On Wednesday, a community menorah was celebrated near the front steps of Anthropologie.
It was a joint effort of Westport’s 4 Jewish congregations: Beit Chaverim, Chabad, Temple Israel and The Conservative Synagogue. The candles were lit by Bill Mitchell, a longtime participant in our town’s interfaith efforts.
It’s been nearly a decade since that handsome Tudor building in the center of town has been a go-to spot for furniture, clothes and home items.
Newcomers may not realize that for over 80 years — beginning in 1923 — the spot for our annual community menorah was the site of our town’s YMCA.
You know: the Young Men’s Christian Association.
(Photos courtesy of Dick Foot, former Westport YMCA executive director)
President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to the White House and speech before Congress yesterday reminded Americans that Ukraine’s war against Russian occupation continues, even as media attention has waned.
Westporters don’t need that reminder.
Since we announced our “Building Bridges” campaign with our new sister city of Lyman on Monday, residents (and their families and friends) have raised $105,909. That’s an outstanding outpouring of generosity!
We need less than $145,000 more to reach our goal of $250,000. That will provide 150 homes ruined during the Russian occupation with new roofs, windows and more — plus a generator for every one. And a water filtration system for the entire devastated town.
We hope to reach that goal by Christmas (Sunday). Thanks to our partnership with Ukraine Aid International — a non-profit founded by Westporters Brian and Marshall Mayer — all material can be delivered 3 days later.
Pleaseclick here. Click the “I want to support” box; then select “Support for the City of Lyman.” Scroll down on that page for other tax-deductible donation options (mail, wire transfer and Venmo). You can also donate directly, via Stripe (click here).
Support for the effort comes from Rabbi Michael Friedman of Temple Israel. He says:
“We are all inundated with requests for charitable contributions at this season of the year. Yet a personal call to help specific people in a specific city — even if it is very far away — gives our heartstrings a special tug. What a fabulous way to directly aid fellow human beings in dire need.”
At least once a week, someone asks “06880”: What’s up with the Amazon Fresh store that was supposed to replace Barnes & Noble? Nothing has happened there for months.
We’re not the only town left in — literally — the dark.
An answer comes from The Real Deal. The New York real estate website says that since September, Amazon has not opened a new Fresh store. At least 7 locations appear to be completely built out, but unopened. Another 26 locations are like ours, with development halted.
There are “zombie stores” in several states.
The Real Deal explains:
It’s cheaper for the company to keep the stores in place while not operating, rather than ditch the stores altogether. While the company is on the hook for rent, maintenance and taxes, shutting down a store could also force Amazon to pay a fee for a lease withdrawal or severance to hired employees.
Click here for the full story. In the meantime, if you want to give Amazon money for groceries, go to Whole Foods. They have not yet closed that part of their operations yet. (Hat tip: John McCarthy)
Yesterday’s innovative “Holiday Card” — actually, a series of large images projected on the front of Saugatuck Congregational Church, thanks to the AV team of Craig Patton and Mark Mathias — was even more stunning that anyone expected.
The show will be repeated tonight and tomorrow (weather permitting), from 5 to 8 p.m. The best viewing spot is probably the Colonial Green parking lot, across the street.
The Westport Police have released arrest reports for the December 14-21 period.
Five people were detained in custody. The charges for each:
Conspiracy to commit larceny, interfering with a police officer, assault on public safety personnel.
Reckless driving, disobeying the signal of an officer, operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license, larceny of a motor vehicle, possession of a controlled substance, possession with intent to sell a controlled substance.
The photo above provides a great segue to this item: Wheels2U is growing every day. Last month, the door-to-door ride service provided rides for over 2,300 people directly from their homes and offices, to and from the train station.
The service will take 2 brief holidays — December 26 and January 2 — before resuming full steam ahead.
For more information about Wheels2U, click here. For more information about the Westport Transit District’s services for the elderly and people with disabilities, click here.
As of last night, over $73,000 had been donated. That’s nearly 1/3 of the way to repair 150 homes destroyed by Russian forces, give generators to all, and provide a water filtration system to the town.
Thanks to a partnership with Brian and Marshall Mayer — the Westporters who founded the non-profit Ukraine Aid International — the supplies can be delivered to the desperate town within 3 days.
