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harrisJohn Harris of Scarsdale has been elected Board Chair of the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) New York Region. Harris, a partner in the Manhattan law firm of Stillman, Friedman and Shechtman, P.C., assumed the role at ADL New York’s Annual Meeting, held June 15 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Mr. Harris is a veteran ADL leader, having served most recently as Vice Chair of the New York Regional Board and as co-chair of the ADL Lawyers’ Division. He is an experienced and well-respected civil and white-collar criminal litigator and is frequently consulted on matters of professional ethics.

“John has long exemplified the very best in lay leadership for ADL,” said Ron Meier, ADL New York Regional Director. “In his years of service to the Lawyers’ Division he has been active on a wide range of civil rights policy issues and has made his biggest mark with his efforts to build support for ADL in the legal community. I look forward to working closely with John in carrying out ADL’s mission to combat hatred and bigotry."

“It is a great honor to serve in this new role,” said Mr. Harris. “This is an important and exciting time for ADL New York, and I look forward to being at the forefront of the League’s mission to create a dialogue among faiths, to find common ground even when it may be difficult to see, and to encourage respect even when it is simply easier to mistrust.”

Harris is a member of Westchester Reform Temple and is actively involved in city and state bar organizations. He also acts as a volunteer mediator. Harris is a graduate of Yale University and the New York University School of Law. He and his wife and their two children live in Scarsdale.

He replaces former Board Chair Jeffrey M. Parker who has just completed a two-year term.

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.

The Person of the Week Column is sponsored by Johnny Rockets, Home of the Original Hamburger, recently opened for breakfast, lunch and dinner at 777 White Plains Road in Scarsdale.

 

alexcohen“Memorial Day 2010 was not a good day for me,” remembers Sgt. Cohen. That day he got a speeding ticket in Arlington, VA. “The road was empty at the time, so I was going a little faster than usual and not really paying attention to my speed,” he admitted. “I remember joking with the officer who pulled me over that “perhaps a veteran could get a break on Memorial Day. He didn’t even flinch. We spoke for a few minutes, during which the officer revealed that he’d never served in the military and it didn’t matter to him what day it was, who I was, or where I was going. (I was on my way to help a friend, also a fellow veteran, and his wife move into their new house.)”

Three days later Sgt. Cohen received mobilization orders for deployment to Afghanistan, ordering him to report to Fort Benning, Georgia, in mid July, about sixty days away at the time. He recalled, “My mom was the first person to find out, since the Army mailed a thick envelope to the house in New York. She called me in Virginia and I told her to open it. The rest is history.” He took a leave of absence from his job with a defense contractor in Virginia and prepared for the year-long deployment.

Cohen grew up in Scarsdale and graduated from SHS in 2002. He joined the Army Reserve in 2003 and was alexcohen2called to active duty in Iraq from October 2005 to September 2006. “I learned a lot during those early days in Iraq in 2005. I had just turned 21 and while most of my friends were discovering bars at college, I found myself going on daily foot patrols, convoys and raids to interdict terrorists,” says Cohen. To this day, Cohen feels his initial experience in Iraq was the best experience of his life because it was “eye opening.” “I didn’t realize that the majority of the world lives life with a certain mentality and in some of the most austere conditions. Just having potable water and electricity for a few hours a day was a luxury in Iraq for most local citizens. Daily survival was a challenge!”

He recalls, “I was a 21 year old soldier and I often found myself meeting with 60 year-old tribal leaders, as part of my job. I can only imagine what they thought of me.” He still laughs when he thinks about offers from a few of the tribal leaders to marry their daughters and take them back to America. To avoid awkward moments he use to say he was already married and that one wife was enough. This would sometimes result in a chuckle from the tribal elder, who had multiple wives of his own. Other times, the elder would sternly request to see a picture of his “wife.” He would then present a picture of one of his friend’s sisters that he had cropped from a group photo that was sent to him by his friend. “To this day, I don’t think she knows how useful her photo was to me in Iraq,” he laughs. “One day I will have to tell her.”

