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Amazing Women Celebrate Spiritual Life With a B'not Mitzvah

UPublish story by Sherry Gavanditti

{Beachwood, OH} The last time a group of women from Wiggins Place on the Menorah Park Campus had a B’not Mitzvah, international media from AARP to Good Morning America, to Associated Press to a Jerusalem newspaper covered it, catapulting those ten women into instant stardom! Even the Oprah Winfrey Show called, along with a Hollywood book agent! This time, there are five women, each just as amazing, who recently had their own special day.

Rabbi Howard Kutner officiated the ceremony on theMenorah Park Campus. In attendance were community members, residents, staff, and the womens' families and friends from near and far. Each woman's astounding story differs, but they all said they enjoyed the experience a bit more than expected due to the often funny and quirky Rabbi Howard Kutner, who "makes study fun," and cares about them and their lives as they enjoy their senior years.

Each woman shared a bit about herself and her reason for participating in this spiritual journey:

ANNE BERK, artist, said she feels totally at home surrounded by her art. Her work is exuberant in color and content, whether oil or silk print. This creative emphasis is the continuation of her lifetime of learning. She has taught classes at the art museum and works as a docent there. With a sense of wellbeing, she says “every day is a gift.”

The memory of her sons’ B’nai Mitzvoh is her strong motivation for wanting the experience, since she could not do this as a young woman. She has always been interested in education and learning, and is open to all that life has to offer. She once used running as an outlet to help her handle the grief of the loss of her son, even after being hit by a car and hospitalized for almost six weeks. After her husband passed away, she continued her art and enthusiastically maintains her “love of life” in all its facets today.

HERTA CHOLFIN emigrated with her family to the U.S. from Vienna, Austria in 1938, when Hitler was in control. Many family members went to Israel, some came here, but her grandparents were simply too elderly to travel.

She and her brother graduated from Glenville High School, and she went on to business school to obtain employment as bookkeeper-secretary.

She admits that when she was young she really envied her brother for his achievement as a B’ar Mitzvah. And, she has finally experienced her B'at Mitzvah. She said she is enjoying it all.

LYNNETTE GOODMAN said she became involved because of Rabbi Kutner’s Hebrew class, but when she was offered the opportunity to aim for B’at Mitzvah she said she “went along for the ride.” Not to mention, she had been envious of her brothers when they were young. From a part time job at Park Synagogue’s pre-school, she studied and became a Social Worker and worked at Cuyahoga County’s Children and Family Services. Returning to college she obtained a Master’s Degree in Social Work and Administration and became Director of Social Services at Margaret Wagner Home. She has infinite respect for her faith and for all Rabbis.

From a totally different religious environment BEA GRAY likes a challenge, and becoming B’at Mitzvah is a challenge she couldn’t resist. She said Rabbi Kutner was also her predominant reason for becoming involved, citing the quality of his teaching and his caring about each individual in his class. During her earlier years she was a member of Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver’s temple, Tifereth Israel.

DOROTHY PEARL’S family owned a bakery where her mom and dad worked from dawn until dusk in order to make a living. She remembers going to the bakery from school to get instructions for the evening. Also a Glenville High School student, she met and married her husband within a six month period. He owned a carpet business, and she enjoyed showing the carpet samples. Dorothy recently exclaimed, “I’m very excited about this celebration now, and am learning my Hebrew.” What is amazing and enchanting about this wonderful group of women is their personal commitment to effort, to learning, to living life to the fullest each day. Rabbi Kutner's influence and relationship to these residents is profound.


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