Tag Archives: Temple Israel

Roundup: Restaurant Week, Organic Krush, Mushrooms …

Restaurant Week returns! In fact, it’s “Restaurant 2 Weeks.”

The popular Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce-sponsored event begins  tomorrow (Sunday, September 25). It runs through October 9. Part of an “Eat Local” campaign, it follows the successful Slice of Saugatuck Festival.

This year, 21 restaurants all over town offer prix fixe meals, in a wide range of cuisines and prices. Each eatery sets their own prices and hours.

Here are the participating restaurants. “L” means lunch; “D” is for dinner; “B” for brunch. Click a link where applicable for menus (some are pending — click here for the most up-to-date information).

Allium Eatery (L)
Amis (L,D)
Boathouse (L,D)
Capuli  (L,D)
De Tapas (L,D)
Don Memo (L)
Gray Goose (L)
Harvest (D,B)
Kawa Ni (L)
La Plage (L,D)
Pane E Bene (D)
Rive Bistro (L,D)
Rizzutos (D)
Romanacci (L,D)
Spotted Horse Tavern (L)
TAJ (L,D)
Tarantino (D)
Terrain (D)
The Whelk (L)
Tutti’s Restaurant (L,D)
Via Sforza (L,D)

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The hour-long CNN “Champions for Change” special — hosted by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and featuring Westport’s own Police Chief Foti Koskinas — airs tomorrow (Saturday, September 24, 8 p.m.).

“06880” previously gave an incorrect date of Sunday. Tune in tomorrow! (Hat tip: Alisyn Camerota)

    • Screenshot from CNN: Alisyn Camerota and Chief Foti Koskinas.

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A GoFundMe page has been set up, to help with the education of the children of Mark Blake, the popular and long-serving Westport and Weston Emergency Medical Service supervisor and volunteer, who died Tuesday of complications from COVID. Click here to donate.

    • Mark Blake

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With low-key publicity — and high security — former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak spoke at Temple Israel Tuesday night.

Drawing on his experience as a military leader and cabinet minister, he discussed ongoing tensions in the region, threats from Iran and more.

    • Ehud Barak, at Temple Israel. (Photo/JC Martin)

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As the school year begins, Organic Krush reminds teachers that they get a 10% discount — year round. Founder Michelle Walrath — a former teacher — is proud to honor educators “invaluable service.”

She also adds a plug for their new spiced pumpkin smoothie and pumpkin donuts. “Off the charts!” she says.

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“The Wonderful World of Mushrooms” comes to Wakeman Town Farm on October 24 (7 p.m.).

The free lecture is a deep dive, with experts from Essential Earth Farm.

WTF says: “During a billion years of evolution, fungi have become masters of survival. They are primary decomposers that keep our forests alive. They play an integral role in decomposition.”

Attendees will gain a deeper understanding of the intricate relationship between fungi, soil, and environmental and human health. Click here to register.

    • (Photo/Peter Gold)

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Robin Frank writes: “In anticipation of Halloween, let’s remember the dead by investigating art’s historic role in celebrating and memorializing loss.

“Join me for a free lecture called “Hauntings: Death and Desire in American Art” (October 6, 7 p.m., at Museum for History & Culture). Artists of all generations have made the absent present through haunting imagery, ranging from the seductive to the spectral, from portraits to seemingly haunted domestic spaces immortalizing intimate and moving stories.”

Click here for more information, and registration.

    • A haunting image.

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Sorelle Gallery’s next exhibition — “Cosmic Botany” — features artist Roger Mudre.

His work is inspired by patterns of nature, and the circle as the perfect form. Titling each painting after plants, he draws upon “microscopic worlds, cellular growth, auras, the cosmos, and places unseen, only imagined.”

The exhibit runs October 1 through 23. An opening reception and artist meet-and-greet is set for October 1 (4:30 to 6:30 p.m.). Click here for more information.

    • Art by Roger Mudre

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‘Tis the season for nests. Today’s “Westport … Naturally” scary-looking one was spotted on Bermuda Road, by Ken Yormark:

    • (Photo/Ken Yormark)

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And finally … in honor of Wakeman Town Farm’s upcoming lecture on mushrooms (story above):

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Roundup: Barak, Broadband, Bees …

Today is Primary Day in Connecticut.

Both the Democratic and Republican parties are fielding candidates, for a variety of statewide offices.

Polls close at 8 p.m. Click here to find your polling place.

Turnout was very light early this morning, at the Greens Farms Elementary School polling place. (Photo/John Karrel)

 

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It’s a beautiful day — if a tad bit hot and humid.

There’s no wind. No storm.

Yet this morning, for no reason other than (probably) old age, a large tree toppled onto Punch Bowl Drive.

Be careful out there!

Tree down on Punch Bowl. (Photo/Tommy Greenwald)

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In 1964, Martin Luther King spoke at Temple Israel.

