Mishpacha: Brandeis Marin Family Alumni Association
Let us introduce you to our new Alumni Association!
Mishpacha: Brandeis Marin Family Alumni Association
Many of our alumni tell us that the powerful experience of being embraced by this school community has never left them. We seek to revitalize that connectedness among our alumni, and invite you to join us--and reconnect--as we solidify our future as Brandeis Marin. Please take a few minutes to complete your alumni profile and enjoy the articles on this page. Be sure to become friends with Brandeis Marin on Facebook and stay in touch!
On Saturday, August 11, 2018, over 200 Brandeis community members gathered together on Swig Field to enjoy a reunion celebrating 40 years on the Marin campus. It was a magical evening!
The event buzzed with former classmates, teachers and community members reconnecting and reminiscing. Marni Shapiro reflected on her 40 years as an educator at Brandeis. Rita Gershengorn, Susan Kaufman, Jesse Scott and many of their former students treated guests to memorable musical performances. Dr. Peg Sandel concluded the reunion with a moving Havdallah ceremony.
This school year, as we celebrate 40 years on the Marin campus, we hope you will come back to reconnect and join us at upcoming alumni celebrations.
- Meet Team Mishpacha & Your Class Chairs
- Noa Zimmerman Wins Battle of the Bands
- Ari Goldstein Visits Sacred Ground
- Jay Knox: A Report from Retirement
- Becky Genet Fenster: The Blessings of a Brandeis Education
Becky Fenster, Robin Covello, Jennifer Harris-Marks, Laliv Hadar, Aaron Golbus, and D'vora Tirschwell
You might be curious about just who is driving this alumni school bus.
Team Mishpacha has been working hard behind the scenes, and our committee includes student alumni--Aaron Golbus (Class of ‘84), Ira Kaufman (Class of ‘85), Laliv Dramen Hadar (Class of ‘89), Becky Genet Fenster (Class of ‘93), Rachel Greenblat (Class of ‘02 and 4th Grade Teacher), and Hallie Goldstein (Class of ‘10), and current and alumni parents--D’vora Tirschwell, Jennifer Harris-Marks, Meredith Parnell, Sofie Goldstein, Robin Covello, and Pat Goldman.
Our Team’s efforts could not have been successful without the support of a number of Brandeis Marin staff and teachers--Dr. Peg Sandel (Head of School), Pamela Welner (Director of Admissions), Ruth Rosenthal (Lower School Dean and 2nd Grade), Marni Shapiro (Kindergarten), Liz Atterman (Librarian), Angeline Greenblat (1st Grade), Barbara Cohen (Director of Technology), Tyna Jensen (Operations Manager), Anya Aron (Communications Manager), and Elizabeth Takeshita (Office Associate).
To build sustainability in our student alumni association arm, we have built leadership into each graduating class (by year of 8th grade graduation). Click here to see our latest list of Class Chairs/Co-Chairs--and thank those dedicated volunteers for their leadership! Your Class Chair/Co-Chair will help keep you and your class connected to each other and to Brandeis Marin, and be a point of contact for alumni news. We are still in the process of filling out our leadership pool, so if your class still needs leadership and you want to volunteer or nominate someone to serve in that role, please get in touch! Email Team Mishpacha at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brandeis Marin alum Noa Zimmerman, co-recipient of the school’s Henry Schreibman award in 2013, took top honors at the SFJCC-sponsored Battle of the Bands 2016 held this past Saturday evening at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. A veteran of many of Mr. Scott’s zero period bands, Noa is currently a Junior at Redwood High where she performs in both Jazz and Advanced Performance Workshop bands. She teaches guitar and bass lessons to several Brandeis Marin students, and also volunteers at the after-school music program for students at MLK Academy in Marin City.
Performing her original songs, Noa prevailed through three rounds of competition. The first two rounds were judged by a panel of music industry professionals. In the final round, the audience voted for their favorite among three finalists. Congratulations Noa! You make us proud!
