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These 12 Jewish feminist trailblazers, all over 80, had dinner together last night



(New York Jewish Week) — On Wednesday evening at the Ziegfeld Ballroom in Midtown, hundreds of New York’s leading philanthropists, healthcare executives and businesspeople gathered for the New Jewish Home’s “Eight over Eighty” gala — an annual event put on by the senior healthcare and rehabilitation agency that honors extraordinary New Yorkers over the age of 80 “who personify the value of aging well into our 80s and beyond.” 

But of all the VIPs in the room, there was one table in particular — Table 13, right in the center of the room — that may have embodied that spirit better than any other: Seated around it were 12 of New York’s most accomplished Jewish women, all 80-plus, who have had an outsized influence on politics, journalism, publishing, activism, business and, above all, feminism.

Writer and activist Letty Cottin Pogrebin — one of the evening’s honorees — organized the group, which she dubbed the “Table of Amazing Women.” 

“I see a lifetime of my own reflected in the table because they all come from different parts of my life,” Pogrebin said.

There was photographer, musician, author and wife-of-Alan Arlene Alda, 90; attorney and former Democratic district leader Jane Bevans, 82; the co-founder of the National Organization for Women, Muriel Fox, 95; literary agent Jane Gelfman, 84; the award-winning journalist and urban affairs specialist Roberta Gratz, 82; founder of First Women’s Bank and NY Women’s Foundation, Sarah Kovner, 88; former Manhattan borough president and global ambassador of American Jewish World Service Ruth Messinger, 82; artist and financial advisor Annie Navasky, 83; TV producer Gale Robinson, 83, interior designer Judith Schlosser, 92 and literary agent Phyllis Wender, 89. 

“It just hit me,” Pogrebin told the New York Jewish Week when asked what inspired her to assemble the all-star table. “They said you can have one table. I said I’m going to make it meaningful. I’m going to make it symbolic.”

Pogrebin, of course, is the founding editor of Ms. Magazine and the publication’s Foundation for Women, as well as the National Women’s Political Caucus. She’s well acquainted with awards — she won an Emmy for her work on “Free to Be… You and Me, the ground-breaking children’s book, record and television special; was inducted into the Manhattan Jewish Hall of Fame, and received a Yale University Poynter Fellowship in Journalism.

Still, Pogrebin, who recently published “Shanda: A Memoir of Shame and Secrecy,” knew she wanted to mark the latest honor by celebrating the important women in her life who helped her, along with countless other women, forge her path at a time when it wasn’t clear where, and how, a path could be cleared.

And yet, finalizing the list wasn’t easy. “I had to prune,” Pogrebin said. “If I could have, I would have filled another table.”

“I felt very bad because I didn’t include a 100-year-old friend,” she added. “I think that I wanted to, just in a small way, celebrate admitting your age, owning your age, and coalescing around the idea of being youthful at any age.” 

Pogrebin’s invited guests — though honored and excited to be included — weren’t particularly surprised their friend came up with such a creative way to celebrate the occasion. 

“Leave it to Letty,” journalist Gratz told the New York Jewish Week. 

Looking around the table, Gratz said she certainly felt a sense of accomplishment. “We’ve all done it,” she said. “Imagine that, despite everything we faced. That feels great. I’m glad to be here.”

“I thought it was a great idea,” said Messinger, who was New York City’s first woman mayoral candidate and serves as president of AJWS from 1998 to 2016. “I had the privilege of being honored here a couple of years ago. When Letty wrote, I would not have necessarily come back. But then Letty said, ‘What if we got a whole table together?’ I thought ‘OK, that’s a great idea.’” 

When asked, Messinger offered this advice to current and future generations: “Pursue justice, organize and remember that you’re not required to complete the task, but you can’t refuse to participate,” she said, paraphrasing Deuteronomy 16:20 as well as Pirkei Avot, a classic collection of Jewish wisdom.

Fox, the NOW co-founder, also noted the important role Judaism played in shaping her path and that of her peers. “Judaism has always given women a special role, strong women,” she said. “Certainly in Judaism, we learned about overcoming adversity and overcoming opposition.”

Thinking back on the progress she and her tablemates made, Fox said that her appeal for future generations is that they “carry the torch.”

“There’s still so much to do,” she said.”People sort of thought it was all done. We’ve learned that isn’t the case.”

But Fox added there are many reasons to be proud, as well as optimistic. “We have to be inspired by the fact that so much was accomplished — we changed the world, really, in a very short time,” she said. “In the old days, women couldn’t get credit cards. The ads said ‘Help Wanted Male’ or ‘Help Wanted Female.’ Landlords could say, ‘I don’t rent to women.’ Employers could say ‘We don’t hire women.’ We changed all that in our lifetime.”

As the women chatted over cocktails, it became crystal-clear that they not only changed the world but still wake up every day committed to their causes. 

“I really believe activism keeps you young. If you become passive, if you feel hopeless, and if you feel the problems are too big, you’re going to age,” she added. “You’re going to become pretty limp. Not just in terms of politics, in terms of being alive to the moment, of being interested in young people [when you’re old] and, when you’re young, being interested in old people. Not ruling anybody out of your life.”

The New Jewish Home, formerly known as Jewish Home Lifecare, runs nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities and senior housing in the five boroughs and Westchester Cunty. The  other honorees of the evening were three-time Grammy winner Ron Carter; feminist author Erica Jong; conductor Eve Queler; inventor Sanford “Sandy” David Greenberg; former president and CEO of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, Dr. Billy E. Jones; founding partner of Trian Fund Management, Peter May; former president of the League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes of New York, Bruce McIver and the founder of TAG Associates, Stanley Pantowich. 

David Remnick, editor in-chief of The New Yorker, hosted the gala, which raised $1.3 million, according to a spokesperson. Some of the funds, the spokesperson added, will be directed towards a new program dedicated to aiding older adults in the LGBTQ+ community.

The post These 12 Jewish feminist trailblazers, all over 80, had dinner together last night 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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