Sofʻer Profiles

Naomi Olstein Jewish Education Fund

May 2, 2022

by Sandra Z. Armstrong

The Naomi Olstein Jewish Education Fund at Sof Ma’arav has been created to honor the memory of Naomi in a way that will keep her close to us. Naomi was an astounding role model in educating us in many ways and avenues of Jewish ritual, tradition and Yiddishkeit. Her legacy will continue in all manners of Sof education for adults, young adults, families, and children. Her love of Torah and service leadership will continue in her memory.

Here are examples of the ways this fund will benefit our members:

  • Funds for young adults for educational trips to Israel.
  • Religious School subsidy from Congregation Sof Ma’arav for children of members.
  • Stipends for young adults/children to attend Jewish camps/programs.
  • Supplies/books for Jewish education with the specific clarification for Congregation Sof Ma’arav.
  • An adult babysitter and/or Jewish educator to supervise children during Shabbat morning services with Jewish activities.

This fund will be designated as a supplement for individuals in need of specific Jewish education. In the past, many requests have been made through the President’s Discretionary Fund to enable Jewish education to flourish among our Sof Membership. With this fund, as appropriate requests come in, we will improve addressing the needs of our congregation. Our loss of Naomi hit us hard and yet her life and legacy of commitment to Jewish education will live on in us and in our children.


A Remembrance of Naomi Olstein

April 2, 2022

by Judith Goldman

I decided I’d like to walk the Aloha Run (I think it was 2006) and happened to mention it after services – where so many connections are made, topics are discussed, and problems solved! Naomi said she had walked it before, was planning to do it that year and offered we do it together. I was delighted to have a partner. As we know, Naomi was a planner and she knew how to prepare, what to bring, the best route to the starting line, what entertainment we’d see along the way and the best place to make a pit stop. We both made it over the finish line tired but happy.

The second memory is recent. About 2 months ago, I called Naomi to ask how she was doing – which sadly was not very well. She had started cancer treatments (I don’t know how many she had previously) and didn’t have a ride for her appointment the next day. Fortunately, I was free and happy for the opportunity to help her out. She was positive and hopeful. Still her feisty self, giving directions (“these go in back, I’ll sit here, move the seat back”). I walked her into the building and wished her well.

Naomi was a strong, intelligent, independent woman, always learning and trying new things, and always acting on her compassion for others. Zichrona l’vracha (z”l), May her memory be for a blessing.


Remembrances of Naomi Olstein

March 2, 2022

Memories of Naomi

By Mat Sgan

Naomi ‘Ami’ Olstein has returned to her grandfather’s knee. It was from that perch, Ami would relate, that she learned about Jewishness and Judaism while bouncing up and down to the rhythm and reason of the sages of the Talmud.  Such experiences she would relate “often helped me cope with the demands and needs of life.” Ami was a woman who faced the tough times of life on her own terms.

Naomi was a Personal Coach. And when she gave advice (as she did freely and helpfully to her fellow Sof congregants), she went straight to the point. Upon hearing that one was having difficulty, with any body part or stress, she gave instructions for repair directly and forcefully. It was especially appreciated when she worked up and shared a regimen that got people up and about in the morning. Ami was there to help whomever needed it.

Ami was a New York City woman. She had show business credentials and cinematic talents in her career positions. Her interest in film was established early and lasted long. Indeed, going to film festivals with her nephew for many years were annual highlights for her. Ami loved Sof in a, “we all have to do our part” to make Jews better people who contribute to making Hawaiʻi a better place to live, way. She took on leyhning and leading at Sabbath and Festival Services. She handed out aliyahs regularly and to those who were remembering and honoring their-family and friends. She greeted strangers at our sanctuary doorpost with her own mezuzah and ushered them in comfortably.

