Magical realism

Dodie Frey of Rossmoor writes that her grandsons Christopher Wool of Lafayette and Sean Larner of Orinda will celebrate their 20th birthdays on the same day, Thursday, Sept. 19. But that’s just one coincidence … if it’s a coincidence. Twenty-some years ago during a visit to Israel, Frey placed a message in a crevice of the Western Wall, praying that her then-unmarried son and daughter would “connect with the right life partner.” Nine months later — within the same week — she received calls from both of her children telling her about the exciting new person in their lives. Within the next nine months, they both got engaged, and then they married within nine months of each other. And on the 19th day of the ninth month in 1993, nine hours apart, “two beautiful healthy boys — my first grandchildren” were born, said Frey. “Perhaps this story should be titled “The Magic of the Western Wall and the Power of Nines,” she added.


Thrills and chills

Sheldon Siegel

At Litquake at the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto last month, author Sheldon Siegel quipped that he created a Jewish protagonist for his new book “The Terrorist Next Door” because “I was trying to keep my mother happy.” When he sent her the published book, she responded, “I’ll get to it. I’m in the middle of a James Patterson [novel]”… Michael Lavigne said that to write the terrorist character in “The Wanting,” his novel about the aftermath of a bus bombing in Israel, he had to “become the character … a difficult and life-changing experience.” The two authors, along with Ellen Ullman and moderator Keith Raffel, were panelists in a session called “Thrilling Tales with Jewish Characters.”



Moving up and about

Lily Siegel has been named new associate curator of the Contemporary Jewish Museum. She’ll work with Executive Director Lori Starr and the curatorial team to develop original exhibitions, oversee touring exhibitions, initiate and manage artist commissions, and more. She comes to the Bay Area from the High Museum of Art in Atlanta … Nancy Shaw is the new managing director at Wilderness Torah, succeeding Julie Wolk, who co-founded the group with Zelig Golden (and will now join the board). “Nancy is family,” says Golden. “She first got involved with Wilderness Torah in 2009 for the second annual Passover in the Desert, where she not only fell in love with our organization but met and fell in love with her husband.”


Short shorts

Jason Shmelnik

Those observing Yom Kippur at San Francisco’s Congregation Beth Sholom this weekend will have an opportunity to hear Ephraim Margolin give his 44th consecutive annual drash. His subject, he writes, is “Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother: Free Associations” … In another interesting juxtaposition, Larry Thomas, the “Soup Nazi” of “Seinfeld” TV fame, appeared at a San Rafael Pacifics minor-league baseball game, courtesy of the Jewish-style Miller’s East Coast Deli … Aviva Tabachnik, formerly of San Francisco and Berkeley, is living in Tel Aviv and working for a startup called MyCurrencyTransfer.com. She compares it to working at another “startup,” the nonprofit Moishe House, where she was the West Coast director …  The Jason Shmelnik Memorial Fund has been established to introduce underprivileged children to ballroom dancing, writes Yuri Shmelnik. His 23-year-old son died tragically in an auto accident in September 2012. “Jason was a man of many talents, but his love for ballroom dancing stood out the most,” said his father. Visit www.razoo.com/story/Jason-Shmelnik-Memorial-Fund for information.