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May 2016 - Carol Fertig

201605fertigBackground
I was born in Brooklyn and raised in Valley Stream, NY by the two greatest parents. My folks met as teachers and ultimately my dad went into my grandfather’s furniture business. I worked there since I was 10. In high school, I was the Sunday receptionist at the store and often pretended I was still sleeping so I wouldn’t have to work.

I moved to San Francisco after college graduation. When I moved back to New York, I met Howie at a mutual friend’s B’nai B’rith party in Howard Beach. When I first saw him walking down the basement stairs, I told the friend with whom I was sitting that “I wanted to have that man’s child.” Proactively, I wound up getting the host to give him my number. One year to the day of our first date (at the Sly Fox Inn on Union Turnpike), we got married.

We lived in Whitestone, NY, where our children were born. In 1999, we moved to Wayne and joined Shomrei Torah. We tell people it is because we had always attended a Conservative shul. In reality, it is because Rabbi Mark is from Minnesota and a Vikings fan.

Education
I graduated from the SUNY College at Buffalo with a BS in Graphic Design. I was a horrible student but always worked outside of school. My first freelance design jobs were doing supergraphics on the walls of a Buffalo bank and creating the signage and menus for a new restaurant.

Since then, I’ve taken random courses, including a Digital Media Marketing certificate at NYU and pursued an MSW at NYU Silver School of Social Work. I loved the school but not my internship and left prior to finishing.

Career & Hobbies
I’ve been in advertising all my life, and after taking care of Howie’s mom and my folks I wanted to try something else. When I was 10, I wanted to be either an illustrator for Hanna-Barbera (I loved “The Flintstones” and “The Jetsons”) or a psychiatrist. I felt that I had fulfilled the first part with a career in advertising. Now it was time to fulfill the second.

When I left NYU Silver, I just started doing stuff I never did. So, I wound up volunteering for the National Patient Advocate Foundation, a non-profit that is focused on getting people access to quality healthcare through policy reform.
I recently was volunteering (and now working part-time) for another non-profit called InSynergy Staffing Solutions with the unique focus of placing professionals 55+ in real jobs. Every so often, I will do background work in television shows. Some of my juiciest roles were as a highly believable patient visitor in “Nurse Jackie” or an equally compelling prison visitor in “Orange is the New Black.” My coup de grace will be next Sunday as an inspiring texting (two fingers, no less!) passerby on “Girls.”

As far as hobbies go, I guess it would be working out, yoga — particularly with Elyce Berenzweig at the Y, movies, shows, walking around Manhattan.

Family
I truly believe I was blessed with the best family ever. My folks were amazing — funny, bright, engaging, loving. And, I miss them and think of them everyday.

My husband Howie is my best friend, supporter, still makes me laugh to this day and just as handsome as the night I saw him descending that stairway. When we first met, he was an art teacher in the Bronx and a freelance illustrator whose work appeared in publications including The New York Times, Village Voice and Seven Days. Today, he sells channel data management software (you can ask him to explain), is still a lover of the arts, and is game for anything.

Our sons are the brightest spots of our lives. Spencer, 27, started his career as Mary Sheydwasser’s Hebrew School Assistant during the summers in middle school. As a result, he graduated from Georgetown University, worked as an analyst for Morgan Stanley and is now back in DC with Uber. Jake, 24, is an associate video producer at Mashable.com, and an aspiring filmmaker. He lives in Park Slope with his girlfriend, Emily, a PA on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, whom he met at NYU-Tisch.

Influences
I think I have been influenced by a whole lot of folks, starting with my paternal grandmother who was just the kindest person in the world. My mom taught me that a sense of humor in life was of the utmost importance. My dad influenced my business acumen and the art of negotiation. My husband and kids remind me everyday to do the things I want to do. I have taken various cues from friends and colleagues. My favorite is from a friend here in Wayne who said, “Your life isn’t always on a linear path but takes a more circuitous route.” Don’t know why, but that has stuck. Same with other lines, “Never speak to anyone who can’t say “‘Yes” and “You don’t ask, you don’t get.”

Travel
I’ve been to various places in the US, including a bungalow colony Howie has been going to since he was 13 across the lake from Camp KinderRing, California, the eastern seaboard and Cleveland for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Caribbean (one of those times with the Appels and Marks’ and had an episode in a bubble bath that overflowed), Mexico, Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, London, Zurich, Florence, Venice, Israel, Spain (took a phenomenal cooking class and e-bicycle tour in Barcelona) and Copenhagen. Next month, Howie and I will be traveling with some friends to Israel.

Participation
My folks were founding members of Temple Hillel in North Woodmere, NY, and my mom was its first Sisterhood President. Talk about nature vs. nurture! It was in my DNA and my upbringing to travel on my mom’s similar path. I’ve been involved in Sisterhood as Co-President with Elyce Berenzweig, Trustee and just plain ol’ member. I love the relationships I have made at Shomrei, in particular my Sisterhood sisters, because we are drawn together by our common belief in Judaism, even though our other practice may be miles apart. I truly relish the times we share during Recipe Dinners (unfortunately, I won’t be here for this one), making soup, participating in Sisterhood Shabbat, selling scrip, collecting checks and greeting members with Tova Friede at Paid Up Membership, Movie Night discussions and just talking and talking and talking while we work. I have been writing the Sisterhood articles for the last 58 years and will gladly relinquish that job to anyone, even if you don’t belong to Sisterhood.

I’ve been involved with the Education Committee and, for good or for bad, did a bang up job with Mara Hirschfeld co-authoring the presentation to apply for and win the UCSJ Framework for Excellence designation on our first go-round. I’ve also participated on the Gala Committee, Board of Trustees, Executive Board as Communications Secretary for about three weeks, as an infrequent Torah reader (but I do feel great after doing it), an occasional Saturday morning and almost-once-a-week-or-so minyan goer. And, I buy scrip, the synagogues’ easiest fundraiser!

Linda Dumoff was the first person to sit next to me when we moved here, at an Anne Frank presentation, when our older kids were first in Hebrew School together. Karen Weiss encouraged my participation after one Sisterhood meeting when she admonished me that I should just get involved in something.

I am really happy and honored for the honor of “Volunteer of the Month” but a little upset I wasn’t chosen for October so I could get the parking spot during the High Holidays.

Hopes
I think we should all treat each other as if every day was the High Holidays.. On those days, everyone is kissing and hugging and treating each other as humans. We could do a lot together that way. I’m in.

Judaism
Being Jewish keeps me connected to my family who came before and offers me comfort in what may lie ahead.
I am proud to be a Jew and grateful for the positive identity.

I attended services every Saturday with six other girlfriends on my block. We would then go to Green Acres Mall. School remained open for the holidays back then, but my friends and I took every holiday off. Ironically, even though B’nai B’rith was a catalyst for my meeting Howie, my BBG chapter in Valley Stream was disbanded after two poorly attended meetings.

We grew up kosher. I would have to run to the supermarket for a challah right before Shabbat dinner. I still use the candlesticks my mom lit that were handed down through my grandmother from Russian relatives. I don’t keep the same traditions as fully anymore. But, the depth of my emotional relationship with Judaism runs deeper.

Under the encouragement of my son, Spencer, I read and chanted before an open Torah for the first time as I became a Bat Mitzvah at age 42. (I had cancelled my Bat Mitzvah when I was younger because my grandfather was very ill.) It was thrilling. Our friend Richie commented at a luncheon in our home afterward that he couldn’t wait to return in three years for my Sweet Sixteen.

Thanks for the honor. It’s been a fun ride.

Wed, February 28 2024 19 Adar I 5784