As noted yesterday, the goal of $250,000 — by Christmas — is certainly reachable. It’s only $10 for every resident of Westport.
Of course, not everyone can afford that. If you can, please consider a donation for those who cannot.
To donate to the non-profit, just click here. Click the “I want to support” box; then select “Support for the City of Lyman.” Scroll down on that page for other donation options (mail, wire transfer and Venmo.) You can also donate directly, via Stripe (click here).
“06880” reader Jamie Klein has a great idea. She sent yesterday’s story to neighbors and friends, with this note:
This is one example of what is special about living in this town. What a great gift for someone in your family, or as a thoughtful hostess gift for one of the parties you may be attending.
As we enter the holiday season the message of miracles and hope are a theme across all faiths, and from our small place on this earth, we can make a miracle happen.
Thanks for all who have contributed to help rebuild Lyman, and all who will do so. Let’s double that $73,000 by tonight!
Christmas in Lyman. 150 out of 240 homes have been destroyed — including this one.
Meanwhile, another local drive for Ukrainian aid bore fantastic fruit.
When Mark Yurkiw learned there was space in a container leaving in 10 days, he acted fast.
He put out the word on “06880.” In just over a week, readers delivered 8 whole house generators, 8 gas chain saws, 8 phone power banks, 20 sleeping bags, 20 flashlights, 2 kerosene heaters, plus boxes of rechargeable batteries, winter blankets, pillows, and children’s warm winter clothing, to his door.
All those items are now on their way to that embattled nation. Each one can help change lives.
“Thank you, Westport!” Mark says. “It takes a village.”
Ukrainians Ross Voytovych (now of Ridgefield) and Dima Dovgan (Redding) move equipment to be loaded on to a tractor trailer.
It will be lit tomorrow (Wednesday, December 21) at 5:30 p.m., in front of Anthropologie on the Post Road at Church Lane. The entire community is invited, with jelly doughnuts and chocolate gelt for all.
Bill Mitchell of Mitchells — long involved in interfaith efforts — will have the honor of lighting the candles.
This menorah and lighting is a joint effort of Beit Chaverim, Chabad of Westport, Temple Israel, and The Conservative Synagogue.
The downtown menorah, in 2020. (Photo/Arlene Yolles)
Who knew so many Westporters read the New York Post?
A dozen or so readers sent links yesterday to the tabloid’s story that began:
A former New York University director of finance allegedly siphoned $3.5 million meant for minority and women-owned businesses and blew some of the cash on herself — including on an $80,000 pool for her Connecticut home, prosecutors said Monday.
Cindy Tappe, 57, was charged with diverting funds from New York State Education Department grants into shell companies that she created over a six-year scheme that was discovered in 2018, when she left NYU, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
Some of the embezzled money went to expenses related to the grants or employee reimbursements — but at least $660,000 ended up in Tappe’s own pockets, according to the indictment.
She allegedly spent the dough on personal expenses, including the pool and renovations on her her home in Westport, Connecticut.
The scam started with a $23 million grant awarded to NYU’s Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and Transformation, where Tappe worked, with the cash meant to go to state programs to help special education students and those learning English.
Speaking of Hanukkah etc. … The Jazz at the Post folks say: “It’s that time of year again. Why have our favorite holiday tunes been relegated to lifeless background music, advertising jingles or Muzak?
“In the hands of inspired musicians, the holiday repertoire makes for a fine opportunity for a night of hard swinging jazz.
“Name your holiday: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, even Festivus (for the rest of us) — we got it covered!”
This Thursday (December 22), Jazz at the Post (VFW Joseph J. Clinton Post 399) hosts a “Holiday Swingfest.” The lineup includes pianist Dave Childs, drummer Greg Burrows, bassist Joe Fitzgerald, and saxophonist Greg “The Jazz Rabbi” Wall.
“Special guests and elves are sure to drop by” too, they say.
Shows are 7:30 and 8:45 p.m., with dinner beginning at 7:30. Reservations are highly recommended: JazzatthePost@gmail.com.
And speaking (still) of the holidays:
Cecily Anderson is a talented art teacher.
