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The Jewish Community Center is holding its annual Open House this Sunday, Jan. 9, from noon to 3 p.m.  The Fitness & Sports center, including the indoor pool, will be open free of charge and visitors will be able to learn about the variety of JCC programs. Chiefs fans will also be able to watch the playoff game on a big-screen TV.

JCC Executive Director Jacob Schreiber said the annual event is a great way to recruit new members.

“Try us out, work out, use the pool … everything is available that day for free!” Schreiber said.

He said the event is a great opportunity for the JCC to “showcase what we have to offer as a fitness center as well as our full community center experience.”

In addition to the fitness center, visitors will be able to learn about the JCC’s summer camp, which Schreiber said is being enhanced for the coming summer. Representatives will be available to give tours of the award-winning Child Development Center and its early childhood programs as well as show off the Lewis and Shirley White Theatre.

“This is a good time to showcase the Center, as others do around the country, because this is the time when people make resolutions to get back in to shape,” Schreiber noted.

The gym will be open for youth basketball, the Youth Fitness Zone will be open for children ages 6 to 14 and a racquetball tournament will be played. Individuals can also try out group exercise classes — including Zumba, BodyJAM, cycling, Boot Camp, BodyAttack, BodyVIBE, yoga, BodyFlow and BodyPump — will also be demonstrated.

There will be free refreshments, plus incentives will be offered to both members and non-members. Current members who bring a non-member to visit during the Open House will receive a free JCC coupon box, which includes tickets to a White Theatre performance, two free “Saturday Night Out,” program enrollments, two free yoga or Kinesis classes, and three free visits to the Youth Fitness Zone. They will also be entered to win a free LCD TV and other prizes.

Non-members who join the JCC. Jan. 9 only, will receive two months free, a JCC coupon book and hundreds of dollars in free services.

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Women in the Jewish community will once again celebrate the new year of the trees with a Tu b’Shevat seder on Sunday, Jan. 23. (The holiday itself is Jan. 20) The event will be held at the Jewish Community Campus and it is being jointly sponsored by Jewish Federation Women’s Division Yad B’yad and Rosh Hodesh: It’s a Girl Thing! A Learning for Life Program.

This is the second time the two organizations have collaborated on this event. Beverly Jacobson, Women’s division director, said the reason the committee decided to do Tu b’Shevat again is because it was “so well attended and enjoyed by so many women and young girls the last time.”
In fact almost 200 girls and women attended the first seder in 2009.

“This year we are hoping to achieve the same level of satisfaction,” Jacobson said. “The different speakers achieve a different focus.”
The span of women through the ages is “one of the coolest things” about this seder, according to Samantha Feinberg, the Learning for Life associate who is helping plan the event.

“Last time we saw girls as young as 12 and, I believe, there were women in their 80s there as well,” Feinberg said.

Karen Gerson, CAJE’s director of Informal Education, said another great thing about the event was that “it was intergenerational by more than just two generations.”

Like last time, activities are being created to help the generations interact.

“Some of the activities are created for the younger age group to collaborate with the older age group. Some of the activities give the older age group the opportunity to share their experiences and traditions with the younger generation,” Gerson said.

Again, like last time, Feinberg said the committee will take care in seating people so that there will be a nice mix of women at the tables.

“People were comfortably seated with people they already knew and there was an opportunity to meet new people as well,” Feinberg said.

Feinberg, who works with girls in the Rosh Hodesh program, is looking forward to the event, noting that it’s a nice way to get girls and their mothers together.

But the event also lets the girls gain insight to the larger community of Jewish women.

“In Rosh Hodesh there’s ritual and camaraderie and it’s nice to see that the learning doesn’t stop when you’re out of school. It’s good for them to see that women of all ages can come together and celebrate being women and celebrate Judaism for the rest of their lives,” Feinberg said.

The seder itself

Feinberg explained that a Tu b’Shevat seder is like a Passover seder in many ways, including the fact that there’s order to the ceremony.
“But there’s also sharing and the chance for individual expression of the rituals,” she said.

Just like at Passover, there are four glasses of wine drunk during the seder. At the Tu b’Shevat seder, however, the color of the wine in each glass is varied. The cups of wine symbolize the various seasons.

It is also popular to commemorate Tu b’Shevat by eating foods that can be found in Israel — such as olives, figs, grapes, honey, carob fruit and pomegranates. Some of these foods are mentioned in Deuteronomy 8:8, which describes Israel as “a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey.” In addition to the holiday fare, participants at this seder will also be treated to an assortment of sweets.
The theme of this seder is “Nourish the World Nourish Ourselves.”

“In keeping with the ‘new year of the trees theme,’ ” Feinberg said, “the seder will focus on the many ways we nourish the environment, the community and ourselves.”

Jacobson points out that once again they are aiming toward a “green seder, with eating utensils that decompose and the emphasis on growing plants.”