Nearly 60 years later, the synagogue prepares to host another internationally known guest.

Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak will speak on September 20 (7:30 p.m.). He will discuss current events, including Israel’s coming election and the war in Ukraine.

Click here for details, including in-person and livestream registration.

Ehud Barak

Barak, who became the most decorated soldier in the history of the Israel Defense Forces over a 36-year career, served as the nation’s prime minister from 1999 to 2001.

He also has held other prominent posts in Israel’s government, including as defense minister and as minister of internal and foreign affairs.

For more information, contact Temple Israel at 203-227-1293.

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“06880” has been buzzing recently with stories (and comments) about broadband (and prices).

Western Connecticut Council of Governments — a planning organization for 18 area town, including Westport — is conducting a quick survey on internet service and pricing.

Residential and business customers can complete the survey. Click here for the link.

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Speaking of buzzing … Hans Wilhelm writes:

“In our Weston garden stands a majestic old Japanese pagoda tree (also called scholar tree).

In summertime when it is in full bloom, you can ‘hear’ the tree from far away. It is the happy humming sound of thousands of busy bees. They are not only in the tree but also on the ground, which is covered with blossoms. It’s not a good idea to walk under the tree at that time.

“But during the last years we noticed a sharp drop in the bee population.

“This summer the tree is again in full bloom –- but completely silent. Hardly any bees at all. Sadly, the prophecy made by Rachel Carson in her 1962 book ‘Silent Spring’ has come true — right here in our garden, where we never use insecticides or herbicides.

The usual swarms of bees are gone from Hans Wilhelm’s garden.

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For nearly 75 years, Westport PAL has served youngsters with sports programs and scholarships. That’s impressive.

And for 60 years, they’ve raised funds through the Chief Samuel Luciano Golf Tournament. That’s impressive too.

This year’s event is September 12. The day includes continental breakfast, lunch, morning and afternoon shotgun starts, cocktails, dinner, a raffle and prizes.

Single, twosome and foursome spots are available. Click here for more information, including registration and sponsorships.

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Sunday’s New York Times included a great review of Mary Rodgers’ new memoir, “SHY: The Alarmingly Outspoken Memoirs of Mary Rodgers.” Jesse Green continued working on it for years, after her death in 2014.

Mary Rodgers Guettel is Richard Rodgers’ daughter. They lived in Fairfield, just over the Westport line. She became an apprentice at the Westport Country Playhouse in 1950.  She later earned fame writing the music for “Once Upon a Mattress.”

In 2009, the Playhouse honored Rodgers Guettel, at their annual gala. Among the celebrants: Stephen Sondheim, a fellow 1950 apprentice.

Also on hand that night: Weston’s Jim Naughton, and Westporter Kelli O’Hara.

Rodgers’ son, Adam Guettel, wrote “Light in the Piazza.” The musical starred O’Hara — whose father-in-law is Naughton.

The memoir includes references to Rodgers’ internship. She describes their intense work schedule (which she enjoyed), and that afterwards they wanted to go drinking.

However, she wrote, “In Westport, everything closed up tight as a drum at one in the morning.” So the interns frequently  “ran our own bar at Frank Perry’s house at night, often accompanied by a low-stakes poker game.”

Yes, that Frank Perry. The future film director (“David and Lisa,” “The Swimmer,” “Diary of a Mad Housewife”) was another member of that amazing Class of 1950 Westport Country Playhouse apprentices. (Hat tip: Fred Cantor)

Richard Rodgers’ daughter (2nd row, 4th from left) posed with other Westport Country Playhouse apprentices in 1950, at the Jolly Fisherman restaurant. Other notables in the photo: Stephen Sondheim (crouching, top of photo) and Frank Perry (front row, left).

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Today’s stunning “Westport … Naturally” egret Sherwood Island Mill pond photo comes courtesy of Dan Johnson:

(Photo/Dan Johnson)

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And finally … Olivia Newton-John died yesterday, after battling breast cancer. The versatile singer was 73. Click here for a full obituary.

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Roundup: Yankee Doodle’s Logo, Compo Men’s Hoops, Felicia’s Salon …

The Yankee Doodle Fair is back.

The event — a decades-long herald of the end of school — was missing from the June calendar for 2 years, due to COVID.

It returned last September. Now it’s back in its familiar slot: This Thursday and Friday (6 to 10 p.m.), Saturday (1 to 10 p.m.) and Sunday (1 to 5 p.m.), at the Westport Woman’s Club on Imperial Avenue.

Also familiar: the Yankee Doodle Fair logo.

What most Westporters don’t know is that the carousel horse was designed more than 30 years ago by Angela Mata. Her mother chaired the event, for the sponsoring Westport Woman’s Club.

Growing up here, she was an avid fairgoer. She graduated from Staples High School, returned here, brought her own children — and is now a well-respected art teacher, at her alma mater.