How talented? Check out this great holiday installation piece. It’s drawing stares — and raves — at its pop-up location, right there at BMS. (Hat tip: Kerry Long)
But 4 months after developers presented a text amendment allowing a retail/residential/hotel complex in Saugatuck, the Planning & Zoning Commission voted 5-1 to approve it.
The decision — which came after changes in height, setbacks and floor area coverage — is a key step in the redevelopment of the train station neighborhood. ROAN Ventures can now apply for a site plan approval of its Hamlet at Saugatuck project.
P&Z approval requires that 20% of the slips at any new marina be available for free public use, and that there be paddleboard and kayak tie-ups; design standards beyond those required for a typical special permit including maintaining the New England coastal village aesthetic reflected in the most recent renderings, and no extra height without significant public outdoor areas along the river.
The text amendment includes the rectangle between Riverside Avenue, Railroad Place, Franklin Street and Charles Street, plus land on Riverside Avenue, and the private parking lot above Luciano Park now used for boat storage.
ROAN envisions The Hamlet as an economic engine for residents and visitors, and a gateway to the rest of the town. The concept includes:
A boutique hotel with rooms, condo-type residences, pools, and underground parking.
New shops and restaurants, featuring local artisans.
A year-round gourmet market on the now-private railroad parking lot, with local vendors.
A boardwalk along the river similar to Bartaco’s, with the goal of connecting Saugatuck and Westport via waterway.
Re-skinning and beautification of the 21 Charles Street office building — often called “the ugliest” in Westport.
The Town of Westport posted this photo on social media:
It shows local and store officials celebrating Lux Bond & Green’s just-in-time-for-the-holidays renovation. Congratulations, of course!
But I am sure every downtown shopper — and every other merchant in Brooks Corner — joins me in asking: “Can you please get rid of those 3 valuable parking spots marked (ridiculously and archaically) ‘Reserved parking Lux Bond & Green curbside pickup’?”
From folk-rock to jazz: Harvie S. — an award-winning bassist, educator, composer, arranger, and producer — stars at this week’s Jazz at the Post (Thursday, December 15, shows at 7:30 and 8:45 p.m.; dinner at 6:30 p.m.).
He’s joined by drummer Jason Tiemann, Norwalk native and keyboardist Rob Aries, and saxophonist Greg “The Jazz Rabbi” Wall.
There’s a $15 cover. Reservations are strongly recommended: JazzattthePost@gmail.com.
Congratulations to Barry Beattie. The Staples High School girls soccer coach has been named New England region Coach of the Year by United Soccer Coaches, the 30,000-member group of professional, college, high school and club coaches. He is now in contention for national Coach of the Year honors, to be announced at the organization’s annual banquet next month in Philadelphia.
This fall, Beattie led the Wreckers to their 2nd straight state championship. With a strong core of returning players, the future looks very bright for both Beattie and his team.
Coach Barry Beattie (to the right of the scoreboard, and the 2022 state champion Staples High School girls soccer team. (Photo/David G. Whitham, courtesy of The Ruden Report)
I posted yesterday’s Roundup story about the Hackett family’s used sports equipment drive — it benefits Leveling the Playing Field, a non-profit that helps youngsters in need — without including where to drop the cleats, balls and more off.
They’ll be at the Granola Bar this Saturday and Sunday (December 10 and 11), from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Click here for a list of items you can donate. You know you’ve got some of it lying unused all around your house!
From left: Max Levitt (Founder of Leveling The Playing Field), Alex Hackett, Daisy Hackett, Chloe Hackett
The Westport Police have released arrest reports for the December 1-7 period.
Two people were detained in custody. One was charged with operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol, failure to obey traffic control signal, and failure to drive in the proper lane.
The other custodial arrest was for conspiracy to commit burglary; oeperating a motor vehicle without a license; failure to renew registration; misuse of plates, and insurance coverage fails to meet minimum requirements.
The following citations were issued:
Traveling unreasonably fast: 18
Stop sign violation: 4
Violation of any traffic commission regulation: 3
Operating a motor vehicle without a license: 2
Operating an unregistered motor vehicle: 2
Failure to display plates: 2
Misuse of license plates: 1
Insurance coverage fails to meet minimum requirements: 2
Longtime ESPN reporter, E60 host Jeremy Schaap — a 1988 Staples High School graduate, and current Westport resident — never shies away from important issues.