Three weeks ago I stood on the outskirts of a small town in western Ukraine, inspecting the remains of the town’s pre-war Jewish cemetery. Its gravestones were falling over, covered by plants, and surrounded by trash. Neighboring farmers had stolen several of the gravestones to use for their chicken coops. And less than a hundred yards behind the cemetery lay a Nazi-era mass grave, ﬁlled with 475 Jewish bodies but covered by nothing more than a thin layer of grass and a footpath.
The town is called Bus’k, and I was there on a Georgetown University trip led by Fr. Patrick Desbois, a noted Holocaust historian and founder of the genocide research organization Yahad-In Unum. But while the image I paint of Bus’k is certainly chilling, it is not unique; in town after town, we saw the same ignorance of history, desecration of memory, and denial of reality. We saw it in Lisinichi, where local children rode their bikes and ATVs on top of an unmarked grave containing up to 92,000 Jewish bodies. We saw it in Sokolivka, where the villagers paved their streets with Jewish gravestones. And we even saw it in Oświęcim, the town next to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where locals built their houses directly on top of a mass grave and former gas chamber. With very few Jews and only a few Jewish communities left in eastern Europe, antisemitism is once again rearing its ugly head.
I distinctly remember learning about the Holocaust in my Judaic Studies classes at Brandeis Marin, discussing the meaning of “never again” with my class and learning the differences between an extermination camp and a concentration camp. It was shocking then as it is now, but it always felt distant, as if antisemitism and genocide were things reserved for the past. Even when we spoke with survivors, I was always aware of the fact that what they had experienced would never happen, not again, not in the age of democracy and the internet.
Bus’k, however, told a different story. As did Lisinichi, Sokolivka, Rava-Ruska, Oscwiecim, Lviv, and all the other towns and cities we visited. The memory of the Holocaust felt suffocating––or perhaps it was the lack of memory that was suffocating, as if the air was infected with death and the water was poisoned by denial. It’s difficult to understand from six thousand miles away, but it became crystal clear while in rural eastern Europe that millions of people would prefer to ignore the history in their backyards than to acknowledge an uncomfortable reality. And except for Fr. Desbois and a smattering of other researchers, no one is objecting to their silence.
As we turned to leave the cemetery in Bus’k, I looked down and saw familiar letters staring back at me:
” ––תא אנפשו/ הה הר רהחיים. These letters are an acronym for the Hebrew phrase “ת.נ.צ.ב. ה
“may his/her soul be bound up in the bond of life” –– and they are the same letters that grace my own grandmother’s gravestone in San Rafael. In that moment, I could sense the invisible bonds between own Jewish American family and the dead Jews of Bus’k or today’s Abayudaya Jewish community in Uganda. We are a pluralistic people, but we are tied together by our shared values, by our shared history, and by a deep and abiding resilience.
I am inﬁnitely grateful to Brandeis Marin for providing me with the Jewish and intellectual foundations with which to navigate the world, and this experience in particular. As I continue along a Jewish journey that has sent me through the Old City of Jerusalem, the forests of Ukraine, and the gates of a JesuitUniversity, I know I will always be guided by the values I learned and the experiences I had at 180 North San Pedro Road.
We recently had a visit from Jay Knox, our famous now-retired Brandeis Marin English teacher. Jay began his teaching career with the class that included Rachel Greenblat (our illustrious current 4th Grade teacher, daughter to 1st Grade teacher Angeline Greenblat, and a member of Team Mishpacha). We asked Jay about retirement, and to comment on our newly launched Alumni Family Association.
Jay Knox with Rachel Greenblat on her 8th Grade Graduation day: "I take full credit for Rachel's success!"
What's Up With Jay Knox?
What a wonderful idea to have a Brandeis alumni association and newsletter. I'm looking forward to hearing about what my former students have been doing. Respectable gossip kind of stuff. Strange to think that some of my former Brandeis students are almost 30 years old. What have I been up to since I retired nearly four years ago? Well, I quickly realized that I've been doing the same things I did when I was a teacher -- except for the teaching part. I've been having fun doing what I like to do: reading, walking, watching movies, conducting experiments as a simulation specialist for computational biochemistry at Stanford. You know -- regular stuff.