Here are some edited excerpts from Honey and Poi to bring us closer to our friend. Ami provided her thoughtful tape of her interview about the coming of the Littmans to Hawaiʻi and their four plus decades of Sof leadership. Naomi worked to enhance Sof’s reputation as a ‘party shul’ as she and Bernice planned the latke and candle lighting of Chanukah 2000. By informal consensus, Naomi’s Jewish lumberjack joke at the “Hats on for Bernice” party won at a Sof night of Jewish humor:

A small, scraggly Jewish man applied for a lumberjack job. The sturdy lumberjacks scoffed at his application and put him to the test. Amazingly, he showed extraordinary skill and strength. ”Where did you learn to do that?” the lumberjacks asked. “In the Sahara Forest,” he answered. “You mean the Sahara Desert” they responded. ”Sure—now it is!” he said.

She told it so well! We will miss Naomi Ami Olstein. Her standards and generosity nurtured a great fondness in those who appreciated her warm devotion to and hard work for Congregation Sof Ma’arav. It was a pleasure when Naomi used and exchanged Yiddish expressions. Her show business and Jewish humor were always on call. When she once again meets Zeyde Chaim, she will, perhaps, ask him, “Nu Zeyde, was machst du?” Go in peace Ami!

My Friend Naomi

By Fran Margulies

Our Naomi was so rich in experience and skills that my assignment to gather and write about her for Sof’s newsletter reminds me of Yeats’ metaphor for  the difficulty of writing a poem: … like trying to fold a parachute down into its shed…! But I will try. Struggling with hard things happens to be one of the ongoing stories of Naomi’s life. First, though, her achievements: Her body work skills were many and sophisticated. She had a detailed -and licensed- knowledge of human anatomy. She could reach into her Alexander / Reiki / shiatsu / Feldenkreis / Alexander bag of tricks and find just the right treatment for a patient. As her recorded telephone message said, hers was indeed “…the office of healing hands.” (I was among many who benefited; for perhaps twenty years she periodically worked out the knots in my body).

Naomi was musically talented, had perfect pitch and an excellent memory for melody, Yiddish, folk, cinematic. Learning to leyn Torah from the online Trope Trainer for her was piece-a-cake. She worked hard against odds to nurture and maintain order. And that led to other  achievements. Congregation Sof Ma’arav depended on her (in the old days when our room was open!) to know the exact number of worshippers in a morning, to maintain and retrieve the aliyot cards and to give them to appropriate people, and to help Robert with High Holiday services. For three years Naomi was the Administrative Director of Temple Emanu-El’s Religious School. She also successfully chaired for a number of years the Administration Board of her condominium building.

Other achievements were in the film world. She had an encyclopedic memory and detailed understanding of the history of Hollywood cinema. She also did years of post-production work in Manhattan, cropping and cleaning the films of Woody Allen among others. But my most enduring sense of Naomi is admiration for her heroic struggle against hard things. Pain accompanied her entire life. A major car accident in childhood smashed her tail bone and gave her endless trouble. Tinnitus constantly hammered in her ears. Diabetes, diet, and weight problems roiled her days. But she succeeded in training for—and completing one (was it two?)—Honolulu Marathons, memorably making it out to the finish line in Pearl City in time to witness Rabbi Ken Aronowitz publically,—from the loud speaker !— propose marriage to Hinda Diamond (Hinda accepted).

Naomi continued to volunteer for weekly Sof Shabbat service assignments, until she couldn’t. Naomi and I had one last, long, cheerful and upbeat pre-Shabbat telephone conversation only weeks before time and disease took her down.

Please Call Me Naomi:

A Remembrance of Our Beloved Naomi Olstein

By Dina Yoshimi

When a casual glance at the recently purchased box of new Hagaddot brought tears to my eyes, I knew losing Naomi would be far more difficult than I had ever imagined. The mere thought of Pesach brought to mind the years of seders she had shared with our family and guests in our home, and all the priceless moments that had filled those evenings together.

