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RachelRachel KrisberghIn this month’s volunteer profile we interview Rachel Krisbergh who moved here less than five years ago and has already assumed leadership roles in several Village organizations. Meet Rachel and find out why she has embraced volunteerism and Scarsdale.

When did you move to Scarsdale and what was your initial volunteer activity?

I moved to Scarsdale in the summer of 2015 with my husband Jon and our two children, Jordan and Dylan. I began my volunteer work at the Early Childhood Center at Westchester Reform Temple where my children attended preschool. I was asked to be a co-chair for the preschool’s parent organization (similar to a PTA president) and then I got involved with many different committees within the temple as a whole. My children now attend the Jewish Learning Lab at WRT and I am still active on many of the same committees.

What is your professional or educational background? How does it relate to the volunteer work you have taken on?

Before moving to Scarsdale, I worked as a special education teacher in the New York City public school system. When we moved here, I decided I wanted to be home with my kids but wanted to stay active by volunteering in the school and the community. I love working with children and families and all of my volunteer positions allow me to do that.

Tell us about your work with CHILD – what initiatives did you work on? How do you work with the school district to advocate for children with special needs?

This year will be my second year as co-chair of C.H.I.L.D (Children Having Individual Learning Differences). C.H.I.L.D is a part of the PTC and supports families throughout the district who have a child receiving special education services or need academic, social, emotional support. C.H.I.L.D hosts many events throughout the school year, including parent coffee’s with district special education staff and administrators and information sessions for parents. C.H.I.L.D also invites presenters to speak to the school community about relevant topics. This year’s presentations were on healthy sleep habits for school age children and developing resilience and self-advocacy skills in children.

One of my main goals as co-chair of C.H.I.L.D is to increase the visibility of the organization. We have parent representatives in each school, from preschool through high school and we want these parents to be the first point of contact for other parents within that school. For the first time this past Fall, each representative hosted an informal breakfast for families to get to know each other and find support from parents dealing with similar issues. The breakfasts were very well received and we had plans for similar events this Spring that unfortunately, due to the school closure, had to be cancelled.

How did you get involved with Scarsdale Family Counseling Service?

I had worked closely with Dara Gruenberg through my work at Westchester Reform Temple. Dara knew that I wanted to continue supporting families and children in the community, so she introduced me to Scarsdale Edgemont Family Counseling Service (SFCS) as an organization with a great mission and dynamic board.

Tell us about your work with SFCS – why do you believe the group is an important resource for Village residents?

SFCS is celebrating 100 years of service in the community this year! I joined the Board in 2017 and currently serve on the Executive Committee. I support the organization in many ways but one of my main goals is to bring more awareness to the agency among residents who are new to Scarsdale or have younger families and may not know about the important services we provide.

This is my second year as the co-chair of the gala committee for SFCS. Our Centennial Gala, which was originally scheduled for the Spring, will now be held on October 8th at the Scarsdale Golf Club. Three years ago we created the Rising Star Award to honor young leaders in Scarsdale who demonstrate impactful community service. This year we will be honoring Marcy Berman-Goldstein with the Rising Star Award!

SFCS has proven to be an exceptional and essential part of our community because they offer something for everyone. SFCS provides individual and family counseling, social skills groups for young children, parenting groups for Middle and High School parents and many programs and supports for the aging population living at home in Scarsdale. I also enjoy working closely with Jay Genova, the Executive Director and with the excellent professional staff at SFCS.

What do you enjoy about living in Scarsdale?

I love the community! Our family has made life-long friends and we feel right at home in Scarsdale. Getting involved in local community groups has introduced me to so many smart, caring and dedicated volunteers that inspire me because they make Scarsdale a wonderful place for so many of us to raise our families.

In your view, what challenges face our Village?

I think the work that Marcy Berman-Goldstein and the Scarsdale Business Alliance are doing to revitalize our downtown area is critical. My husband is on the board of the Scarsdale Forum, which has also focused on this issue through its Downtown Revitalization Committee. We all love our community so much and it is so important to support the local businesses. Everyone wants to have a lively and bustling village center but we can’t do that without supporting the small businesses and restaurants.

What do you think is unique about Scarsdale and the people you work with here?

One of the things that I enjoy most about volunteering for so many different organizations is the people that I meet. Everyone brings such a unique perspective to the table and it is refreshing to be able to hear all the different viewpoints. Everyone that I work with truly cares about Scarsdale and making it a better place for all. Though you see many of the same faces on the volunteer circuit, everyone works tirelessly for their community and pours their heart and soul into what they do. We have a lot of very smart people here in Scarsdale and I have learned a lot from them which I carry into the work that I do.