Like the carousel on Angela’s logo, whatever goes around, comes around.

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Also back, after a pandemic break: Westport Parks & Recreation’s men’s summer basketball league, at Compo Beach.

The popular weeknight event runs for 8 weeks (June 20 to August 16). Teams can have a maximum of 15 players.

Games are Mondays and Tuesdays, at 7 and 8 p.m. The fee is $900 per team. To register or for more details, email mrobbins@westportct.gov.

Compo Beach basketball court. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

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Speaking of (much younger) sports:

The Twins won the Westport Baseball “A” League (3rd grade) championship last weekend. Congrats, guys!

The “A” League champion Twins.

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in 2019, Felicia Catale — a long-time hair stylist in Westport (Tony’s, Karen & Frank’s, Austin Rolfe) — opened her own salon in Nash’s Plaza on Post Road West.

That first year was busy. She worked long hours, on hair and also the business end.

Then came COVID. She scrambled to serve customers, and keep her salon alive.

Finally, the pandemic is easing. She’s back welcoming customers.

Finally too, she had a chance for an official “grand opening.”

A small ceremony — with the big, official ribbon-cutting scissors — was held yesterday. She welcomed her guests — and then, in another long-delayed event, she threw a party for last fall’s Staples High School boys soccer team.

“06880” would say “welcome to Westport,” Felicia. But you’ve been here all along.

Cutting the ribbon at Salon Nash (from left): business consultant Ganesh Gupta, owner Felicia Catale, 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker, Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce director Matthew Mandell, Staples High School soccer tri-captain Bruno Guiduli.

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Yesterday’s “06880” Roundup included a photo of “Rev. Hezekiah Ripley.” The long-ago, long-serving Green’s Farms Church pastor showed up (looking very much like a 21st-century Westporter wearing a costume) at Sunday’s rededication service. The 1789 church on Hillandale Road has undergone an extensive renovation.

Rev. Ripley was not the only dignitary taking part in the festivities. Senator Richard Blumenthal was there too, watching former 1st Selectman Jim Marpe cut the ceremonial ribbon. A Green’s Farms parishioner, he was standing in for 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker, who was out of town.

From left: Capital campaign co-chair Tony Menchaca, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, former 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, capital campaign co-chair Diane Parrish, Senior Minister Jeff Rider. (Photo/Regina Madwed, Capitol Photo).

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Also this past weekend: Norwalk’s Copps Island Oysters was the place to be. A sold-out event raised important funds for Harbor Watch, the clean water research program of Earthplace.

Scientists provide data and field expertise to safeguard Connecticut waterways, educate residents about watershed issues, and train volunteers and student interns through hands-on research.

Plus, the oysters were delicious!

The Earthplace team, hanging out at the Harbor Watch fundraiser (from left): LaWanza Holder, Brenna Felt, Marisa Olavarria, Mary Donato, Nikki Spiller, Sophie Pollmann, Jess Mantzaris, Kasey Tietz, executive director Tony McDowell,

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Temple Israel’s first “Shabbat on the Beach” of the season is also the synagogue’s “Pride Shabbat.”

Temple officials say: “Together, we will send our clear message of love and acceptance for ‘kol yoshvei tevel’ — all who dwell on earth. BYO beach chairs and rainbows!”

A Westport beach pass is not necessary. Tell the gate attendant you’re part of the  Temple Israel service.

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Speaking of Pride Month: The lineup is set for this Friday’s Pride Cabaret at the Westport Library.

Comedian/activist Mina Hartong hosts Marvin Pittman, Sarah Ferro, Julie Loyd, Danielle Poyser and Staples High School senior Ellery Bodell.

Doors open on June 17 at 6:15 p.m. for cocktails, and mingling with local LGBTQ+ organization. The show begins at 7 p.m.

The cabaret is free. To register, click here. For more information, click here.

Cabaret emcee Mina Hartong.

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Sure, bunnies are supposed to hop (and reproduce).

But this one stood still long enough for Jamie Walsh to snap a great “Westport … Naturally” close-up.

(Photo/Jamie Walsh)

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And finally … today is Flag Day. Long may she wave, proudly and brave!

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Roundup: Pro-Choice Protest, Mitzvah Day, Bathroom Humor …

News of a draft of the Supreme Court’s decision in an important abortion case has sparked nationwide protests.

There’s one planned for 4 p.m. this Sunday — Mother’s Day — on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge downtown. Organizers (DefenDemocracy of CT) expect a large turnout.

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“Mitzvah,” loosely translated from Hebrew, means “good deed.”

Last Sunday, over 150 congregants of all ages showed up at Temple Israel to perform mitzvahs.