For Pesach, Naomi was the Jewish family I, and my children, never had in Hawai‘i, and she played the role like a pro. True to our tradition, she arrived bearing food–always! Her contribution was her home-made gefilte fish, in which she rightly took great pride. (Delicious!) Made from whatever local, kosher fish she could lay her hands on, she always brought it with a jar of (wasabi) horseradish, a kosher l’pesach sweet, and one or two other Pesach goodies— ketchup, mayonnaise, coffee, etc.—her mainland friends would send her. Laden with her bags and packages, she would arrive and head straight for the kitchen to share the wealth, and a story or two about the year’s adventures with the gefilte fish making. At the bottom of the last bag, and never forgotten, were the prizes for the afikomen hunters. At first, just our children, and later, as our two got “too big” for the hunt, other children at our table.

Naomi, as it turns out, was a woman of many Jewish talents. Not only could she fill the role of the balaboste and Yiddishe momme, but she was also a pro at hiding the afikomen. In the nearly 20 years that she came to our house for seder, no one EVER caught her concealing the afikomen, and her hiding places — where our ‘house rules’ required that we restrict the search to the kitchen, living room and hallway – were ingenious. She gave the kids a run for their money, year after year. When the search was over, she distributed the well-earned prizes to all the searchers, but I have no doubt that what all participants will remember are the many rounds of “warmer, warmer, colder, colder” that were required every year to assist the searchers in finding the deftly hidden bundle.

Our family was also blessed to share second seder with a small cohort at Naomi’s apartment for several years. Here, a reference to Rabbinic lore and a nod to traditional wisdom is apt: We have learned that, when Jews filled the Temple Courtyard during their Festival pilgrimages, when the moment came for everyone to prostrate themselves, the Courtyard miraculously expanded to enable everyone to do so with sufficient room. So it was with our seders at Naomi’s place: Squeezed into a space just large enough for the dinner table and a few chairs, we never lacked room to recline, to dine, to learn and to share the joy of the chag. No miracle this!  Rather, it was a testament to the love that filled her home, as Jewish wisdom teaches us: “The eye of a needle is not too narrow to hold two friends that agree; the breadth of the world is not sufficiently wide to contain in its fold two foes.” (Shekel HaKodesh, On Companionship and Association, retrieved from Sefaria). In my life, the life of my family, and the life of our kehillah, Naomi has infused her purposeful and loving presence, and her deep and enduring love of Yiddishkeit.

From Bar/Bat Mitzvah tutor to Sof Bikkur Cholim Chair, from her well-researched drashes to her joyful celebration of her adult Bat Mitzvah, from handing out the slips of paper for the T”U B’Shevat seder to handing out the honors as the post-Marv gabbai, from chanting Chapter 1 of Eichah to chanting Chapter 10 of Megillat Esther, from kasha varnishkes to Israeli salad at the Shabbat oneg, from Singer’s Saving Grace for service leaders during the Yamim Noraim to Black Elderberry lozenges (Sambucol) for those with a tickle in their throat at any time of year, from leading an awe-filled Torah service to an uplifting Musaf to a rare Shachrit (among a small cohort that gathered on Mondays at the crack of dawn at the Levison Library for many years), from maftir to maftir to maftir, and always, from strength to strength—Naomi has been a constant presence, a patient teacher, a faithful friend, a gifted healer, and a generous sharer of her many talents, including her twinkle-in-the-eye joke telling (“He had a hat!”).

I find in these days after her passing that there is little I touch that does not bring a memory, and with it a tear. The tear is not of sadness, of course, but rather of a profound sense of love, and from the depth of our many shared hours of talking story, talking Talmud, and just simply talking over a part of her life or a part of mine. We shared many years of carpooling to shul, to services for the chagim in Kailua, to this gathering or that meeting, to Down to Earth or to Kokua Market. And for many years, we shared a call on Friday afternoon before Shabbos.

Naomi was family. Her life has always been a blessing for me, and for my children. May her memory always be for a blessing among all the members of our kehillah – we have been truly fortunate to have known and to have shared our lives with such a beautiful, loving and dedicated friend.