Along those lines organizers are also asking participants to help others by bringing apples, oranges, pears or dried fruit to the seder. The produce will be donated to Yachad: The Kosher Food Pantry. There will also be an opportunity to purchase trees to be planted in Israel at the event.

A hagaddah has been written for the service, and all the speakers and activities are new this year. Community educator Edna Levy will facilitate the seder. Others participating in the seder activities include Lilach Nissim, the Federation’s Israeli shaliach, who will present a d’var Torah; Gayla Brockman, executive director of the Menorah Legacy Foundation; Jane Sosland; Anne Jacobs and Judy Jacks Berman.

The event will last about two hours. Reservations will be accepted through Jan. 18. For more information about costs or to make a reservation, contact Nicole at (913) 327-8111 or visit www.jewishkansascity.com. A discount reservation is available for girls age 12 through college age and for women 70-plus.

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The board of directors of The New Reform Temple has decided not to renew Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn’s contract, which expires at the end of May 2012.

“This decision was the culmination of a long and thorough process which resulted in a vote that was supported by an overwhelming majority of the board,” said Thomas C. Barnett, board president. The congregation has 285-member units.

“The rabbi has served our congregation for over 10 years, and we are all grateful for the progress the congregation has enjoyed during his leadership,” he continued. “Please be assured that this decision was a difficult one for all concerned.”

Rabbi Cukierkorn informed some members of the congregation about the board’s decision last week. In an e-mail, he stated that he was “sorry and saddened” to inform them of the board’s decision not to renew his contract.

“My family and I love the congregation and the Kansas City Jewish community. We have lived here for 10 years and I expected to be the rabbi of the New Reform Temple until my retirement, many years from now. I am committed to continue fulfilling my rabbinical duties for the remainder of my term,” he said.

“It has been an honor and a joy to have been part of your lives and have you be part of ours for the past 10 years,” said the 43-year-old rabbi who was ordained by the Reform movement in 1994. He joined the congregation in 2000.

Rabbi Cukierkorn reports that during his tenure the congregation’s membership doubled in size “and has become far more active and involved in the Kansas City Jewish community.”

Since he’s been here, Rabbi Cukierkorn has authored two books, “Accessible Judaism: A Concise Guide,” which is available in English, Spanish and Portuguese, and “They Were Just People: Stories of Rescue in Poland During the Holocaust,” that he co-authored with Bill Tammeus. He has also written numerous articles for major Jewish magazines and newspapers all over the country and been featured in a documentary about the conversions he oversees in Latin America.

Rabbi Cukierkorn currently serves as vice president of the Society for Classical Reform Judaism and has served as president of the Rabbinical Association of Greater Kansas City.

The congregation has not yet completed plans to begin the search for a new rabbi.

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Other than the fact that Rick Recht had never been to Jewish camp, never worked with kids, and never played or written any Jewish music, he was the perfect choice to be a Jewish summer camp song leader.

Recht was recruited to the job by his student and now wife, Elisa Heiligman, who grew up in Kansas City and attended the Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy before settling in St. Louis after graduate school at Washington University.

“She was taking guitar lessons from me,” said Recht, “because she couldn’t find any song leaders in St. Louis and she wasn’t going to run camp without music. During the lessons, she jokingly bugged me about being the song leader. I typically took a few weeks off at the beginning of the summer and thought I’d try it out.”

Power of music

“It became clear to me almost immediately that music was a means, not an end. That it could be a vehicle that transcends intellectual barriers to spirituality. The idea that music could have this great a power in people’s lives was really exciting to me as a Jew, as a teacher and as a musician.”

When camp ended, Recht continued nationwide touring with the rock band he had been part of since college at the University of Southern California, but quit after a few months to build a studio in his basement. In 1999, he produced his first Jewish album, “Tov,” comprising songs he wrote that first summer at camp. The next summer, after playing 50 Jewish summer camps and reaching more than 30,000 kids, Recht knew his career was headed in a whole new direction.

Eight top-selling Jewish albums later, Recht is excited about his upcoming PJ Library gig in Kansas City for children 6 months through 8 years old and their families from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 9, at the Jewish Community Campus. For the first time he’ll perform in concert songs from his latest album, “Look at Me.” Admission is free. For those not familiar with his music, songs from his albums can be heard at www.rickrecht.com.

Many in the audience at The PJ Library concert will recognize these songs. “The timing is perfect,” says Recht, “because ‘Look at Me’ was just distributed to 15,000 kids around the country for Chanukah through The PJ Library.”

The PJ Library

The PJ Library program was created by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation to support families in their Jewish journey. It does so by sending free, high-quality Jewish-themed books and music every month to children ages 6 months to 8 years. The Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City launched The PJ Library here in March 2008. Today, more than 875 local families participate in the program, which features group activities throughout the year in addition to providing books and music and presenting an annual free concert.
Recht, whose “Free to Be the Jew in Me” album has been delivered to thousands of PJ Library families and who will be the artist-in-resident at The PJ Library’s national conference in April, is also part of a PJ Library family.