Among the donations:

  • 10,000 meals to Ukrainian refugees
  • 200 comfort bags to hospitalized children
  • Dozens of lap blankets, walker bags, potted plants, and centerpieces to Jewish Senior Services and Weston Senior Center
  • 100 blessing/toiletry bags to Bridgeport Rescue Mission
  • 12 lasagnas were baked and delivered to Homes with Hope
  • 100 bagged lunches to Gillespie Center
  • 30 Mother’s Day cards to women fighting breast cancer
  • 50 cards and letters to US service members and IDF lone soldiers,

It was truly a local — and global — Mitzvah Day.

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Want to give Mom something different for Mothers Day weekend? (Psssst…it’s Sunday!)

Take her to join Anthony Zemba at Earthplace on Saturday (May 7, 8 to 10 a.m.). The avid birder/environmental analyst/soil scientist/certified ecologist will lead a group along the trails of the nature and wildlife sanctuary.

Anthony recently joined LandTech, the civil engineering and environmental science firm that’s underwriting the bird walk.

Among the probable wildlife: scarlet tanagers; wood thrush; pileated, red- bellied, hairy and downy woodpeckers; indigo buntings, goldfinch and orioles.

Spots are limited. Click here to register, and for more information.

Calling all bird watchers: See the pileated woodpecker!

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Staples was ranked #5 nationally (large schools division), in this year’s 100 Best Wise (Working In Support of Education) High Schools Teaching Personal Finance. It was the top finish for any Connecticut school.

The list and ceremony honor excellence in personal finance education. Congratulations to teachers Lenny Klein and Sarah White — and of course their very “wise” students.

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Whether it’s a Broadway show or a Westport restaurant, women know the drill: There’s a longer wait for the women’s restroom than the men’s.

So Tammy Barry was relieved (ho ho) when she spotted this sign yesterday at Rye Ridge Deli:

(Photo/Tammy Barry)

Every problem has a solution. This one is simple. It doesn’t cost a cent.

Now let’s see it everywhere else in Westport too.

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Westporters know that the Memorial Day parade is one of the best community events of the year. Those who stay afterward, for the ceremony on Veterans Green across from Town Hall, know that it is a moving and important way to honor those who gave their lives for our country.

That is the idea of the holiday, after all.

There’s another chance to pay tribute too. That morning (May 30, 7:45 a.m.), the Fire Department honors all who died in service to our nation, and the Westport firefighters who died in the line of duty.

All are welcome at fire headquarters on the Post Road.

Westport Fire Department headquarters,

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Former Westporter Diane (Prezkop) Reed died in November, after a brief illness. She was 71.

Diane graduated from Staples High School in 1968. She participated in intermural sports, and wrote for the school newspaper Inklings and yearbook.  She graduated from the University of Connecticut with a BA in English and a master’s in Counseling and Higher Education.

In 1972, Diane married Steven Reed. She began a career at UConn as a research associate, then became assistant director of research and data acquisition for the Institute of Social Inquiry at Storrs.

The couple’s careers took them to Ohio, where Diane worked as an analyst, project director, manager of research operations and operations manager. A final move took them to Michigan, where she worked as marketing group director and director of teleservices. She loved being a mentor and coach to her staff, and enjoyed social and golf activities at Indianwood Golf Club.

After her divorce= Diane created a consulting practice, developing and editing training curricula and coaching management teams. In 2005 Diane returned to Westport to enjoy her family, and pursue her writing.

Friends and family describe Diane as “sweet, witty, compassionate, generous and kind.” She loved literature, science, spectator sports, music and humanity as a whole.  She was an avid collector and supporter of local artisans and craftsmen. She was passionate about her family, lifelong learning, and creative writing.

Diane’s siblings were Edward of Seattle, Raymond of Westport, Carole Prescott of Madison, and the late Thomas Prezkop of Newburyport, Massachusetts.  She is survived by many nieces, nephews, cousins, great-nieces and great-nephews.

A memorial service to celebrate the lives of Diane and her brother Thomas Prezkop will be held June 29 at Waters Edge in Westbrook. Donations in her name may be made to the Westport Library.

Diane Prezkop Reed

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Former Westporter Thomas Prezkop, of Newburyport, Massachusetts, died earlier this year, after a battle with pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer. He was 73.

Tom was raised, and taught himself to sail, here. That started a lifelong love for all things aquatic. He graduated from Staples High School in 1966.

In early 1971 he headed to St. Maarten. There he co-owned and restored a 108-foot ketch, which he chartered. He also managed restaurants, started an omelet café, and captained other boats.

In 1978, Tom settled in Massachusetts. He married his first wife, Linn Anderson, and had a son, Andrew

Tom’s second career was in mechanical design engineering. He worked for medical device companies before founding Andover Medical Development Group, to do component manufacturing. He operated AMDG for 35 years, fulfilling contracts with NASA, Boston Scientific and others.

