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Sophie is 85 and survived the Holocaust. Caroline is 29 and new to NYC. Here’s how they became fast friends.



(New York Jewish Week) – It’s a sunny Wednesday afternoon, and Sophie Turner Zaretsky has laid out a tray of fruit and cookies, eagerly awaiting her friend Caroline Crandell. When Crandell arrives at Zaretsky’s Upper West Side apartment, just a few minutes after their scheduled meeting time of 3 p.m., the two break into smiles and embrace.

The two women have been meeting every few weeks since the fall of 2022. Like any pair of friends, they discuss everything that’s going on in their lives and families, as well as current events and their favorite spots in the city. But unlike most friendships, there’s a 56-year age gap between the two: Zaretsky, a Holocaust survivor and retired radiation oncologist, is 85, while Crandell, a software engineer, is 29.

“We just talk,” Zaretsky told the New York Jewish Week as she poured tea for Crandell and a reporter. “Whatever comes into our head.”

“She knows all about my dating life,” Crandell added. “I get a lot of advice, which is helpful.”

The pair were matched through the “Caring Calls” initiative, a flagship program of the Wechsler Center for Modern Aging at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan on the Upper West Side. The program was created during the pandemic to help seniors combat isolation. It enlists some 130 volunteers to reach out to everyone over 70 who has attended any type of program or event at the JCC in recent years. Most of the check-ins happen over the phone: Volunteers call a few times a year to say hello and offer everything from tech support to grocery shopping assistance.

“We want to be there for our community as folks age,” Susan Lechter, the director of the Wechsler Center, told the New York Jewish Week. “No one should be lonely in this world. If we can make a difference in any way, we want to be there for our community.”

And some of these relationship blossom into something deeper. Seniors can request a “buddy” for regular phone calls; according to the Wechsler Center, there have been 140 “buddy” matches so far.

When Zaretsky first heard from Caring Calls last fall, she had a specific request: She wanted to be matched with a young person as a buddy. “I talk to old people and I’m tired of hearing about all the issues and problems with aging,” Zaretsky quipped. “I have my own issues; I don’t want to hear anybody else’s.”

Given that most of the Caring Calls volunteers are middle-aged or older adults, Lechter knew exactly whom to tap: Crandell, who was living by herself in a fifth-floor walkup on the Upper East Side, having arrived in New York via California during the Omicron wave of January 2022. In order to meet new friends, Crandell had enrolled in intramural soccer at the JCC, and she also had inquired about volunteer opportunities there.

“My family is very far away and I haven’t had any living grandparents for a long time. I didn’t know anyone when I moved here,” Crandell said, explaining her interest in the Caring Calls program. “I think it’s good to have different generations and different perspectives come together.”

Matched by Lechter, the pair first spoke in October of last year and they hit it off immediately. “I think we spoke for like an hour,” Crandell said, recalling how they bonded over their dislike of cooking and exercise. “By the end of the call we said to each other, ‘Let’s not do the call thing. Let’s meet up.’ I came over a few days later and we’ve been getting together every few weeks ever since.”

Turner Zaretsky and Crandell get together every few weeks at Turner Zaretsky’s Upper West Side apartment, pictured here on May 10, 2023. (Julia Gergely)

The particular afternoon of the New York Jewish Week’s visit, Crandell had brought over a new blend of tea to try. Over their beverages, the two women share lipstick and book recommendations, and swap stories about their childhoods — which were, not surprisingly, vastly different from one another’s.

Zaretsky, born Selma Schwarzwald in 1937, had grown up in hiding in Lvov, Poland; she and her mother posed as Catholics in order to avoid deportation to the Belzec killing center. She moved to England with her mother in 1948, when she was 10, and wasn’t told she was Jewish until she was a teenager.

“It was terrible,” she said of moving from Poland to England. “It’s very hard to be a refugee when you don’t know the language. You feel stupid. You don’t have the narrative. I didn’t have the narrative for England and I didn’t have the narrative for being Jewish.”

After attending medical school in England, Zaretsky moved to New York in 1963 for her medical residency at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, and found herself alone in a brand new city. In 1970, she married David Zaretsky.

Though the JCC initiative is the first time either Zaretsky or Crandell have participated in a formal matching program, Zaretsky has a history of “adopting” people who look like they might need it. A number of years ago at a dinner at the United Nations, which she attended in place of her son who often worked with the organization, Zaretsky was seated next to the ambassador from Malta. “He didn’t know people in New York, so being the Jewish mother that I am, I had to introduce him to everyone to make sure he could live a good life here,” she said. They’re still friends to this day, Zaretsky said, and she has been known to advise him on certain geopolitical issues when the General Assembly meets.

“I have found that young people nowadays are so educated and so aware, but they still need a little bit of TLC — at least this one does,” Zaretsky said, nodding towards Crandell. “But I do, too.”

Indeed, former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has described a “loneliness epidemic” that peaked, not surprisingly, at the height of the pandemic. Older adults, disproportionately women, have been especially vulnerable, although a Harvard studying 2021 found that older teens and young adults were the hardest hit by the social isolation brought on by the pandemic.

“I feel like in the society we live in right now, isolation and disjointed community is common,” Crandell said. “Everything’s online, every single person has been affected by technology and feeling pretty isolated, no matter what age. Any opportunity to meet people in person or just connect with someone goes a long way.”

This type of relationship is exactly what the program aims to achieve, said Lechter. “We were determined to create more intergenerational opportunities,” she said. “We’re hoping that it becomes more frequent.”

By the time Crandell needs to head to her soccer game, several hours have passed. “I come thinking I’m just stopping by, but it turns out we have hours of things we need to discuss,” Crandell told the New York Jewish Week. “I always lose track of time.”

Like any good Jewish mother, Zaretsky sends her off with a care package of snacks to take home and a plan for when they’ll meet up again — this coming Friday, for Shabbat dinner.

The post Sophie is 85 and survived the Holocaust. Caroline is 29 and new to NYC. Here’s how they became fast friends. 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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