“We have two sons, Kobi, 9, and Tal, 6,” said Recht. “The PJ Library has really enriched our lives. These books kept coming each month and the next thing we knew we had a Jewish library in our home!”

Relevant Judaism

Recht’s commitment to Jewish music and education entered a new phase last fall with the launch of Jewish Rock Radio (www.jewishrockradio.com) by Judaism Alive, the nonprofit Recht founded to strengthen Jewish identity and connection for youth through their love of music, musical instruments and online interaction. Jewish Rock Radio features a variety of music from Jewish rock artists, as well as interviews with youth sharing fresh, exciting ways they are engaging in Jewish life.

Recht sees love of music, online interaction and high-quality media as integral to the future of a relevant Judaism. “At Jewish Rock Radio, we’re using the media that Jewish youth are using in their daily lives,” he says. “This has been a vivid reality in the Christian world for decades, and now the Jewish world can experience this powerful vehicle for strengthening Jewish identity and connection.

“Youth are our greatest litmus test for what’s working and not working. They vote with their feet and they’re brutally honest. Youth are experiencing high quality and excellence in every area of their lives. When it comes to Judaism, they should expect no less.”

Meet Rick Recht

Middle and high schoolers will have the opportunity to meet Rick Recht in person from 6 to 6:30 p.m. Jan. 9. The meet and greet will take place after the children’s concert, and will be in the Social Hall of the Jewish Community Campus. Since the earlier concert is open only to children ages 8 or younger, the meet and greet is a great opportunity for teenagers to meet with Recht while he visits Kansas City.

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When Mara Strom lived in Israel, she found it easy to keep kosher. Now that she’s back in Kansas City, this time with a husband and three children in tow, she’s running a kosher home — on a budget.

Saving money and keeping kosher? Impossible. Not so, says this writer, blogger and coupon clipper.

“The most important thing you can do while shopping is to pay attention,” says Strom, whose blog — kosheronabudget.com — offers tips from what stores have the best specials to money-saving kosher recipes. She also shares her insights on Facebook at: facebook.com/kosheronabudget, and on Twitter@kosheronabudget. Strom will teach a Kosher on a Budget class at the Jewish Community Center in January. (See below for details)

“I’ve always loved to score a good deal,” Strom says, “but it wasn’t until we became savvy with our finances that I finally understand the most fundamental lesson of budgeting: If you can’t afford it, it’s not a bargain!”

Applying strategies

Strom began this adventure by writing down expenditures in a small notebook. “After the month was over, I tallied it all up. I was shocked. I had figured we were spending a couple hundred dollars at most at the grocery store. Boy was I wrong  it was almost $1,000. No wonder I couldn’t make our budget work!”

One reason her shopping was getting out of hand is because there are more and more kosher products available. Today more than 70,000 products are labeled kosher, totaling about $40 million in annual sales. And every year, hundreds of new products are added. According to Menachem Lubinsky, president of Lubicom Marketing who has covered the kosher food market for years, “The number of booths (at last summer’s Fancy Food Show in New York) that touted their kosher symbol was unprecedented.” Today’s shoppers can find everything from kosher gluten-free products to fancy chocolates, not to mention a growing number of award-winning wines.

But excitement about all these new kosher products can overwhelm a family’s budget, Strom says. “We were spending more on food and household expenses than just about any other category in our budget. I knew we needed to get this under control, so I spent a lot of time learning about couponing, menu planning, stockpiling, cash-based budgeting and more. Once I started implementing these strategies, I was able to cut our spending by more than half without compromising quality or kashrut.”

For instance she learned that shopping on an empty stomach leads to overspending. Then she found that attempting to capture every deal out there can cause overbuying. Clipping coupons — or in today’s version, printing online coupons — really does work, as does writing a shopping list in advance and sticking to it.

“No more buying another jar of mayonnaise only to discover you have four half-used jars hidden in your fridge,” she laughs. “I learned about couponing, stockpiling, menu planning and more. But then I had to figure out how to apply all these strategies to keeping kosher.”

That’s probably the trickiest part of “Kosher on a Budget,” but it just means being watchful and alert for “deals” Strom says. Checking out sites that offer coupons for specific kosher products (like Empire chickens, for example) and combining store coupons (like a chain store’s $5 off when you purchase $50 worth of merchandise) with product coupons can result in extra savings.

Of course, it’s not just paying attention while grocery shopping that can save families money. Strom points out there are freebies out there, just for the taking — everything from samples of products you already use (like toothpaste and detergent) to toys for your kids. “One of the best sources for free samples is a marketing website,” Strom explains. In fact, she says it has the best high-value coupons and she often gets coupons for free products — the best deal yet!

Not only are kosher products available locally at nearly every grocery and discount store, this community boasts a kosher co-op where it’s easy to order in bulk. And readers of Strom’s blog also will find that her website contains links to other useful sites — from all-kosher grocery stores to companies that specialize in a single kosher product, as well as ads for products (kosher and generic).

