Tonight we participated in a ceremony at Temple Emanu-El, Miami Beach, FL. in memory of the 45 Holy Souls who died in Meron. Thank you Rabbi Marc Philippe, Rebbetzin Valerie, Douglas Hirsch, and the entire team for their service.
We met Dan when we first came to Miami Beach. Our dear friend, Elaine Bloom, introduced us. He’s been to our home. We’ve been to his. The following story doesn’t surprise me. He and his wife, Joan, are very community minded. This is a beautiful story that Dan wrote years ago. It starts after Dan’s Facebook post.
The Story from a Big Brother
Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber writes about his friendship with a boy from a tough Miami neighborhood, and Travis Thomas, describes how that enduring relationship brought him to Tufts.
“Our backgrounds couldn’t have been more different, but we found common interests: sports, hanging out at the mall, going to bad Steven Seagal movies,” writes Dan Gelber. Travis Thomas is now in his third year at Tufts School of Dental Medicine.
I first joined the Big Brothers Big Sisters program while a Tufts undergraduate. My roommate, Rich Edlin signed me up to help mentor twin boys from Medford. It was pretty easy. We did entirely ordinary things with the boys—watched football and played basketball or watched basketball and played football.
Somehow doing ordinary things seemed less ordinary. It felt good.
When I returned home to Miami after law school, I joined my local Big Brothers chapter, with hopes of continuing the experience. Big Brothers matched me with a six-year-old gap-toothed boy living in an impoverished Miami neighborhood I knew only as a place to avoid driving through. That’s how I met Travis.
Travis was abandoned by his father at birth, and his mother struggled with substance abuse. He bounced around among relatives, neglected so much that a great aunt eventually took him in and agreed to care for him. She became his only caretaker, and called Big Brothers Big Sisters to give Travis some additional influences in his life.
I liked having a little kid I could boss around; he liked knowing someone who could drive; we both liked having a brother. And I finally had someone to give my hand-me-downs to. Travis looked good in my oversized Tufts Jumbo T-shirts.
I also appreciated getting a view of a world I knew little of. I had an interest in public service, and while I was able to return home after our weekend outings, what Travis confronted all the time was both eye-opening and moving.
Travis’ life wasn’t easy, and his prospects were uncertain. Through the years, I watched as his childhood friends went to jail, or died, or faded into the vortex of the inner city. His aunt—whose home was surrounded by abandoned dwellings that usually hosted crack dealers—did all she could to keep those influences away from him. She also made sure Travis had faith in his life.
But I always held my breath, hoping he would escape the fate of so many others. I had become a federal prosecutor, and in that role had seen my share of people whose lives had jumped the tracks.
Dan Gelber with Travis Thomas at his college graduation. Photo: Courtesy of Dan Gelber Travis had a work ethic, but lacked a seriousness of purpose, especially about school. I tried to push and prod and even bribe, but it didn’t seem to take.
But we stuck together through the years. When I met Joan, he proudly stood by me at my wedding. He was only 13.
Over the next decade, Travis watched me grow a family and saw the joy it brought me. He saw my vintage Mustang get replaced with a Honda minivan, and Hannah Montana elbow out Steven Seagal. He held each of my infant children, and saw me embrace the responsibility of being a spouse and a parent.
But Travis couldn’t seem to find his own way. He graduated high school, but each time he enrolled in a junior college, he quickly withdrew to return to the Miami streets. Like half the kids in his neighborhood, he developed a life plan based on pursuing a career as a rap star. At best it was a pipe dream. At worst, it would lead him nowhere good.
I was beginning to lose hope. Travis was slipping away.
Then Travis met a girl and fell in love, and things seemed to change. They wanted a family, so he shelved his rap career and asked me for help getting a job. I found him a position working for a friend’s extermination company. Travis was assigned the night shift. After three nights of chasing rodents in the dark he called, told me he’d had enough and asked if he could go back to school, again.
We enrolled him at Miami Dade College with hopes he could earn a two-year degree. This time he didn’t walk away. He soon married his girlfriend, Wilsa, in a beautiful ceremony. I was his best man, beaming in my rented Creamsicle-colored tux.
As Travis and Wilsa prepared for the birth of their child, he became even more serious. He told me he wanted to become a dentist, a profession that had interested him since childhood, when he’d been teased about the large gap between his front teeth.
