Tag Archives: Israel

Westporter In Israel: “October 7 Changed Everything”

When sirens sounded in the distance in the early morning of October 7, Ariella Torv woke briefly in her Tel Aviv apartment. Then she went back to sleep.

The 2011 Staples High School graduate had lived in Israel for 6 years. She’d heard sirens before.

But an hour later, at 7:30 a.m., they blared directly above her.

Ariella’s building has no bomb shelter. She ran to the stairwell, where other residents gathered. Soon, sensing no danger, they headed to their apartments.

Ariella Torv (right) and her mother Denise, when she visited Israel this fall. Denise returned to Westport a week before the Hamas attack.

Ariella planned to go back to sleep. But a worried friend texted: “Are you okay?”

“This is serious!” she thought. She texted her boss, who told her: “Pack a bag. Go to a friend’s house, with a shelter.”

Ariella took her scooter to the building nearby. When she arrived, she learned the extent of the horror happening just 2 hours away.

Arielle and her friend spent the day glued to the news.

“I never experienced anything like that,” she recalls. “Israelis who are very used to things like this were scared. So I was scared.

“I’m very liberal. I vote Democratic. I thought I understood one of the world’s most complex situations. I thought a 2-state solution was possible.”

Now, she explains, “October 7 changed everything. I’m still processing it. It feels like the longest day — like that day is still happening.”

Empty cribs and beds symbolize the Israelis — including many children — held hostage by Hamas.

Growing up, Ariella’s family observed the High Holy Days. But they were not particularly religious.

After graduating from the University of Hartford with a degree in communications, she moved to New York for a job with the Ogilvy ad agency.

On a 10-day Birthright trip to Israel in 2017, she fell in love with the country and culture. She signed up for a 6-month internship with a Tel Aviv tech startup. She grew to love even more the people and energy of Israel.

She decided to stay.

“At 24, I didn’t understand what it meant to move to a foreign country,” Ariella says. “it took 3 years to really feel at home.”

A serene scene, not far from Ariella’s Tel Aviv apartment, belies a nation at war.

Gradually, she learned about the nuances of life there. Over the past few months she attended protest rallies against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and  his judicial reforms.

Then came October 7. She watched in real time as people living on kibbutzim called, pleading for the army and police to help.

“It’s insane to think about that,” Ariella says. “I can’t move past that day.”

She did not go to work for nearly 3 weeks. She was not alone. Friends and colleagues could not focus either. Two and a half hours away, 200 hostages huddled in tunnels.

Reminders of the hostages are everywhere in Israel.

At night, Ariella checked the locks on her apartment door obsessively. She had to take photos on her phone, to prove to herself she was safe.

Ariella had planned to return to Westport for Thanksgiving. It would be her first trip back in 13 months.

She felt torn. “I didn’t want people to think I was running away,” she says.

But friends said, “Be with your family. Gather strength from them. They want to see you. Remember, this is a difficult time for them too.”

Being in Westport is “very weird,” she admits. “I love being home, hugging my mom, seeing my nephews. But I feel disconnected. My head and heart are in Israel.”

One morning, out buying milk, a tire made a strange sound. She looked for an escape route. Then she realized: “I’m safe.”

It is hard to talk with family and friends about what Israel is going through. “It’s all so overwhelming,” Ariella notes.

“I have so much to say. But I don’t know how to say it.”

Many people in Westport are concerned about what’s happening. She is inspired by blue ribbons and posters of hostages on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge, and Israeli flags on many lawns.

She sent photos to friends in Israel. “They love it!” she reports.

Ribbons and flyers on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge buoy Ariella Torv. (Photo/Jennifer Wolff)

At the same time, Ariella says, there is plenty of “misinformation,” in Westport and throughout the US.

She has no idea what will happen when she returns to Israel next week.

“I’m a bit scared. After the ceasefire, we’ll go right back to war. We have a mission.”

A soldier and his scooter, on the streets of Israel. (Israel photos courtesy of Ariella Torv)

But she also knows she will be welcomed “Israelis treat people like family,” she says. “For the past few weeks, they welcomed me into their home for Shabbat dinner. They invited me to sleep over. We text each other all the time.

“Israel is incredibly strong. It’s inspiring how regular citizens turned into warriors, fighting to protect their land.”

She never considered not returning.

Does Ariella have a message for “06880” readers?

“Israel will live,” she says firmly. “I have full faith in the country, and the IDF. There is no left or right now. Every Israeli is united, for the country.”

Soon, Ariella Torv returns to her adopted home, to join them.

Roundup: Antisemitism, Israel Walk, Hostage Posters …

“We Need to Talk About Antisemitism.”

To address that fraught topic, several area groups will sponsor a conversation this Thursday (November 30, 7 p.m., The Conservative Synagogue).

Rabbis Jeremy Wiederhorn and Evan Schultz join Rabbi Diana Fersko, whose book “We Need to Talk About Antisemitism” was published this summer. They will discuss the recent rise in antisemitism, and how to address it.

Organizers include The Conservative Synagogue, Temple Israel, Congregation B’nai Israel, Jewish Federation of Greater Fairfield County, and the Jewish Book Council.

Click here to register.


Speaking of Israel:

Lily Rimm — “06880”‘s great social media coordinator — and her Staples High School friend Audrey Bunan are planning at walk supporting “our brothers and sisters” in Israel , at the Staples track (Sunday, December 17, noon to 1:30 p.m.)