While Strom isn’t a dietician or a trained chef, she is a wife and mother and that requires balancing the household budget and serving tasty yet nutritious meals. “My background in freelance writing no doubt helps me with the blog, but ultimately, I believe that experience is the best education of all,” Strom says. “My most valuable qualification is that I have been doing this for two-and-a-half years,” she added, noting that she has “saved more than $5,000 a year.”

Strom started a freelancing writing business in 2003 in Israel, where she had met her husband, Frankie Sachs. The family moved to Kansas City from Modi’in, Israel, in 2008 in order to be closer to their children’s grandparents. Two of their children, Avinoam, now 7, and Matan, age 5, were born in Israel. Their daughter, Nili, was born here 18 months ago.

Kosher on a budget

So many people are struggling financially right now; but getting control of your food and household spending can go a long way in correcting a lopsided budget.

As an introduction to a three-part series “Kosher on a Budget,” Mara Strom, author of the blog kosheronabudget.com will cover the basic principles of strategic shopping, including a general discussion of budgeting and tracking spending; creating a price book; and using coupons and stockpiling. This information could help participants begin saving as much as 20 to 25 percent on their current grocery bill.

Those choosing to enroll in the actual class will take part in a more in-depth workshop that will speak to specific organizational and shopping habits that can trim 40 to 60 percent from the normal grocery bill.

When: Monday evenings, 7:30-8:30pm, Jan. 10, Jan. 17, Jan. 24 and Jan. 31

Where: The Jewish Community Center

Instructor: Mara Strom

Tuition: $25 (no charge to attend introductory session on Jan. 10)

For more information contact Jeff Goldenberg, Director of Adult Jewish Learning, at 913-327-4647 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Jack Novorr probably hadn’t heard the phrase tikkun olam or even knew what it meant when he was 5 years old. But repairing the world is exactly what he set out to do one day soon after the catastrophic Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, causing death, destruction and all-around chaos.

The youngster just happened to see a news report about sick and injured children in New Orleans being airlifted here to Children’s Mercy Hospital. Jack’s parents, Jennifer and Scott Novorr, think the helicopter may have originally captured his attention, but it was the story of the children that stuck with him.

"We explained what was happening as best we could to a 5-year-old and he felt bad about the whole situation," Scott recalled.

Jack disappeared to his room for a while after that conversation. When his parents checked on him, they found he had spilled his piggy bank all over his room because he wanted to give his money to help the kids.

"I felt bad for them so I wanted to raise money to help them survive," said Jack, who is now a 10-year-old fifth-grade student at Cedar Hills Elementary School in the Blue Valley School District.

That year, with help from his parents and grandparents, Jack made his first donation to Children’s Mercy Hospital to the tune of about $800. His donation, and the time he has given to the project, has grown every year. Last year his efforts resulted in $5,000.

When this project began, Jack always requested that the money go to buy toys for the sick children. But last year hospital representatives asked him to support other efforts instead of purchasing toys. So last year his donation went into the fund to help build an emergency room at Children’s Mercy South.

This year Jack’s goal is to raise $10,000. It will go toward a pediatric dental clinic.

"The clinic operates at a $1 million loss every year," Scott said. They hope to use this money to purchase devices for children’s mouths that cost $2,000 each. Those devices will help keep the kids more comfortable while the dental work is being done."

Jack and his family have already begun this fundraising campaign. Jennifer said besides his brother and sisters — Tate, 5, Sophie, 8, and Lilah, 17 months — Jack has also recruited friends from school to help. The kick-off was a pizza party where a Children’s Mercy rep spoke to the children about fundraising efforts.

Sophie is proud that she has spearheaded a holiday bake sale in the neighborhood that netted $200. On Saturday, Dec. 11, a neighborhood friend offered a garage for a clothing and toy sale that raised $1,100.

"Here’s the cool part. We found out a friend of a friend, someone we don’t even know, offered to match everything we raised," Scott said.

Last year the family started a partnership with Jumping Jax, an indoor inflatable play venue in Overland Park. As it prepared for its grand opening in late 2009 Jumping Jax offered open play sessions to the public in exchange for a donation to CMH.

"Jumping Jacks donated all the money in Jack’s name," Scott said. "It was a win-win for both."

Once again Jumping Jax will host open-play sessions this year. Sessions are scheduled from 3 to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 28, and Thursday, Dec. 30. Admission is a donation to CMH.

After five years, Jack is still excited about the project.

"I like helping sick kids who most of the time do not have a lot of money and I like setting goals each year," he said.

The Novorrs are truly proud of their son’s efforts, and the fact that all their children want to help as well.

"There are no words to describe how we feel," Scott said. "We couldn’t be more proud and it has just blown us away that Sophie and Tate have stepped up to help Jack as well. It’s a great feeling to see them care so much about helping others."