He is the lead reporter and narrator of a new film, “The Survivor.” The documentary examines the 1972 Munich Massacre. That September, terrorists murdered 11 Israeli athletics at the Summer Olympics.
Schapp will screen the film at the Westport Library on Monday (December 12, 7 p.m.). Immediately afterward, the 11-time Emmy Award-winning investigative journalist will host a talkback
Schaap traveled to Israel and Germany to tell the story through the eyes of 86-year-old Israeli race walker Shaul Ladany. He survived the massacre — as he had World War II and the Holocaust, when he was a child.
“In his long life, Shaul Ladany has seen up close the worst of humanity,” says Schaap. “Not only has he survived, he has pressed forward, constantly, to lead a life of achievement. The lessons of his life are valuable to us all. I was honored to be part of the team that told the story of what he endured and what he witnessed. Ladany’s story is not so well-known here in the United States — but it should be.”
The Munich Massacre was the first terrorist attack broadcast live on television around the world. “The Survivor” breaks down the tragedy through archival video and news reports, along with new interviews and reporting.
The Westport Rotary Club presented its annual Community Service and Public Protection Awards on Tuesday.
Recipients included artist and homeless advocate Nina Bentley; former Westport 1st Selectman Jim Marpe; RTM veteran Velma Heller; the Westport chapter of the National Charity League (represented by member Lisa Price), and Builders Beyond Borders executive director Amy Schroeder-Riggio.
Firefighter Rob Lenois and police officer Kevin Smith also earned awards for individual acts of heroism.
Nina Bentley receives her Westport Rotary Club award from Karl Mergenthaler and Leslie Roberts. (Photo/Jeff Wieser)
And finally … Joyce Bryant died recently, in Los Angeles. She was 95, and suffered from Alzheimer’s.
I’d never heard of her. But according to her New York Times obituary, she was :a sultry singer of the 1940s and ’50s who broke racial barriers in nightclubs and raised the hackles of radio censors before setting aside her show business career in favor of missionary work, then reinventing herself as a classical and opera singer,”
Click here for her fascinating life story. Click below to hear a bit of her work:
(Obscure nightclub singers, police reports, menorah lightings, new Japanese restaurants — “06880” brings you all the Roundup news, every day. If you enjoy our work, please click here to contribute. Thank you!)
At first glance, environmentalism and social justice might seem to be different issues.
But they intersect powerfully. One example: petrochemical facilities — with all their toxic byproducts — are often located in predominantly minority, economically disadvantaged communities.
Wanjiku Gatheru wrote a provocative piece for Glamour: “Want to be an Environmentalist? Start With Antiracism.”
The 21-year old is the first Black person in history to receive the Rhodes, Truman and Udall scholarships. A recent graduate of the University of Connecticut, she’s now studying in Oxford, England.
That’s where she’ll join the Westport Library on Wednesday, December 16 (7 p.m.), for a virtual event. She’ll discuss the intersection of those 2 movements. The event is co-sponsored by TEAM Westport, Sustainable Westport and Earthplace. Click here to register.
Wanjiku Gatheru (Photo/Sean Glynn, UConn)
The Greens Farms Elementary School PTA has organized a fundraiser.
They not only want everyone to help — they want to help other PTAs and organizations too.
When you buy a gift card from a participating local retailer or locally owned online brand — click here! — the store donates a portion of proceeds to the GFS PTA.
But GFS wants to spread the wealth. If your PTA wants to be considered — as part of a dropdown menu at checkout — email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Participants include ASF Sports & Outdoors, BD Provisions, Club Pilates, Dojo Westport, Posh Nail Salon, Shelala, Skin by Kataryna, Olive & Linen, Organic Krush, Posh Nail Salon, Romanacci Pizza Bar, Splatz by OneFun, Stew Leonard’s, Westport Masks and 3Dux.
New brands are being added all the time. If your business would like to join, email email@example.com.
Westport artist Michael Chait will sponsor another of his popular pop-up photo shows on the Saugatuck River this Sunday (December 13, 12:30 to 3 p.m., 11 Riverside Avenue).