Tom was a passionate sailor.  He was an expert angler, certified scuba diver, licensed pilot and professional cook. He also enjoyed snow skiing, surfing, water skiing barefoot, and golf. He could build and fix anything

Tom passed his patience, creativity and playfulness on to Andrew, in whom he fostered lifelong passions as a musician, athlete, craftsman, outdoorsman, adventurer and father.  He was overjoyed to be a grandfather to Avery and Luke.

In 1995, Tom and a friend rescued a fellow boater who had fallen overboard in Gloucester and been seriously injured by the propeller. Tom received a congressional commendation.

In addition to his wife, son, daughter-in-law Geneva Brion and grandchildren, he is survived by his sister Carole Prescott of Madison, and brothers Edward of Seattle and Raymond of Westport, as well as nieces, nephews and cousins. He was pre-deceased by his sister Diane Reed of Westport.

There will be a celebration of life at Water’s Edge in Westbrook on June 29.

In lieu of flowers, please consider donations to The Ocean Foundation and the Kaplan Family Hospice House.

Thomas Prezkop

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo shows a recent visitor to Berkeley Road.

Hey, a guy’s gotta eat!

(Photo/Jill Grayson)

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And finally … in honor of Rye Ridge Deli’s new restroom policy (see above story): These are the 2 best bathroom songs I could find.

Roundup: Snow Shoveling, Restaurant Takeout, Pickles & Pastrami …

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Luke Garvey is a frequent commenter on “06880.” I hope he doesn’t mind that I’m stealing this comment, which he posted on Facebook yesterday:

“Today I will hold a FREE snow shoveling class in my driveway. Join the class and learn about the proper ways to shovel.

“Techniques will include the scoop and throw method, the down and push method (aka the plow technique), as well as the upside down scraping technique.

“Don’t miss out on this amazing opportunity to enhance your snow lifting techniques without throwing your back out! I will provide the driveway and multiple walkways to ensure your training is conducted in real-life situations.

“I only ask that you bring your own shovel (ergonomic designs suggested). Spaces are limited, and on a first-come, first-served basis.”

Earlier this month, Harris Falk showed off his own snow shoveling style.

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Matthew Mandell may have started a movement.

The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce director heard that local restaurants were getting gouged by 3rd-party delivery apps like Uber Eats, Grubhub and Door Dash.

So he started a campaign, encouraging diners to order takeout instead — or at least call directly through a restaurant’s own phone line.

The idea has spread statewide.

The Hartford Courant reports that our Chamber’s “Order Direct/Pick It Up” initiative has been “picked up” by the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce. They represent businesses in Farmington, Bristol, Burlington, Wolcott, Plainville and Plymouth.

Click here for the full story — including quotes from Viva Zapata owner Bob O’Mahoney.

(Graphic courtesy of Miggs Burroughs)

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Speaking of food, here’s this morsel from Temple Israel:

On Wednesday (February 2, 7 p.m., Zoom), they’re sponsoring a tasty talk: “Deli Revival: American Judaism and the Return of Pickles and Pastrami.”

The promo says: “There has been a nostalgic resurgence of interest in the Jewish deli menu. In her book Beyond the Synagogue: Jewish Nostalgia as Religious Practice — a National Jewish Book Award finalist — Jewish studies Professor Rachel B. Gross examines how some restaurateurs are deliberately making American Jewish food fit for the 21st century.”

The temple has partnered with Gold’s, Westport’s classic deli. Catered boxes celebrating the best of the Jewish deli scene will be available for pickup from Temple Israel on the afternoon of the event.

Click here to register. (Hattip: Peter Blau)

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I usually don’t list events outside Westport, unless they involve a speaker from here. It would open the door to too many other requests.

But in light of the recent kerfuffle over racism — and the definition of it — in our town, a few events through Fairfield University’s Quick Center Open Visions Forum might be worth checking out. They include:

Tuesday, March 8 (7 p.m.): Michael Eric Dyson, Ph.D. and John H. McWhorter, Ph.D.: “Race, Liberty & Justice: Diverging Perspectives with Eyes on the Prize.” Click here for tickets and more information.

Wednesday, March 23 (7:30 p.m.): David Brooks: “Democracy: Choices and Challenges.” Click here for tickets and more information.

Thursday, April 28 (8 p.m.): Isabel Wilkerson: “CASTE: Examining Race, Culture, and Consequences.” Click here for tickets and more information.

(Hat tip: Danielle Teplica)

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo shows one of our most natural features (Gray’s Creek) from a less natural one (Longshore golf course). (Photo/Claudia Sherwood Servidio)

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And finally … if you watched “Get Back” on Disney+, you know that on this date in 1969, the Beatles gave their last public performance, on the roof of Apple Records in London. The concert was broken up by the police.

MLK

his story has become a Martin Luther King Day tradition on “06880.” After the events of the past couple of years, today — more than ever — we should think about the history of our nation before Dr. King was born.

And where we are, more than half a century after his death.

