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Soldier tells rally crowd there is no Plan B, Israel must win the fight

Soldier tells rally crowd there is no Plan B, Israel must win the fight

Photo by Alyssa Dinberg/Jewish Federation Supporters of Israel filled the Kehilath Israel Synagogue to capacity Monday night for the Community Solidarity Gathering. “The only option is to fight back... Read more...

Third annual Kosher BBQ festival expands, changes location

Third annual Kosher BBQ festival  expands, changes location

Photo by Josh Goteiner: Yosef Silver (from left), Simon Majumdar of the Food Network and Rabbi Mendel Segal, executive director of the Vaad HaKashruth and the KC Kosher BBQ Competition and Festival, mugged... Read more...

Rabbi Alpert named new Melton director

Rabbi Doug Alpert Rabbi Doug Alpert has been named the new Kansas City director of the Florence Melton School for Adult Jewish Learning. Locally the Melton School is a project of the Hyman Brand Hebrew... Read more...

Showing gratitude to donors, Federation offers thanks

Derek Gale (left) and Sarah Beren meet with Ofer Lichtig (center), director of the Israel office of Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City, during the recent mission. Though the news out of Israel changes... Read more...

NCSY helped teen make meaningful connections and take on leadership roles

Shaina Stasi This year marks a monumental milestone for NCSY as it celebrates the 60th anniversary since its founding in 1954 by the Orthodox Union. Through the decades, NCSY has become a treasured part... Read more...

Listening Post

PRAY FOR SOLDIERS —From now until Tisha b’Av (the evening of Aug. 4 and all day Aug. 5) 1 million Jews around the world will Read more...

KC Leadership Tomorrow gives summer interns valuable experience while helping nonprofits

Rae Pfau is the first paid employee the Mitzvah Garden has ever had. She serves this summer as the garden’s volunteer coordinator and is being paid through KC Leadership Tomorrow, a summer internship... Read more...

The Blue Card available to assist older Holocaust survivors; JFS makes local connection

Every year, the number of Holocaust survivors continues to dwindle. Statistics indicate that of the 75,000 Holocaust survivors living in the United States, about one-third live below poverty level. While... Read more...

B’nai Jehudah announces ‘interim’ year of music

Coleen Dieker The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah has announced to its congregation that it is embarking on a journey of musical exploration that they are calling “an interim year of music.”... Read more...

Listening Post

CDC teachers Barbara Abramowitz and Liz Bigus. STUDENT BECOMES CO-TEACHER — About 20 years ago Elizabeth Bigus was a 3-year-old preschool student in Barbara Abramowitz’s class at the Jewish Community... Read more...

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Letters to the Editor

Why can’t Jews speak Hebrew? How come so few Jews in North America know how to speak Hebrew? Sure a lot of them know how to read Hebrew from Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and there is a flowery English translation... Read more...

Why we’re letting our daughter stay in Israel in wartime

Let’s just say that missiles and bomb shelters were not on the itinerary of our 16-year-old daughter’s pilgrimage trip to Israel this summer. I spoke to her this morning. Yeah, the alarms are unnerving,... Read more...

Letter to the Editor

Half-truths and anti-Semitism I was irate after watching the late CNN news on July 10. Anderson Cooper pretended to deliver a factual report about Israel’s bombing of Arab residences, with a slight... Read more...

Amidst turmoil, life in Israel continues to be meaningful

My mother wants me to come home. I’ve been calling her every day, and she wants me on a plane immediately. She has been watching the news and following events as they unfold here in Israel and she is... Read more...

Letter to the Editor

Conference gives families hope My husband Harold and I were fortunate to attend the Mucolipidosis Type 4 (ML4) Foundation Family & Research Conference last month in Atlanta. ML4, a relatively unknown... Read more...

We mourn three senseless deaths caused by hate, again

Our Jewish community has held two memorial services in the last three months — 77 days apart to be exact. Thousands of people attended the first one, as the Jewish community grieved for the senseless... Read more...

‘Soul Encounters’ reminds us of Rebbe’s message

Rabbi Sholom Wineberg The name “Soul Encounters” appropriately identified the program at Chabad House Center, which took place Tuesday, July 1, 3rd of Tammuz. Nearly 100 people attended. Read more...

Letter to the Editor

No champion of Jewish values I cannot share Washington Jewish Week/JNS.orgreporter Dmitriy Shapiro’s lament for the demise of Eric Cantor’s political career (The Chronicle, June 19, or www.jns.org),... Read more...