It’s all outdoors. Smooth jazz/R&B music starts at 1:30 p.m., with the Dave Kardas Band. Pop by for the pop-up!
Michael Chait’s flag over the Saugatuck River.
Anthropologie’s Christmas decorations bring a bit of light to downtown Westport.
Now they’re joined by a menorah.
Happy holidays to all!
As of yesterday, Westport had 786 cases of COVID-19 since March (722 confirmed, 64 probable). That’s up 87 total cases since last Thursday.
There have been 25 deaths, up 1 from last week. Click here for full statistics.
And finally … happy 89th birthday to Rita Moreno. In 1961 she won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress as Anita, in the film version of “West Side Story.”
This Wednesday (December 14, 8 p.m.), Temple Israel hosts a forum on the challenges of “the holiday season” for Jewish and interfaith families.
The event comes a few days after Staples’ Candlelight Concert. A tradition for over 70 years, the event opens — as it always has — with the haunting hymn “Sing We Noel.” It ends — as always — with the “Hallelujah Chorus,” as ebullient and glorious a paean to “the Lord God omnipotent” as you’ll find anywhere.
But traditions change. The Candlelight Concert now includes Hanukkah and African songs, plus other evocative music. (There’s also a production number filled with schmaltzy Christmas tunes, Santa Claus, reindeer, and the occasional dreidel.)
Georg Friedrich Handel wrote the "Hallelujah Chorus" -- not Hanukkah music.
In fact, for over 2 decades Staples’ choral director was Alice Lipson — whose husband and daughter are rabbis and cantors. Alice conducted the “Hallelujah Chorus” as lustily as anyone — and made certain that, while her students knew they were singing pieces rich in history and beauty, they could opt out if they so chose. None did.
Back at Burr Farms Elementary School in the 1960s, it was all-Christmas, all the time. In music class, we sang only Christmas songs. There was “Frosty the Snowman” and “Rudolph,” sure — but also heavy-duty carols: “Adeste Fidelis.” “Away in a Manger.” “The First Noel.”
I had no idea what I was singing, but no matter. It was beautiful music.
And I got more than a music education at Burr Farms. Our classrooms had Advent calendars. Every kid — Catholics, Christians, Jews and Muslims (just kidding) — thrust hands in the air, begging to be the one to open the window that day.
A big part of my elementary school education.
The big event was a nighttime Christmas concert. Parents, students, younger and older siblings stood outside, in the cold air — around an evergreen tree, decorated with ornaments and topped with an angel — singing carols. I even remember someone pointing out where the Star of Bethlehem might have been, though perhaps that is pushing it.
When the Christmas carols were over we all went into the “cafetorium” for hot chocolate, the only secular part of the night.
I didn’t think twice about any of that. For one thing, I was in 1st or 2nd grade.
For another, we started every day with the Lord’s Prayer.
Over the loudspeaker.
That ended in 1963, when the Supreme Court outlawed prayer in school. I have no idea if there was any discussion about that in Westport — if, in fact, parents knew it was going on, or thought anything about it.
The Westport of my childhood was a multi-religious place. Temple Israel was built in 1959, with a membership of 250 families. We were certainly not Darien, and even at a young age I recall my parents being proud of our town’s pluralism.
But you’d be hard pressed to find any evidence at Burr Farms Elementary School, back in the early ’60s.
Not that anyone noticed. We were too busy exchanging Christmas cards and presents in class.
(For more information on Wednesday’s Temple Israel “celebrating the holidays” event, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 203-227-1293. “Drinks and a nosh” will be provided.)
Not to get all Grinchy here on Christmas morning, but one thing really frosts my butt: “Happy Holidays!”
This is not the “holiday season.” It’s Christmas.
For millennia Hanukkah, Chanukah, or however you spell it, was a minor holiday on the Jewish calendar. It’s been elevated to an absurd position of importance in America — kind of like English-Americans celebrating King George’s birthday right around the 4th of July, because, well, why not?
Besides, Chanukka — even at 8 days long — is long gone by the time Christmas rolls around.
And don’t get me started on Kwanzaa. I’ve got a lot of some a few black friends, and they all celebrate Christmas.
This is Christmastime. The Christmas season.
And today is Christmas.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good yontiff.
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