Today is Martin Luther King Day. Westporters will celebrate with a day off from school or work. Some will sleep in; others will shop, or go for a walk. Few will give any thought to Martin Luther King.

Twice, though, his life intersected this town in important ways.

Martin Luther KingThe first was Friday night, May 22, 1964. According to Woody Klein’s book Westport, Connecticut, King had been invited to speak at Temple Israel by synagogue member Jerry Kaiser.

King arrived in the afternoon. Kaiser and his wife Roslyn sat on their porch that afternoon, and talked with King and 2 of his aides. She was impressed with his “sincerity, warmth, intelligence and genuine concern for those about him — our children, for instance. He seemed very young to bear such a burden of leadership.”

King’s sermon — to a packed audience — was titled “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.” He analogized his America to the time of Rip Van Winkle — who also “slept through a revolution. The greatest liability of history is that people fail to see a revolution taking place in our world today.  We must support the social movement of the Negro.”

Westport artist Roe Halper presented King with 3 woodcarvings, representing the civil rights struggle. He hung them proudly in the front hallway of his Atlanta home.

Artist Roe Halper (left) presents Coretta Scott King with civil rights-themed wood carvings.

Within a month Temple Israel’s rabbi, Byron Rubenstein, traveled south to take place in a nonviolent march. He was arrested — along with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.

In jail, the rabbi said, “I came to know the greatness of Dr. King. I never heard a word of hate or bitterness from that man, only worship of faith, joy and determination.”

King touched Westport again less than 4 years later. On April 5, 1968 — the day after the civil rights leader’s assassination in Memphis — 600 Staples students gathered for a lunchtime vigil in the courtyard. Nearby, the flag flew at half-staff.

A small portion of the large crowd listens intently to Fermino Spencer, in the Staples courtyard.

A small portion of the large crowd listens intently to Fermino Spencer, in the Staples courtyard.

Vice principal Fermino Spencer addressed the crowd. Movingly, he spoke about  his own experience as an African American. Hearing the words “my people” made a deep impression on the almost all-white audience. For many, it was the 1st time they had heard a black perspective on white America.

No one knew what lay ahead for their country. But student Jim Sadler spoke for many when he said: “I’m really frightened. Something is going to happen.”

Something did — and it was good. A few hundred students soon met in the cafeteria. Urged by a minister and several anti-poverty workers to help bridge the chasm between Westport and nearby cities, Staples teachers and students vowed to create a camp.

Within 2 months, it was a reality. That summer 120 elementary and junior high youngsters from Westport, Weston, Norwalk and Bridgeport participated in the Intercommunity Camp. Led by over 100 Staples students and many teachers, they enjoyed swimming, gymnastics, dance, sports, field trips, overnight camping, creative writing, filmmaking, photography, art and reading.

It wasn’t easy — some in Westport opposed bringing underprivileged children to their town — but for over a decade the Intercommunity Camp flourished.

Eventually, enthusiasm for and interest in the camp waned. Fewer Staples students and staff members wanted to devote their summer to such a project.  The number of Westporters willing to donate their pools dwindled. Today the Intercommunity Camp is a long-forgotten memory.

Sort of like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Even on his birthday.

MLK speech

Full Obituary: Dick Berkowitz

Earlier today, “06880” reported the death of longtime Westporter and wide-ranging volunteer Dick Berkowitz. His family has provided this obituary, honoring his full life.

Attorney, philanthropist, coach and mentor Richard (Dick) Berkowitz died on New Year’s Eve, after a hard-fought battle against a rare blood disease. He was 80 years old.

He was born on June 28, 1941, to humble beginnings in New Haven Dick’s parents, Elihu and Ruth Berkowitz, were hard working members of the community. He spent his days playing football and basketball, working as a short-order cook at Chuck’s Luncheonette on Whalley Avenue, and selling pennants and banners outside Yale Bowl.

Dick attended Hillhouse High School before heading off to his dream school, Dartmouth College After becoming the first in his family to graduate from college in 1963, he continued his education and graduated from the University of Connecticut Law School 4 years later.

Dick and Carole Chasnoff met as sophomores in high school. Two years later he mustered up the courage to ask her out. After graduating from college, Carole worked as a public health nurse to help pay for his law school.

Dick and Carole Berkowitz

Dick opened his own firm in Westport, where he practiced for 55 years. He represented high profile individuals, leading executives, and members of the media. Dick spent many years as managing partner of Berkowitz, Trager & Trager.

Over the years he was involved in many philanthropic endeavors, including: president of the Kiwanis Club of Westport, and member of the Representative Town Meeting and Planning & Zoning Commission.

He was also president of the Westport Bar Association and board member of the Westport National Bank.

Dick Berkowitz

In 1970 Dick was appointed by First Selectman John Kemish to chair a new commission on youth activities. It is still in existence as the Westport Youth Commission. He also served on the board of Staples Tuition Grants.

