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Brady chapter gives Kansas Citians forum to speak out

Brady chapter gives Kansas Citians forum to speak out

Harold Koch Sixty-one years ago, on Aug. 20, 1953, the Koch family’s lives changed forever. A purportedly unloaded gun went off and killed 14-year-old Leo Koch. Read more...

Beth Liss inspires giving at National Young Leadership Retreat

Beth Liss inspires giving  at National Young Leadership Retreat

Co-Chair Designate Beth Liss speaking at the Jewish Federations of North America National Young Leadership Retreat. For Beth Liss, accepting the post of co-chair designate and, next year, co-chair of... Read more...

Author, outstanding programs highlight Jewish Federation Annual Meeting

Ari Shavit A dedicated young leader, two community programs and two local educators will be honored as part of the Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City’s 81st Annual Meeting on Wednesday, Sept.... Read more...

KC SuperStar announces winner; Liberty Fruit makes challenge grant

Photo by Brian Turner: Taking part in the check presentation ceremony for KC SuperStar winner Keith Klein (center) are Lori Blinn (from left) and Edward Rose, representing the family of Craig Citron, for... Read more...

As baseball playoffs approach, book gives insight into Jewish major leaguers

“American Jews and America’s Game: Voices of a Growing Legacy in Baseball” by Larry Ruttman (University of Nebraska Press 2013) “For American Jews, baseball has been the tent of Abraham, offering... Read more...

Listening Post

World War II vet Maury Dubinsky was invited by the Kansas City Royals to sit in its ‘Seat of Honor’ on Wednesday, Aug. 13. The 91-year-old was a Navy pilot who flew Corsair planes. He still actively... Read more...

Men with K.C. ties provide support to Israel’s Lone Soldiers

Earlier this month Jason Barnett helped issue Israeli IDs to new immigrants who will be joining the IDF in three months. Throughout Israel’s history, volunteers and supporters from all over the world... Read more...

Event to teach women about mitzvah of baking challah

Women will learn how to make and braid challah at the Mega Challah Bake Sept. 2. “The warm, delicious smell of Challah brings something peaceful into the atmosphere of the home.” Read more...

Listening Post

Celebrating a couple of auspicious birthdays are (from left) Eliyahu Eisenbach, 1, Tehila and Shalom Eisenbach and Sarah Zeldin, 102. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU AND YOU — This birthday was truly a family... Read more...

KC SuperStar finalists include Jewish contestant

Paris Naster is one of 10 finalists vying to become the next KC SuperStar. This year marked the first time 17-year-old Paris Naster auditioned for KC SuperStar, the Jewish Community Center’s “American... Read more...

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Letters to the Editor

Irresponsible comparison to Holocaust On Saturday, Aug. 23, the New York Times published an ad signed by about 300 Holocaust survivors, their direct Read more...

Letter to the Editor

Interfaith Council needs to despise anti-Semitism In response to the letter written by Sheila Sonnenschein and Rev. Mary McCoy of the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council (Aug. 14), I wonder if it... Read more...

The structure of racism: Change begins with all of us

For decades, structures have existed that created and sustained Ferguson, Missouri’s, damaged relationship with its police. They have quietly worked their magic, and brought about the shooting of Michael... Read more...

Letters to the Editor

Israel is the victim I can’t help but find a correlation between Muslim migration into Europe and other non-Muslim countries and the rising clamor of anti-Semitism in those countries. Hamas instigated... Read more...

The spiritual journey of a lifetime

Ten local women participated in the 2014 Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project trip to Israel last month. Posing for this photo at the Decks in Tiberious are Stacy Wright (back row, from left), Patricia... Read more...

Letters to the Editor

We need to combat hate Anti-Semitism is a worldwide problem that is getting worse, especially overseas. Our best protection is education, making living conditions better for others and swift eradication... Read more...

The underlying war: Islamism versus democracy

Are Jews the canary in Western Civilization’s cultural mine? Read more...

Turning 80

During my journey through life, as the years have rolled on, I have discovered that time flies even when you’re not having fun — and suddenly even a watershed event can sneak up on one, as it did me.... Read more...

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...

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Chopp Birth

Chopp Birth

Elizabeth and Isaac Chopp announce the birth June 4 of a daughter, Stella Rose Chopp. Read more...

Buchbinder Birth

Buchbinder Birth

Baree Nottberg and Scott Buchbinder of Overland Park announce the birth June 27 of a son, Theo Everett Read more...

Zwick-Pohlman Engagement

Arvin and Tammy Zwick of Overland Park announce the engagement of their daughter, Heather Ashley Zwick, to Andrew David Pohlman, son of Jeff and Robin Pohlman of Memphis, Tenn. Read more...

Nerman Wedding Anniversary

Margaret and Jerome Nerman will celebrate their 73rd wedding anniversary on Friday, Aug. 8. They are lifelong residents of Kansas City and have lived in Leawood since 1990. Read more...

Krashin Birth

Daniel and Jacki Krashin of Wilmete, Ill., announce the birth May 20 of a son, Drake Evan. They are also the parents of Madilyn Paige. Read more...

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

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...

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Obituaries

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Eberman, Steve

Eberman, Steve

Steve took his final victory lap on earth on Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, and passed peacefully at Garden Terrace. Read more...

Fichman, Charlotte

Charlotte Fichman, 86, of Overland Park, passed away Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014, at Village Shalom. Read more...

Nussbaum, Marie

Marie Nussbaum, 94, formerly of Prairie Village, passed away peacefully on Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, at Sweet Life of Overland Park. Read more...

Rainen, Marc H.

Marc H. Rainen, 66, Kansas City, Mo., died on Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014, at the VA Medical Center in Kansas City, Mo., after a short struggle with cancer. Read more...

Braeman, Aaron

Aaron Braeman, 100, of Overland Park, died on Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014, at Village Shalom. Read more...

Brown, Peedee

Peedee Brown (nee Roseroot), 74, of Overland Park, formerly of Fairway, died peacefully at her home on Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014, surrounded by her loved ones. Read more...

Hipsh, Sam Harry

Sam Harry Hipsh, 95, of Leawood, passed away on Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014. Read more...

Mittelman, Sara

Sara Mittelman, 97, was born May 10, 1917, and died Friday, Aug. 15, 2014, at Menorah Medical Center. Read more...

Sher, Peyton

Peyton Sher, 90, international boxing matchmaker and promoter, of Leawood, passed away peacefully on Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014, at the Kansas City Hospice House. Read more...

Zingher, Fran Meadow

Fran Meadow Zingher, 92, passed away peacefully on Thursday, Aug. 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.”