If you had to advise a new resident about why and how to get involved, what would you recommend?

I recommend that people get involved in volunteer activities that interest them and suit their lifestyle. One thing I have found through volunteering in Scarsdale is that there are so many opportunities. Start with something that motivates you and go from there. It’s really easy to get involved - just raise your hand! Residents can look in the back of the community calendar or visit Scarsdale.com to see a list of the community organizations. Volunteers play such a critical role in the work that gets done in our schools and community. Even a small job makes a big difference!

AdvocaateApril

camptaconicNo one knows if school will resume before the summer, but what about summer camp? Now more than ever kids will want to get out of the house, play with friends and enjoy the great outdoors. Will day camps be open and will kids board the buses for sleepaway?

We spoke to some local officials and camp directors to see what they are thinking. Will camp open on time? Will there be changes in procedures or restrictions? Here is what we learned.

County Executive George Latimer said, Westchester County control a series of camps –the ones that take place at the county center that will have to relocated. We have put county summer camps on hold for now. The decision about camp opening is part of the Governor’s Executive Order and he will make the decision.

How about in Scarsdale? Will the rec camp be open? Deputy Village Manager Robert Cole said, “The Westchester County Department of Health is the permitting authority for all camps throughout the County. The County has mailed out the camp permit applications, which are not due back to the County until 60 days prior to camp opening. Brian Gray, our Parks and Rec Superintendent, serves as president for the Westchester Recreation and Park Society (WRAPS). Through WRAPS, he distributed a survey at the beginning of April inquiring whether communities had made any decisions about pool and camp operations. At that time, no Westchester County communities had cancelled either pool or camp seasons, though some had delayed pool openings, as Scarsdale has; none had reported delaying their camp season(s). The WRAPS survey recently went back out again for an update, with responses due back over the next week, or so.”

Cole continued, “With respect to camp staff, most municipalities, including Scarsdale, began sending out employment offers to returning staff in December/January. We recently notified our interested team members that we are still planning on operating our summer programs, including camps; however, we also let them know that our plans are subject to the broader constraints we are operating under, i.e., they could be delayed or canceled, as conditions dictate. While we are continuing with interviews by phone, we are not making employment offers until program status can be confirmed.”

We asked Jim Libman from Camp Hillard if it was likely that Hillard would run and he said, “Camps are very optimistic, but nothing is a certain. The feedback we are getting is that parents and kids are crossing their fingers for camp this summer! The good news is all summer camps have been classified as essential childcare. Presently, The CDC is preparing safety guidelines for camps to operate and will be releasing those to state and local health departments in May. Camps are awaiting more information from State officials which should come in May. The ultimate decision to open camps will be made by the state and local health officials. After that decision is made each camp must feel that it will be safe for all their campers and staff.

What about sleepaway camps? Will kids be boarding the buses in June? Here is the response we received from Amanda Krasnoff – Staffing and Programming Director at Camp Taconic in Hinsdale, MA.

“Right now, we are optimistic that Camp will open this summer. We are working closely with other camps in Western, MA as well as the ACA, who is working closely with the CDC. There will most likely have to be some changes put into place, such as a later start date than anticipated, or the possibility of some out of camp trips being cancelled.

Ultimately, if the government and Department of Health allow us to, it is our decision on whether to open camp or not, and we will only do so if it safe for the entire Camp Taconic community. One of our biggest challenges right now is trying to figure out if our international staff is going to be able to get here. Many of our counselors and support staff come from other countries, and they are unable to get their visas until further notice, so we are hiring additional domestic staff in the event that our international staff is unable to arrive. There are definitely a lot of uncertainties at the moment, but the feedback we’ve received from our camp community is that kids will need camp more than ever this summer. Even if it’s a little different, or shorter in length, we still want to be able to provide our campers with a safe and amazing summer experience.

StaceyBrodskyStacey BrodskyThis reflection was sent to Scarsdale10583 by former resident and Scarsdale Village Trustee Stacey Brodsky:
Once upon a time six long weeks ago, I walked across Central Park to an elementary school where I volunteered as a reading tutor, rode the subway to a pilates class, met three friends for mah jong lessons, took the bus home, walked the dogs, picked up my suitcase, grabbed a cab to LaGuardia and flew to visit one of my daughters at grad school in Virginia.