In addition, Dick was a mentor at Champions for Learning in Naples, Florida, and a founding and passionate supporter of New Heights Youth, a New York-based non-profit.

Dick was honored as one of the “Best Lawyers in America” for over 25 years. He was a past president of Birchwood Country Club in Westport, and a class president and alumni council representative for Dartmouth College. Classrooms are named in his honor at the Roth Center for Jewish Life at Dartmouth, and Westport’s Temple Israel.

Dick was a longtime assistant basketball coach at Staples High School, and a regular at football, basketball, tennis, field hockey and softball games. He spent long hours instructing various game officials on the fine points of their respective sport. For many years he coached Pop Warner football, Little League baseball and softball, and recreational basketball in Westport.

Coach Berkowitz

While he was incredibly accomplished, his ultimate legacy is that he was an amazing husband, father, grandfather, brother, confidante, and friend to many. He had a light that shined bright, and touched so many throughout his life. He was a mentor to young people. Many clients also became his closest friends. But family was the most important thing in his life, and it is his family who will miss him most of all.

Dick is survived by his wife of 58 years Carole; sister Jane (Eddie Brandwein) of Chicago; children Jody (Joel) Beck of Westport, Emily (Ken) Sandberg of Woodbridge; Suzy (Michael Weksel) of Edgemont, New York and Adam Berkowitz of New York City; grandchildren Sam, Zack, Rachel, John, Jack, Mia, Henry, Carina and Ben; granddogs Buddy, Bella and Eric, and great-granddog Beau. He also leaves cousin/brother Judge Stanley Novack of Stamford, and countless family and friends.

Contributions can be made to 2 charities that were dear to him: New Heights Youth and the newly established Richard Berkowitz Student-Athlete Award through Staples Tuition Grants.

Remembering Dick Berkowitz

Richard Berkowitz — an attorney whose involvement for more than 50 years in politics, sports, civic organizations, and much more helped shape Westport into what it is today — died peacefully on New Year’s Eve. He was 80 years old.

He practiced law here until his death, most recently “of counsel” at Berkowitz, Trager & Trager. He represented high-profile individuals, leading executives and members of the media. He was a president of the Connecticut Bar Association.

But his impact spread far beyond his profession.

Dick Berkowitz

In his 55 years in Westport, Dick was elected to the Planning & Zoning Commission and Representative Town Meeting (RTM).

He served as president of the Westport Kiwanis Club, Westport Bar Association and Birchwood Country Club, and was a board member of Staples Tuition Grants and the Westport National Bank.

He was a director of Project Renaissance, a drug treatment project; the Dartmouth Clubs of Westport-Weston and Fairfield County, and the Temple Israel Brotherhood.

In 1970 — 3 years after Berkowitz (then 29 years old), his wife Carole and children moved to Westport — 1st Selectman John Kemish appointed Dick to be chair of a new commission on youth and human relations activities. It was the forerunner of today’s Youth Commission.

He was a longtime assistant basketball coach at Staples High School, working with head coach Brian Kelley. For many years he coached Pop Warner football, Little League baseball and youth recreational basketball. He was also an avid member of the Compo Beach Irregulars, an “informal group of enthusiastic athletes.”

Rooms have been named in Dick Berkowitz’s honor at Temple Israel, and the Roth Center for Jewish Life at Dartmouth College.

He graduated from Dartmouth, and earned his law degree at the University of Connecticut.

He is survived by his wife Carole; children Jody, Emily, Suzy and Adam, and several grandchildren.

Information on services on memorial contributions will be announced soon.

Unsung Heroes #176

The literal meaning of the Hebrew word mitzvah is “commandment.” But it has come to mean “doing a good deed, with empathy and kindness.”

This Sunday (January 31, 4 p.m.), the Federation for Jewish Philanthropy of Upper Fairfield County presents its annual Mitzvah Hero Awards. The 12 honorees were selected by their congregations.

Four are from Westport. Each has made positive differences in the lives of others.

Barbara Jay (Congregation for Humanistic Judaism) has been an active volunteer for 45 years. She creates and leads Shabbat services and programs; helps design CHJ’s website and newsletter, and serves on the board.

She is active in social initiatives too. Three years ago she founded the Saul Haffner Jewish Enrichment Fund in memory of her husband. It supports high-quality events with Jewish themes reflecting Saul’s interests in social issues.

One important event was a major symposium on climate change within the context of the Noah story. A panel of scientists and clergy convened at Sacred Heart University. It was broadcast throughout North America.

Dick Kalt (The Conservative Synagogue) oversees transportation for the High Holidays, ensuring a safe and efficient shuttle service. Inside the sanctuary he works with the audio company so that services are heard clearly and well.

Dick is always available for minyans and food drives. He provides thumb drives to students as they study for their bar and bat mitzvahs. He is a member of the cemetery committee — and personally visits it, making sure it is in good shape.

