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Car talk: Jewish auto writers gather for a Passover seder at Katz’s Deli



(New York Jewish Week) — The idea of eating pastrami with matzah instead of rye bread may strike some as a sacrilege, but for members of the Jewish Auto Writers Society of America (JAWS), who will gather this week for a Passover seder at Katz’s Delicatessen, it’s become a tradition.

“Frankly, bread is a filler,” said Joel Feder, a senior producer for the web sites Motor Authority, The Car Connection and Green Car Reports. “You can eat more pastrami if you don’t waste space on the bread.”

Feder will lead the JAWS seder on Wednesday evening, the first night of Passover. About 30 automotive industry journalists and public relations professionals are expected to attend the gathering, which is held in a back room at the iconic Lower East Side deli. The annual event, which began in 2013, is timed for the press day at the massive New York International Auto Show at Javits Center, which opens to the public this year on Friday. A bus brings JAWS members and their guests to the deli on Houston Street.

The seder is JAWS’s big annual event, though there are efforts underway to gather in Los Angeles at the Genghis Cohen Chinese restaurant in the Fairfax section of the city during the Los Angeles Auto Show in November. The seder is sponsored by Volvo and Nissan and, yes, it has been duly noted that Passover takes place in the Hebrew month of Nisan.

“If a rabbi ever walked in, I think he’d have a heart attack,” joked the seder’s founder, Russel Datz, the national media relations manager for Volvo Car USA.

But not necessarily: Though the gathering is decidedly informal, and the food is not kosher, the JAWS seder features all the accouterments you’d expect at a seder: a seder plate, matzah, wine and a festive meal that, in addition to pastrami, includes brisket, corned beef, tzimmes and matzah ball soup.

What’s more, the group uses a haggadah written by an Orthodox rabbi. “The World’s Shortest Kosher Hagaddah” by Rabbi Yonah Bookstein of the Pico Shul in Los Angeles fulfills all the halachic (Jewish legal) requirements of the Passover seder, and it takes just 10 minutes to get from the blessing on the first cup of wine to the concluding “Next year in Jerusalem!”

The haggadah was found on the internet by Dan Passe, who worked for Nissan for 17 years and left recently to take a job as global head, communications and marketing, for the Nikola Motor Company, an electric truck manufacturer.

Passe has embraced the speedy seder concept for years and readily concedes it is an act of rebellion. “I grew up going to my grandparents in Bayside, Queens, who did a three-hour long seder where you thought you were going to pass out before you got to eat,” he said. “This haggadah, if you want to call it that, is such a great way of making [the holiday] really clear and making it very snackable, if you will.”

Bookstein, who created the 10-minute seder in 2010 for the Jewish rapper known as Kosha Dillz, was delighted that the car guys and women would be, um, speeding through his haggadah. “That’s awesome. I’m originally from Detroit so I have a soft spot for the automobile writers,” he told the New York Jewish Week.

According to its Facebook page, JAWS has 110 members. Datz started the group in 2013 as a way for Jewish industry people to gather as a community during the New York auto show, which is almost always held during the week in which Passover falls.

Feder, who hails from Plymouth, Minnesota, said he is getting grief from his mother for not being home for the holiday this year. (He’ll catch a flight Thursday morning and land in Minneapolis in time to make it to the second seder.) As this year’s seder leader, Feder is filling in for Datz and Passe, who aren’t coming to the New York auto show this year because of family commitments.

Russel Datz, right, leads the annual JAWS seder at Katz’s Deli in Manhattan in 2022. (Kevin Albinder)

In addition to the traditional wine cup left for the prophet Elijah, there will be two unoccupied seats for Datz and Passe, said Evelyn Kanter, president of the International Motor Press Association and a regular at the JAWS seder since its first year. (When Datz was informed of the empty seat gesture, he quipped: ”Is she lighting yahrzeit candles as well?”)

Kanter called the deli gathering “a beloved tradition. It’s a family of people in the automotive business who are all homeless [during the auto show].”

An Upper West Sider, Kanter grew up in Inwood, back when the nearby neighborhood of Washington Heights was known as Frankfurt-on-the-Hudson because of its large German Jewish immigrant population. After stints as an investigative consumer reporter for New York radio and TV stations, Kanter became known as the ecoXplorer, writing about travel and the environment, in addition to cars.

This year, Kanter’s daughter is in Los Angeles and her son in New York is working the night of the first seder. So, in addition to the JAWS seder, she’ll attend a virtual seder on the second night. “I’ll have dinner with my son early next week and we’ll have a delayed Passover,” Kanter said.

According to Passe, half of the seder’s participants at the deli are not Jewish. “They ask to attend because they’ve never been to a seder before,” he said. “We have people who return year after year after year who are not Jewish because they love the ceremony.”

Jenni Newman, the Chicago-based editor-in-chief of, was invited by two Jewish colleagues at her company and attended JAWS seders in 2019 and 2022. She’s planning to go to her third this week. (There were no seders during the pandemic.) Although Newman describes herself as “super active” in the Lutheran Church growing up, she considers it a gift to experience other peoples’ religions and cultures. “I really enjoyed going through the ritual with everyone and having people sitting next to me explain things,” she said. “I was kind of overcome emotionally just being part of it.”

Last year Newman “found” the afikomen, though it wasn’t much of a hunt: At the JAWS seder, the hidden piece of matzah is taped underneath a random seat. The person who finds the afikomen gets their choice of a high-end Nissan or Volvo to drive for a week after the auto show.

But the real prize goes to local JAWS members, Passe noted. “If you are local and you attend, you go home with the biggest doggy bag you can possibly imagine,” he said.

Kanter, the recipient of said doggy bags, concurs. “Leftovers at Katz’s are simply too good to waste,” she said.

The post Car talk: Jewish auto writers gather for a Passover seder at Katz’s Deli 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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Local News

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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