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Andrea and Jason Krakow announce the Bar Mitzvah of their son, Caleb Samuel, at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, May 19, at Congregation Beth Shalom. Caleb is the grandson of Marlene Krakow, Vicki Johnson and the late Vern Johnson, and Larry and Susan Krakow. Relatives and friends are invited to worship with the family and to attend the Kiddush luncheon following the service.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum recently honored Sam Devinki by presenting him with its Wings of Memory Leadership Award for the Midwest Region.

The award was presented at a recognition breakfast as part of the Days of Remembrance events in Washington, D.C., on April 18 and 19.

Jill Weinberg, the Midwest regional director of the USHMM, noted that Devinki has dedicated more than two decades to supporting the USHMM on a local, national and international level.

Devinki was appointed by the president of the United States to be a member of the USHMM council, the governing board of the Musuem. Locally he has been the face of the USHMM, bringing programming to the city by hosting and planning events.

“He has a deep and long commitment to bringing Kansas City students to the Museum in D.C. and helping them to understand the power of the Museum,” Weinberg said.

Devinki participated in the first international travel program to Eastern Europe to collect soil and ashes that were placed in the Hall of Remembrance of the USHMM. This was the first of seven international trips that he has been a part of, “truly understanding the work of the Museum on an international level,” Weinberg said.

“Sam is so worthy of receiving the Wings of Memory award for his years of dedication to the USHMM. He represents the best of local, national and international leadership. His heart and mind have embraced the power of the Museum and its unique ability to reach millions throughout this country and around the word,” she continued.

Sarilee Kahn, daughter of Rita and Gilbert Kahn, has earned her doctorate from New York University’s Silver School of Social Work, where her qualitative research focused on the asylum-seeking and resettlement experiences of gay Muslim men and Muslim women subjected to female genital mutilation.

Based in New York City, Kahn is currently a trauma therapist and staff wellness consultant for international humanitarian organizations, providing crisis intervention, counseling and training for national and expatriate staff around the world. Current client organizations include Doctors of the World-USA, for which Kahn is co-director of the Psychosocial Care Unit, the International Rescue Committee, and American Jewish World Service. Kahn has been deployed to several high-stress environments, including Liberia, Afghanistan and Iraq to provide psychological first aid to national and international staff in the aftermath of traumatic events.

Kahn began her work with humanitarian organizations in 1994, when she served as coordinator of a psychosocial program for internally displaced children and families in Bosnia for the International Medical Corps. In 1997, she returned to Bosnia — with Physicians for Human Rights — to develop psychosocial programs for communities during exhumations of mass graves in the aftermath of the massacre at Srebrenica. She held similar roles with Physicians for Human Rights during exhumations in Kosovo, Cyprus and Greece.

From 1999-2008, she served as director of the Cross-Cultural Counseling Center at the International Institute of New Jersey, where she helped launch the Institute’s Program for Survivors of Torture, and launched New Jersey’s first statewide Anti-Human Trafficking initiative.

Ellie Olitsky, a senior at Blue Valley North High School and the daughter of Andrea and Scott Olitsky, earned the 2012 Shooting Stars Scholarship first place award in the photography division ($1,400) given by the Arts Council of Johnson County.

Ellie and the other award recipients and finalists were recognized at the Annual Shooting Stars Gala on Sunday, April 1, at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art and Yardley Hall at Johnson County Community College. This award, and scholarship, is given to a Johnson County high school senior whose photography portfolio is judged to be the best among a group of finalists nominated by their high schools. In addition, one of her photographs was displayed at the Nerman through the month of April.

Ellie also had a photograph exhibited during the 2011 Drexel University High School Photography Contest. Her photograph was one of 140 chosen to be exhibited from more than 1,850 images received from all over the United States.

Ellie designed the sculpture for the Blue Valley North senior garden, created by Leopold gallery, which was installed at the school just last week. Ellie is the vice-president of the National Honors Art Society and will be attending Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore., in the fall.

Sara Mittelman, a Holocaust survivor, is celebrating her 95th birthday on May 10.

Sara and her husband Israel fled their home and family in Pilica, Poland, in 1941 to escape from the Nazis. Through numerous escape maneuvers, they made their way to Russia, only to be imprisoned and assigned to hard labor. After the war, Sara, Israel and their 4-year-old son made their way to West Germany, where Sara gave birth to a daughter. After the next few years, the family was  able to migrate to  America, joining their only surviving relative, Geniek Mittelman, in Kansas City.

The Mittelmans loved America and the freedom and opportunities that were opened to them and their family. Through hard work and slowly learning the English language, they managed to start their own business, manufacturing upholstered furniture.