Fast forward to late July 2010. Having been recalled to deploy as an individual augmentee, Cohen did not have the benefit of deploying with a unit of other soldiers whom he knew. He landed in Bagram, a huge US military hub in Northern Afghanistan, and had to make his way to Kabul, about 60 miles away, on his own initiative. “I thought travel in Iraq was difficult; I soon learned that in Afghanistan it was much harder. “

“The deployment was a learning experience from day one and I did my best to accomplish any mission that was assigned to me. I was able to build off my prior deployments and hit the ground running, which allowed me to prove myself to my commander as a competent leader, particularly outside the wire, leading missions and convoys, a task that few people wanted or envied. “ Cohen utilized a common sense approach to mission planning and often relied on unorthodox methods to throw off potential enemies. He found that there was no way to distinguish between ordinary citizens and Taliban members until an attack was launched.

Occasionally, Cohen was charged with escorting U.S. military generals to meetings and other liaison events. “We conducted these operations with as low a profile as possible, using up-armored civilian vehicles, wearing civilian clothes and taking the liberty of not shaving for a days to develop an “Afghan” stubble.” Cohen soon developed a reputation as a reliable security team leader and generals began to request him to provide security for their meetings and engagements. “Although these missions sometimes got in the way of my primary duties, there was no way my commander, a Colonel, could turn down a General’s request. Overtime, the Generals gave my commander a lot of praise for having a squared away team under his command.” Cohen quickly learned that if you make your leaders look good, you can never go wrong.”

bronzestarDriving in Kabul, Afghanistan is not for the weak at heart, but having grown up driving in New York the learning curve wasn’t as steep. The hard part was learning and memorizing the myriad of streets and alleyways that composed the city. There are no street signs in Kabul, so the only thing Cohen had to go off of were military maps, which gave the major street route names. Although about seventy percent of the streets were not assigned a route, “we still had to learn them by driving them and quite a few times we ended up at the end of one way streets. We had to cut through extremely narrow alleyways where I was convinced we were going to get stuck and have to abandon the vehicles.” Often times, it was just Cohen and one other team member travelling in a single up-armored land cruiser. He always made contingency plans in case he needed to leave a truck and make his way back to base on foot. He admits, “It would not have been a good situation and fortunately it never happened.”

According to Cohen, his old commander in Iraq said, “ it’s better to be lucky than good, sometimes.” Luck was definitely on his side quite a few times.

In June 2011, SGT Cohen was presented with the Bronze Star Medal for “exceptionally meritorious service” during this deployment. Cohen will be in Afghanistan until mid-July and when he returns home he plans to take some time off to consider what to do next.

The Person of the Week Column is sponsored by Johnny Rockets, Home of the Original Hamburger, recently opened for breakfast, lunch and dinner at 777 White Plains Road in Scarsdale.

 

sharonlindsay

At it annual convention on June 2, 2011, long-time Scarsdale resident Sharon Lindsay, was elected President of the League of Women Voters of Westchester County. Lindsay, a former litigation attorney at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley and McCloy and former head of Litigation and Dispute Resolution at JP Morgan, retired in 1996. She has since served as Trustee and is currently a Trustee Fellow of Fordham University, President of the Westchester Symphony Orchestra, President of the Greenacres Neighborhood Association, Chair of the Scarsdale Board of Appeals, and Trustee and Deputy Mayor of the Village of Scarsdale. Lindsay holds a Bachelors and Masters degree from Fordham and a JD from Harvard Law School. Lindsay and her husband George live on Mamaroneck Road and they have been residents of Greenacres for 29 years. The Lindsay’s have two children; Kim, a litigator at Gibson Dunn in New York will be married on October 15, and Will is a venture capitalist in the film industry in Venice California.

Speaking about what lead her to the presidency of the Count League, Lindsay said, “While a long time member, my involvement with the Scarsdale League of Women Voters was limited due to my holding public office throughout my membership. I was asked to join the Executive Board of the County League last June and, in that role, have facilitated the establishment of a 501(c)(3) Educational Foundation for the League and participated in County legislative sessions on affordable housing and the budget."

