(New York Jewish Week) — For photographer and Instagram blogger Mordechai Rubinstein, seeing his face plastered all over the subway this holiday season has been an unexpected delight.
Rubinstein is decidedly not a dermatologist (a la subway-famous Dr. Zizmor), nor is he hawking subscription meds or beauty products. Rather, Rubinstein is featured in Nordstrom’s prominent “Make Merry” holiday campaign, where he’s seen celebrating Hanukkah alongside his wife Sara Brown-Rubinstein and their 5-year-old daughter, Isabella.
The ads have been prominently displayed in subway and bus lines across the city. “We first saw it in the wild — we didn’t even know until people started sending us pictures,” said Rubinstein, who assumed the family photo shoot, which happened over the summer in their Greenpoint, Brooklyn home, would be used exclusively on social media. “It was a huge surprise, I don’t know how else to say it.”
The ads spotlight the family of three eating latkes and lighting the menorah together. Rubinstein — who’s known to his 127,000 Instagram followers as @mistermort and describes himself in his bio as “SHMUCK AT LARGE, GARMENTOLOGIST, ANTHROPOLOGIST, photographer, photojournalist and author” — wears a bright pink sweater over a floral shirt and mustard pants, completing the look with a green knit kippah. Meanwhile, Sara and Isabella keep it more simple, wearing a black sweater and white maxi skirt, and a blue and white dress, respectively.
The campaign features other notable New Yorkers celebrating the holidays, including actress Christina Ricci and her hairdresser husband, Mark Hampton, and actor and singer Leslie Odom, Jr., his wife Nicolette Robinson and their two kids. (Actress Robinson is Jewish, and though the Nordstrom ads mostly focus on their family’s Christmas situation, there is also a menorah in the photos.)
“When they came to us for the project, we actually didn’t realize how public facing it was going to be,” Brown-Rubinstein, an interior designer for Ralph Lauren stores, told the New York Jewish Week. “But we love Nordstrom and everything they stand for, and we feel like we’re just a great team of people. They are always featuring such great people from different communities and we love working with them.”
For the shoot, the couple said they had nearly complete creative control — they picked out the decor, food, prayer books and outfits they would be wearing for their pretend Hanukkah party.
“Everything was kosher, obviously. It’s pretty sick to have our yarmulkes and latkes in a Hanukkah ad and not some wack pajamas,” said Rubinstein. “They [Nordstrom] let it be authentic to us.”
Even the latkes — which one observer likened to a hockey puck — are legit: they brought them in from Russ and Daughters, Brown-Rubinstein said.
“Inclusivity is important to us as a company, and we know it is something our customers value too,” Red Godfrey, vice president of creative at Nordstrom, told the New York Jewish Week via email. “Our campaign spreads cheer by showing the real human connection through warm and intimate moments shared amongst loved ones in their most personal settings.
“We aimed to capture the authenticity of real families making merry together and giving us a glimpse of what the holidays look like in their homes,” Godfrey added.
Rubinstein is part of the Lubavitch community and was raised in Rhode Island, Maryland and Brooklyn — his parents now live in Crown Heights. Brown-Rubinstein, who grew up in Connecticut, attended Modern Orthodox synagogues as a child, but now considers herself more culturally Jewish. The couple is dedicated to raising their daughter with a strong Jewish identity.
“I’m Lubavitch — I live for mivtzoim,” Rubinstein said, referring to Chabad’s outreach to less observant Jews, such as the practice of Chabad emissaries asking New Yorkers on the street if they are Jewish during Sukkot and inviting them to shake the lulav.
Rubinstein said the experience of representing and reaching out to other Jewish New Yorkers via the Nordstrom campaign felt very similar. “It’s an honor,” he said.
Alongside the ads, Rubinstein collaborated with Nordstrom to design two handmade, luxury menorahs in the shape of a car and a truck that can be purchased on Nordstrom’s website for a cool $585 and $800 each.
The couple also curated their ideal holiday entertaining items on Nordstrom’s website, including menorahs, cutlery, dishes, and other gifts and shared their Hanukkah traditions with Nordstrom, which include making a latke recipe courtesy of Rubinstein’s sister, Chani.
Now that the eight-day holiday is officially here, the family, just like in year’s past, will light their own menorahs; eat latkes, sufganiyot and gelt; and spend time with family and friends at Hanukkah parties.
Though they have worked with Nordstrom before on a Father’s Day campaign, this is the first time the Rubinsteins have showcased their Jewish identity in such a public, outward-facing way.
“I’m like, very Jewy — I’m the most Jewish,” Rubinstein said. “I love sharing when I’m in Crown Heights with my family, or on Jewish holidays and stuff, I try to share as much as I can. But it’s not often that I get to incorporate it into work — like, never.”
“A big part of my work is documenting and capturing how people wear their clothes, so I’ll put up pictures [on Instagram] if I’m in Crown Heights or Hasidic Brooklyn. I’ll definitely photograph and post from there. But as far as modeling in a campaign like this, it’s something I’ve never really done. To be able to wear a yarmulke [in a campaign] is brand new,” he added.
Interestingly, unlike many American department stores — Macy’s, Neiman-Marcus, Bloomingdales and Bergdorf Goodman, to name a few — Nordstrom does not have Jewish roots. Founded in Seattle 1901 by Swedish immigrants who made their first fortune during the Alaskan gold rush, Nordstrom has been expanding ever since. They opened a seven-story flagship store on 57th and Broadway at the end of 2019.
“We’re proud to be a part of the community,” Godfrey said. “We’re particularly excited about the way this campaign is showing up in New York City and have received positive feedback from customers and local New Yorkers who are seeing the images on billboards, in the subway and on buses.”
For the couple, who met at a concert at now-closed Hiro Ballroom in 2007, the reactions to the ad from friends, family and strangers have also been their favorite part of the experience — a teacher at Isabella’s school called with excitement after seeing the family’s photos on the subway. Even strangers have taken to posting and tagging Rubinstein on Instagram when they see spot the ad.
“It’s really been very heartwarming, so many we haven’t spoken to in a long time have reached out,” Brown-Rubinstein said.
The family hasn’t seen the ad all together yet — Brown-Rubinstein and Isabella rarely take the subway — but Rubinstein said he travels on the train specifically so he can see it. “All I want is to get my family in front of the picture of ourselves on a city bus framed,” he said.
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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.
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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