Once upon a time, four and a half long weeks ago, my husband and I left the city with the dogs for our house on Long Island. We stopped on the way at a large nearby supermarket where we laughed with relief that few people were shopping, the shelves were packed to the ceiling, and panic buying wasn’t a thing. We had successfully escaped the rapidly approaching corona battlefield. Two days later we stood online for 55 minutes waiting to check out at the same supermarket which was now crammed with people and rapidly being denuded. I felt like some crazy end-of-days cultist and I kept trying to justify to myself that I wasn’t hoarding, despite the fact I was certain that food, paper goods, and cleaning product supply chains would never be at risk. Even though stockpiling made me queasy, I kept at it out of the fear - that I was equally certain would never come to pass - it might become too dangerous to go to the supermarket. And maybe it wasn’t hoarding anyway, since nothing in the freezer or pantry would go to waste because the house would be filled with our kids and friends starting Memorial Day weekend and lasting straight through the summer.

My husband has a weak immune system and other risk factors, and after that shopping trip, he hasn’t walked into another building other than our house again. I never returned to that large supermarket and switched to small specialty markets to replenish our supply of fresh produce.

Once upon a time, three and a half long weeks ago, I donned a mask when I picked up prescriptions at the pharmacy. Even though I’d been wearing disposable gloves for a while, the mask made me feel like a crazy person germaphobe and when I got to the store only one other equally mad soul was wearing one. That same day, one of our daughters flew home from Portugal on a flight she scrambled to book as soon as President Trump announced the imminent travel ban from Europe. That same week, our other daughter and her boyfriend tried to figure out where they could escape to if they left grad student housing in Silicon Valley which was already in lock down. They stayed put, in what was then a major hot spot, out of fear of infecting my husband if they came to Long Island or his sister, brother in law and infant, if they went to Connecticut.

Once upon a time, three long weeks ago, when the sun finally came out and the weather warmed up for a day, we took a bike ride and discovered that a local open air farm stand was selling milk, butter, cheese, eggs, yogurt, meats, fish and poultry as well as produce and I determined to swear off even small stores entirely. I broke my vow a small handful of times despite the feelings of utter anxiety every time I did.

Once upon a time, two long weeks ago, Dr Deborah Birks announced at a coronavirus daily briefing that people should stop shopping in food stores or the pharmacy and I stopped.

Once upon a time, two long days ago, as I waited for my turn at the farm stand, I saw two women who were shopping ahead of me without masks or gloves. I left and ordered from a food co-op that will deliver next week.

Once upon a time one long day ago, we heard in rapid succession that a brother in law’s surrogate father is dying in a NYC hospital, a dear friend’s mother is in the ICU, the mother of our daughter’s boyfriend is hospitalized, another friend’s sister is sick though recovering but the sister’s boyfriend has died, and one of our oldest friends is trying to navigate how and if to treat a newly discovered tumor in a world where a visit to a doctor or hospital seems riskier than cancer. I didn’t go on a daily five-mile walk with my husband or have zoom cocktails with friends. Instead, I sat on the couch and watched eight straight hours of Downton Abbey.

Once upon a time, we owned a different house about six miles away from where we are today, on a street called Mount Misery. The street was named during the flu pandemic of 1918 when a field hospital was built on then empty land to care for the sick and dying outside of the village boundaries. If I can get off the couch today, I’m going to drive there to remind myself that this too is sure to pass. Right?

Raizen2David Raizen in an N-100 mask and PPEOne community organization was well prepared for the COVID-19 crisis. While other health organizations scrambled to secure masks, gloves and gowns for their workers, Scarsdale Village Ambulance Corps is proud to report that they have ample supplies of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) which allows them to serve residents in need without risking the health of their career and volunteer staff.

According to SVAC President David Raizen, they were ahead of the curve and stocked with jump suits, hoods, booties, gloves and full N-100 face masks before the crisis began. The N-100 masks even have filtered cartridges in the front. Raizen reports that he secured most of this equipment during the Ebola crisis and was all set when the coronavirus started to hit New York.

This equipment has allowed SVAC to respond when needed and protect their staff. Raizen says that SVAC responds to every call as a COVID case, and arrives fully prepared. He reports that not one SVAC worker has been contaminated or fallen prey to the virus.

Since the crisis began, call volume for help for those afflicted with the virus has increased – while “sick” calls, for other types of assistance have dropped off.

With hospitals stressed, SVAC has changed their protocols and only transports those who must go --as if possible --- it’s best to remain at home.

Scarsdale Village Ambulance Corps was founded almost 50 years ago to provide ambulance emergency services to the community. They are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year.

