Category Archives: religion

Share The Pie!

Despite an up-and-down year, much of Westport enjoys far more than its share of the economic pie.

Which is why, as Thanksgiving looms, the Conservative Synagogue and Homes With Hope team up to “Share the Pie.”

The annual effort is simple:  Apple, pecan and pumpkin pies sell for $22 each. All are kosher.

Proceeds help Homes With Hope provide permanent affordable housing, casework and support services, emergency shelter, food, meals, and life skills training.

Donations also provide pies for local Thanksgiving feasts in our community (Saugatuck Congregational Church) and to families in need (Carver Center).

Individuals and families order pies.  So do local businesses; they give them to their employees as thanks, while at the same time aiding a great cause.  Last year, 500 pies were ordered. Can Share the Pie beat that record this year?

There is no better — or more nourishing — way to give thanks.

(Deadline for ordering is tomorrow — Monday, November 16.  Order forms are available at Ordered pies can be picked up on Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 23 and 24, at the Conservative Synagogue, 30 Hillspoint Road. Corporate orders will be delivered. For more information, call 203-454-4673.)

Thanksgiving Feast Returns Home

Four years ago, a devastating fire forced Westport’s Thanksgiving Day  Community Feast out of its longtime Saugatuck Congregational Church home.

Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church opened its doors and heart on extremely short notice. It happily hosted the next 3 dinners too.

This year, the feast finally returns home.

It truly is a community event. Saugatuck Congregational partners with Temple Israel, the United Methodist church and Unitarian Church to produce the dinner.

Over 100 volunteers are needed. They shop, set up, prep in the kitchen, cook, drive, clean up, and handle dozens of other tasks. They’re the lifeblood of the much-loved Turkey Day feast. Click here to see what jobs are available, and sign up.

Donations are welcome too, to defray expenses. Checks payable to “Saugatuck Congregational Church” can be sent to 245 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880. Put “Thanksgiving Feast” on the subject line.

We have a lot to be thankful for in Westport. The Community Feast stands at the top of any list.

(The Saugatuck Congregational Church Community Feast takes place Thanksgiving Day — Thursday, September 26 — from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. For details, click here.)

A small part of last year's Thanksgiving Feast.

A small part of last year’s Thanksgiving Feast.

Helium Brothers Land In Westport

Toad’s Place may be Connecticut’s favorite indoor music venue.

But that’s New Haven. Westport once had live music too. Anyone living here in the 1970s and early ’80s remembers 3 great spots: Grassroots. Players Tavern. Tin Whistle.

Each was different. Grassroots was a folk-oriented coffee house next to National Hall (then Fairfield Furniture), on the Post Road just over the river.

Players Tavern was a rockin’ place, with great bands and a less-than-observant attitude toward things like legal IDs.

Tin Whistle was a restaurant/bar (now the site of Westport Hardware Mumbai Times), with a variety of music.

This undated menu from Players Tavern mentions upcoming gigs by Papa John Creach, James Montgomery, Pat Metheny , James Cotton, Gil Scot Heron, Dave Edmonds, Nick Lowe -- and the Helium Brothers.

This undated menu from Players Tavern mentions upcoming gigs by Papa John Creach, James Montgomery, Pat Metheny , James Cotton, Gil Scot Heron, Dave Edmonds, Nick Lowe — and the Helium Brothers. (Click on or hover over to enlarge.)

Nowadays, you can hear live music on Bobby Q’s roof (in summer), the Black Duck (occasionally), and the Levitt Pavilion (but that’s not the same).

And, from time to time, at places like the Unitarian Church.

Every so often, they sponsor the Voices Cafe coffeehouse. There’s one this Saturday (November 14, 8 p.m.). What makes it “06880”-worthy is that the headline act is the Helium Brothers.

Thejazz/bluegrass/country/rock group has been around for 40 years. Recently, they performed a reunion show at Toad’s Place.

But they’re no strangers to Westport. Back in the day, they opened for former resident Johnny Winter.

And they performed regularly at — yes — Grassroots, Players Tavern and Tin Whistle.

Whatever goes around, comes around.

Even if it’s helium, brother.

