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fraleyMeet Chris Fraley and Victor Self, the first same-sex couple to apply for a marriage license in Greenburgh under the newly-enacted Marriage Equality Act. Fraley and Self rushed to file when they learned that the Greenburgh Village Court would be open on Sunday, July 24. To make it official, they planned a ceremony at the Gazebo in Rye and a reception at Frankie and Johnnie's. They were honored when State Senator, Suzi Oppenheimer, who worked hard to get the legislation passed, attended the party.

This wasn’t their first wedding. The two have made several trips abroad to marry in places where same-sex unions are recognized. They were first married in St. Barths where they had a religious ceremony in 2008 with friends and family along to witness and celebrate the nuptials. They also traveled to South Africa where they were able to have a legal civil wedding, since the country legalized same-sex marriages some years ago. When they learned that New York State had legalized same-sex marriage in July, they jumped at the chance to marry in this country to avoid any doubt in the United States that their union was legal.

Chris, age 42, works as an investment manager in White Plains and Victor, age 41, is a fitness instructor for Equinox in Scarsdale, Mamaroneck and several other locations. They met in November, 2003 and have been together for almost eight years. Their recent wedding was just another step in the couple’s long journey to forming a family.

They are also the proud fathers of an 18-month-old baby girl named Coco who shares their home in Rye. The two dads documented the story of the pregnancy of a surrogate mother and Coco’s birth in a blog, http://countdowntodaddyhood.blogspot.com, and generously agreed to share it with our readers. Commenting on the new legislation, Fraley said, “We are hopeful Coco will grow up in a world that doesn't discriminate against same sex couples. The recent legislation was a huge step in the right direction.”

We asked Chris if he was surprised when the legislation was passed and he said, “I was actually a little shocked the first time theWedding law did not pass a few years ago. I had always thought of New York at the forefront of civil rights and it was surprising to me that we had more rights as a couple in Argentina, South Africa and Spain than we did in New York. Though they believe their marriages in St. Barths and South Africa were legal, before the ceremony in New York, they could not file a joint tax return. Now they will be permitted to file a joint state return, though the “Defense of Marriage Act” still prevents them from filing a joint federal return.

Though they rarely felt discrimination in Westchester before the new law was enacted, Chris and Victor have received many good wishes since July. While out walking in Rye recently, a woman who they did not know stopped them to tell them that she had recently moved up from Manhattan and was glad to see some diversity in the suburbs.

Commenting on their new status, Fraley said, “The passing of the Marriage Equality law was particularly exciting for us because we are relieved that we will never need to explain to Coco that our family is treated differently than other family.”

Congratulations to the Fraley–Self family.

(Pictured above right: Coco, Chris and Victor Celebrate with State Senator Suzi Oppenheimer who championed the new legislation)

 

 

foodstarFood Network Star, Food Network’s hugely successful culinary reality series is currently casting for season 8 and invites anyone interested in hosting their own cooking show to an open casting call in New York City on Friday August 5th, 2011. They are looking for people who are full of life, passionate about cooking, and knowledgeable about food to attend an open casting call. Chefs, home cooks, caterers or culinary enthusiasts who are interested in hosting  their own cooking show on Food Network are encouraged to attend.

Here are the details:


Friday, August 5th 2011

9am-12pm
Sutton Place1015 Second Ave,
New York, NY 10022
e-mail: fns8nyc@gmail.com

For additional information please visit http://Foodnetworkstarcasting.com.

 

 

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.

 

collegedormIt’s the end of an era. It’s the start of a new beginning. For some, it’s scary. For others, it’s exciting. For everyone, whether you’re taking a plane, a train, or a car, it’s a chance to start anew.

Whether you fall into the category of nervous, excited, or anything in between, you are not alone. As the class of 2011 begins the great migration to their respective colleges and universities, there seems to be a wide range of reactions to the prospect of leaving home, all of which are perfectly normal.

Jamie Tartell, who will be attending the University of Rochester in the fall, admits, “I'm nervous about adjusting to an entirely new place where I know very few people. I'm also nervous about the difficulty of the classes.” Nevertheless, Jamie is confident that she will soon overcome this feeling of uneasiness. “I think that reaching out to other people will help me feel more comfortable and find my niche.”

In terms of overcoming common concerns when it comes to leaving for college, members of the class of 2011 can look to their predecessors for advice. Adam Dubner, who will be entering his sophomore year at Washington University in St. Louis, said, “When I left for college I was most nervous about having to start over by making new friends in a place that I was not used to, since I have never lived anywhere but Scarsdale. I dealt with homesickness by participating in a lot of different activities and spending a lot of time with friends so that I never really had time to think about how I was not at home.”

Another common fear involves the idea of leaving the comforts of home where parents are always there to look out for students, and going to a place where students must look out for themselves. Emily Michaels, who will be entering her sophomore year at Cornell University, learned to love the independence that comes with going to college. “I love the feeling that I'm growing up and have to begin to take responsibility for myself. It's my own decision whether to go out when I have a lot of work or to stay in and get it done. Nobody is around to tell me what to do and I have to create for myself guidelines and restrictions.”

Despite the typical feelings of anxiety with regards to leaving home, many members of the class of 2011 can’t wait for the new experience. “I am really looking forward to living the college lifestyle!” said Michelle Wexler, who will be attending Brandeis University in the fall. “I am excited to take the classes of my choice and become involved in unique clubs.”

Because parents are not the ones doing the actual moving, we often forget that leaving for college is a life-changing milestone not only for kids, but also for their parents, who will be returning to a half-empty or sometimes even entirely empty household.

Robin Gottlieb, who’s oldest of three children will be leaving for college in just a few weeks, is approaching the new living situation with trepidation. “The dynamic in the house will definitely change”, said Gottlieb. “It will be strange not having him around every day, just to catch up with, even if for a few minutes. It will be interesting learning how to find the balance in communicating with him when he is at school and worrying about someone when you have to imagine what they are doing on a daily basis.”

Michelle Levine, who has one daughter that has already graduated college and a set of twins now leaving for college, will soon be an empty-nester. “So far I'm ok with it because I know it's time for them to leave and I'm very excited for them. So many people have asked me about this that I feel like I'm supposed to be very sad. I might be when we get back to the house and it's quiet, but for now I'm just happy for them.”

Whether you are a student leaving for college or a parent sending your children off to college, there exists a unanimous and inevitable sense of apprehension and excitement that accompanies the process. As yet another class graduates and begins the great migration, it is important for students and parents alike to remember that the Scarsdale community provides a strong support system that extends far beyond the geographical limits of our town.

shelbyrokitoShelby Rokito recently graduated Scarsdale High School, and will be attending Cornell University in the fall as a Communication major in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She loves writing, cooking, and playing with her dog.

 

 

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.

 

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