len played a hilarious leading role! Len has been our resident “facepainter” for CBI celebrations for as long as I can remember.
His most recent grand accomplishment, (and it is on-going) is the total revamping of the CBI website. When Len became aware that the site was poorly maintained, he challenged himself again, and re-organization was initiated. It seemed that within days, we had a user friendly, relevant, updated, creatively designed website, and a new webmaster. The most gratifying change was that hundreds of pictures became easily accessible to our members and guests.
Believe it or not, I could go on, but I think you get the jist and I now proudly present our 2007 Jewish Star Award to Dr. Len Radin.
Presenting the award to Chris
A gala dinner to benefit CBI was held at the Orchards in honor of Bob Greenberg, Allen Kushnet and Marsha Landry for their dedication and service.
The Jewish Star Award is given to a member of Congregation Beth Israel who shows outstanding effort both in the CBI and Northern Berkshire communities. The 2013 award goes to Grace Bowen.
You may know Grace best as CBI president. When she first stepped up, she faced one of the most difficult transitions in our history, struggling greatly with finances and morale and the transition between Rabbi Goldwasser and Rabbi Rachel Barenblat. Ultimately, Grace created a new financial paradigm for CBI: we have a positive bottom line for the first time in recent memory.
Our current financial status wasn’t easily achieved: Grace checked every cent we spent, and vetoed all expenses that she, the executive committee and the board found not absolutely necessary.
Grace, on her own, took on the responsibility of checking the condition of the CBI building and grounds. She and the building committee scouted out the most competent and least expensive contractors to make building repairs.
Grace has served as cook for the Take and Eat Program since it started. She seems undaunted at making meals (with her helpers) for 180 home-bound people. I think of Grace as “The Mistress of Meatloaf.”
Grace is a dear friend of mine. She often stepped in to encourage me and cheer me on when I was president of CBI. Her sardonic chuckle always makes me laugh. Grace has a wonderful sense of humor, and can see the ironies in all aspects of life. She’s a great companion on road trips, and has shown me many sights and eating venues in eastern New York. Through all our fun and serious moments, I most cherish Grace’s constant loyalty and support.
Before she was our Rabbi she was a congregant and while she was a congregant she decided on her chosen path. Her path to the Rabbinate may have been influenced by one of CBIs former Rabbis, Jeff Goldwasser. It may have started as an active member of the Williams College Jewish association. It may have been influenced by her close association with her friend & colleague at school the future Rabbi David Markus. But when asked the question as to why CBI R’Rachel gave an answer we hear regularly around here: she found CBI to be a warm and welcoming community. A community that helped her to be Jewish and to do Jewish. A community that helped her grow. I often wonder why a young person would stay in the County when there is so much more opportunity elsewhere. For R’Rachel it’s not simply that the county has the right mix of culture and nature, a place where she and her son can co-create beautiful lasting memories, it’s also, in her own poetic words, “the impossibly precious opportunity to care for this community and to hold open the door to spiritual practice and spiritual experience so that all feel welcome to walk through.”
What continues to inspire R’Rachel is Yom Kippur and Neilah service in particular. What I find interesting about that is her quiet enthusiasm about that service is probably what makes that hour so special. R’Rachel deep spirituality, love of community and love for this community, her ability to create an environment that allows others to experience the sense of community that she experienced when she first stepped through those doors, the joy of davenning together, dining together, being together is what compelled the Gala committee to come together to award R’Rachel the Jewish Star.
- By Steven Green
Rabbi Rachel Barenblat
Susan Savitt Hogan
Susan Savitt Hogan had a similar experience here at CBI. The one, I guess you could say, glaring exception, is that Sue did not go to seminary. However, it would be very true indeed that without Sue’s involvement with CBI we would not be the community we are today. What brought Sue to CBI was a professional relocation to the region. What keeps her here is the
community and, she has also noted, Bob Greenburg’s food. And the fact that we have a vibrant Hebrew school of youngsters and older, presumably, mature adults. She has specifically mentioned baby namings. Ya know when she mentioned that I thought about it. I’ve been here for just one naming ceremony and it is rather special. In a sense, that child is our child.
Sue has also been thankful for a caring community that, when it sees a need, addresses that need, when one of us is in need there is someone to help. Beyond that there are our special celebrations: Purim, Passover. Celebrations where we are all together as a community. What drove the committee to award her this special honor was because of who Susan is and what, in her quiet way, she brings to our collective table. She has been our treasurer who not only keeps our books but keeps us from the edge. I love hearing those words from her when she delivers her report at boards meetings: We’re in good shape! She does this job with distinction,
she does this job with skill, she does this job with the quiet dignity of someone who is committed to excellence and committed to the community. She communicates loudly by just being who she is. Thank you, Susan, for being our Jewish Star.
- By Steven Green
Two women were honored as Jewish Stars at our 125th Gala celebration on October 20, 2018.