Mia Simring, 41, is a rabbi and a Jewish chaplain at Rikers Island, New York City’s largest and most notorious jail complex. Simring, who lives on the Upper West Side with her family, says she was inspired to become a chaplain when her mother was hospitalized with cancer. “I felt very much like I wanted to be there at the most intense moments and not just tragic moments, but really joyful moments as well,” she says. Simring became a chaplain at Rikers in 2018 where, she says, “I get to talk to people and I get to pray with people. A lot of it is also explaining the diversity of Jewish life. People have a lot of questions about what it means to be Jewish. Just getting into those conversations and using them as springboards for these pastoral encounters can be really powerful.”
For the full list of this year’s 36 to Watch — which honors leaders, entrepreneurs and changemakers who are making a difference in New York’s Jewish community — click here.
Was there a formative Jewish experience that influenced your life path?
I trained in healthcare settings throughout rabbinical school and after, but over the years my activism was also maturing. I was lead organizer of a “moral minyan” against ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] detention with T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights; it gained a lot of momentum and we had some amazing speakers and performers.
The more the social injustices of the world started to stand out to me, the more I wanted to be involved. I started to look for ways that I could use what skills I had as a rabbi to provide direct service to vulnerable people. I’m less able to fully embody that activist side in my work now, but to really to be in there [at Rikers] with a lot of people who feel so isolated and so forgotten is really powerful for me. It gives me a good feeling of going something for those who are sort of at the bottom of society and need help and can’t always access it.
What was your best experience as a Jewish New Yorker?
Being raised here and raising my children here
What are three spots in NYC that all Jewish New Yorkers should visit?
I grew up very secular and I grew up in Gramercy. I used to walk through the East Village a lot and there was sort of a spot that always inspired me, which was Emma Goldman’s historic home. These things that seems so radical at the time, like the 40-hour work week and having a weekend and workers’ rights, are now what we take for granted. To think about the Jewish immigrant community that my family really came out of, and that we all — Jewish and non-Jewish — benefited from always sort of gave me a little bit of a nice energy.
Another spot would be tashlich at the Hudson River. It’s just so much energy, so many different Jewish groups kind of end up in the same place and it’s really inspiring and uplifting.
Thirdly, the tailor statue in the Garment District. When my grandmother’s family came over, her mom was a garment worker doing piecework, which is now considered sweatshop conditions because you got paid by how much you produce and not by your time and labor. Most garment workers now are Asian and Latina women, and it reminds me that we’ve gone through many waves of people making clothes who are frequently from disenfranchised groups. It’s a moment for solidarity between all of us.
What is your favorite book about New York?
It’s always the last book I read for me, so the last New Yorky book I read was “This Time Tomorrow” by Emma Straub. I also really love “Tepper Isn’t Going Out” by Calvin Trillin because in college I got a car, and then I had to figure out how to park it when I would come home and visit, and that is a book about parking in New York City.
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.
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.”
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.)
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.
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