Author Archives: Rick D'Loss

Susan Stein returns to Carnegie

In 2019, Susan Stein brought her one woman show Etty to Main St. We organized a small group of our folks to attend her performance at Off The Wall Theater (now renamed as Carnegie Stage). And we were pleased that Susan came to shul on the Shabbos during her stay here. If you don’t have plans for this weekend, you will want to know that Susan is back for one weekend only. Performances are tonight, Saturday night, and Sunday afternoon.

Etty is the fascinating story of a fairly unknown Jewish Dutch woman named Etty Hillesum. When the Germans invaded the Netherlands during WWII, they started gathering up Jews to be sent to Auschwitz, Etty included. All of the Amsterdam Jews were sent to an intermediate camp called Westerbork. Etty was assigned duties as a clerk keeping track of those coming and going. This delayed her deportation to Auschwitz, but eventually she would be murdered like most all the others. Etty Hillesum would have disappeared into oblivion except that she kept a diary. And it provides a window into the life of a 20-something Jewish woman in Amsterdam before and during the Holocaust. It is from all of Etty’s notes that Susan Stein crafted her play. Because the script is taken from diaries, the script is written in the first person. Susan speaks as, and becomes, Etty during the performance. . They even look similar. Could be some strange metaphysics going on there. Regardless, Susan’s writing and acting bring the character to life.

This is definitely worth your time. You can see my comments from 2019 here. You can get tickets here.

Be well, and Good Shabbos.

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Dorothy and Kurlie Miller

Over the past few months I have been troubleshooting a shul email problem, so if you’ve gotten a lot of “test” emails from me I apologize. Or maybe you didn’t get any! Gmail was blocking our email. They aren’t blocking us now, but check your spam folder. I am making progress, and I hope that most of our 150 subscribers receive email notification of new blog postings. While I was working on this email problem I had back-burnered a story about Dorothy and Alfred “Kurlie” Miller. Maybe now is a good time to share it.

In a small town like Carnegie there are paths that cross, and we are treated to the occasional unexpected surprise. This is one of those surprises. My dear friend and fellow councilman Phil Boyd handed me an envelope one day and said, “here, this is for you”. Inside the envelope was a mezuzah. For our non-Jewish readers, a mezuzah is a small decorative container that is affixed to a doorpost in a Jewish home. Inside the case is a lambskin parchment with hand written paragraphs of Hebrew scripture. The writing of mezuzah scrolls is an amazing skill and the scribes go through rigorous training. The scroll at the right is only 2 inches wide. So, imagine writing these scrolls for a living. (you can click on any of these photos to see more detail) I asked Phil where he got this artifact. He said he found it in a box of things that he brought over from his old house. Phil and his wife Cheryl had recently sold their home on Center Ave after having lived there for almost 35 years. As it turns out, they bought the house from Dorothy Miller in 1987. Phil had grown up next door to Kurlie and Dorothy Miller and from his youth was very fond of Kurlie. When Dorothy decided to sell the house, Phil bought it.  It is customary to take your mezuzahs with you when you move, unless a Jewish family is moving in behind you. Dorothy took all her mezuzahs, but one got left behind on a basement doorframe.

Kurlie and Dorothy were part of the large Miller family in Carnegie, which included Izzy and Morry of Izzy Miller Furniture fame. Phil credits Kurlie for teaching him how to do math. Kurlie would take the young Phil to the grocery store and they would have a contest. They had to keep track of the total cost of all the goods in the shopping cart, subtracting the value of coupons. And they did this in their heads! When they got to the cashier they would see who was correct. More often than not they would catch an error that the cashier made. I could tell how much the story meant to Phil because he had a smile that covered his whole face while he was telling me.

I never had an opportunity to meet the Millers. Kurlie passed away in 1982 and Dorothy retired out of state after she sold the house in ’87. Here’s a picture of Dorothy, Phil’s Aunt Margaret, and Kurlie. I don’t know where this photo was taken, but it kinda looks like the shul social hall back in the ’70s.

At shul we have some Torah covers that were donated to the shul in Kurlie’s memory. Here is one of them. Above his embroidered English name is his Hebrew name, Abraham Sender Miller. The Yiddish name Sender has a great history and includes the similar names Sander, Sanford, etc. Well known are Michigan Congressman Sander Levin and baseball great Sanford “Sandy” Koufax. These names are derived from the name Alexander, which can be split phoenetically in two: Alek Sander. Jews named their sons Alexander, Sender, or Sander in tribute to Alexander the Great, who treated the Jews in his empire justly and preserved the Temple in Jerusalem when he conquered the Middle East. Two of our shul’s Alexes include Dr. Alexander “Alex” Sax, son of Ike Sax of blessed memory, and Aleksandr Shenderovich, father of the twins.

So, back to the beginning of the story. The mezuzah is not in very good shape.  The case could be cleaned up, but the parchment is in poor condition. The case is not waterproof and the parchment has some water damage. It’s probably not kosher. I don’t know if buying a new parchment is an option because it is unusually small. And without a parchment, the case is just a decoration. I suggest that it would make a nice keepsake if someone in the Miller family wants to claim it. Just drop me a line. It’s sitting on my office desk.

Feel free to share some memories of Dorothy and Kurlie, and did I forget any Sandies?

Be well everyone. Rick





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