The base fee for donations is $18, though participants may give as much as they wish. The collection will be made at the event.

Funds will be given to United Hatzalah, whose network of more than 7,000 volunteer medics save thousands of lives each year across Israel, by providing immediate and free medical treatment.

Questions? Email lilbirdgirl1@gmail.com


Speaking still of Israel: The Coleman family — longtime Westporters — were downtown yesterday.

They handed out posters of kidnapped Israelis, and asked shoppers to “keep them in your heart.”

Andrew and Relly were joined by visiting daughter Sharon.

“We have so much to be thankful for,” Relly says.

“We were thinking about the hostages, and how each one is an entire world with an individual story of hope and trauma. We wanted to do something to help remind people of them as individual people.”

The response, Relly says, was “overwhelmingly positive and heartwarming.”

Sharon, Relly and Andrew Coleman, on Main Street.


Most campaign signs were picked up soon after the election — as required by town regulations.

But a few still linger.

Bayberry Lane, near Cross Highway. (Photo/Tom Prince)

I’m sure the ones still standing  were just overlooked.

But it’s been 20 days since the election. Perhaps it’s okay now — though it wasn’t, prior to voting — for citizens to take things into their own hands?


So many elements of “Westport … Naturally” — water, nature, rocks, sky — come together in this photo of Long Island Sound at Old Mill Beach, with Compo Cove in the distance.

(Photo/Karen Como)


And finally … on this day in 1896, Richard Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra was performed for the first time.

It was decently known before 1968. But then …

Fun fact: When “2001: A Space Odyssey” was released, the future was 33 years away. Now, we’re 22 years — exactly 2/3 — away, on the other end.

(If you haven’t contributed to “06880” since 2001 — or more realistically 2009, when we first began — no problem! You can do so right now. Just click here. And thank you!)

Roundup: Israeli Hostage Rally, Police Security, Marigny & Lyman …

More than 260 empty chairs — each with a “Kidnapped” flyer and balloon — served as a stark reminder yesterday of the hostages from Israel still held by Hamas.

The chairs — juxtaposed against a brilliant blue sky at Compo Beach — were organized by Westporters Sharon Suchotliff, Inda Sade and Lynn Ravinovici Park, with the help of the Staples Jewish Culture Club.

(Photo/Mia Bomback)

Jonathan Alloy reports:

“Seeing the little kid chairs with posters of kidnapped babies and children was breathtaking and infuriating. It’s time to bring the hostages home. ‘Never Again’ is now.”

(Photo/Dylan Chatterjee)

1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker and Rabbi Zach Plesent of Temple Israel were among the speakers. Israeli music played, and Westport Police provided security.

From left, at yesterday’s rally: Sharon Suchotliff, Samuel Alloy, Jonathan Alloy. 


Today’s “Westport …  What’s Happening” podcast is quite timely. 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker and Deputy Police Chieif Ryan Paulsson discuss measures taken to protect Westporters during the difficult times in the aftermath of Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel.

Click below to listen. The podcast is produced by the Y’s Men of Westport & Weston.


Westport’s sister city relationship with Lyman, Ukraine — our newest sister city — began with a conversation with friends in Marigny-le-Lozon, France, our oldest sister city.

At a Zoom ceremony dedicating a room in their town hall in honor of Charlotte MacLear, the Staples High School French teacher who pioneered the 2 towns’ relationship in the aftermath of World War II, Marigny officials said, “Why don’t we help rebuild a Ukrainian town, the same way Westport helped us for so long?”

Last holiday season, Westport raised $252,000 for Lyman. We added another $50,000 this past summer.

Now Marigny is paying it forward. Starting months ago, they collected funds and bought gifts for every child still in Lyman: about 700.

This week, they’re shipping them east. Delivery has been assured by Ukraine Aid International — the non-profit, boots-on-the-ground group founded by Westporters Brian and Marshall Mayer.

What goes around, comes around. Merry Christmas! Joyeux Noël! щасливого Різдва!

NOTE: Donations to Lyman are always welcome. Click here; then 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.)

For decades, all the leaves were gone by Thanksgiving.

Preparing gifts for Lyman, Ukraine, in Marigny-le-Lozon, France.


Westport Tilt Parenting is a support group for parents of neurodivergent children.

They’ve partnered with the Westport Library to host Debbie Reber. The educator, author and advocate for understanding and embracing neurodivergent youngsters will speak at the Library next Tuesday (November 28, 7 p.m.).

Her topic: “Understanding and Embracing Differently Wired Kids.”

Westport Tilt Parenting says that at least 1 in 5 youths are in some way neurodivergent (ADHD, learning disabilities, autism spectrum, gifted, sensory issues, anxiety and more).

However, they are often misunderstood. Current support strategies may be misguided; their strengths and gifts can be overlooked.

All parents of neurodiverse and neurotypical children are invited, as are teachers, administrators and interested others. Click here for more information. To learn more about Westport Tilt Parenting, email  alexandre.acupuncture@gmail.com.


In these days of climate change, they’re hanging on longer.

This was the “Westport … Naturally” scene Saturday, on Morningside Drive South:

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)


And finally … Happy Birthday, President Biden!

(From here to Israel, “06880” is “where Westport meets the world.” Please click here to support your hyper-local blog. Thank you!)