Jack and his friends will make the 2010 presentation to Children’s Mercy on Dec. 30. Anyone interested in making a donation can contact the Novorr family at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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The experience of purchasing a car — whether it’s new or used — is not something most people look forward to. Ron Coppaken, owner of Image Motors, characterizes it as downright painful for most people. He’s hoping to change that experience, at least for those looking for premium pre-owned vehicles, now that he’s in the business.

Coppaken specializes in selling high-end cars like Porsche, BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Lexus and Infinity. While Image Motors is just a few months old, Coppaken is not new to the auto industry. For more than 35 years he owned an auto parts company.

He’s also passionate about cars and has owned and collected antique and classic cars for more than 25 years. He’s personally bought and sold many premium autos for his own personal use and knows how difficult it can be to find top-quality, low-mileage, like-new condition vehicles at very competitive prices.

"I’ve driven a lot of these cars as a car enthusiast and I’m very passionate about this business and my customers and making sure they have a good experience," Coppaken said.

He said he spent a lot of time researching the industry and figuring out ways to make the car-buying experience "an easy, pleasurable, no-hassle situation for the customer."

"So customers are dealing with me and they are getting my years of experience," explained Coppaken, who is an active member of the Jewish community. He is past president of Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy and Congregation Beth Shalom and serves on the boards of the Jewish Community Foundation, Jewish Community Campus and Beth Shalom Foundation.

"I personally handle all transactions, so you can expect first-class treatment," he said.

Coppaken said his customers also receive a lot of hand holding.

"When I search for a car, I act like I’m buying a car for my own mother," he said. "If I don’t think it’s right for somebody then I try to lead him away from it, tell them why and hopefully point him toward a better one."

Image Motors sells cars both locally and on the internet through eBay and AutoTrader.com. Coppaken keeps some cars in stock at a climate-controlled warehouse in Merriam, Kan. He meets customers by appointment only and notes that weather is never an issue when car shopping at Image Motors.

"I think that when someone comes to look at a premium car you want to have it detailed and ready to go. By having the entire inventory kept inside out of the dust and inclement weather, the cars are always clean and ready when someone comes to look at them," he said.

Coppaken only sells cars that are under factory warranty. The cars sold at Image Motors are relatively new with low mileage. For instance early this week Coppaken had in stock a 2-year-old BMW that has 11,000 miles on it.

"And I just sold a Range Rover to a guy that has 15,000 miles on it," he said.

Coppaken said word of mouth has really helped his business and he has sold many cars to friends and friends of friends. Then there are also his internet customers who, while they don’t know him, are quickly discovering his reputation for fairness and quality.

"I’ve sold three cars to people who live less than 3 miles from me. They either saw the car on eBay or AutoTrader.com and called me," Coppaken said.

A large part of his business is searching for cars that customers have requested.

"I’ll go out and find them the particular car that meets their requirements. I’ve got it set up so I can buy just like the franchise dealers," he said. "I also accept trade-ins and I’ll catch something on trade and then I’ll know someone who’s looking for a cheap car for somebody and I’ll put them together."

In this day and age, it’s actually more common for Coppaken to sell a car sight unseen than in person.

"Very, very few people come to my building and look at a car. Of the cars I’ve sold so far, I bet less than five people have physically come to look at the car. People in Kansas City call me and want to see the car prior to making a deal, but only because they are in Kansas City," Coppaken said.

He explained that people today are very comfortable purchasing cars that they haven’t actually seen or driven.

"If you’ve driven a Mercedes E350, they should all drive the same. I represent what the condition is … if there are any scratches or dents. People know what they are looking at," he said.

"I’ve found that most people want to talk to somebody prior to hitting the like or buy it now button on eBay," he continued. "When I talk to the people, they feel comfortable with who I am. They look at my feedback, which is 100 percent good on eBay and I give my spiel. I’ve had some great experiences with people buying cars and wiring the money into my account. Then I Federal Express them the paper work and arrange to have the car transported to them."

Shoppers can contact Coppaken through the website imagemotors.com or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. He can also be reached at (913) 707-8111.

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Neither Karen Loggia nor her husband, David Spizman, are from Kansas City. Loggia grew up in a rural suburb of Washington, D.C. Spizman is from Omaha. So it wasn’t family that enticed them to move back to this area. It was friends, schools and, perhaps more than anything, the Jewish community. But that’s getting ahead of the story.

Loggia’s circuitous route to Kansas City began in Darnestown, Maryland, where she was raised Jewish with a tree at Christmas and a ham on Easter in deference to her father, who grew up Catholic. “I never questioned it till I was much older,” says Loggia, whose formal religious training ended at her Bat Mitzvah.

In high school, she belonged to a BBG youth group and attended Hillel a few times at Brown University. “But Judaism,” she says, “was not a central part of my life then.” Nor was it when she was employed in New York City as a benefits consultant in the late 1990s, nor in graduate school at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, nor afterwards in Raleigh-Durham, where she worked in the marketing department at John Deere.