I worried his goal was totally unrealistic. I even suggested to him that maybe he was aiming too high, and should consider something more attainable. My wife, Joan, really let me have it when she heard I’d tried to tamp down his aspirations.
So we went all in and, more importantly, so did Travis. He studied for every test like it would decide his future—like he would be left chasing rats on the night shift if he failed. He graduated from Miami Dade College with a two-year degree and enrolled at nearby Nova Southeastern University on an academic scholarship. There he sought out health science courses. By now, Travis was a driven student, regularly making the dean’s list and never giving up on his dream of being a dentist.
During all this time he continued to live in the same tiny house he was raised in, sharing it with his elderly aunt and other relatives. His young family made do by living in the dining room, which provided only a smidgen of separation from the angry neighborhood outside.
As he had vowed, Travis took the dental school admission test. I held my breath again. What would happen to him if he fell short? I wished Joan had not convinced me to bless this path.
They gave Travis his scores as he left the testing center. He called me as he walked out. He scored in the 93rd percentile overall, and his organic chemistry score was over 97 percent. He was so proud. I was without words. Joan wept.
Travis applied to dental schools across the country. Friends chipped in unused frequent flyer miles to get him to his interviews, and he borrowed luggage, ties and overcoats to look professional.
Here is how he answered a dental school application that asked if he believed he grew up “disadvantaged”:
I grew up in one of Miami’s poorest neighborhoods. I was abandoned by many who you would think would have nurtured me, and raised by my grandmother’s aunt. I remember, as a young boy, hiding inside my house for days after a drive-by shooting. But through it all, people—sometimes perfect strangers—inspired me to never give up and to always believe in myself. So yes, I did have a disadvantaged life by most definitions, but that life has made me better prepared and more appreciative of the opportunities and blessings I do have.
Dental programs across the country wanted him. Many offered scholarships. I thought staying in Florida made the most sense, believing it would be too difficult for him to start anew in another state.
Once again, Joan disassembled my argument, contending Travis and his family had every right to define their future on their terms. So Travis pulled out my old hand-me-down T-shirts and decided Tufts was where he wanted to be. It wasn’t because of me at all. Rather, it was because after his interview, the dean had pulled him aside, put his hand on Travis’ shoulder, and told him that the school believed in him.
That’s all Travis needed to hear. That’s all he’s ever needed to hear.
At the conclusion of his first year at Tufts School of Dental Medicine, I attended his white coat ceremony, marking his transition to the clinical side of his education. I think I must have got some dust in both eyes. At the end of his second year his grades continue to be exceptional.
Travis recently announced he might become an oral surgeon or a prosthodontist. I believe him.
Dan Gelber, a former Florida state senator, practices law in Miami. At Tufts he was a Truman Scholar.
From the Little Brother: He Never Gave Up on Me
By Travis Thomas
I can remember meeting Dan Gelber for the first time like it was yesterday. I was just six and playing in the street with friends when my Aunt Ruth opened the screen door and yelled Travisss! I rushed home and stationed myself on the couch by the living room window, anxiously watching every car that passed by. Finally one pulled up. It was Dan! He took me for ice cream.
Travis Thomas says he might want to become an oral surgeon or a prosthodontist. Photo: Kelvin MaAs a kid, I looked forward to spending a Saturday or Sunday with Dan because I knew we would have fun—even if I just went out with him for lunch or a movie, or watched him play pick-up basketball (he needed the moral support). Our outings usually concluded with a trip to the bookstore and a few words of wisdom.
Dan never missed the opportunity to sermonize about reading and education. Public service is huge in his family, and he shared its importance with me, whether that meant I tagged along to a festival for children battling cancer or helped him distribute gifts to other kids. I remember the time I got two garbage bags filled with toys, only to find out he expected me to keep just one toy and give the rest away to the kids in my neighborhood (Dan was a star on my block!).
As I grew older, though, Dan’s influence seemed to reach me less and less. I was no longer the adorable six-year-old Dan took for ice cream. Like most of my friends, I sported a gold grill, had a hip-hop swag and knew all of the drug dealers on my block. Clearly, I was going in a different direction. Maybe I had lost faith in myself and figured I wasn’t worthy, but I began to let go of the person I had called my big brother for more than a decade. Dan was starting his own family, and once I turned 18, I decided our relationship would end.
