Tag Archives: Federation for Jewish Philanthropy of Upper Fairfield County

Roundup: More Mitzvahs, Heating Help, Gaby Gonzalez …


Yesterday’s “06880” lead story yesterday celebrated the works of members of 4 Westport synagogues. They’ll be honored December 12 by the Federation for Jewish Philanthropy of Upper Fairfield County, as part of their annual “Mitzvah Heroes” celebration.

But there’s a 5th Westporter too — from Congregation Beth El in Norwalk.

Stephanie Gordon has been a shul leader since 2007.  A lawyer professionally, she focuses her volunteerism in 2 areas: working toward “tikkun olam” (repairing the world), and improving her congregation

Committee work at Beth El includes Membership, vice president for Education and Fundraising, and the Board of Trustees and Executive Committee. But she’s hands-on too, from decorating the sukkah to greeting congregants on Shabbat.

For years Stephanie was part of Norwalk Open Doors’ shelter and kitchen crew. She then stepped up to lead. The pandemic notwithstanding, Stephanie continues to plan healthy menus, shops, recruits volunteers, and leads meal prep and service. 

Stephanie Gordon


This winter could be one of the most expensive on record. That’s scary news for neighbors who already have trouble heating their homes.

The Westport Warm-Up Fund can help.

The initiative helps hundreds of Westporters with home heating expenses — thanks to others who donate.

Tax-deductible contributions can be made online (click here) or by mail:  Westport Warm-Up Fund, Department of Human Services, Westport Town Hall, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport CT 06880.

For more information — or to request help — call 203-341-1050, or email humansrv@westportct.gov.


Gaby Gonzalez — the state champion Staples High School girls soccer star — has been named to the All-New England team.

Next fall, Gaby will play at Cornell University. It’s familiar territory: both her older sister Mia and father Jack played for the Big Red.

Congratulations, Gaby!

Gaby Gonzalez



Human beings are not the only living things in Westport enjoying holiday decorations.

Chickens in this Hillspoint Road coop do too.

They also are happy that chicken is not a traditional Christmas meal.

(Photo/Matt Murray)


Late-autumn Compo Beach reeds frame today’s “Westport … Naturally” feature:

(Photo/June Rose Whittaker)


And finally … on this day in 1988, Roy Orbison played his final concert. The country singer with an astonishing, angelic, operatic voice — who had a 2nd career with the Traveling Wilburys — died of heart failure 2 days later, at 52.

Meet Westport’s Mitzvah Heroes

Our cup runneth over.

On Sunday, December 12 (4 p.m., virtual), the Federation for Jewish Philanthropy of Upper Fairfield County honors 14 men and women as “Mitzvah Heroes.” Four are from Westport.

The literal meaning of the Hebrew word mitzvah is “commandment.” But it has come to mean “doing a good deed, with empathy and kindness.” Here’s what our mitzvah heroes have done, to make enormous differences in the lives of many.

Alan Benjamin (nominated by Beit Chaverim Synagogue) is a past president of both the Federation and his congregation (where he serves on the board, building committee and more).

Alan Benjamin

When Beit Chaverim started hosting the Westport community minyan in 2017, Alan was a 2-day-a-week regular. By 2020 he was at minyan all 7 days, including a 3-mile walk on Shabbat.

He started leading parts of the service. He is a serious Torah student, taking regular classes and engaging in one-on-one sessions.

When COVID struck, Beit Chaverim shut for a while. When it reopened as a parking lot minyan, Alan ensured there were volunteers to lead. He’s still at it.

Alan is always one of the first to offer funds to help someone in need, or sponsor an event. He and his wife Amy have been strong supporters of Beit Chaverim for years. He is a prime force behind both the dedicated congregation, and the new building rapidly taking shape.

Nancy Cohen (The Conservative Synagogue) died in August. she is being honored posthumously.

Nancy Cohen

For years, Nancy cooked meals for people needing lifts. She set up tables for Shabbat dinner and break-fasts on Yom Kippur. She made sure shivas went smoothly, and helped make minyans.

She contributed to and raised money for charity and other projects — including lung cancer research — and helped strategize ways to make funds even more impactful.

A longtime champion of the underdog — even during her illness — Nancy lived the saying “say little, do much, greet every person with a cheerful face.”