What Loggia remembers most fondly about those places is proximity to skiing and the beach. Still, despite the Midwest’s general lack of these amenities, Loggia approached her transfer to the Kansas City area in 2004 as another great adventure, and was pleasantly struck by the welcoming Jewish community she found here.

Kansas City No-Brainer

“Within days of telling people I was moving to Kansas City,” she said, “they told me about people they knew here. I reached out to them and they reached out to me.”

Loggia’s introduction to the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City came from friends of Ginzy Schaefer, the aunt of a graduate school friend, who suggested that Loggia participate in Women’s Division’s B’not Kehilla young leadership program. “I met a lot of fantastic women,” says Loggia, “and got to know Women’s Division Director Bev Jacobson, who asked me to help plan some programs.” 

Loggia also met her future husband through those connections on a blind date in 2005. “Some friends were going to Bagels and Basketball at KU, where I met a new couple, who introduced me to David.”

The next year, Loggia found her dream job as brand manager at Whirlpool in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Spizman moved to Benton Harbor and telecommuted to Kansas City after the couple married in September 2007. “It was fun living a half mile from Lake Michigan and getting to know Chicago,” said Loggia, “but it wasn’t sustainable. We did a quick evaluation and returning to Kansas City before the birth of our child was really a no-brainer.”

Every Stage of Life

After their son, Shaefer, was born here in February 2009, Loggia reconnected with the Federation, and served that year as co-chair of the Women’s Division’s annual Note-a-Thon. This year, she joined the Federation’s Marketing Advisory Council and accepted a two-year appointment as Super Sunday co-chair. “I’m really excited to be part of Super Sunday,” she says. “It will be get-down-to-business day, making calls and sending out thank yous, but also a lot of fun.” 

Federations across the country are moving to one unified logo, so Loggia and her co-chair, Steve Greenberg, orchestrated a community-wide T-shirt contest, featuring Jewish Federation’s new look. The winning design will be worn by hundreds of Super Sunday volunteers on January 30. In addition to the new T-shirt contest, they’re launching The Tzedakah Project on Super Sunday – a family-friendly scavenger hunt for 5 to 8-year olds and their families.

“What I love about the Federation,” she says, “is that while it has broad-reaching goals, whatever your stage of life you can find something it offers that resonates with your passion.”  

Loggia had a major volunteer role as social media manager for the Balloon Festival, held in September for the first time in Kansas City. But staying involved in the Jewish community, for her, is a given.  “Hopefully, we’ll live out our lives here,” she says. “I want to make sure my son grows up in a household rich with Jewish traditions. Volunteering in the Jewish community gives me more information and more confidence that this goal will happen.”

• Born in Washington, D.C., 1972

• Quince Orchard High School, Gaithersburg, Md.

• B.A., mathematical economics, Brown University, Providence, RI; MBA, Dartmouth  College, Hanover, NH
• Lives in Leawood, Kan.

• Married to David Spizman

• Synagogue Affiliation — Congregation Beth Torah

• Now Reading “Good Night Moon,” by Clement Hurd, and “The Awakening,” by Kate Chopin

• Favorite Jewish Food — Matzo ball soup

• Trips to Israel — None

• Children — Shaefer, 2


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Congregation Beth Torah has begun searching for a new rabbi educator. The person hired will replace Rabbi Vered Harris, the congregation’s education rabbi, when her contract expires at the end of June 2012. She informed the congregation this summer that she planned to seek a new position.

Rabbi Harris joined the Reform congregation, which now has 650-plus member units, in 2000 following her ordination from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati that same year. She also earned a Master of Arts degree in Jewish education in 1998 from the Rhea Hirsch School of Education, and was awarded the title of Reform Jewish Educator in 2002. Rabbi Harris and her husband, Benjamin, are the parents of three children.

John Spector, the congregation’s president, said this is a natural transition in a rabbi’s career path and that Rabbi Harris told the board that this is a good time for her family to make such a change. While he’s happy for Rabbi Harris, he said Beth Torah is going to miss her.

“We were very lucky to have her for 10 years. Our religious school and our adult education programming are top quality in large part because of her effective leadership,” Spector said. “We clearly understand why she is leaving and we wish her the best of luck.”

The job description, which has been posted on the Central Conference of American Rabbi’s website as well as Beth Torah’s (www.beth-torah.org) is detailed. In part, the congregation is seeking an innovative rabbi educator “who will facilitate lifelong learning among congregants, oversee various congregational programs, participate in outreach efforts and serve as rabbi to the congregation.”

Spector said before the congregation compiled the job description, it first met with Rabbi Harris and several focus groups.

“We worked with Rabbi Harris to determine what her role is now and how it has grown since she came here,” Spector said. “A variety of congregants from various demographic groups also provided their feedback, which was factored into the job description.”

The search committee will be led by Michelle Cole and it will include congregants from a variety of different age groups and family responsibilities such as parents with young children, seniors and young adults.

