(New York Jewish Week) — When disability activist Lily Brasch was asked if she would walk the runway as a model for New York Fashion Week, she didn’t know if she would be able to do it.
That’s not because she has a rare form of muscular dystrophy, which weakens muscles and limits her ability to walk. Rather, it was unfortunate timing: The show was set for Friday evening, when the weekly Jewish holiday of Shabbat begins.
But Brasch, who is Orthodox and goes by the stage name Lily B., quickly devised a workaround: She took her turn on the catwalk in Midtown at 5:00 p.m. and, instead of schlepping back uptown to her Morningside Heights apartment, quickly headed to a nearby hotel to welcome Shabbat with her sisters.
And so on Friday, Feb. 10, Brasch became the first model with muscular dystrophy to walk the runway unassisted at New York Fashion Week, and the second person with the condition ever to appear. (The first was actress and model Jillian Mercado in 2020, who used a wheelchair.)
“It felt really good — it felt freeing,” said Brasch, 22, who modeled a gold sari from the brand Randhawa, which specializes in modern South Asian style. “I definitely never thought I would do something like this.”
“I prioritize representing disability, and pride, and just bringing joy to that community, but I also prioritize remaining truthful to my faith,” Brasch said. “It was great teamwork to get me on the stage and represent disability, and then come right off to go celebrate Shabbat.”
When Brasch was 16, she was diagnosed with centronuclear myopathy, a rare form of non-progressive muscular dystrophy. She was told she would never be able to walk or lift heavy objects unassisted due to her disability. At the time she was disheartened — but she said she used the diagnosis as motivation to “prove barriers are meant to be broken.”
Walking in New York Fashion Week — which runs through Wednesday — is the latest in a series of triumphs for Brasch, who moved to New York last August to attend Columbia University. Last March, Brasch climbed Camelback Mountain in Scottsdale, Arizona — a feat which she calls “My Everest.” She’s also competed in body-building competitions and loves going to the gym.
She also founded the Born to Prove foundation, which promotes disability awareness and breaking barriers.
Though the Chicago native has not always been outward about her Judaism in her activism — in fact, at first she was advised by friends and family not to bring attention to it — Brasch has come to realize how much her religion guides her.
“My Jewish identity has inspired me in that we’re all put on this earth for a reason. Every single one of us has a purpose and that’s what my religion has helped me find,” she said. Her purpose, Brasch added, is to represent strength and beauty for people with disabilities in the next generation.
She also wants to be an inspiration within the Jewish community. “There is a lack of representation in the Jewish community, at least in my Orthodox community, of people with disabilities actually achieving things,” she said. “It’s not really talked about and it’s looked down upon.” Groups like RespectAbility and the Rudin Family Foundation have been working to change that.
She was worried about posting on social media from Fashion Week, knowing her observant friends might question the timing around Shabbat. But Brasch said she was pleasantly surprised when so many congratulated her on representing disability and Judaism and staying true to herself on the runway. “That was one of the best things for me to see because that was my initial goal: to show that there are people with disabilities in the Jewish community and things are changing,” she said.
Brasch is also partnering with Movinglife, an Israeli manufacturer of folding mobility scooters — a deal she inked just before she found out she would walk in Fashion Week. The company partnered with rabbis as well as researchers from the Zomet Institute in Israel to ensure that their scooters could be used on Shabbat even though they are electric, said Brasch, who currently uses the scooters to get around.
With her modeling debut behind her, Brasch said she would walk in Fashion Week again — but she’d rather see other models with disabilities on the runways. “I hope that next time it’s not me — it’s the next girl,” she said.
“The feeling of overcoming something and the feeling of being put out there and being cheered on is something everyone should feel,” Brasch added. “Often, with a disability, I hear ‘poor you.’ It can’t be like that anymore.”
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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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