Federation mission gives participants unique look at Eastern European Jews

Alan Widman (left) and Stacey Belzer (right) visit with Sybil Sylvian in June. Sylvian’s picture was featured on Page 1 of The Chronicle in January as part of a story about the KU Hillel European Leadership... Read more...

'State of Deception' exhibition should not be missed

“Propaganda is a truly terrible weapon in the hands of an expert.” — Adolf Hitler, “Mein Kampf,” 1924   I attended a press preview this week for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museums... Read more...

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Celebrations

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Unowsky Bat Mitzvah

Unowsky Bat Mitzvah

Keri and Daniel Unowsky announce the Bat Mitzvah of their daughter, Sarah Beatrice, on Saturday, Aug. 9, at Beth Sholom Synagogue in Memphis, Tenn. Read more...

Weiner-Conley Engagement

Weiner-Conley Engagement

Barbara and Jeff Weiner of Prairie Village announce the engagement of their daughter, Rebecca Brooke Weiner, to Jason Robert Conley, son of Randi and Larry Haith and Kim and Bob Conley. Read more...

Bock-Lewis Engagement

Lynne and David Bock announce the engagement of their daughter, Hannah Rose Bock, to Joshua Aaron Lewis, son of Sheryl and Jim Lewis of Deerfield, Ill. Read more...

Chase Bat Mitzvah

Debbie and Jeff Chase announce the Bat Mitzvah of their daughter, Talia Faye, at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 2, at Congregation Beth Torah. Read more...

Passer-Wolkofsky Engagement

Sandy and Steve Passer announce the engagement of their daughter, Emily Passer, to Peter Wolkofsky, son of Michael and Vicky Wolkofsky of Queens, N.Y. Read more...

Zwillenberg 50th Anniversary

Morris and Linda (Fein) Zwillenberg will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary on Saturday, July 26. They were married at Beth Shalom Synagogue in Hartford, Conn., on July 26, 1964. Read more...

Halasz Birth

Rabbi Karen Bodney-Halasz and Scott Halasz of Dayton, Ohio, announce the birth May 6 of a son, Ethan Falk Halasz. They are also the parents of another son, Jonah. Read more...

Unell Bat Mitzvah

Joe and Marcia Unell announce the Bat Mitzvah of their daughter, Alyssa Unell, on June 26 at Haas Promenade in Jerusalem. Read more...

Zeldin B'nai Mitzvah

Ashlyn and Alexis Zeldin celebrated their Bat Mitzvah commitment ceremony on June 6 in Santa Barbara, Calif. They are the daughters of Janine and Kevin Zeldin of St Louis, Mo. Read more...

Badzin-Fineman Engagement

Jim and Fern Badzin, Leawood, announce the engagement of their daughter, Brooke Michelle Badzin, to Nathan Gabriel Fineman, both of Chicago, son of Glen and Holly Fineman, Omaha, Neb. Read more...

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Obituaries

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Sandhaus, Frances Zurovsky

Sandhaus, Frances Zurovsky

Frances Zurovsky Sandhaus, 98, passed away on Tuesday, July 22, 2014, at Kansas City Hospice House. Read more...

Beiman, Melvyn

Melvyn Beiman, 82, of Lee’s Summit, Mo., died on Wednesday, July 24, 2014, at the Village House on the campus of John Knox Village. Read more...

Elyachar, Daniel

Daniel Elyachar, 87, loving father, grandfather, great-grandfather, brother, uncle and friend, passed away peacefully on Monday, July 21, 2014, at his home in New York City. Read more...

Gorrel, Shirley

Shirley Gorrel passed away Wednesday, July 23, 2014, in the Atlanta area. She spent the last year and a half there to be with her daughter and granddaughters. Read more...

Grunspan, Mira

Mira Grunspan, 90, of Merriam, passed away Monday, July 28, 2014, at Trinity Nursing and Rehabilitation. Read more...

Silverman, Inge B.

Inge B. Silverman, 83, of Leawood, passed away Thursday, July 17, 2014, at Menorah Medical Center. Read more...

Warshawsky, Arnold

Arnold Warshawsky passed away on Friday, July 18, 2014, after a lengthy battle with health issues for almost a decade, including COPD. Read more...

Waxman, Michael Bernard

Michael Bernard Waxman, 63, passed away unexpectedly at his home in Baldwin City, Kan., on July 16, 2014. Read more...

Chick, Stephen

Stephen Bruce Chick of Prairie Village passed away peacefully on Monday, July 7, 2014. Read more...