Rochelle Green (Congregation for Humanistic Judaism of Fairfield County) helps people find meaning through connections with Jewish values, traditions and heritage.

Rochelle Green

As Ritual Committee chair, she oversees the content and co-leads High Holiday services. During the pandemic, she moved those services online. Members and guests joined in, observing the holidays from across the US.

As coordinator helping boys and girls prepare for bar and bat mitzvahs, Rochelle has helped younger members understand Jewish values, traditions and heritage. She reached an even younger audience as co-coordinator of CHJ’s Sunday school.

Rochelle’s many years as a board member has been marked by steady, thoughtful leadership and wise counsel. She provides support and helps with new initiatives, such as a recent oral history project.

Jennifer Rubin (Temple Israel) chairs the synagogue’s Caring Committee. She provides care and outreach to members who are sick or in mourning, with calls and visits.

Jennifer Rubin

She makes sure the clergy knows who needs particular attention and care, carrying out her role with diligence, dedication, compassion, sensitivity, insight and partnership.

Jennifer’s commitment has not wavered during COVID. She constantly seeks new ways to support members of her congregation.

The December 12 ceremony will be livestreamed, and is open to the entire community. Click here to register.

Unsung Heroes #77

In the Jewish religion, tikkun olam is the concept of improving the world. And mitzvah — Hebrew for “commandment” — is also used to connote a good deed that helps another.

Westport is filled with men and women who, every day, share time and energy to make a difference.

This Sunday (December 9 at Congregation B’nai Israel in Bridgeport), 5 of them — 1 from each local synagogue — will join 9 others from around Fairfield County. They’ll be honored by the Federation for Jewish Philanthropy of Upper Fairfield County, as “mitzvah heroes.”

Simcha Cooper was nominated by Beit Chaverim.

Simcha Cooper

He wears many mitzvah hats — but most striking is his self-appointed community shomer. That’s the person who watches over someone recently deceased, until the funeral. In Jewish tradition, the soul of the recently departed hovers over the body until burial.

Cooper is on call 24/7. He meets Rabbi Greg Wall in the hospital, sits for hours in the morgue, then rides to the funeral home. He may stay up for 24 hours, reciting psalms. He leaves just before the grieving family is aware of the good deed done for their loved one.

Cooper also joins any shiva minyan (quorum of 10) needed, and attends nearly every class offered at the synagogue.

Steve Ulman was nominated by the Congregation for Humanistic Judaism of Fairfield County.

Steve Ulman

As chair of their Social Action Committee, he spearheads projects like the Zero Waste recycling effort at the Federation Food Festival. He has helped organize a creative enrichment program at Neighborhood Studios in Bridgeport; planted a garden for special needs people at the Trumbull Nature & Art Center; introduced Food Rescue to CHJ, and helps teens and parents make sandwiches and collect clothing for those in dire circumstances.

Eileen Glickman was nominated by Temple Israel.

Eileen Glickman

She visits local hospitals every week, to learn the needs of congregants and other Jewish patients.

She checks in with neighbors and friends she has not seen in a while, and leads shiva minyans.

And in times of crisis, Eileen is there. She buys gift cards, and asks clergy to distribute them to the needy.

Martha and Martin Rosenfeld were nominated by The Conservative Synagogue.

Each week, they volunteer at Norwalk Hospital. Martha has served in the Emergency Department for over 20 years, while Martin greets patients on their way to and from procedures.

Longtime members of their synagogue in New Rochelle, when they retired they looked for a community where they could continue to be active. At TCS they found a young community with many children, which they immersed themselves in.

Martha and Martin Rosenfeld

They assist in the office, shine the silver on the Torah scrolls, and provide Passover seders for people without a local family.

At the age of 70, Martin learned to read Torah for the first time. Now in his 90s, he is still going strong — and is the synagogue’s most prolific reader. He and his wife are avid attendees at adult education programs, inspiring all.

Congratulations to these mitzvah honorees. They don’t do all that they do for praise.

But it couldn’t hurt.

(Sunday’s event is part of the Federation for Jewish Philanthropy’s 1st-ever TzedakahFest. It includes an exhibit hall, a concert with the Nields, sessions on teen and elder health issues, and a community service project. For information, click here or call 203-226-8197.)