During the pandemic, Dick upgraded TCS’ livestreaming capabilities. Now, as the synagogue’s security chair, he constantly protects the building and congregants.

From left: Barbara Jay, Dick Kalt, Hildy Parks, Cindy Zuckerbrod.

Hildy Parks (Beit Chaverrim) is the synagogue’s treasurer. During COVID she has kept the lights on, and the staff paid. She keeps track of every detail — always with a smile.

When Rabbi Greg Wall was applying for his position, Hildy was his liaison. She arranged meals, coordinated schedules, and made him feel at home. She does everything, he says, with that same spirit.

Just before the High Holidays this fall, Hildy stepped into the role of administrator during an emergency. She made sure every aspect ran smoothly, during the most important and stressful time of the year.

Cindy Zuckerbrod (Temple Israel) works with Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut, and serves on their strategy team. She has also led Temple Israel’s anti-racism trainings, and their Two Books/Two Films program addressing racism in America.

Previously Cindy served on Temple Israel’s board of trustees, and taught teens i their high school program.

She also volunteers her time, expertise and care as a guardian ad litem, advocating for youth in Connecticut’s foster care system.

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Congratulations to this week’s Unsung Heroes!

Due to COVID, this Sunday’s Mitzvah Hero Awards ceremony is virtual. It is open to all. Click here to register.

Do you know an Unsung Hero? Email nominations to: dwoog@optonloine.net.

MLK

This story has become a Martin Luther King Day tradition on “06880.” After the events of the past several months, this year — more than ever — we should think about the history of our nation before Dr. King was born.

And where we are, more than half a century after his death.

Today is Martin Luther King Day. Westporters will celebrate with a day off from school or work. Some will sleep in; others will shop, or go for a walk. Few will give any thought to Martin Luther King.

Twice, though, his life intersected this town in important ways.

Martin Luther KingThe first was Friday night, May 22, 1964. According to Woody Klein’s book Westport, Connecticut, King had been invited to speak at Temple Israel by synagogue member Jerry Kaiser.

King arrived in the afternoon. Kaiser and his wife Roslyn sat on their porch that afternoon, and talked with King and 2 of his aides. She was impressed with his “sincerity, warmth, intelligence and genuine concern for those about him — our children, for instance. He seemed very young to bear such a burden of leadership.”

King’s sermon — to a packed audience — was titled “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.” He analogized his America to the time of Rip Van Winkle — who also “slept through a revolution. The greatest liability of history is that people fail to see a revolution taking place in our world today.  We must support the social movement of the Negro.”

Westport artist Roe Halper presented King with 3 woodcarvings, representing the civil rights struggle. He hung them proudly in the front hallway of his Atlanta home.

Artist Roe Halper (left) presents Coretta Scott King with civil rights-themed wood carvings.

Within a month Temple Israel’s rabbi, Byron Rubenstein, traveled south to take place in a nonviolent march. He was arrested — along with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.

In jail, the rabbi said, “I came to know the greatness of Dr. King. I never heard a word of hate or bitterness from that man, only worship of faith, joy and determination.”

King touched Westport again less than 4 years later. On April 5, 1968 — the day after the civil rights leader’s assassination in Memphis — 600 Staples students gathered for a lunchtime vigil in the courtyard. Nearby, the flag flew at half-staff.

A small portion of the large crowd listens intently to Fermino Spencer, in the Staples courtyard.

A small portion of the large crowd listens intently to Fermino Spencer, in the Staples courtyard.

Vice principal Fermino Spencer addressed the crowd. Movingly, he spoke about  his own experience as an African American. Hearing the words “my people” made a deep impression on the almost all-white audience. For many, it was the 1st time they had heard a black perspective on white America.

No one knew what lay ahead for their country. But student Jim Sadler spoke for many when he said: “I’m really frightened. Something is going to happen.”

Something did — and it was good. A few hundred students soon met in the cafeteria. Urged by a minister and several anti-poverty workers to help bridge the chasm between Westport and nearby cities, Staples teachers and students vowed to create a camp.

Within 2 months, it was a reality. That summer 120 elementary and junior high youngsters from Westport, Weston, Norwalk and Bridgeport participated in the Intercommunity Camp. Led by over 100 Staples students and many teachers, they enjoyed swimming, gymnastics, dance, sports, field trips, overnight camping, creative writing, filmmaking, photography, art and reading.

It wasn’t easy — some in Westport opposed bringing underprivileged children to their town — but for over a decade the Intercommunity Camp flourished.

Eventually, enthusiasm for and interest in the camp waned. Fewer Staples students and staff members wanted to devote their summer to such a project.  The number of Westporters willing to donate their pools dwindled. Today the Intercommunity Camp is a long-forgotten memory.

Sort of like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Even on his birthday.

MLK speech