Roundup: Cribari Bridge Lighting Tonight; EMS Raises All Their $$$ …

If you needed any more proof that Westport is racing headlong into the holiday season: Tonight (Saturday) at 5 p.m., the William F. Cribari Bridge gets lit.

As always, Al’s Angels do the honors. Also as always, everyone is invited

Sure, it’s a few days early. But, Al DiGuido says, “we believe that our world needs a beacon of hope and love right now (as always). We are called to be a light in the world!”

Al’s Angels does so much for Westport — from providing the inspirational Saugatuck bridge lights, to giving holiday meals  and gifts to children (and their families) battling cancer, rare blood diseases, natural disasters and severe financial hardship. Click here to give back to this great organization.

The Cribari Bridge over the river in Saugatuck will be lit at 5 p.m. tonight. (Photo/January Stewart)


Westport’s $217 million budget pays for a lot — everything from Public Works trucks, to Band-Aids at the Aspetuck Health District.

But one big item is missing: the Volunteer Emergency Medical Service.

Astonishingly. from the ambulance that helps save your life, to the Band-Aids they offer, they raise all their own funds.

Now that you’ve picked yourself up off the floor (and hopefully, don’t need medical attention for it), read on.

Our wonderful WVEMS recently kicked off their annual fundraising drive with letters to everyone in town.

It might be easy to overlook it, in the rush of year-end pleas by many very worthy organizations (and, um, others).


The request comes with a new option: to donate on a recurring (weekly, monthly or yearly) basis. That’s the lifeblood (ho ho) of many groups.

Right now, they’re fund raising for a crucial need: 3 new ambulances. They have life cycles of their own, and (like many of us) they’re headed toward their expiration date.

Two of the 3 have been paid for, by very generous donors. Residents need to pitch in for the third — and for everything inside.

Including Band-Aids.

Click here to contribute.

And give till it, uh, hurts.


Westport artist Elaine Clayton writes:

“Ever since October 7 — when I woke up to an email from a friend in Jerusalem saying “I am safe, but war has begun” — I have felt a sense of shock and sorrow as probably you have, too.

“This has been made worse by my astonishment that so many, while protesting for peace and justice for the innocent people of Gaza, did not first condemn the slaughter, rape, torture and kidnapping of innocent people on that day.

“I also want a safe, peaceful resolution for Gaza. But I do not want to live in a world where the slaughter of innocents for any cause is contextualized as reasonable, or even as ‘glorious.’

“I realized I could do something to help myself cope with the grief and to hopefully let art do the talking.”

Elaine made 4 “prayer drawing videos,” with 7 hostage children. One is below; click on, to view.

“My hope is to keep all our hearts open to our shared humanity, through the eyes of these children. B’ Shalom and with love,” she adds.


“Below Surface” — the award-winning 19-minute documentary about the Westport Weston Family Y’s AquaFitness program — is going national.

Its TV debut is tomorrow (Sunday, November 19, 10 a.m., Lifetime Channel).

It’s inspiring, powerful — and filled with Westporters you’ll recognize.

Connecticut viewers got a sneak peek this week. AquaFit instructor (and star of the film) Patty Kondub, and producer (and AquaFitter) Mary Lake Polan were interviewed on NBC’s CTLive.

Everyone into the pool. And then out, to watch tomorrow!


“A Father’s Promise” is a powerful story about the aftermath of Sandy Hook, and the mission to end gun violence in America.

It tells the story of musician Mark Barden. After his son Daniel was murdered 11 years ago, he became an activist. Along the way, he rediscovered his lost passion for music.

It’s appropriate that on December 7 — the night before the world premiere — a multi-artist benefit concert at New York University will raise funds (and be filmed for a documentary).

Among the performers: Sheryl Crow, Peter Frampton, Bernie Williams — and Aztec Two-Step 2.0, featuring Westporters Rex Fowler and Dodie Pettit.

Click here for tickets, and more information. Click below for the movie trailer:


Ever wonder what Christmas was like during World War II?

The Weston History & Culture Center’s Coley House is decorated like 80 years ago. It shows what life was like when 3 generations of one family occupied the home.

Guided tours are December 7 (2 and 3 p.m.); December 9, 10, 16, 17, 21 and January 4, 6 and 7 (1, 2 and 3 p.m.).

Tickets are $5 for Weston History & Culture Center members, $10 for non-members. Click here to purchase.


The Levitt Pavilion is headed to Stamford.

Westport’s outdoor entertainment venue has teamed up with the Palace Theatre. Together they present DakhaBrakha — a world music quintet from Kyiv, Ukraine — this Sunday (November 19, 7 p.m., Palace Theatre, Stamford).

The group embraces folk, indie rock, pop, hip hop and avant-garde styles. Theie show includes global orchestrations and Ukrainian traditional instrumentation.

Click here for more information, including tickets.


Two former 1st selectpersons joined the town’s current chief executive at Christ & Holy Trinity Church, at a memorial service for longtime town volunteer Paul Hammond. Martha Hauhuth served from 1985-89; Jim Marpe served 2 terms prior to Jen Tooker.


From left: Jim Marpe, Martha Hauhuth, Jen Tooker. (Photo/Andrea Moore)


Westport resident John Murphy died Monday. He was 85.

A graduate of the College of the Holy Cross, he had a long career as a sales and marketing executive at the American Can Company.