SVAC is staffed by a combination of paid paramedics and volunteer emergency medical technicians, and other appropriately trained volunteers. SVAC's volunteers are residents of Scarsdale and its neighboring communities, dedicated to serving their neighbors despite their busy schedules as parents, homemakers, business executives, lawyers, teachers, accountants, tradespeople, engineers, health care providers and the like. It is this selfless dedication to helping one's neighbors that makes the difference in the personal care provided by SVAC.

One of SVAC’s missions is to train community volunteers – and to that end, they will run online EMT classes to train those at home. Raizen says they are hoping to train 72 new EMT’s in the coming weeks via this online program. To learn more and sign up, visit their website here: http://www.scarsdalevac.com/courses.php

Students who had planned to do their training at SVAC during senior options, can still pursue the class online.

Here’s the information:

Scarsdale Volunteer Ambulance Corps received approval from New York State to offer an online EMT program. We have modified our Senior Options course so that students will still have an opportunity to obtain their NYS EMT certification.

The course will consist of online live lectures, prerecorded material, and small group online lab instruction, as well as required reading.

The last week of the course will include mandatory face to face lab skills performed in small groups to prepare you for the NYS Practical Skills Exam. These small group sessions will be in compliance with NYS COVID-19 requirements.

Below are the sample class schedules. A finalized schedule will be sent to you once it has been completed. We are currently discussing an alternative to required ambulance rotations.

We are currently discussing an alternative to required ambulance rotations.

Once the course is completed, you will receive a notice from the NYS Department of Health with instructions for scheduling your NYS certification exam at a computerized testing center.

We are offering the on-line course to registered Senior Options students now. Please confirm your enrollment by Thursday, April 16th. On Friday, April 17th this course will open to the public on a first come, first serve basis.

Please send your confirmation or cancelation to training@scarsdalevac.com.

We are also offering an on-line course that begins May 12th and goes through to the end of August. It’s the same course as above, but it’s taught at a slower pace.

If you have any questions. You can reach Ms. Osborn, the instructor, on her cell at (917) 709-8902 or greeneyedprofessor@gmail.com.

How can you help to maintain this vital resource? SVAC has far exceeded their annual budget with the purchase of the necessary PPE and encourages you to go online now to donate here or to remember them when you receive their appeal for their fundraising drive in September.

SVACSeniorOptions

SVAC1

Gelles(Click on the image above to watch)Beth Gelles, a Broadway fanatic and natural entertainer, got a burst of inspiration during the long days of the COVID-19 quarantine and collaborated with her daughter on the production of a video about the crisis to the tune of Alexander Hamilton from the famed Broadway show. With her kids home from college and her students stressed, the Fox Meadow mom saw the need for comic relief turned out a great performance in just hours. Watch her tour de force here and read more about Gelles below.

How did you get the idea to do the video - what inspired you to write the lyrics?

I have always loved to rewrite lyrics of popular songs and Broadway shows, especially to create songs for my friends’ birthdays. Over the past few weeks, with the Corona virus all over the news and on everyone’s minds, I wanted to do something to acknowledge the stress in our world as well as to entertain and distract people. I love making people laugh and wanted to give something to my friends, family, and current students. I run a college counseling business in Scarsdale and our students were stressed long before Corona disrupted all our lives. My daughters and I are huge Hamilton fans and I kept thinking about what words would fit into the seven syllables A-Lex-An-Der Ha-mil-ton and Co-vid Nine-teen Quar-an-tine matched beautifully. I was on the treadmill when inspiration hit!

I sat down at my computer and worked up some ideas and verses. I came back to it every few hours to add and revise -- the song probably took me between 2-3 hours to compose.

When I finished it, I sang it for my daughter Lindsay (accompanied by the karaoke version of Alexander Hamilton). Lindsay is a freshman at WashU and, like all students, she’s stuck at home. She is incredibly creative and musical and is majoring in Psychology with a double minor in dance (ballet) and drama. Instantly, she declared, “Mom! I will record you doing this and you should post it!”

Do you have a background in writing verse? Acting and singing?

Yes. As mentioned, I enjoy rewriting songs for friends and family members. I have been performing since early childhood. I love to sing, I play the piano, and I can still tap dance. I’ve performed in musicals in high school in NJ, at Harvard, and even at Kellogg Business School.

I am a ridiculously religious Broadway musical fanatic, and I have made my entire family endure listening to show tunes. Fortunately, they put up with me. My middle child Lindsay loves to see every show too. We’ve seen over a hundred musicals together in the past 18 years, and she collects every single Playbill. My son Zack is a freshman at Harvard. He doesn’t love musicals but he can carry a tune, play a little piano and guitar, and he has a great ear for languages. My youngest daughter Carly is a freshman at SHS. She is an incredible dancer and she can also sing. She loves musicals too, particularly when there is extensive choreography involved. My husband Jeff can carry a tune. He will come to Broadway shows with me on my birthday or Valentine’s Day but it’s definitely not his first-choice activity!

