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Brandeis U reeling after bus accident leaves 1 student dead, dozens injured; Jewish students hold vigils



WALTHAM, Massachusetts (JTA) — The days before Thanksgiving break were supposed to be packed at Brandeis University’s Hillel: There was a talk on Sunday about sexuality in Judaism, a ceremony for students who participated in a study program and a forum for candidates running to help lead the campus Jewish center.

Instead, Hillel canceled everything and instead threw open its doors for students and faculty in need of comfort and support after one of their classmates was killed and dozens more injured in an accident involving a shuttle bus many of them take regularly.

The crash occurred at 10:45 p.m. Saturday only a half mile from campus, sending shockwaves through the Brandeis community. 

Rabbi Seth Winberg, the executive director of the school’s Hillel and the university’s senior chaplain, said scores of students have reached out to his organization since the deadly accident, unsettled after learning about it from communications from the college and in text messages from friends. He said he has also heard from parents and alumni, from as far away as Israel.

“We are trying to help students process and grieve,” Winberg told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

That was the theme on campus Sunday, as details emerged about the crash and its aftermath. The bus, operated by a contractor who provides transportation services to Brandeis, was returning students to campus from a hockey game at Northeastern University, according to the local district attorney’s office, which is investigating the accident. 

BREAKING: Bus crash on South St in Waltham near Brandeis University. #wbz

— AndreaWBZ (@AndreaWBZ) November 20, 2022

Images and video posted to social media showed that the bus was heavily damaged, its front end virtually disintegrated, its roof shredded after a rollover and all windows broken. Debris was still piled at the South Street crash site Sunday afternoon.

One student died at the scene. Vanessa Mark was “an active and cherished member of the Brandeis community” who was on leave but living in Waltham, according to an announcement by the school’s president, Ron Liebowitz, on Sunday.

By early Sunday afternoon, five of the 26 people who had been hospitalized immediately following the crash remained in the hospital, Julie Jette, Brandeis’s assistant vice president for communications wrote in an email. Jette cautioned that the information was fluid because of the severity of the crash and the complexity of the situation.

“Given the number of injured people and the different hospitals to which they were transported, it is taking time to determine the status of everyone involved,” she said.

Liebowitz announced in a message to the community Sunday that classes would be canceled on Monday and Tuesday and counseling services would be made widely available. 

“This will enable some students to return to family and friends sooner than the normal holiday schedule would have allowed,” he wrote. “For students who will remain on campus, we will have additional opportunities to gather and receive support.”

Liebowitz outlined the resources available to students at a community meeting Sunday morning, where hundreds of students crowded into the campus center for a community-wide gathering about the accident, Winberg told JTA.

Students remained after the gathering for up to an hour, according to Samantha Brody, a junior from Deerfield, Illinois, who is the president of Hillel’s student board.

Students “want to reach out and see each other,” Brody said. “There were lots of hugs.”

She added that both conversation and quiet contemplation were called for: “Everyone needs something different.”

Brandeis, a nonsectarian college, has its roots in the American Jewish community, which founded the liberal arts institution in 1948 at a time when Jews were often restricted in student admissions and in faculty appointments to competitive colleges. Today, just over a third of  undergraduates self-identify as Jewish, according to various published reports.

Students active in Hillel and its leaders quickly came together to organize gatherings to offer support. The Brandeis Orthodox student group scheduled an afternoon prayer service, while the Brandeis Reform Chavurah and Masorti (Conservative) student groups jointly organized a service of their own. On Sunday evening, the community planned to come together to sing niggunim, or wordless melodies, as a quiet way to offer comfort.

“These are examples that show how everyone wants to be together, in person,” Brody told JTA.

Brody said on Sunday afternoon that she did not know anyone who was on the bus but knows people whose friends were. She said she has taken the shuttle bus before.

“Most people on campus have. It’s the easiest way to get to Boston. Everyone is thinking, ‘it could have been me,’” she added.

That was true for Draken Garfinkel, a Jewish senior from the Washington, D.C., area who was not on the bus. “I use it every week to see my brother,” a student at another college in Boston, he said.

When he learned about the crash early Sunday morning, from the university’s communication and from text messages from friends, Garfinkel immediately wanted to do something to help others — especially those on the bus who were hospitalized, he told JTA in a phone conversation.

One of those students is a friend, a foreign exchange student, he said.

He and others who are part of an activist student group helped organize sending text messages to students they knew were in the hospital as a way to express concern for their well being.

It’s important for all students to be aware of counseling services that are available, he emphasized, adding, “One of the worst things is when people don’t know don’t how to deal with grief.”

The post Brandeis U reeling after bus accident leaves 1 student dead, dozens injured; Jewish students hold vigils appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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