His obituary says: “John was an eternal optimist, with a kind heart and open mind. His spirit was indomitable, and he was a prodigious hiker and reader, especially history. He was a people person, keenly interested in making connections and naturally curious about everyone he met. John sidestepped small talk, instead, he was out to disarm you, with charm and a wicked sense of humor….

“He was an avid newspaper reader, often found behind a copy of the Wall Street Journal (though an ardent, active Democrat), and always curious and engaged in the world around him. He loved to travel to the European countryside, especially Italy, taking in the history, people, and wonderful food. He loved the Yankees, and the Giants, and accepted his sons’ betrayal with the Patriots.

His and his college sweetheart, Connie Dixon, raised 3 children. He coached them in sports, and was president of the Redding Boys & Girls Club.

In his later years, John found a dear companion in Marleen Salko. They spent years enjoying yoga, walks on Westport’s beaches, and time with good friends. He made great friendships through the Y’s Men of Westport & Weston, especially the hiking group. He also volunteered driving people to medical appointments.

John is survived by his children Mark (Katya), Chris (Jennifer) and Kirsten Hedberg (Eric), and grandchildren Megan, Christopher and Valerie Murphy, abd Finn, Tess and Ingrid Hedberg; Diana and Charlie Healy; his longtime companion Marleen Salko, and sisters Mary and Annie Murphy. He was predeceased by his wife Connie.

A celebration of John’s life will be held at the Westport Library on Saturday, November 25 (2 to 4 p.m.). Family and friends are invited to gather and share memories. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Nature Conservancy.

John Murphy


The weather was great yesterday for fishing, at Burying Hill Beach. Let’s hope the fish were biting for the stars of today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo.

(Photo/Ed Simek)


And finally … it’s hard for a cartoon character to have a birthday.

But today is considered the official birthday for Mickey Mouse. On this day in 1928 — 95 years ago — he first debuted in the short film “Steamboat Willy.”

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Roundup: Holidays Are Here; Bathrooms Are Closed …

Holiday garlands are up on Main Street. As always, they’re courtesy of the Westport Downtown Association.

And — right on cue — I heard my first Christmas carol yesterday.

For the record (ho ho ho), it was “Joy to the World,” at Fresh Market.

Only 37 shopping days left …

(Photo/Dan Woog)


A reader writes:

“A walking friend and I just learned that all the bathrooms at Compo are closed. Even the one at Ned Dimes Marina is locked.

“With all the active people who love walking around Compo, can’t we find the extra money to keep at least one set of restrooms open all year?

“A mother at the playground is not going to want her kids going inside that germ-infested port-o-potty, nor are senior citizens who have difficulty getting into and safely out of it.

“People need real restrooms, and ones that are open until at least 8 p.m. so we can workout outside after work

“Can we get this situation turned back to the way it always was, with restrooms open all year, or at least keep the new handicap accessible restrooms open and pay a cleaning company to maintain them?”

I asked Parks & Recreation Department director Jen Fava about this. She said:

“While I understand the comments from your reader, the bathrooms were not designed for year-round use. The pipes would freeze and burst if left open, which is why they get blown out each winter.

“The only ones that had heat were at the marina. But we have had consistent vandalism, and have therefore closed them in the winter over the past few years.

“We provide porta-johns, so there are facilities available.”

The bathrooms at Compo’s South Beach — and others by the pavilion, playground and marina — are closed until spring. (Photo/Miggs Burroughs)


Six members of the Representative Town Meeting received a standing ovation, at Tuesday’s meeting.

The members — who either did not run for re-elected, or were not returned to office — are from left, in the photo below: Harris Falk, Brien Buckman, Stephen Shackleford, Jamie Bairaktaris, Liz Milwe and Lori Church.

They received thanks, and proclamations, from RTM moderator Jeff Wieser.

(Photo/Andrew Colabella)


Three local women have organized a “Bring Them Home!” event, drawing attention to the plight of hostages held by Hamas.

Set for this Sunday (November 19, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) near the Compo Beach playground, the aim is to set up seats for each of the missing men, women and children. The visual image would represent the plight of the 240 hostages.

Supporters can drop off chairs, or stay at the beach.

Speakers include Rabbi Zach Plesent of Temple Israel and Carin Savel, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Fairfield County.

Questions? Text Inda Sade: 917-440-6067.


Restoration of the stormwater detention pond at Wakeman Town Farm has completed its first phase.

Located on the farm’s north side, the rehabilitation protects nearby Deadman Brook and other downstream waterways from the pond’s storm water runoff, excess nutrient impurities and mitigate urban pollutants.

Phase I included site surveying, debris clearing, mowing, water testing, pond and flora mapping, planting cover crop, and installing a fence with gate between the Farm and the pond.

Westport’s LandTech donated time and expertise, for a bathymetric survey of the pond and its surrounding property. LandTech also teamed up with Staples High School senior interns for water quality testing.

The 1-acre wooded pond was built in the 1990s by the town. Over time, the pond fell victim to invasive vegetation and sediment accumulation.

A grant from Patagonia was instrumental in the project’s success.

Wakeman Town Farm storm water detention pond. 


A cappella fans: Rejoice!

Two Westport favorites — the Dartmouth College Brovertones and Staples High School Orphenians deliver delightful, melodic holiday cheer on December 4 (7 p.m., Saugatuck Congregational Church).

Admission is free, though goodwill donations are accepted to support the church’s concert series.

Staples High School Class of 2021 graduate/current Brovertone senior (and musical director) Sam Laskin is happy to return to his home town for the show.