Witness to a Mitzvah

by Fran Margulies

December 31, 2021

I travelled to Boston last month for my grandson’s Bar Mitzvah. One bonus was watching his older brother Nadav join in a “Unified” basketball game. Why the name Unified? The league unifies students from all over Boston, and it unifies Special Needs students with general education students. In season, Nadav will be a team member at Newton North High, and he joins club basketball in the off season. He also revels in these thrice weekly Unified games. The gym was rocking! Cheerleaders were leaping, bleachers were filled. Teams combined Special Needs kids equally with the general education students, and it really worked. Some rules were modified. A player could walk with the ball if need be, but the ref called outs and gave penalties. Action was fierce, running was constant, and when Special Needs children made their baskets, it brought tears to my eyes. It was all so usual, and yet, so remarkable.


A Thanksgiving Ode-let to Peter Fritz

by Fran Margulies

November 30, 2021

A loaf of challah on a wood platterSing high our praise of Peter
This Thanksgiving Day

For crowning all our Shabbat morns
His skillful, faithful way…..

When Torah service ends
His golden challot wait,

Home baked loaves
For Sofers to anticipate..!

Sesame or poppy seed,
Maybe raisin too?

Our cup is raised; we break our bread…
And gratefully add our thanks to you!


Stock Car Racer

A Profile of Sof’s Jessie Weinberger by Fran Margulies

November 1, 2021

Who would have guessed that Jessie Weinberger, our longtime (45 years!) Sof member and faithful Oneg Chair, quietly chanting Shabbat services from her corner seat by the window, had a glorious other life of noise and speed? For ten years (until 9/11 ended competition here) Jessie actively raced her sports cars, first a Mitsubishi Eclipse and then later a Plymouth Lazer.

The lure of the track, the challenge of maneuvering through an obstacle course, the speed, the pure fun of it all, went way back in Jessie’s life. Recess time in her Spring Valley NY high school would find Jessie hanging out near the guys, fascinated by their car talk. Relaxing in college meant watching the car races on TV’s Wide World of Sports. But it was not until coming to Hawaiʻi in 1975 for graduate school that her sports car hobby really took off. By lucky chance, Honolulu was then in the midst of its own romance with racing cars. It had started humbly on a small muddy car track around midtown Honolulu Stadium. But in 1962 Jimmy Pflueger opened Hawaiʻi Raceway Park at Barber’s Point.  Car racing had come to Hawaiʻi!

Jessie arrived here in 1975 for graduate school. She took a job, working as an evidence specialist at the old Beretania Street Police Station, but car racing was all the rage, and Jessie decided to go for it!! She traded in the old station wagon that accompanied her move from New York. She bought a racer, a sweet 4-seater Mitsubishi Eclipse. Competitions beckoned! “Stock Cars” was her racing class. That meant races between ordinary cars straight out of the stock room with no souped-up additions except for tougher tires.

In the following years Jessie helped organize races, drove her own car through mile-and-a-half courses, won her trophies, placing first one memorable day. A highlight was an all-day driving demo for the military brass where she and her friends proudly displayed their skills. She eventually replaced her Mitsubishi Eclipse with a Plymouth Laser. She was enjoying a wonderful ten years. Jessie was the complete auto crosser: Beneath the glamour was the support work. On the fields she was the one who set out the cones and the sensors; she competed in the “handling” trials. She did the scoring. She also kept standards high by checking and sitting in with the “baggers,” cheaters suspected of fiddling with their dials.

Life intruded. Her mother in a wheelchair needed a station wagon, not a sports car. Goodbye to the Plymouth Lazer. A bad fall at work ruined Jessie’s kneecap. Then chronic tendonitis and a bout with cancer interfered. But our Jessie is one tough survivor. We can see that on our Shabbat mornings when she buses all the long way back and forth from Ewa to take part in the Sof service and to sit quietly by the window, watching the swaying palm leaves.