Actually, something significant did happen to me a year ago: While I was hiking with Pam, my wife, on the Huckleberry trail above Larkspur, I fell off of a cliff, about 25 feet, and broke my neck in two places, my ankle and four ribs. I was in the hospital for 6 days and spent 7 more weeks almost immobile while I recovered. The doctors told me that the consequences of my injuries could have been worse, much worse. During those long weeks with not much to do, I had plenty of time to reflect about lots of stuff, mostly concentrating, of course,on the more meaningful aspects of life as anyone would do under similar circumstances. The bottom line (I'll skip the more maudlin moments) is that I now reflect daily on those Meaningful Aspects. Yep. I'm a lucky guy. We all sometimes need a wake-up call.
On a less-meaningful, but much more fun, note, Pam and I have travelled a bit. We have visited Scandinavia, Sicily and Brussels recently, all places we've had on our wish list for years -- but work kept getting in the way. Traveling down through the fjords in Norway was something I've wanted to do ever since I saw the movie The Vikings when I was 13 years ago. I didn't see Tony Curtis this time, but the trip was magnificent nonetheless. Sicily was sinister and yet so romantic. I couldn't get The Godfather theme music out of my head -- and I tried! It was a wonderful trip, but no one told me about driving in the cities. Traffic lights and stop signs are sorta suggestions. It was like I was driving a bumper car at an amusement park. Our Brussels trip was our favorite -- great food, beautiful scenery -- but recent horrific events there have given us new perspectives on our experiences. I hope we can revisit Brussels soon.
I've subbed at Brandeis a few times. I always have such a good time there. It's like visiting your grandchildren: You can have fun, leave, and let others deal with any issues.
I love knowing that there will always be new books to read, movies to see, and trails to walk. I'll stay away from cliffs.
The Alumni Association is a great idea.
by Becky Genet Fenster, Class of 1993
By the time I was in 2nd grade at Brandeis I knew that I wanted to be a teacher. Having such influential teachers such as Marni Shapiro, Susie Kaufman and Susan Goldsborough in my early years at Brandeis made me aware of the educational blessing bestowed upon me. And it was my fervent desire to return that blessing upon other children who would one day walk in the same hallways where I grew up.
I returned to Brandeis in the Spring of 2002 – as a long-term substitute teacher in the 2nd grade. At the time, I was 23 years old. Those students are now almost that exact same age – it’s almost hard for me to believe. When I first returned to campus, I used to ask if I could use the phone in the staff room and struggled with calling new colleagues such as Rita Gershengorn, Ruth Rosenthal and Liz Atterman by their first names – since they were my beloved teachers just a few years earlier.
Over the years, I have taught a number of grades at Brandeis. I have taught both lower school Core Academics and Middle School English and Social Studies. I have been a student council advisor, Middle School advisor, outdoor ed chaperone and served on more committees than I care to remember. More recently, I have worked on administrative projects alongside our amazing school head, Dr. Peg Sandel. I have celebrated every major life cycle event while working at Brandeis – my wedding, the birth of my children and the death of a step-parent and four grandparents. I have laughed, cried, nearly pulled my hair out in frustration and collapsed in utter exhaustion. But, I would not change a moment of my history with Brandeis. It has so largely influenced who I am.
Thanks to my time at Brandeis, I cannot imagine there are many people who are as lucky as I am. As a child, I was blessed to receive my teachers’ incredible guidance, and I have been equally blessed by my return to the school in a professional capacity. The friendships that I have made, the students that I have taught, the community that has been my home for nearly three decades is truly and deeply one of my greatest life blessings.
Thus, when I was approached to help build our new alumni association earlier this year, I jumped at the opportunity. To me, Mischpacha is the bridge that brings us all together. I have reconnected with friends from my own childhood days and many students from my teaching career. It has brought about photos, emails, yearbooks, conversations and more memories than I could ever capture on a page. Mischpacha is the overarching link, to bring all of us back together in whatever ways we find most meaningful. I am so looking forward to helping build this outreach opportunity for our school and hope you will join me in our efforts.