The group has many connections to Westport, from former members who grew up here (or lived here now), to singing impromptu at a wedding proposal near the Compo Beach house where they stayed on a previous tour.

The group also took a photo on the Compo jetty that was used on an album, “Bro Ties.”

This is the 3rd straight year Sam and the Brovertones will sing here. They were at Christ & Holy Trinity Church in 2021, and at a private MoCA party last year. They also performed at Staples for the choral groups, and described how great an extracurricular experience a cappella has been for all of them.

Staples’ Orphenians, meanwhile, need no introduction. The holidays are their busiest time of the year, and they’ll be in fine form under new director Lauren Pine.


James Comey may have left Westport — and Bridgewater Associates, which brought him to town — for the equally shark-like waters of the FBI.

But he hasn’t forgotten his former home town.

The New York Post reports that his second murder mystery novel, set for publication in May, is about a “make-believe hedge fund called Saugatuck Associates, billed as the world’s largest.”

The teaser from Mysterious Press reads: “A red canoe sits abandoned on Seymour Rock, right where the Saugatuck River hits the Long Island Sound. The elegantly dressed corpse of a woman lies inside….”

The Post adds:

The book is called “Westport,” a posh Connecticut town which, it turns out, is not only where the headquarters of the fictional Saugatuck hedge fund lies, but also that of Bridgewater Associates, the giant hedge fund founded by billionaire Ray Dalio.

And while the protagonist of Comey’s book is a woman, she previously worked as a federal prosecutor before becoming general counsel at Saugatuck – just like Comey did before he became general counsel at Bridgewater.

To read more in the Post about Comey and Bridgewater — where he was “feared,” according to a new book, “The Fund,” by Rob Copeland — click here.

James Comey


The Weston History & Culture Center concludes its World War II lecture series with author Jeffrey DeWitt.

He’ll discuss his book “Connecticut Military Heroes of Pearl Harbor” on — appropriately — December 7 (1 p.m.), followed by a Q-and-A and book signing.

Guided tours of the Coley House, which represents life on the home front during World War II, will be available after the lecture.


Westporters Mia Khamish (a Duke University sophomore) and her sister Izzy Khamish (a Staples High School junior) both won gold medals at the 2023 Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston last month.

Both are coxswains, and products of Connecticut Boat Club.

The Duke 4+ crew’s winning time of 17:46 was 15 seconds ahead of silver medalist Radcliffe.

The next day, Izzy led her youth women’s 4+ to first place, in 19:12.

Mia (left) and Izzy Khamish, with Connecticut Boat Club head coach Liz Trond.


Staples High School Class of 2002 graduate Andrew Aster died unexpectedly on Sunday, in his native city of Dallas. He was 39.

At Staples Andrew was a wrestler, cheerleader, and track and field athlete (pole vault, 110m and 300 m hurdles).

He graduated from Lafayette College in 2006, with a BA in history (focusing on medieval European and French studies). He was president of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, and participated on the track team.

He then worked with Club Med, rising from a GO (Gentils Organisateur) to sports and entertainment manager in Mexico, Israel, France and the Dominican Republic. He was fluent in French, Spanish and Hebrew.

After returning to Dallas, where his family had relocated, he was employed in sales and management in retail and technology, and began a new, exciting opportunity in October.

Andrew is survived by his mother Paula; father Charles (step-mother Ellen); twin brother Jason; sister Raye; step-siblings Kristen, Jessica and Cara, and many loving friends and relatives.

in lieu of flowers the family requests that donations in Andrew’s name be made to a local youth sports organization of your choice, honoring Andrew’s commitment to sports and youth development.

To share a story, photos and condolences with the Aster family, email remembering.andrew.aster@gmail.com. To read Andrew’s full obituary, click here.

Andrew Aster


Lucy Ambrosino does not have to go far to find “Westport … Naturally” beauty. This is the scene, in the back yard of her Crescent Road home:

(Photo/Lucy Ambrosino)


And finally … in honor of the “06880” reader searching for a bathroom at Compo Beach (story above):


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March For Israel: Westporters Report From DC

Nothing could deter dozens of Westporters, who gathered before dawn yesterday morning at The Conservative Synagogue.

They waited for 2 buses to take them to Washington, for a nationwide March for Israel.

Then they waited … and waited … but the buses never came.

Undaunted, they decided to drive. They figured out drivers, loaded their belongings, and — in 38 cars — headed south.

They arrived a few hours later. Danielle Dobin reports:

“The crowd of almost 300,000 fell completely silent as the families of hostages kidnapped by Hamas shared their painful experiences. Everyone present recommitted to bringing the hostages home. I hope people will take the time to listen to the powerful remarks of Rachel Goldberg, the mother of someone abducted from the music festival.

“An invading army of terrorists purposefully kidnapped people from their homes, from a concert, babies from their cribs … and some Americans are cheering this or sanitizing it with words like ‘justified resistance’ is hard to fathom. Standing up to oppose this is why we needed to drop everything to be present yesterday.

“This was a profoundly patriotic crowd. American flags were everywhere — woven into people’s hair, printed on shirts and hats, worn as capes, waving on flagpoles. There were also many, many Israeli flags.

“Attendees proudly showed their faces. No one was masked.