Meetups with Sofers

Welcome Committee with Les Rosenthal

A Special Welcoming Visit

March 1, 2021

by Les Rosenthal

As a member of our Sof Ma’arav Welcoming group, I get to meet tenured, new and prospective members of our close-knit community. Last week I had the wonderful pleasure of calling and introducing myself to Nathalie and her three kids. After a busy Shabbat, Nathalie and her carload drove over the Pali to our Kailua Beach Hale for a bit of a ‘get to meet’ you. We walked the 240 steps down to the beach where Mia quickly made friends with a kindred 6-year-old spirit who lives across the street AND their dog, definitely a double bonus!

Grace and Alexie enjoyed watching all the socially distanced beach goers, kite surfers and boogie boarders. Afterward, my visiting daughter Katie took my Porsche and a very interested Alexie out in the top-down convertible to pick up pizza. The furthest away I could order a pizza and expect to see dinner within an hour or two was Enchanted Lakes. So off they went, both happy with the errand and the circumstances. While they were gone Nathalie was given a full showing of Pat’s many handiworks. Nathalie is highly educated and experienced in the fine arts and was justly appreciative of my wife’s creativity. As those of you who have been to our home know, Pat and Nathalie could be touring a while. If you haven’t been here yet, when you come, you’ll see that Pat, is, and has been, very productive as well as creative!

When the pizza came vrooming back, we all sat down and ate heartily. The best pizza on Oʻahu is always fully savored and consumed. Tonight was no exception. The conversation was lively and loud.  We finished off our gourmet meal with vanilla ice cream and a lot of smiles. Hopefully, Nathalie, Alexie, Grace and Mia will be around us for a long time to come. She’s looking for a full-time teaching position (hint, hint, hint). These are wonderful people and you too should make the opportunity to meet them.


Breakfast with Fran

February 10, 2021

by Les Rosenthal

Last newsletter I wrote about sharing the 5th night of Chanukah with Risa and Linda. You may recall that after the candle lighting we had potluck shared dinner and played our favorite card game, called ‘Phase 10.’ In the article, I mentioned that Pat and I enjoy small group company and would be willing to teach or play the game with healthy congregants. Just ask, I said.

To our delight, Fran did! However, navigating the Pali to come visit us in Kailua was just outside Fran’s comfort zone, but being innovative and flexible, she invited us to her home for morning eats and Phase 10. Happily, Pat and I went on Sunday, January 3rd.

The Pali Highway drive is always beautiful but since we weren’t in a hurry, Pat and I drove around the Waimanalo to Hawaii Kai way for an even more beautiful drive. Not surprisingly, Fran was a very gracious host. We toured her home, talked story, and met her daughter Laura, a very handsome grandson, Kepa, and a beautiful granddaughter, Kanani. Even Bison, one of their two dogs, made an appearance to say hello. Again, not surprising, their ʻOhana hale seemed always in motion. It is a home filled with three generations, surfboards, and a lot of love.

Fran offered us a bit of special breakfast while we sat outside and enjoyed the landscaped yard and the wonderful breezes. Then we opened our deck of Phase 10 playing cards and quickly taught the game to Fran. We played for a comfortable amount of time, all of us enjoying our wonderful company.

We had a very sociable, socially distanced time together. It was nice to get to know a bit more of Fran. If you’re on Oʻahu and interested in playing cards and socializing safely, give me a call!


Peter Fritz: Challah Man

Jul 5, 2019

By Arnie Warshawsky

On Sunday, June 2, 2019, I learned a tiny bit about the challenges and satisfaction of baking challah. With seven other hardy souls, I attended the second showing of “Peter Fritz: Challah Man.” We were graciously hosted by Temple Emanu-El, which had a kitchen sufficiently large to handle the nine of us. The class began at 9:00 am, but to get ready for the class, Peter, like most bakers, got up hours before dawn to prepare. The focus of this class was learning several classic challah braids. During his pre-class preparation, Peter made the dough (half simply bread dough, the other half with raisins), and divided it into a myriad of Ziplock bags – each bag holding the right amount of dough for one braid. He provided a two-part hand out. One part was recipes for challah dough, the other was a simple tutorial on some of the braiding techniques. Nothing can quite compare with the hands-on experience of actually braiding challah.

