2 Chicagoans featured in new documentary series on Jewish models | Entertainment

CHICAGO – Tiffany Woolf has always had an affinity for the older generation. She worked in a retirement home during her college studies. Both of her parents died in their 60s, which she said led her to seek out older models.

The San Francisco-based executive producer and now director said she pitched her “passion project” to Reboot, a nonprofit arts and culture organization focused on Jewish thought and tradition, telling them: “J Would love to grab a camera and start filming older role models and capturing their stories.

Woolf’s production company, Silver Screen Studios, was born in 2017 with the help of Reboot and its co-founder, Noam Dromi. The name of the studio, Woolf said, is a “cheeky nod to the older generation and the good ol ‘Hollywood days.”

The company has already put on YouTube a few series of six or seven “snack” episodes, as Woolf calls them, ranging from seven to 10 minutes each. The most recent series, “Sign of the Times”, is in association with Reboot and began its release with the first episode at the end of September. The series is Woolf’s first director and features models from the older generation of the Jewish faith.

The series is national but focuses on Chicago, said Woolf, because “there just happen to be so many great and interesting people to introduce in Chicago.”

The first episode features Douglas Goldhamer, 76, a rabbi who founded the Bene Shalom Synagogue in Skokie in 1972. It is a Reform Judaism congregation that interprets all of its services in American Sign Language. Peggy Bagley, the 66-year-old executive director of the synagogue and wife of Goldhamer, said the main theme of the synagogue was to be kind to everyone.

Goldhamer said he was interested in serving deaf people because he “knew what it was like to be discriminated against.” As a newborn baby in Montreal in 1945, he was placed under a radiation machine to remove a birthmark from his hand. The team working with him left him under the machine for too long and he suffered radiation burns all over his left side of his body. This caused him to have Klippel-Trenaunay syndrome, a rare condition involving blood and lymph vessels and abnormal growth of soft and bone tissue, according to the National Institutes of Health. Goldhamer said the syndrome caused him severe pain and that he had more than a dozen surgeries throughout his childhood.

When he was in his twenties, Goldhamer saw a friend, who at the time was a student rabbi for a deaf community in Chicago, give ASL service. This friend invited Goldhamer to the community’s Passover Seder, which was conducted in sign language, and Goldhamer met the 11 families of that community. He started learning sign language that night.

Two years later, the community of 11 families has become a “full-fledged congregation” with regular services for the deaf and hearing. In 2021, Bene Shalom serves around 150 families with 30% of the congregation made up of deaf people, Bagley said.

“I knew that God wanted everyone, whether blind or unable to walk, whether in a wheelchair, whether they were autistic, whether they were deaf, I knew that God wanted everyone to be respected. for who they are, ”Goldhamer said. “People who are different are just that. We respect them, we honor them, we love them like God does.

Woolf, who is deaf to one ear, said that “this idea of ​​celebrating your adversities” really resonated with her.

“I learned to compensate for being deaf in one ear and standing up for my well-being in Judaism and understanding,” she said. “Rabbi Goldhamer was a powerful link to me.”

Woolf said the stories she shares aren’t just about aging, but aging well. With each episode of the new series comes a theme. For Goldhamer, Woolf said the theme was cuteness. For the second episode, which will feature fellow Chicago resident Sharon Silverman, 77, the theme is curiosity.

Silverman was born and raised in the city. She is chair of the board of directors of the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership. The higher education institution offers a number of graduate programs, certificates, and professional workshops that apply the foundations of Jewish texts and learning to contemporary issues.

The Silverman episode is slated for release this month. She speaks of her “strong Jewish identity and education” in tandem with a lifelong career as an academic, not only in teaching but also in teaching the teaching process. Most of her career has been spent at Loyola University in Chicago as an administrator. She founded the University’s Learning Assistance Center and taught at the School of Education.

After leaving college, she began private practice with a colleague to work as an educational consultant, which she did for twenty years before retiring last year. Silverman was also a Senior Fulbright Fellow in 2000 at Nelson Mandela University in South Africa and a Senior Fulbright Specialist contributing to teaching and learning in Almaty, Kazakhstan in 2014.

Silverman said she “really enjoyed” working with Woolf on the show and said being able to share her experience to hopefully inspire others was “really meaningful.” She said she wanted her four grandchildren and everyone else to understand the “value of intergenerational sharing.”

“People my age, old people and old people, have had long lives,” said Silverman. “We have had so many experiences. We share our stories with others so that they can be inspired in their own lives. I seized opportunities and grew and developed because of them. By sharing my experiences, I hope it inspires others to do the same.

In addition to inspiring generations, Woolf said that with every episode and series released by Silver Screen Studios, “the hope is that people will be inspired to call their own older loved ones.”

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© 2021 Chicago Tribune. Visit chicagotribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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