“Jews, Christians and Muslims marched. Some folks were ardent supporters of Netanyahu and others were vocal detractors. Republicans and Democrats spoke. Everyone put aside their differences to demand the release of the hostages, declare their solidarity with the state of Israel, and to decry the proliferation of antisemitism on college campuses.

“My brother and I met multiple large groups of non-Jewish Israel supporters from the Midwest and beyond who flew in just for the demonstration. Their expressions in the photo below capture their energy.

“The buses scheduled to bring us gathered at the Conservative Synagogue failed to show up. We don’t know if this was a result of incompetence by the bus company, or if it can be attributed to antisemitism. We mostly piled into cars and drove down in big groups. There was a vibrant contingent of Westporters present, from school-aged children to grandparents.”

Danielle Dobin (2nd from left), and friends.

Danielle Dobin also sent this photo, from the Metro …

(Photo/Danielle Dobin)

… while (below, from left) Rabbi Zach Plesent, Adam Blau and Bryan Bierman of Temple Israel gathered …

… and Arthur Hayes added this ,,,

From left: Arthur and Lisa Hayes with their son James, a Staples High School freshman. (Photo/Arthur Hayes)

,,, and Temple Israel executive director Bryan Bierman sent this:

(Photo/Bryan Bierman)

Roundup: Blue Ribbons, Kids’ Gifts, New Stop Sign …

Jennifer Wolff writes:

“On Tuesday, in an effort sponsored by Temple Israel and the Jewish Federation, a few of us, including my friend Deborah Slade, met to tie blue ribbons around light poles and similar structures in town, to both heighten and maintain awareness of the hostages still being held in Gaza.

“I spent my time tying up the eastbound side of the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge. Someone followed me later on the other side, with ‘kidnapped’ posters. We didn’t work together, but it works well together.

“Blue ribbons will be going up all over town. Anyone who wants to tie one to a tree in their yard can get ribbons from Temple Israel or the Jewish Federation in Bridgeport.

“With all the fighting going on, not just in Israel/Gaz but all over the world, in the streets and on campuses and in coffee shops, we can’t forget the innocents trapped in those tunnels, fighting for their freedom, very possibly fighting for their lives … if indeed they are still living.”

Blue ribbons on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge. (Photo/Jennifer Wolff)


Just in time for the holidays: Westport’s Department of Human Services’ Giving Program is back.

Donations from community members are a huge help to Westport families facing financial hardship. Dozens of families with school-aged children benefit each year from the program.

This year, rising costs for food, housing and fuel has added strains to many local budgets.

Gift cards and cash donations are matched with families, who then purchase food and simple holiday gifts for their children. Some also buy toiletries, shoes and clothing. Beneficiaries are anonymous.

The program enables parents to personalize their presents, and participate fully in the holiday season.

Residents and organizations can donate cash, checks or gift cards to the “Family to Family Seasonal Holiday Giving Program” online (click here). Contributions can also be dropped off (by appointment) at Town Hall, or mailed to the Department of Human Services c/o Town Hall, 110 Myrtle Avenue, Westport, CT 06880.

Westport residents facing financial difficulties can contact Human Services at 203-341-1050 or humansrv@westportct.gov for confidential assistance.

Questions? Email adaugelli@westportct.gov or call 203-341-1183.

Every child deserves holiday gifts.


Westport’s newest stop signs are at the 3-way intersection of Greens Farms Road and New Creek Road (the one that goes underneath I-95, past the train station, and on to Beachside Avenue).

Several “06880” readers were surprised.

The Board of Selectwomen authorized the signs because school buses are now parked at the station. They go in and out often, as cars zoom past on Greens Farms Road.

Or at least, they did zoom.

The new stop signs, looking east. (Photo/Matt Murray)


Speaking of speeding (and other broken laws):

Westport Police made 6 custodial arrests between November 1 and 8.

A man was arrested for burglary, and conspiracy to commit burglary, after officers responded to a home security alarm.

A man was arrested for burglary and larceny after police responded to a burglary at Greens Farms Academy, and vandalism at the nearby Greens Farms train station.

A woman was arrested for burglary, after a resident awoke to find someone ransacking her kitchen.

A woman was arrested for following too closely and driving under the influence (marijuana and alcohol), after a motoro vehicle accident on Saugatuck Avenue near the train station.

Two men were arrested on warrants for failure to appear.

Westport Police also issued these citations:

  • Failure to comply with state traffic commission regulations: 11 citations
  • Traveling unreasonably fast: 5
  • Traveling too fast for conditions: 3
  • Operating a motor vehicle without minimum insurance: 3
  • Violation in a construction zone: 2
  • Failure to obey traffic commission signals: 2
  • Allowing possession of alcohol by a minor: 1
  • Speeding: 1
  • Failure to drive in the proper lane: 1
  • Following too closely: 1
  • Failure to grant right of way: 1
  • Operating a motor vehicle under suspension: 1
  • Operating an unregistered motor vehicle: 1
  • Illegal use of tinted glass: 1
  • Improper use of markers: 1
  • Failure to register a commercial vehicle: 1
  • Violation of license class: 1
  • Operating a motorcycle without endorsement: 1

If you ride a motorcycle, you better have the proper endorsement on your license. (Photo/Penny Pearlman)


Speaking still of the law:

Over a dozen priceless works of art by Rembrandt, Vermeer and Degas disappeared from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in the early hours of March 18, 1990.