Lindsay explained the role of the Westchester County League of Women Voters, saying, "The League is a strong force both locally, and at the County, State and National levels. We register millions of citizens to vote, defend voting rights, monitor government activities, sponsor candidate debates and public issue forums, undertake issue oriented studies, develop positions through consensus, educate our constituents, and then advocate via lobbying, testifying and all other means available to ensure our points of view are heard. Westchester County has over a thousand members and eleven local Leagues."

Furthermore, she provided information on the League’s agenda for this year; "To be most effective, the County League must prioritize what issues we will work on in the coming year. The program adopted at Convention earlier this month was quite ambitious and is available on our website. It calls for increased Voter Services, more extensive County Budget analysis and public comment, continued monitoring of County government activities with particular emphasis on implementation of the Housing Stipulation and Order of Settlement for fair and affordable housing and countywide property tax reassessment, options for replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge, and environmental and health issues. In addition, we will be monitoring the work of the County Charter revision commission, revitalizing various Advisory groups in the educational and corporate arenas, sponsoring a seminar for local League leaders, and taking a close look at opportunities for consolidation of municipal services, the impact of the State tax cap legislation, if enacted, and the County Board of Legislators elections in November. And, I have barely scratched the surface!”

She ended by crediting League volunteers, both new and experienced, saying, “This is a lot of work, but it is challenging and the League takes the lead in making it happen. Needless to say, we need dedicated Board members and volunteers to work together to stay informed, spotlight issues and prepare appropriate responses. I am blessed by the fact that the County League has a core of talented and dedicated long term Board members, who have been and remain committed to our mission and our programs and from whom I have much to learn and I am delighted to report that fellow Scarsdalians Carolyn Stevens and Beverley Sved were elected to the Board at Convention and Michelle Lichtenberg and Kitt Rosenthal have returned. I would be delighted to have even more participants and encourage anyone interested to visit the County League’s website , give me a call at 472-9568, or email me at swlind@aol.com."

 

 

Edgemont High School graduation was moved inside on Thursday night June 23rd when stormy weather prevented the traditional outdoor ceremony. The 144 graduating seniors were greeted by classmate Adam Asher, followed by comments from school principal, Barry Friedman. Gerald Stoughton delivered remarks on behalf of the Board of Education and faculty member Dr. Ken Rosenberg was chosen by the senior class to speak.

Headed for NYU in the fall, Justin Arnold,, a.k.a. Danny Zuko, gave parting remarks to his class and Senior Class Officer Jeremy Stern, who plans to attend Washington University in St. Louis spoke as well. Arnold spoke of the place Edgemont will hold in his heart, saying, "Edgemont is not where we grew up, heck it’s not even it’s own town. Edgemont is us. And each of us brings it to where ever we may be in the fall, whether that be New York, Hong Kong, California, or our own backyards. The last 18 years of our lives have been walking through doors to Edgemont, and the rest of the years of our lives will be bringing parts of it with us, through new doors, to the real world."

With that, School Superintendent Nancy L. Taddiken presented the diplomas and the Class f 2011 marched off into a bright future.

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Photographs by Mariela Dojovne Melamed

 

 

meyers4It’s not everyday that you meet a man who gave up a successful career as a commodities trader to become a teacher…especially a man who has a wife, three children and a house in Scarsdale. Even more surprising is his choice of schools … rather than opt to teach in a private school or suburban public school setting where children are well-behaved, directed and motivated, he took a job in a Manhattan public high school where kids have none of the advantages he has given his own three kids at home.

On the surface, Scarsdale’s Evan Meyers seems like many of the Scarsdale dads you’ll find on the train or the playing fields. After graduating from college in 1984, Meyers got his first job on the floor of the commodities exchange in Manhattan and ended up staying there for 17 years. In 1992, he took it one step further and launched his own trading firm, York Commodities, which, by 1999 had grown to be the biggest commodities firm on the COMEX. He loved the fast paced environment and thrived in a place that many find too stressful.