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Congregation Beth Shalom is losing both its rabbis. Senior Rabbi Robert Tobin has decided not to renew his contract. In a separate move, the Conservative congregation’s board of directors has voted to eliminate the assistant rabbi position effective July 2011. That position has been filled by Rabbi Adam Stein since the summer of 2009. The congregation was informed of these decisions in two separate e-mails sent earlier this month from Kurt Kavanaugh, D.D.S., M.S., the congregation’s president.

Rabbi Tobin informed Dr. Kavanaugh Dec. 10 that he planned to seek a pulpit elsewhere. In Dr. Kavanaugh’s letter to the congregation, dated that same day, he explained that Rabbi Tobin feels “his strengths and goals are not the ideal match for our future.”

As reported in the Dec. 10 issue of The Chronicle, Beth Shalom is facing financial difficulties and plans to close its facility at 95th and Wornall, which is currently used almost exclusively for worship, by July 15. At the time that decision was made, Dr. Kavanaugh told members that this recommendation was just one step in the congregation’s efforts to eliminate its budget deficit and operate the congregation on a sound fiscal basis.

The decision to eliminate the associate rabbi position appears to be another step toward reducing the congregation’s deficit.

In a second letter to members dated Dec. 17, Dr. Kavanaugh noted that Beth Shalom has been blessed to have had many wonderful assistant rabbis over the years including Rabbi Stein.

“However, given our trend in membership and the resulting reduction in dues revenue, our Operations Task Force determined the most prudent economic decision would be to reduce the number of our clergy,” Dr. Kavanaugh reported.

Beth Shalom is currently making plans to engage an interim rabbi after Rabbi Tobin’s contract expires on June 30. Discussions are currently taking place between the congregation and Rabbi Alan Cohen, who retired as the congregation’s senior rabbi three years ago. Since then he has served as director of interreligious affairs for the Jewish Community Relations Bureau|American Jewish Committee. That position is funded by three-year grants that are due to expire this summer.

“Given his love of Beth Shalom, both as an institution and as his extended family, he has graciously agreed in principle to remain in Kansas City for just one year to tend to the day-to-day needs of our membership,” Dr. Kavanaugh said.

He continued that Beth Shalom’s board is working hard to see that through this transition, the congregation will “emerge prouder and stronger than ever.”

“We have before us an opportunity to work together to shape our future and reinforce the foundations of a sustainable, connected community,” Dr. Kavanaugh said.

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JERUSALEM — When Alfie Kass was 16, he was involved in NCSY and came to Israel on a special “Jerusalem Journey” program for a month.

“I loved it! It was one of the best programs I’d ever been on,” Alfie says. “There was one bus with 40 kids. Now there are eight to nine buses.”

During his senior year at Shawnee Mission East, which he graduated in May, the Overland Park 19-year-old son of Dan Kass and Joy Wilner decided he wanted the gap year off to see Israel again before starting Johnson County Community College to work for an associate degree in fire science.

Initially, Alfie thought he wanted to learn Torah and more Judaism, so he looked at a lot of Israel programs. Someone suggested the Chai Israel Program through Ohr Sameach Yeshiva, where the young men have four hours of learning a day and the rest of the day is either volunteering, trips, speakers or seminars. So he enrolled in this program and arrived on Sept. 1.

“I liked it the first couple of weeks, then there were some issues, and I realized it didn’t have what I wanted. I had planned to volunteer with Magen David Adom anyway, and I found the Yochai Porat Overseas Program, which works with MADA (acronym for Magen David Adom),” Alfie says. (Magen David Adom is the Israeli version of the Red Cross.)

After taking the 10-day, 60-hour course in English, he became certified as a first responder. “It was an amazing program — 17 kids from eight nations, including Sweden, Australia, Mexico, England, Argentina, the U.S. and Canada.”

Alfie was then posted to a station in Jerusalem working eight-hour shifts with a paramedic who was the ambulance driver, an EMT, and another first responder.

“Things weren’t working out at the yeshivah, so I decided to do MADA full time,” he says. “They set me up in an apartment in Tel Aviv and I worked in Ramat Gan. Usually it was just a paramedic and me in the ambulance, so I did a lot more.”

Alfie says he also had the opportunity to work on the mobile intensive care ambulance occasionally where they are dispatched to serious calls such as those involving the heart and breathing.

Although Alfie was not fluent in Hebrew, he says he learned the medical terms and calls so he would know what to do, “which brings out your knowledge a lot more.”

Recently, on the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift, he was awakened at 5:30 a.m. by a call from an elderly lady who had fallen out of bed and was becoming unconscious.

“The driver didn’t speak English, but we had a connection,” Alfie says. “I had the IV set up and the blood sugar ready and he indicated what he needed. You’ve got to know what the medic needs. Afterward he gave me a handshake, which meant good job, even though we didn’t speak once the entire time.”

Even though Alfie is leaving Israel early, Thursday, Dec. 23, he is excited about his stay here. “It’s been an eye-opening experience, how a different country and culture reacts to emergencies.”