Just before 2024’s WestportREADS selection “The Art Thief,” by Michael Finkel, comes Westport Library’s “Vanished” program (November 16, 7 p.m).

Panelists include Stephen Kurkjian, journalist and author of a book on the heist, “Master Thieves, and Robert Wittman, retired FBI agent and author of “Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures.” Architect Allen Swerdlowe will moderate the discussion.

Click here for more information, and free registration.

Rembrandt’s “Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee”: stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.


40 million Americans are food insecure — including 345,000 Connecticut residents.

Yet 30 to 40% of food in America is wasted, and 70% of that food is edible. Food waste is responsible for 8% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the US.

Haley Schulman, from the Fairfield County office of Food Rescue USA, told the  Westport Rotary Club this week that donating food is the best way to both feed our communities and protect our planet.

Food Rescue has saved 44 million pounds of food and 33 million meals in Fairfield County since its inception in 2011. They do it by picking up leftover food from stores, restaurants and schools, and delivering it to pantries and shelters.

For more information on Food Rescue, click here or email Haley@foodrescue.

Haley Schulman, at the Westport Rotary Club.


It may be late to feature a great blue heron in our “Westport … Naturally” feature.

But this guy hasn’t yet flown south, from his perch on the Saugatuck River.

(Photo/Johanna Keyser Rossi)

Hurry up, dude. It will be winter before you know it!


And finally … in honor of our new 3-way stop signs:

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Roundup: Israel, Agent Orange, Veterans Day …

A concerned Westporter, who asks to remain anonymous, writes:

“During its October 7 terrorist invasion of Israel, Hamas and its allies kidnapped 240 hostages. Americans, Israelis and citizens of many countries are among the boys, girls, men and women still held captive, including babies, children, teenagers, adults and seniors.

“The 48 posters now on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge are just 1/5 of the total number of hostages. I laminated them and tied them to the posts with string, so there is no tape, glue or any adhesive on the bridge.

“A Westport police officer nicely chatted with me before driving off. It was very comforting to hear the many shouts of thanks and encouragement from people driving and walking on the bridge as I put these up.

“It should be beyond politics to say holding civilians hostage is a fundamentally unconscionable violation of human rights and the laws of war.”

Posters on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge.


“Agent Orange: A Short Sickening Saga of War” — Carl Addison Swanson’s startling and true tale of 300,000 servicemembers who died from exposure to the herbicide following their exposure in Vietnam — will be available on Veterans Day (November 11).

The Houston Chronicle calls it “a very short but powerful revelation of a war which still keeps killing.”

Fifty thousand copies will be sent to Veterans Administration regional headquarters in Providence, Roanoke, San Antonia and Los Angeles. All will be free to veterans.

Electronic editions, and the paperback, are on sale on Amazon. Click here to order.

Swanson — a 1966 graduate of Staples High School — spent 2 tours of duty in Vietnam, between 1968 and ’70. He is a lifelong Westport resident, and a prolific author. Click here for more information on his work.


Speaking of Veterans Day:

Westport’s official service is set for this Saturday (November 11, Town Hall auditorium).

At 10:30 a.m., the Westport Community Band presents a “Patriotic Salute to All Veterans” program, with marches and patriotic tunes.

Services begin at 11 a.m. — the same time the treaty was signed, ending World War I. They include posting of the colors by VFW Joseph J. Clinton Post 399; remarks by 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker; an address by Greens Farm Academy student Jared Lessing; and placing of a memorial wreath by VFW Auxiliary.

The Westport Police Department Honor Guard will perform a ceremonial salute.

After the ceremony, VFW Post 399 will host a Veterans Day luncheon to honor veterans for their dedicated service, sacrifices, and unwavering commitment to our nation.

The public is invited to both the Town Hall and VFW events.

Westport’s World War I doughboy statue, on Veterans Green across from Town Hall. (Photo/Andrew Colabella)


Just 2 days remain before the curtain rises on “The Prom.”

Staples Players’ fall musical promises to be one of their best shows ever. The Broadway show includes great singing and dancing, a very talented cast, plenty of laughs — and an important story line about inclusivity and acceptance.

Performances are November 10, 11, 17 and 18 at 7:30 p.m., with matinees November 12 and 18 at 3 p.m. Click here for tickets, the cast list and more information.

Click below for a cool sneak preview:


Every Home Should Have a Challah — the Westport-based nationwide delivery service — wants every Shabbat dinner to be meaningful.

But especially the one on November 17.

Scott Sharkey’s company has just launched Shabbat 25K. The goal of the grassroots initiative is for 25,000 young people ages 21 and up across the country to host a Shabbat dinner, and educate their friends about Israel.

Every leader will receive a gift card for nourishment, and a “Shabbat essentials box” with challah,  candles,  black & white cookies, a weekly prayer, and extra goodies.

Hosts will also receive an “Israel Discussion Toolkit,” combining easy-to-digest historical context with stories from the frontlines, plus a Q&A card to help spark conversations around the Shabbat table.  Click here to sign up, and for more information.

Challah, from Every Home Should Have a Challah.


Bridgeport’s The Knowlton gallery presents an art exhibit showcasing the works of local, regional and international artists. It includes Westport artists James Chantler Brown, Herm Freeman and Kate Lashin, along with over 300 artists and photographers.

The event — including a panel — is part of the 15th annual Bridgeport Arts Trail. It’s set for this Friday (November 10, 4 to 9:30 p.m., 305 Knowlton Street.) Click here for more information.