Sara’s husband passed away more than 16 years ago, but she has since carried on a tradition of giving back to her country with philanthropy, community and religious values. Her growing family includes her two children and their spouses, Harry and Brenda Mittelman and Marie and Phil Koffman, six grandchildren and their spouses, and 14 great-grandchildren, who all know her as “Gaga.”

At the age of 95, Sara still rules the family and constantly teaches her children and grandchildren the values and priorities of life. She is very proud of coming to the U.S. with her husband and children, without the English language and only “$17 in our pocket.” Through hard work and determination, they became successful in so many ways.

Sara’s children are honoring her 95th birthday with a weekend of family festivities May 4-6. All the generations of the Mittelman family are grateful for the privilege of being able to enjoy this still wise matriarch.

The May 26 Shabbat morning worship will include a simcha not often seen in our community — the B’nai Mitzvah of eight adults: Sherry Abramowitz, Adrianne Applebaum, Sue Crane, Barbara Gustin, Ron Jacobson, Audrey Myers, Maureen Salz and David Scott. The adults have been studying together since last fall with teacher Sherrill Parkhurst; they bring a wide spectrum of Jewish backgrounds and Bar/Bat Mitzvah perspectives to the classroom and the bimah.

“The students draw from a lifetime of religious experience ranging from classical Reform to Orthodox to being raised in another faith and choosing Judaism as adults,” said Rabbi Vered Harris, education rabbi at Beth Torah. “Some of the students learned to read Hebrew as children and just needed a refresher; others are learning the skill for the first time this year.”

Choosing to study Hebrew, attend Shabbat worship throughout the year and participate in mitzvah projects with the congregation and as a class is a big commitment. Rabbi Harris said the students have taken that commitment to heart over the past year as they prepared to read Torah, help lead worship and share a bit of their ongoing Jewish journey with the congregation.

“Technically, for Reform Jews, any Jewish person older than 13 plus one day is obligated to the commandments. However, in our day, reading Torah is a meaningful part of the passage into Jewish adulthood,” Rabbi Harris explained. “For those who were not afforded the opportunity at 13, or for those who did not have a positive experience the first time around, an adult Bar/Bat Mitzvah allows us to capture the power of standing at the Torah accepting and relaying our holy text.”

Rabbi Mark Levin said he hopes the commitment and dedication of the students in the adult B’nai Mitzvah class at Beth Torah will encourage others throughout the Jewish community.

“Adult B’nai Mitzvah are affirming their faith at a stage in life when they have reflected and decided: God and Judaism are important in their lives,” he said. “Every adult Jew should consider not ‘whether’ but ‘when’ they are going to read Torah and affirm their place in the chain of Jewish history.”

Shabbat worship, including the adult B’nai Mitzvah, begins at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, May 26, at Congregation Beth Torah.

Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy Principal Gayle Gray has been selected to attend the Harvard School of Education Principals Institute Art of Leadership program June 26 through July 3.

This six-day summer session brings together educators from around the country and even the world to learn from world experts on education and instructional leadership. Gray was selected from more than 100 applicants and only 15 were awarded a full scholarship from the Avi Chai Foundation.

“We are excited for Ms. Gray for her acceptance into this prestigious program,” HBHA Head of School Howard Haas said.
This program is designed to develop leadership skills, and the efficacy and ability to support teacher development and student achievement.

Participants will explore successful models for school improvement, learn how to lead and manage change and understand how to implement curriculum innovation. Through research-based curriculum, they will focus on effective supervision and evaluation, approaches to solving leadership challenges with a focus on U.S. settings and how to best support teaching and learning.

Corey William Waldman has been awarded the degree of Doctor of Medicine, summa cum laude from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine.

He is to begin his residency in ophthalmologic surgery at the Krieger Eye Institute at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, Md., which is an affiliate of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Corey attended Shawnee Mission East High School and is the son of Kathy and Steve Waldman.

Igor and Anna Sorkin announce the Bat Mitzvah of their daughter, Eliora Sorkin, at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, May 12, at Congregation Beth Shalom. Eliora is the granddaughter of Svetlana and Roman Sorkin and Irina Bondar and Vladimir Gruzman. Relatives and friends are invited to worship with the family and to attend the Kiddush luncheon following the service.

David and Erica Bush announce the Bat Mitzvah of their daughter, Rebecca Madeline, at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, May 19, at The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah. Rebecca is the granddaughter of Kenneth and Victoria Bush, Ann Tannenbaum and the late Leonard Tannenbaum. Great-grandmother is Lily Singer. Relatives and friends are invited to worship with the family and to attend the Kiddush following the service.

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