Helium Brothers

Love And Marriage And Westport

A few weeks before moving to Westport 4 years ago, Théo Feldman told her next door neighbor in Los Angeles: “I’m moving to Connecticut, to a town called Westport.” To her shock, Feldman’s neighbor said that their mutual friend who lived nearby, Stephanie Landon, was moving there too, in just a few weeks.

Feldman and Landon exchanged walks in L.A.’s Fryman Canyon for ones at Compo Beach. They also became involved in the community, joining the board of a local charity. Now the 2 women are co-chairing Hadassah of Westport’s Fall Fundraiser: ¨Love and Marriage — An Evening of Comedy.¨ It’s set for Saturday, November 14 at Temple Israel.

But the coincidences don’t stop there.

Dani Klein Modisett

Dani Klein Modisett

“Love and Marriage” is based on the new book “Take My Spouse, Please,” by Dani Klein Modisett. She’s a Los Angeles comedian and author — but also a Staples High School graduate.

Feldman and her husband David had frequented Klein Modisett’s comedy shows in Hollywood. When they heard she was doing a show in New York for her book launch, they went to see it (and her). Feldman quickly realized she had to bring the show to Westport.

The show also includes Marla Schultz, Emmy Laybourne, Elisa Zuritsy, Alyssa Reiner, David Alan Basche and others. They’ll tell hysterical stories about marriage (maybe love, too).

Klein Modisett is excited to return to her hometown. Even though — with all those connections — she could almost as easily have done the show in LA. And had a full Westport audience.

(For ticket information and more, email

Get Your Judaica Here!

Westport Auction is one of those easy-to-miss local businesses.

Located in the former Saugatuck post office — just steps from the train station — it’s where owners Travis and Kate Worrell run monthly estate auctions. With experts who span centuries, styles and continents, customers are always sure to find something new — er, old — and interesting.

Right now, it’s Judaica.

An enormous 407 lots are being auctioned off soon. They’re from Moriah Galleries in New York, which is closing. Items — many quite rare — come from around the world.

Bids will come from around the globe too.

Continental silver circumcision set.

Continental silver circumcision set.

Among the Jewish ritual objects — called “the largest and finest collection of antique Judaica offered for sale”– are:

  • A 19th century Persian amulet with Kabbalistic charts for pregnant women
  • Silver circumcision shields
  • A Polish Kiddush goblet
  • A Galician silver Torah pointer
  • A Dutch Sabbath lamp
  • Also: Chanukah lamps, dreidels, Purim plates, seder trays, rugs, mezuzah cases, kosher seals, and much more.

The auction is set for Tuesday (October 27, 5 p.m.). Bids will be accepted in person (615 Riverside Avenue) and online (click here). Previews are Monday and Tuesday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Need another reason to go bid? Refreshments are provided by Mendy’s Kosher Catering.

Randy Herbertson’s Very Local Visual Brand

Randy Herbertson is a Midwesterner. His wife grew up in California — where she had no idea that ancestors named Barlow and Hurlbutt had roots in this area dating back centuries.

In 1997 Herbertson — a talented, creative marketing executive — was transferred east by Conde Nast. He lived in Westport and commuted to New York, where for many years he owned a branding agency.

In 2013 he had a revelation. “Am I stupid?” he asked himself. “Why can’t I work in Westport too?” (His wife — the lead designer at Terrain — already did.)

Randy Herbertson

Randy Herbertson

He and his business partner, fellow Westporter Geoff Shafer, opened their multimidia design and promotion firm, The Visual Brand, downtown. In the 2 years since, Herbertson — who makes his living observing consumers’ behavior — has saved hours of commuting time each day.

He knew that would happen. What he did not expect was that he’d become part of a flourising, fun downtown community.

Operating out of reclaimed space on Church Lane — a building behind SoNo Baking Company — Herbertson and Shafer have found plenty of local clients. They hang out in cool places.

Herbertson has joined local business organizations. He’s hired Connecticut designers. “I’d never even heard of Western Connecticut State University,” he admits. “But they’ve got a great program, with really good people.”

Herbertson and Shafer found other businesses founded by former New Yorkers. Neat coffee and cocktails and Luxe Wine Bar are two. Westport Wash & Wax and Quality Towing are 2 more. Not everyone aspires to work in New York forever,” Herbertson says.