The Knowlton.


Carl Mathis died Saturday, at his Westport home. He was 64.

His obituary calls the Illinois native “a natural performer, talented musician, capable athlete, and the easiest of friends.: He attended college at Bradley University, where he began a career in television that took him to Peoria, Denver, and Los Angeles,.

In New York City he met Risa, his wife of 32 years. They settled in Westport and raised 4 children; Robert, David, Michael and Elizabeth. He co-founded a company selling advertising on behalf of clients such as PBS and NPR.

Carl also coached basketball, and served as the president and an elder at Norwalk’s St. Paul’s Lutheran Church.

He is survived by his wife, mother, 4 children, 5 siblings and their families.

A funeral service is set for tomorrow (Thursday, November 9, 2 p.m., St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Norwalk. The family will receive friends in their home on Friday, November 10, from 2 to 8 p.m. To leave online condolences, click here. In lieu of flowers, contributions in Carl’s memory may be made at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, The Lutheran Hour,  or to Carl’s favorite radio station, WNYC.


Election Day is sort of the traditional date when the number of leaves on the ground surpasses the number still on trees.

Today’s “Westport … Naturally” feature shows what Compo Beach’s South Beach now looks like:

(Photo/Regi Kendig)


And finally … on this day in 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president of the United States. He defeated incumbent Herbert Hoover.

The country was in the depths of the Great Depression. But Roosevelt’s theme song was upbeat, and became forever associated with him:

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Roundup: Israel Signs, PAL Auction, Crowdsourcing …

Yesterday,”06880″ reported on antisemitic signs in Weston.

Yesterday morning too, a sign with an Israeli flag was found defaced at the corner of Coleytown and Lyons Plains Roads — just a few yards from Temple Israel.

The message is clear: “Israel has blood on its hands.”

The incident was reported to the Westport Police, FBI and Secure Community Network.

At the same time, Weston Police learned that one Israel sign was stolen from a resident’s property, and 2 other flag signs were defaced similar to the one in Westport.

Weston Police are conducting neighborhood canvases and checking residential security cameras. They ask anyone with information to call 203-222-2600.


The Westport PAL online auction now open contains the usual great local items, like gift certificates and sports tickets.

But there are a few special items too that we haven’t seen anywhere else, including a 3-month membership to the private Autostrada club, 5 hour-long boxing sessions with Rich Dean, and the chance to be police or fire chief for the day.

Click here for the full list, and to bid. Funds help build the new PAL clubhouse at PJ Romano Field. The auction ends this Thursday (November 2) at 9 p.m.

The Autostrada lounge overlooks the private car collection.


The National Charity League fosters mother-daughter relationships through a 6-year program of community service, leadership development and cultural experiences.

The Westport chapter has more than 275 members — women and their daughters in grades 7-12 — and provides volunteer support to over 30 non-profits.

Mothers of 6th grade girls are welcome to apply. Click here for more information, or email nclwmembership@gmail.com.


After graduating from Staples High School in 2009, Cronin Cullen became an actor, filmmaker and producer.

His latest project, “12 Hours,” is about a single mother’s desperate night-long search for her fentanyl-addicted son. It is based on true events from the writer/ director, Kelly Stanphill.

The issue is close to Cronin’s heart. He has lost Westport friends to substance abuse.

A crowdsourcing campaign launched last week. All donations are tax-deductible. Click here for more information, and to contribute.

Cronin Cullen


Today’s “Westport … Naturally” feature shows Axel. He dressed up in Hawaiian garb this weekend, to enjoy a day at the beach.

(Photo/Melissa Sobil Zitomer)


And finally … When I was a kid growing up in Westport, Halloween Eve was called “Mischief Night.” Fortunately, the statute of limitations is long past. (Don’t ask about the time I tossed my own parents’ mailbox into the pond across the street.)

In some parts of the country, it’s called Devil’s Night. Enjoy!

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Candlelight Vigil: “The People Of Israel Live”

As darkness fell last night, over 300 Westporters lit Jesup Green with candles.

In the chill October air they stood shoulder to shoulder in support of Israel, and prayed for the safe return of hostages held by Hamas.

They gathered, Rev. Heather Sinclair of the United Methodist Church said, for “comfort, support and reassurance,” and in “sadness, grief, anger, fear and frustration.”

Rabbi Yehudah Kantor of Chabad of Westport and Weston noted, “Some rise up in arms. We rise up by linking arms.”

They sang the Israeli national anthem, and America’s.

They observed a moment of silence. And then, spontaneously, they sang “Am Yisrael Chai.” The words mean: “the people of Israel live.”

The vigil was non-partisan. No politicians spoke.

But the words of the multi-faith clergy — and the size of the crowd — spoke volumes.

(From left): Rabbi Greg Wall of Beit Chaverim, Rabbi Michael Friedman of Temple Israel and Rev. Heather Sinclair of the United Methodist Church, before the vigil.

Organizers of the vigil distributed flyers of many of the 200 hostages held by Hamas. Like other Westporters, Lauren Soloff and Wes Malowitz (above) have relatives and friends in Israel.

Staples High School seniors Jeremy Rosenkranz (left) and Eitan Eiger.

Andrew Colabella, during the national anthem.

(From left): Police Chief Foti Koskinas, 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker and Bill Mitchell. Westport Police provided security for the event.

(All photos/Dan Woog)