He remarks that during the disastrous Carmel fire a few weeks ago he wanted to volunteer in firefighting but they were only accepting those with their own equipment, and Magen David Adom also had enough volunteers.

Regarding the Magen David Adom experience, he says, “MADA needs volunteers and they like volunteers to come over. It’s really a great thing to know. It›s a real good experience to see how another culture does things even though Israel is a lot like America.”

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Scott Novorr loves children. The father of four (see related story, this page) likes nothing more than playing with his children and their friends.

Like many people he watched with interest when an earthquake devastated Haiti in January. But unlike others he had the opportunity to travel to Haiti and visit its children last month as part of a group from The Global Orphan Project (GO Project).

Novorr, a member of The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah, connected with GO Project through a friend. Go Project, based in Parkville, Mo., mobilizes local churches in some of the poorest areas on earth to care for the neediest orphaned and vulnerable children.

"I’ve always had a soft spot for kids and when my friend traveled there he periodically mentioned he’d love for me to go with him one day. I always said ya, sure, one day I will," he said.

That day came sooner than he anticipated. In early November he was invited to participate, but said he couldn’t go.

"I gave every conceivable excuse why I couldn’t go then. Work was crazy. We had 20 people coming to our house for Thanksgiving …," he said.

But his wife, Jennifer, thought it was a great idea and so the mad rush started to get all the paperwork and immunizations done in just a few short weeks.

"Everything lined up just perfectly and I was off to Haiti," he said.

Bonding with orphans

The group of 15, five from Kansas City, planned to visit different orphanages and simply be with the kids.

"So many of these kids were recently orphaned because of the earthquake. Three hundred thousand people were killed and a lot of these kids that we dealt with had recently lost their parents," he explained.

Being with the kids, who ranged in age from 6 months to 16 years, is exactly what Novorr wanted to do. "Every day I feel fortunate for what we have. I wanted to try to give something back to these kids," he said.

His short time there was spent playing soccer, coloring or just holding a child.

"The kids absolutely blew me away," he said.

Novorr noted that the children are not mistreated in the orphanages, which housed between 70 and 120 kids. They are fed, clothed and educated.

"But that’s about all there’s time for," he said. "They are so starved for emotional and physical attention."

That’s why, Novorr explained, it’s important for volunteers to be able to just spend time with the children.

"They just want to be held. Immediately kids will run up to you and just jump into your arms or they’ll hold your hand or grab on to your leg. They want what all kids want," he said.

Haitians speak French, so there’s a communication barrier. But Novorr said the kids still find a way to communicate.

"They love to have their pictures taken and they will yell ‘photo, photo’ and they’ll yell football because they want to play soccer with you," he said.

One boy in particular, Emerson, really took to him. The pair spent a lot of time together.

"The hardest part of the entire trip was the day that we left," he said. "He was sitting by himself on a rock and I went over and sat down next to him. Usually he talked a mile a minute. He was just quiet. He just leaned his head down on me and for a half an hour he just sat there. It was like all the life had been sucked out of him."

Novorr said he felt like he was abandoning the child.

"They don’t tell you much about these kids I don’t know if he has been an orphan a long time or if he lost his parents a year ago. I don’t know how fresh the pain is. That was horrible," he said.

The people of Haiti

The group spent a lot of time in Haiti’s capital city of Port-au-Prince. Novorr kept a journal and took pictures, but out of respect for the city’s residents, he tried not to be intrusive about it.

"The conditions in Haiti are far worse than I ever expected to see. Everywhere you look people are living out of boxes or shacks. Trash is piled 6-feet high. It was just chaotic," he said.

But he saw hope in the faces of the people.

"Driving through Port-au-Prince, people would be a foot from our bus and they would look up and smile at us or wave at us. At no time did I ever feel like we were in danger or uncomfortable in any way," he said.

Novorr said Haitians appreciated their attention.

"It wasn’t about what we brought with us, or money that we were donating, they were just appreciative that we were there to support them," he said.

Novorr was particularly impressed by the character of some of these kids. A member of the GO Project group was a dentist who did procedures on Haitian children. They had never seen a dentist before. A 15-year-old Haitian boy took it upon himself to help the other children.

"Over the course of two days the dentist saw more than 200 kids," Novorr said. "This boy walked each kid from the waiting room into the exam area and for two days took care of these kids by holding their hands or stroking their hair or patting their shoulder."

"He literally didn’t say a word, he was just there. That’s one of those instances where it’s easy to get depressed and feel sorry for the kids but really you know that they are strong and they are taking care of each other," Novorr said.

Novorr hopes to go back again next year. His 10-year-old son, Jack, wants to make the trip as well.

"This wasn’t just a bucket list thing for me. I’ve climbed mountains and other things I can check off my list and move on," he said. "This isn’t like that. I feel inside that I want to keep doing this and my plan right now is to go back once a year and not have a particular mission in mind. There is such a connection with the people in Haiti and for what they are dealing with and with the kids. I just want to be a part of it."

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