While eight student-braided challoth were rising, Peter introduced us to the art of making the dough. It’s one of those things that seems easy when you watch someone accomplished showing you how. Also, like an auto mechanic, having the right tools makes things go so much easier. Peter doesn’t like to leave things to happenstance. He is a strong advocate of weighing out all of the ingredients using a kitchen scale. Peter believes this contributes to consistency. Similarly, he strongly recommends not relying on oven temperature and recipe baking times. Instead, he stresses the importance of using a probe to measure the internal temperature of each challah to fine tune the baking time. I was surprised to see 5-10 degree differences in internal temperature for two challahs baking next to each other on the same baking pan.

Each of the eight of us got to take home one of the challahs we baked, plus pre-weighed out portions of the dough we made while the challah were baking. That was our homework. Take the dough home, braid and bake your own challah. I did, to my wife’s amazement. Unfortunately, because I didn’t have a thermometer probe, I had to rely on the oven temperature and baking time method. As it turned out, my challoth came out pretty good. It was good enough that I plan to try the entire process soon. Amazon delivered my kitchen scale and thermometer today. A new hobby is dawning. See below for links to challah recipes.

Link to document with challah recipes:

https://1drv.ms/w/s!AndQarCZS2BigkQBj80tvd7l8cLp?e=ZBQCMe

Link to document for how to braid challah:

https://1drv.ms/b/s!AndQarCZS2Big1Yfv-KEJv01PuRW?e=fMhire

Link to document for baking equipment:

https://1drv.ms/w/s!AndQarCZS2Big1UXuuX6aO7B_2fe?e=0GXucI


Marv Black: A Profile

Jul 5, 2019

By Fran Margulies

Behind the gentle Marv Black we meet on Shabbat mornings hides a former fierce warrior. I visited Marv recently, and he proudly pulled from under his bed a formidable collection of “edged weapons,” as he called them. They range from short lethal knives to long graceful Samurai swords. Slowly hoisting each one in turn, he demonstrated to me the proper grip and best angle of use. Known as “The Saber Man” when he attended The Bronx High School of Science, Marv earned top awards in fencing and also, fittingly, in horsemanship.

Trading martial romance for a more practical career, Marv earned a psychology degree from Brooklyn College and a master’s in educational psychology from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He also served two years as US Army medic at Fort Polk in Louisiana. Marv’s working life was counseling; he was employed in the township of Middle (Cape May Court House), in south eastern New Jersey, where he worked with K-12 students until retiring at age 64.

Then the winds of adventure began to stir again. Marv moved to Hawaiʻi, and, from this base, he set out to explore the world with his companion and dear friend Brina. They toured together more countries and waterways than one can name. Marvin exercised his fluency with languages, particularly Spanish. Still actively counseling, Marv volunteered for years with the Honolulu Police Department, answering the telephone for Honolulu CrimeStoppers.

Slowed now by age and strokes, Marv is ably supervised by his daughter Deb who lives nearby, who celebrated Marv’s 80th with a grand pool party, and has recently found Ed, a helpful live-in companion for Marv. Keeping in touch long distance are Marv’s brother Larry and sister-in-law Linda, his son Taylor, daughter-in-law Stacey, and granddaughter Aden.

A few years ago, Marv indulged in one more expansive gesture: he invited all of his neighbors, his fellow Sof Ma’aravers, and many friends, to a sit-down banquet in a Chinese restaurant where he played genial host and introduced all of us to his daughter Deb and beloved young great-granddaughter Liana!

A huge and affectionate l’chayim!! to you, Marv! Happy 86th birthday! (June 24th.)

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