Dan would have none of it. He continued to remain a fixture in my life.
No matter what I thought of myself, Dan let me know he believed in me. Whatever doubts I had about myself, Dan had none. Eventually all those bookstore visits and sermons started to sink in. I met my wife, and we had our son—and for the first time I believed that maybe I could control my future.
Since my father didn’t raise me, I looked to Dan for guidance. I saw his honesty, his drive, his humility and most of all his love for his family. And when I decided to return to college for the third time, his family supported me in every way. There was no way I was letting them down! His wife, Joan, became one of my big supporters, and when I mentioned becoming a dentist to her, she urged me to “go for it.” And that’s when I realized she was smarter than Dan.
Dan didn’t have to volunteer to spend his time with me. He could have said coming into my neighborhood was too risky. Or he could have simply given up on me when I had given up on myself. But he didn’t. That is why I am paying it forward by caring for my own half-brother, who is in a situation nearly identical to the one that I was once in.
I know that I am succeeding in school because I work hard. But I also know that I would not be here if I didn’t have a big brother who taught me to believe in myself.
Dan, your little brother is going to be a dentist! Remember to floss.
I have copied and pasted this story for you. The author David Pogue absolutely crucified a product that I gave him to review for Yahoo News. That was a few years ago. I felt he was very unfair. However, news is news and I didn’t want you to miss this story.
A new airport art installation takes off
The $8 billion renovation of New York’s LaGuardia Airport won’t be finished until 2025. But Terminal B is already complete, and it’s gorgeous.
The centerpiece is a spectacular new airborne sculpture called “Shorter Than the Day,” by artist Sarah Sze, a professor of visual arts at Columbia, a MacArthur “genius” grant recipient, and a mother of two.
Sze said, “When I first proposed it, everyone was like, ‘Well, how are you gonna make this? How are you gonna make five tons look like nothing?’
“I mean, it looks like you could blow it away like a dandelion,” said correspondent David Pogue. “How fragile is it, actually?”
“It’s not fragile at all!” she laughed. “Shorter Than the Day”
As you look inside, you see 1,500 photos of the New York sky, arranged from dawn, to midday, to dusk.
Sze said, “You’re watching the time of the sun going across the sky as you move, right? So, you’re tracing a day.
“You know, a terminal is this incredible place where you’re having this shift in time, whether you’re arriving or leaving, in this very complex way. So, I wanted the piece to really be about kind of a modeling of time.”
Like most of Sze’s work, this one is intricately composed of hundreds of interconnected pieces: “For me, it’s a 20-year exploration of this idea of how parts come together to make a whole, and where the boundaries are then. What gets included? What doesn’t? Where is the frame?”
Sarah Sze was born in Boston in 1969, and almost immediately began making art. “I was making art all the time when I was a little girl – napkins, walls, anything, you know, trash into sculptures, all the time,” she said.
Pogue asked, “Does your father’s being an architect play a role?”
“The house was filled with models, drawings. You know, we didn’t own art, but we went to museums. And for me, museum was like going to, you know, a complete haven.”
She majored in architecture and painting at Yale, got her master’s degree from New York’s School of Visual Arts, and then she took off. She’s had exhibitions in the most hallowed halls of art, like the Venice Bieniale, the Whitney Biennial, and New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
But her first love is art in public places, especially in New York.”
“I did a piece for the 96th Street subway station,” Sze said. “You’re sort of thinking about where you’re gonna go, and there’s something there that makes you think, that stops you for just a second, that you move around, or through, or under.”
And starting next month, her latest piece, “Fallen Sky,” will be take up permanent residence at the Storm King sculpture gallery in New York’s Hudson Valley.
Pogue asked, “When you are asked to create a public piece of art, are there different mental restrictions in terms of likability, accessibility?”
“I don’t need people to love the work,” she replied. “I mean, hating a work can also, you know, it can be valid. I don’t want people to walk by like it’s a fire hydrant. I want people to think, to question, to engage in their own opinion. That’s what a good artwork does. It doesn’t please.”