Despite his success, in 2001 he began to lose interest in the field and to consider a second career. He left the exchange and relocated his work to Scarsdale, joining a domestic hedge fund that operated out of Scarsdale Village. The move gave him time to bike, spend time with his kids and most importantly to mull over his next steps. Since he had grown up in a divorced family, he put a high value on time with his children and ended up coaching and eventually serving as President of the Scarsdale Little League.

meyers2During that time he also got involved with some charitable organizations including Facing History in Ourselves where he volunteered and eventually became a member of the Board. The group helps fight discrimination and bigotry in classrooms and communities, addressing issues like bullying, racism and injustice. His work with the group lead him to the realization that he wanted to be a teacher. He loved working with young people and sensed that he might have teaching in his blood as his father was a college math professor.

He toyed with the idea and after considerable thought decided to apply to Columbia Teacher’s College. Much to his surprise, he was admitted and from the moment he began the program he knew he was in the right place. His course work included student teaching and in the fall of 2008 he found himself teaching 25 students during the day and going to class in the afternoons and at night. After two summers and a full school year, Meyers had his Masters in Education and was ready to lead his own class. He found a position at a brand new public high school on Irving Place in Manhattan, where he was hired to teach Global History to ninth and tenth graders. He spent the next summer taking a course at Concordia to give him additional preparation to teach history and began work in September 2009.

The children he teaches are very different from his own. Meyers reports that some of the students in his class are “to varying degrees raising themselves.” Their parents are uninvolved, or don’t speak English and some of them work around the clock to support their families. With little help at home, some are not as academically prepared as students in Scarsdale and at the beginning of each year it is a challenge to get them to do their homework. He is amazed, he said, “at all that can happen to a student before 9 am,” and has visited some at home to see what they are up against. These home visits made him realize the impact he could have on their lives.

He has few discipline problems as the children respect him and he has been able to set up a very creative classroom. Without the benefit of textbooks or easy access to the Internet, Meyers has chosen to set up interactive experiences for his students, for example addressing medieval history by turning the classroom into a European feudal manor replete with lords, knights, and serfs, or studying ancient geography by re-creating a Greek city/state. Though his students are required to take the regents, he has been able to teach the curriculum his own way.

After his first year on the job, Meyers spent the summer thinking about ways he could offer his students opportunities beyond the classroom that are available to his own kids. He decided to start a community service club and was successful in involving a strong group of volunteers. During the year, kids worked at a soup kitchen serving AIDS patients and at the Angel Food Ministry where they provide food to the needy and sold bulk food at discounted prices. At POTS, (Part of the Solution) kids worked at a soup kitchen that had been converted into a restaurant where they served, wiped down tables and cleaned up. Most recently, the students organized a clothing drive and some travelled an hour on the subway to school carrying bags of used clothes.

Building on the success of the club, Meyers took it one step further. He had gone on a mission to New Orleans with his own daughtermeyers1 a few years ago to help with the Katrina clean up. Though it was ambitious, he decided to see if he could raise enough money to take a dedicated group of students to New Orleans on a similar trip. Using his contacts he was successful in finding a donor to finance the trip.

Eighteen of his most committed volunteers were selected to go on a trip that included a tour of the levies with an environmental group and painting houses with The Beacon of Hope. As a treat, they took a riverboat cruise. For just $14,000 he took the kids on the trip of a lifetime, and several were on a plane for the first time in their lives. While in New Orleans they studied the hurricane, what happened and why.

Back from the trip, and coming to the finish line of his second year of teaching, Meyers learned that the school’s community service club had been selected to receive an award from Mayor Bloomberg. Seeking to encourage service in the public schools, the Mayor has created a “Remarkable Growth in Service Award’ and Meyers and his students are the recipients of a $3,000 grant which will be used for photo and printing equipment for the club. They are set to go to Gracie Mansion on June 29th to receive the honor.

Now a veteran teacher, Meyer says he never regrets his decision to leave the financial world. What will the future hold? Meyers says he can’t be sure if this will be his last career, but for now he is enjoying working with young people and learning about their lives. He’s set to return to the Washington Irving campus next year where undoubtedly another group of fortunate teens will benefit from his guidance.

The Person of the Week Column is sponsored by Johnny Rockets, Home of the Original Hamburger, recently opened for breakfast, lunch and dinner at 777 White Plains Road in Scarsdale.

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