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This young American couple had Scotland’s first-ever queer Jewish wedding



(JTA) — Han Smith and Jennifer Andreacchi recently made international news for becoming the first queer couple to have a Jewish wedding in Scotland. But at the time they met, they had never been to Scotland, and they didn’t yet identify as queer — or Jewish.

Smith, 26, grew up in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and has a Jewish father but wasn’t raised Jewish.

“I was content with that until a few years ago, when I began feeling like I wanted to reclaim something that had been lost,” said Smith, who uses they/them pronouns.

Andreacchi, 25, who is from Randolph, New Jersey, only discovered in 2018 that her father had one Jewish grandparent, when she did a DNA test.

The couple first met in the spring of 2015, when they both attended a New Jersey reception for admitted students of the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.

After noticing each other — mostly because they both asked the most questions out of everyone there — they exchanged numbers and began a friendly text connection over the summer.

When Andreacchi realized she might be queer, she chose Smith to come out to first, “as it can often be easier to tell a stranger than someone close to you,” she said. Smith confided they were feeling the same way.

Since Andreacchi was only 17 then and Smith 18, “we encouraged each other,” Andreacchi said. “It was nice to have someone going through coming out at the same time.”

“With Jen, I’m brave in a way that helps me know more about myself in the world,” said Smith. (Fern Photography)

They became part of the same friend group once they arrived at school, and it wasn’t long before they were dating.

“We started off a tad codependent, but we’ve managed to grow together, and have pushed each other and challenged each other to be our best selves,” said Andreacchi.

That included spending their junior year abroad at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, “which was a really transformative experience for both of us,” Smith said. It also made them want to pursue moving abroad after graduation.

Smith took a class in modern Jewish history their senior year, which raised all kinds of questions about their ancestors (they knew their family surname had changed, but not from what). “It really started my journey and my approaching Judaism from a different angle,” they said.

The couple moved to Dublin after graduating in 2019. The next spring, they celebrated their first Passover together, while in lockdown.

The pandemic gave them a lot of time to talk and think, and during this time, “we began talking about Jewish identity, what it meant to us and what it could mean,” Smith said. They became more sure of their Judaism; at the same time, the couple determined that they wanted to keep living abroad. Andreacchi decided to pursue a master’s degree at St. Andrews, while Smith started a doctoral program in counseling and psychology at the University of Edinburgh, which brought them back to Scotland. Andreacchi now works in publicity for a publishing house.

While Andreacchi was supportive of Smith’s investigation of Judaism, when it came to herself, “I was intimidated by it for a while,” she said. “I wasn’t 100% sure what right I had to claim it.”

Guests danced a traditional Scottish jig called a ceilidh as well as the Jewish hora. (Fern Photography)

But in Edinburgh, they found a welcoming Jewish community, where, they said, many of the younger community members are queer. (In addition to Sukkat Shalom, the liberal community in Edinburgh, there is an Orthodox synagogue as well as Chabad. Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city of about 500,000, is about 50 miles away from the much larger Glasgow, home to the fourth-biggest Jewish community in the United Kingdom and a queer-friendly, Yiddish-speaking, anarchist-run cafe.)

“We’ve found an amazing Jewish community here,” Andreacchi said. “The Edinburgh liberal community has really embraced us.”

When they began wedding planning, a Jewish wedding wasn’t on the table, as neither even knew yet that they would convert. But because they planned their wedding so far in advance, when they realized they could complete conversion beforehand, they set their sights on a Jewish ceremony. Both studied for their conversion under the supervision of Rabbi Mark Solomon, a London-based rabbi who serves Edinburgh’s Sukkat Shalom.

“He’s created a very safe and inclusive community,” Smith said.

“He has a very open-minded approach to what God is and the role of tradition, and he’s changed the gendered pronouns,” Andreacchi added.

They proposed to each other at Edinburgh Castle by reading letters to each other and exchanging rings in May 2021. Their conversions took place in September 2022.

When they began wedding planning, they had no idea they would be the first Jewish LGBT couple to marry in Scotland. But as word got out, community leaders wondered and then confirmed that, indeed, they would be the first.

The news of their wedding — which took place on Oct. 30, 2022 at St. Andrews, officiated by Solomon — was widely covered in the U.K. press. (Marriage for LGBT couples has been legal in Scotland since 2014.)

“There was a lot of excitement about us and our wedding that we didn’t anticipate,” Andreacchi said.

In Edinburgh, the couple found a welcoming Jewish community, where, they said, many of the younger community members are queer. (Fern Photography)

Andreacchi wore a forest green and gold velvet fantasy literature-inspired dress she found on TikTok, while Smith wore pants, a bowtie and suspenders, along with a scarf with the Mitchell tartan on it, because “while we were making history as Americans and not Scottish citizens, it was nice to feel like I was tying a piece of my ancestry together,” they said, referring to their mother’s roots in Scotland and Ireland.

The morning of their wedding, together with their wedding party, the couple decorated their chuppah together.

For the seven blessings, they assigned seven siblings, friends and cousins to expound upon themes that are important to the couple. Smashing the glass on the carpet took three attempts.

In addition to the hora, their reception included Scottish dances called ceilidh (pronounced “keely”).

“For a lot of my life, I wasn’t visible to other people, I felt a little small,” Andreacchi said. “Han was one of the first people who not only really saw me but radically accepted me and loved me and encouraged me to follow dreams I didn’t know were possible.”

Smith added, “With Jen, I’m brave in a way that helps me know more about myself in the world.”

The post This young American couple had Scotland’s first-ever queer Jewish wedding 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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