Her 96th Street subway proposal certainly didn’t please everyone. There were petitions not to build it. Sze said, “Any time you do public art, there’s a question, and it’s a valid question: ‘Why are we spending money on this and not, you know, improving the conditions of public schools in New York?’ It’s an entirely valid question. My argument for it is that, for me, art is sustenance. When you are suffering, art can save your life. I believe that.”
With so few people flying during the pandemic, Sze’s sculpture at LaGuardia has been something of a hidden treasure. But as the pandemic winds down, that will change.
Pogue asked, “As you look back over the arc of your career, is this the pinnacle so far?”
“As an artist, you always want the last piece you made to be the pinnacle. But you would never want it to be THE pinnacle, right?” she replied.
“I mean, this is probably the one that the most people will see, would you say?”
“That was one of the reasons why I was really excited about it as a commission,” said Sze, “because people from all over the world, you know, first-time visitors, repeat visitors [will see it]. For me to have this be a sort of entryway sculpture to the city that I love was really special.”
No need to read if not born before 1950. This is a warning as some of the conclusions may be alarming to sensitive readers, however it is unlikely you will remember for long.
The NILE Virus (Type C) I thought you would want to know about this virus. It appears to target those who were born prior to 1950. The lockdown seems to be increasing the chances of being affected! Virus Symptoms1 Causes you to send the same E-Mail twice.2 Causes you to send a blank E-Mail.3 Causes you to send an E-Mail to the wrong person.4 Causes you to send it back to the person who sent it to you.5 Causes you to forget to attach the attachment.6 Causes you to hit SEND before you’ve finished.7 Causes you to hit DELETE instead of SEND.8 Causes you to hit SEND when you should DELETE. This virus is called the C-NILE virus! A lot of us have already been inflicted with this disease and unfortunately as we age it gets worse. And if you can’t admit to doing any of the above, you’ve obviously caught the other strain — the D-NILE virus
′′Let go the people who are not prepared to love you. This is the hardest thing you will have to do in your life and it will also be the most important thing. Stop having hard conversations with people who don’t want change.
Stop showing up for people who have no interest in your presence. I know your instinct is to do everything to earn the appreciation of those around you, but it’s a boost that steals your time, energy, mental and physical health.
When you begin to fight for a life with joy, interest and commitment, not everyone will be ready to follow you in this place. This doesn’t mean you need to change what you are, it means you should let go of the people who aren’t ready to accompany you. If you are excluded, insulted, forgotten or ignored by the people you give your time to, you don’t do yourself a favor by continuing to offer your energy and your life. The truth is that you are not for everyone and not everyone is for you.
That’s what makes it so special when you meet people who reciprocate love. You will know how precious you are.
The more time you spend trying to make yourself loved by someone who is unable to, the more time you waste depriving yourself of the possibility of this connection to someone else.
There are billions of people on this planet and many of them will meet with you at your level of interest and commitment.
The more you stay involved with people who use you as a pillow, a background option or a therapist for emotional healing, the longer you stay away from the community you want.
Maybe if you stop showing up, you won’t be wanted. Maybe if you stop trying, the relationship will end. Maybe if you stop texting your phone will stay dark for weeks. That doesn’t mean you ruined the relationship, it means the only thing holding it back was the energy that only you gave to keep it. This is not love, it’s attachment. It’s wanting to give a chance to those who don’t deserve it. You deserve so much, there are people who should not be in your life.
The most valuable thing you have in your life is your time and energy, and both are limited. When you give your time and energy, it will define your existence.
When you realize this, you begin to understand why you are so anxious when you spend time with people, in activities, places or situations that don’t suit you and shouldn’t be around you, your energy is stolen.
You will begin to realize that the most important thing you can do for yourself and for everyone around you is to protect your energy more fiercely than anything else. Make your life a safe haven, in which only ′′compatible′′ people are allowed.
You are not responsible for saving anyone. You are not responsible for convincing them to improve. It’s not your work to exist for people and give your life to them! If you feel bad, if you feel compelled, you will be the root of all your problems, fearing that they will not return the favours you have granted. It’s your only obligation to realize that you are the love of your destiny and accept the love you deserve.
Decide that you deserve true friendship, commitment, true and complete love with healthy and prosperous people. Then wait and see how much everything begins to change. Don’t waste time with people who are not worth it. Change will give you the love, the esteem, happiness and the protection you deserve.-