Freed, Ronald

Ronald Lee Freed passed away on Monday, July 14, 2014. Read more...

Former Kansas Citian, Beth Torah member finds her niche in Peace Corps

By Marcia Montgomery

Community Editor

Rachel Sweenie has traveled a great distance in her 25 years. She was born in Chicago and moved to the Kansas City area with her family when she was in first grade. After graduating from KU, she moved to Washington, D.C. Now, via the Peace Corps, she lives and works in Swaziland, Africa, where she has been since June 2013.

Sweenie says she can’t share the name of her community in Swaziland, “but I can share that it is very rural and very beautiful. I live in the mountains where the weather is generally temperate. I stay with a wonderful host family and have my own house on the homestead.”

The daughter of Congregation Beth Torah Music Director Linda Matorin Sweenie, Rachel Sweenie says life in Swaziland is quite different than the 9 to 5 job she had in D.C.

“No day is ever the same. I am very fortunate to have electricity in my house and running water on my homestead,” she says. “The biggest differences for me are hand washing clothes, not always understanding what people are saying — English is everyone’s second language here — and getting used to cultural differences like wearing skirts most of the time and not using my left hand as a sign of respect to the King.”

She and other Peace Corps volunteers spent their first eight weeks in training learning SiSwati (the native language), studying Swazi history and culture, and preparing for the types of projects they would implement in their communities.

Health Issues

According to research, Swaziland is critically affected by HIV and AIDS. The CIA World Factbook reported in 2012 that 25.8 percent of all adults are infected with HIV and the life expectancy in Swaziland is 50 years. An estimated 5,500 people of an approximate population of 1,185,000 dies from AIDS every year. In 2004, the Swaziland government acknowledged for the first time that it suffered an AIDS crisis, with 38.8 percent of tested pregnant women infected with HIV.

Tuberculosis is another significant problem, with a mortality rate of 18 percent. Eighty-three percent of tuberculosis patients are co-infected with HIV.

“There are indeed a number of health issues in Swaziland,” Sweenie says. “The government and many NGOs (non-government organizations) have been working hard to combat these issues. Treatment is free and widely accessible, and in the past few years there has been a big push for prevention of mother-to-child transmission.

“All pregnant women are tested when they come in to the hospital for prenatal care, and those who test positive are provided with anti-retroviral treatment (ARVs) to prevent the disease from passing to the fetus.”

HIV/AIDS education is nothing new in Swaziland, Sweenie says. “In fact, it has been drilled into the youth, both in school and through the disease’s impact on every person’s life. I think it is safe to say there is not a single person in this country who hasn’t been affected in some way.

“That said, my work is more focused on life skills and empowering people, whether that’s encouraging young girls to stand-up for themselves or teaching someone who takes ARVs how to keep healthy.”

Sweenie says she’s not exactly sure what she expected from the Peace Corps; she tries to live her life without expectations. She did think, however, that she would be more involved in HIV/AIDS education — her official job title is community health educator — but the work is varied.

“Gender-based violence and inequality are also big issues. A large part of what we do as Peace Corps volunteers is try to empower youth, particularly girls, to stand up for themselves and make good choices with regard to sexual and reproductive health.

“Right now I spend time in the schools doing life skills — activities designed to address self-esteem, decision making, goal setting, health, etc. — and library time, as well as work with an HIV support group,” she explains “A friend and I are also in the process of starting clubs and support groups to address issues of teenage and unplanned pregnancies, which are quite common in our rural community. Some days are incredibly busy, while others are not. The pace of life is much slower here — people refer to it as ‘Swazi time.’ ”

What’s Next?

Sweenie’s degree is in human biology, with a psychology concentration. In D.C., she worked as a research assistant at Children’s National Medical Center. The research focused on the psychosocial aspects of living with and managing Type 1 diabetes in children, teens and young adults.

When she returns home to the States around August or September 2015, she says she plans to continue pursuing a career in pediatric psychology, working with youth with chronic illnesses.

For now, she is happy to be gaining experience working on health issues in a different culture.

“It is easy to get caught up in the notion that Swaziland is a poor country that has been devastated by the HIV/AIDS crisis. While this is true according to statistics, one of my goals is to get people to see past the numbers,” Sweenie says. “Swaziland is a beautiful, vibrant country, and Swazis are some of the friendliest, most kind-hearted and jovial people I have ever met.

“Yes, they have faced and continue to face a multitude of hardships that most of us will never experience in Kansas City. Despite this, I am incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to live and work in this wonderful country.”