The Visual Brand office: inside and out.

The Visual Brand office: inside and out.

From his office — the mail sorting room of the very first Westport post office — Herbertson watches Bedford Square rise.

“It’s a bit of a pain,” he says of the construction. “But it’s exciting. It will be very good overall.”

His marketing eye has been caught by Anthropologie, which will do “some very cool stuff” with their repurposed space.

But, he says, “it’s important to keep the local element downtown — not just the big corporations.” He cites SoNo Baking as “very focused on what this community needs.”

His vision is stirred by the possibilities across the street. A choir member of Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Herbertson would love to find an investor, buy the adjacent Seabury Center, and turn it into a performing arts center like the Ridgefield Playhouse.

“I’m really bullish on downtown,” he notes. “We have an opportunity to be really creative. My son lives in West Hartford. They’ve done some pretty cool stuff up there, in an area that used to be not so good. I hope we can do it better.”

This photo on the very intriguing home page of The Visual Brand's website was taken just a couple of miles from the firm's office.

This photo on the very intriguing home page of The Visual Brand’s website was taken just a couple of miles from the firm’s office.

After 2 years, Herbertson says, he’s found “no downsides” to working in Westport. (He still has clients in the city. They’re just a train ride away.)

“It’s completely possible to do everything we did in New York — at a fraction of the cost.”

Plus, there are all those wine bars, coffee shops — and maybe even a performing arts space — just steps away.


Remembering Lou Barrett

Lucille “Lou” Barrett — a member of that great generation of post-war Westporters who helped define this town for half a century — died early today. She was 92 years old.

Lou was a lifelong educator. She began in Greenwich Village in the 1940s, and spent many years in the Westport school system. After she retired, she became a sought-after writing coach. Perhaps best known as a Staples High School English teacher, she was beloved by colleagues and students for her deep wisdom, gentle nature, and genuine concern for everyone she met.

Lucille "Lou" Barrett

Lucille “Lou” Barrett

As a founding member of Temple Israel, she helped create one of the town’s most active social justice institutions. As first principal of its religious school, she made sure that there was as strong an emphasis on current affairs as on Jewish education.

Lou was also a gifted poet. She was published frequently — including 5 collections that explore fearlessly and with intensity her Jewish heritage, her childhood in Brookly, and her maturing to adulthood and old age — and never missed a chance to pass on her love for the craft.

Her son George says:

Mom was humble, fierce in her convictions, devoted, and always focused on the needs of others. I have heard over the years many stories from people I don’t even know about how my mother transformed their lives, or started their careers, or pushed them to take a chance on something in which they believed.

She believed in her students, her children and her friends, and strove to help them see in themselves the strength and beauty she saw in them. She treated every one with honesty and respect.

She was also the connecting tissue for an enormous family ecosystem that now spans 4 generations, and multiple continents.

Lou’s husband, Herb, died this past May, at 93. The Barretts were married for 73 years. Lou is survived by 5 children, 10 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren.

A memorial service is set for Tuesday (October 6, 12:30 p.m.), at Temple Israel, with private burial service to follow. The family will sit shiva after hte burial at the home of Marvin and Joan Frimmer in Westport. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Congregation Kol Ami, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, or Temple Israel, Westport.

Sleeping With The Pope

As chairman of Westport’s Parks and Recreation Commission, Charlie Haberstroh takes his job seriously. So the other day he read a long Wall Street Journal story titled “The New Mattress Professionals.” Hey, beds are great spots for recreational activities, right?

Charlie plowed through tons of details about Eve and Casper, Leesa and Keetsa. These startups are apparently turning the mattress industry upside down, with new marketing techniques. One of those is “celebrity endorsements or associations.”

Near the end, this caught Charlie’s eye:

Pope Francis was expected to sleep on a memory foam relaxed firm queen-sized mattress by West Port, Conn.-based online luxury mattress startup Saatva’s Loom & Leaf division. The pontiff visited the Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary near Philadelphia last weekend, according to Stephen Dolan, the seminary’s chief financial officer. Mr. Dolan said the mattress was donated but declined to comment further and referred questions to the company.

Saatva chief executive Ron Rudzin says he is “simply honored and blessed” by the news.

I could not find a photo of the pope and his mattress. So this will have to do.