Who filmed you and edited the video? How long did it take to do? Did you have to do many takes of each scene?

Lindsay! She is incredibly creative and artistic. She is also a devoted Hamilton fan. We actually have TWO Hamilton costumes because she entered the Hamilton lottery day after day for almost 2 years and then won two free tickets to Hamilton on Halloween 2018. I bought the costumes on Amazon. We have tons of costumes in a closet in our basement and dressing up and performing skits and fun musical reviews has been part of my kids’ childhoods.

Believe it or not, the video didn’t take long. Lindsay recorded me singing the song accompanied by the soundtrack on Garage Band. I messed up once and did it again. I told her it was good enough. Lindsay had most of the ideas for each scene. It took us an entire afternoon to film everything and none of the scenes required more than two takes. The most challenging part for me was to memorize a lot of lyrics at once. Lindsay filmed each of these clips around our house and then put the whole thing together on i-Movie. It took her about 2 hours in total.

You say it has gone viral - how many views to date? Have you gotten inquiries from people around the country?

With Facebook and YouTube combined, I have had over 17,000 views (as of March 29th).
Yes, it is around the country! I have friends in California and Florida who have contacted me. They have received the video from people that I don’t even know.
The video was also sent (not by me) to Channel 12 News in Westchester and aired on a continuous loop on March 27th.

Also a friend of a friend in San Francisco sent it to someone at ABC News and it will air next week!

What-- if any-- is their attitude about Scarsdale?

Honestly, people have told me that they feel the SAME exact way no matter the suburb! They feel stuck at home and they want to remain positive for their kids who were sent home from college. They are struggling with distance learning, and they are figuring out how to manage and cope with the entire family in quarantine. Wine certainly helps!

Has anyone given you grief for making light of the pandemic?

Not one single person. It has been wonderful how so many people have been appreciative. Many people have “friended” me on Facebook just to thank me for giving them a smile and a good laugh.

Tell us about yourself and your life in Scarsdale. What do you do?

I co-founded a college counseling business in 2012: Acceptance Ahead.

My partner Nancy Stuzin (who lives in Edgemont) and I work with students primarily in the NY area but we also have students around the country and a handful of international students (Greece, the UK, Saudi Arabia). Nancy and I work with 30-35 students per grade, and we also do pro bono college counseling every year for YPIE (Yonkers Partners in Education). Both of us are on the Advisory Board there.

I recently chaired Westchester Reform Temple’s cantorial search committee for a new assistant cantor and that was rewarding.
My family moved here in July 2011 from the San Francisco Bay Area because my husband Jeff was transferred. He works in finance. We have been extremely happy living in Scarsdale. The community was instantly welcoming!

How has this crisis affected your college counseling business? Are you still working during this break?

We are still working during this break to support our students but we have shifted to online in order to give them continual guidance during this unprecedented time. Some of our seniors are still figuring out where to enroll but they cannot attend “Accepted Student” days. We are having conversations with them via Zoom, discussing our own experiences when we visited various campuses, and putting them in touch with some of our current students at those schools so they can obtain candid information. It’s extremely challenging and anxiety-provoking to choose a school under normal circumstances, but sight unseen really adds to the stress. We are encouraging kids to do virtual tours where available, read comments and reviews from students, and attend virtual info sessions. For our juniors, we are also communicating via Zoom, email, phone, and text. Some of our advice is being altered about how to build a college list since many of them will not have the opportunity to visit schools this spring. Nancy and I have visited over 110 colleges across the country and we try to provide unbiased observations and suggest good matches for our students. We are staying up to date and constantly providing information to our juniors about standardized test changes and colleges that are going test optional for this coming application season. We are also offering ongoing suggestions for ways to keep busy from home and how to pursue individual interests in creative and meaningful ways. Since this is a stressful time for all of us, we emphasize how everyone is in the same boat and that admissions officers are going to be extremely forgiving of the spring of 2020 due to Coronavirus. Nancy and I belong to several higher education organizations and we have received many emails from highly selective university admissions officers about this.

We heard anecdotally that more American kids are being admitted to colleges/universities this year because students from abroad are having difficulties getting visas and traveling here - is that true?

We have not heard recent statistics about international students compared to American students for this season. However, we have seen a huge increase in students (Americans and international?) offered a place on waitlists. We think this is because colleges are uncertain about what their ultimate yield will look like and they want to maintain a viable waitlist should they have availability.

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