Michelle Dardashti, the first non-Orthodox Iranian-American pulpit rabbi in the United States, became rabbi at Kane Street Synagogue in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn beginning in June 2022. A self-described “radical pluralist,” she has been supporting the journeys of Jews of all ages and stages, building a community of Jews in their 20s-40s, launching a Rosh Chodesh group that features artistic, literary and contemplative engagement with the new month, and experimenting with a Renewal-style Friday night service called “Kivun.” Before Kane Street, she served as the associate university chaplain at Brown University and the rabbi of Brown RISD Hillel, where she created initiatives for Jews of mixed identity, interfaith justice dinners, the Hillel Initiative on Racial Awareness and Justice and The Narrow Bridge Project, a dialogue group for students seeking to “reach across divides” on Israel. Dardashti lives in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.
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.
How does your Jewish identity or experience influence your work?
As the proud daughter of an American folk singer and teacher and an Iranian-born cantor, I was raised on a brand of Judaism that is multicultural, meta-denominational, musical and global. I’ve been shaped by both my Eastern European and Persian ancestors. I learned so much in the big, suburban, Ashkenazi Conservative synagogues where my father served as hazzan. But it was the Judaism of my home, where my American mom and Iranian dad literally sang in harmony, that stirred my soul and shaped the leader I am today.
My father’s mother, Hoori Edna, came from the ancient Persian capital city of Shushan, where the Purim story unfolds, and when she and my grandfather moved to Israel in the 1960s, they built an Iranian synagogue in Rishon Lezion, called Beit Knesset Shushan Habirah. As a kid, I loved sitting in the small balcony section for women with my savta [grandmother] and learning the different melodies, rhythms and accents I heard in prayer there. But back in the USA, I also loved visiting my mom’s parents in Florida, where “shul” was a day at the pool or playing folk songs on guitar.
Who is your New York Jewish hero?
My mom, Sheila Dardashti. She grew up in Queens and went to LaGuardia High School. She has a master’s in special education and taught in that field for the majority of her career. Throughout her life, however, she’s used music to teach the story of peoples’ striving for freedom, justice and better lives for themselves and those around them.
What’s a fun/surprising fact about you?
Starting at age 6, I sang and performed as part of my family singing troupe, “A Dash of Dardashti.” We weren’t exactly The Partridge Family, but we hit Jewish festivals, synagogues and residential communities throughout North America during winter and summer breaks and sang in 12 different languages. My parents’ passions for Jewish community and storytelling through music came alive for me when we were on stage.
Do you have a favorite inspiring quote?
“A person must traverse a very very narrow bridge… and the most important thing is that they are not afraid.” — Rabbi Nachman of Breslov
What is your favorite place to eat Jewish food in New York?
My parents’ home in Westchester! It’s a mix of Persian (my dad has become quite the tahdig-maker in his retirement) and American (my mom’s cranberry sauce chicken is divine).
How can people follow you online?
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.
The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.