I could not find a photo of the pope and his mattress. So this will have to do.

Stuart Carlitz, chief executive of Bedding Industries of America, which manufactures Saatva mattresses, says he was approached by representatives from the World Meeting of Families, who asked if he could supply a bed for the Holy Father…. Mr. Carlitz says he donated the Saatva mattress, which retails for $999.

Today is Sunday. That’s a work day for the pope, so I couldn’t call the Vatican to ask how he slept.

Saatva Ron Rudzin, in a press photo. That's the Saugatuck River behind him.

Saatva Ron Rudzin, in a press photo. That’s the Saugatuck River behind him.

I had never heard of Saatva — let alone known that it’s headquartered right here in 06880.

I checked the company’s website to learn more about their Westport connection. I could not find much — beyond CEO Rudzin saying he likes to fish in the Saugatuck River — but I did find this:

Saatva is the fastest growing online mattress company in the country. Our honest passion for making each customer happy is the daily mantra. Our non commissioned, courteous and expert representatives give honest “no pressure” guidance. Our teams working in our 14 ‘partnering’ American factories are so proud to be building a luxury product that is healthy for the body and safe for the environment.

Additionally, we believe in building long term friendships with our delivery teams throughout our fulfillment centers. We love the culture that we’ve created as we are a wonderfully diverse and spirited group of employees who enjoy doing our part to keep America building.

So where is Saatva located?

There is no address on their website. BBB Business Review says they’re at 8 Wright Street. puts them at 25 Sylvan Lane South, Suite W.

I would have called headquarters to find out.

But it’s Sunday. Everyone is sleeping in.

In addition to sleeping on a Westport mattress, Pope Francis apparently made an unannounced visit to Landtech, the engineering consultant firm in Saugatuck.

In addition to sleeping on a Westport mattress, Pope Francis apparently made an unannounced visit to Landtech, the engineering consultant firm in Saugatuck.


Deacon Dave At The Papal Mass

Westport’s own David Clarke of Assumption Church was among the deacons chosen to give communion today at Pope Francis’ Madison Square Garden mass.

He not only had a prominent role — but check out the photo below. There’s a star right above his head!

Deacon Dave Clarke, front and center.

Deacon Dave Clarke, front and center.

In other papal Assumption news, Father Tom Thorne — the Riverside Avenue church pastor — was invited to the White House lawn, for this week’s welcome-to-America reception.

In a town like Westport, there must be many other Francis-related stories. If you’ve got one, click “Comments” to share.

(Hat tip: Nancy Axthelm)

A 2nd Selectman, A Rabbi And A Pope Go Into New York…

Westport 2nd Selectman Avi Kaner was crossing 72nd Street earlier today. Look what he saw:

Meanwhile, Rabbi Jeremy Wiederhorn of Westport’s Conservative Synagogue had an even closer encounter with Pope Francis.

As he wrote his congregation earlier today:

This morning, I had the distinct honor of attending the Multi-Religious Gathering with Pope Francis at the 9/11 Memorial Museum. It was truly a day in my life that I will never forget.

Pope Francis, at the 9/11 Memorial. (Photo/Rabbi Jeremy Wiederhorn)

Pope Francis, at the 9/11 Memorial. (Photo/Rabbi Jeremy Wiederhorn)

In a room filled with clergy and representatives of all religions, the positive energy was palpable and contagious. I sat next to an amazing woman from the Sikh community, and we were surrounded by fellow Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Jewish clergy. The symbolism of sitting together at Ground Zero–where so many lives were lost due to baseless hatred and terror-and instead joining hands in the spirit of peace, was nothing short of awe-inspiring. The humble presence of the Pope and his simple yet powerful plea for unity and reconciliation among all people left our hearts filled spirit and with hope.

As we approach Shabbat and look forward to celebrating Sukkot next week, let us all look forward to the day in which God spreads a sukkat shalom (shelter of peace) over the entire world.

Warm wishes for Shabbat Shalom and Hag Sameach.

Rabbi Jeremy Wiederhorn and Bishop James Massa, auxiliary bishop of Brooklyn.

Rabbi Jeremy Wiederhorn and Bishop James Massa, auxiliary bishop of Brooklyn.