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This Jewish couple ended their three-country wedding tour with a colorful Oaxacan ceremony



(JTA) — For the third of their three weddings, Hallie Applebaum and Elan Raffel set up a chuppah in Oaxaca, the Mexican city where they first confessed their love for each other.

Oaxaca is a vibrant hub of Mexican folk art and incredible food, but Jewish life? Not so much. Nonetheless the couple chose there to wed in an egalitarian Jewish ceremony led by the groom’s sister, Libby Smoler, on Feb 26. And when seven family members and friends gave their own interpretations of the seven traditional blessings, one of Applebaum’s sisters wished them a lifetime of adventures and delicious meals.

The wedding came just over three years after the pair met — online, from their parents’ houses early in the pandemic.

Applebaum’s parents weren’t subtle about wading into her dating life after she moved home to Portland, Maine, in early 2020, the only one of their four children to do so. Her father showed her a video about dating apps and her mother asked her for a demonstration.

Applebaum, 35, downloaded Hinge. The next thing she knew, her mother was hooked. “She’s swiping and swiping, and saying, ‘This is fabulous,’” Applebaum recalled, adding with a joke, “I told her, ‘You have to have some standards.’”

In Los Angeles, where Applebaum had been living, she had been focused first on her job as a producer of external communications for the educational technology division of the World Bank, and her all-consuming side project as the founder of Future of Women, which hosts breakfast events around the world and hosts a podcast for women leaders.

But in her childhood home, with no timeline for when life would resume, she decided to dive into dating, drawing on her extensive experiences living and traveling abroad to experiment with what would generate the most promising results.

“I put my location as different places, like Mexico City or London, for the fun of it,” she said. “When we were so isolated, to have contact with people in these places was nice. But, then, I put myself in a more realistic location.”

That location was New York City, where she soon encountered Raffel, an attorney in the tech industry.

Elan Raffel breaks the glass during his wedding ceremony with Hallie Applebaum, in Oaxaca, Mexico, Feb. 26, 2023. (Mónica Godefroy)

The pair matched and soon learned that they had a lot in common. Like Applebaum, Raffel had moved back in with his parents at the start of the pandemic — in his case Pikesville, a heavily Jewish suburb of Baltimore. Both had attended Jewish day schools growing up; both had spent time living abroad (Applebaum in Guatemala, Ecuador and while pursuing a master’s degree at the London School of Economics and Raffel in his mother’s native Israel); and both enjoyed fine food and off-the-beaten-path adventures.

After months of phone calls and probing conversations — some fueled by “The 36 Questions that Lead to Love” as appeared in The New York Times — they decided that Raffel would join Applebaum for a camping trip in Maine’s Acadia National Park.

“We had an out,” Raffel recalled. “If either of us had a terrible experience, we could back out.”

That wasn’t needed. Instead, they extended their time together — after kicking it off with an unplanned first meeting for Raffel with Applebaum’s parents when she forgot a cooler of food at their house.

“We joke that our first date was two weeks long,” said Raffel.

Soon after, Applebaum met Raffel’s family for Rosh Hashanah dinner. Then, Raffel rented a home in Los Angeles after Applebaum returned there.

With remote work the norm, and a few months dating now behind them, they began considering living and working elsewhere. They decided on Mexico, spending one month in Merida and one month in Oaxaca.

With its vibrant food scene and colorful arts and culture, the couple both fell in love with Oaxaca, and with each other. It was there that they first said, “I love you.”

Hallie Applebaum and Elan Raffel pose with dancers who joined their public wedding procession in Oaxaca. (Mónica Godefroy)

They returned to Mexico in the summer of 2022 while their new condo in Santa Monica was undergoing renovations; it was there that they became engaged. They now regularly host Shabbat dinners in their L.A. home through the nonprofit OneTable.

The first of their three wedding ceremonies took place on Sept. 30, 2022, when they were legally married at the Los Angeles County Courthouse.

The next event took place in Israel, where Raffel’s mother had long hoped that one of her three children would marry. He was her last hope, so the couple said yes to what they thought would be a small wedding there planned by her.

But Shuli Raffel’s plans grew larger and larger, until finally, Applebaum’s parents decided to come and her London-based sister, too. Rabbi Shira Levine of Kibbutz Hanaton, rooted in the Conservative movement of Judaism, officiated a religious ceremony on Oct. 14 at Bistro de Carmel in Zichron Ya’akov with 90 guests present.

Hallie Applebaum and Elan Raffel held one wedding ceremony in Israel, where Raffel’s mother is from. (Taylor Applebaum)

Levine had guided the couple via video calls in writing their own text for the Jewish wedding contract, the ketubah.

“We spoke to the rabbi about ​our relationship, our household, and how do we make this concrete and what traditional things do we want to modify and make more egalitarian,” Applebaum said, adding, “Since I do a lot of work in women’s empowerment, it was important to me to have a woman rabbi.”

Then, over Thanksgiving weekend, the couple held an Israeli brunch in Philadelphia, attended by their grandmothers — Applebaum’s is 102 — who would not be traveling to Mexico. From there, they flew directly to Oaxaca for a menu tasting, where, because Applebaum is vegetarian, it fell to Raffel to try all the fish and meat options they might offer their guests.

The couple returned to Oaxaca for the main affair — a multi-day event that included a day-long tour to a facility where mezcal, a Oaxacan spirit, is made; visits to craftspeople; and two nights of dinners.

On Feb. 26, they had their third and final wedding in front of 72 guests at Cardenal Oaxaca, an events venue. Spicy pineapple mezcal cocktails kicked off the celebration, and a festive meal that won accolades even from foodie guests followed the ceremony.

At their Oaxaca wedding, Hallie Applebaum and Elan Raffel served guests a native corn milk epazote sponge cake with lime cream. (Hallie Applebaum)

“It was amazing,” said Ori Zohar, a guest who is also the co-founder of spice company Burlap & Barrel. “The wedding meal was a procession of Mexican and Oaxacan specialties with an international twist. Beets were grilled and paired with pumpkin seeds and pickled mustard seeds. Duck enchiladas came slathered in a black mole sauce and aged cheese. The main dishes were shared plates, so each guest got to try a little of everything before going back and polishing off the rest of their favorite.”

In one highlight of the day, the couple partook in a local custom where tall likenesses of the couple are made out of paper maché and carried, and people toast the bride and groom. It was, Applebaum said, a perfect way to show off a beloved place to their friends and family.

“Our guests went from this beautiful ceremony that his sister put together,” she said, “to being immersed in this celebration in the streets.”

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The post This Jewish couple ended their three-country wedding tour with a colorful Oaxacan ceremony 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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