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Lanny Swerdlow, tongue firmly in cheek, introduced himself thusly: “I’m gay, Jewish, an atheist, a liberal, in a mixed marriage to a Native American, left-handed and a tree-hugger.”

What else is there to know about this 73-year-old registered nurse? Quite a lot!

Swerdlow was born and raised in Los Angeles, the younger of two brothers. His father died at 32 when Swerdlow was only 2 years old.

“My ‘real’ dad was my mom’s second husband,” he says. “He was an accountant, somewhat distant, but a good dad and provider for our family. My mom lived a life of quiet desperation, pretty ignorant of the real world—but you have to remember that women in those days didn’t go very far. There were a lot of things she could and should have done that she never did. One of the lessons I got from that is: If I want to do something, I do it … even if it’s not always a good idea.” He laughs easily at himself.

Swerdlow had a choice of high schools to attend in Los Angeles. “I could go to Fairfax High, which was very white and Jewish, or L.A. High, which was very mixed.”

He picked the latter. “I wanted something different, and it opened my eyes to other cultures. … I was interested in theater arts; I wanted to go into that, because that’s what ‘homos’ did.” Instead, he got a degree in zoology and later studied fisheries’ biology.

Swerdlow surprised his family when he came out as gay. “They had come to visit me in Oregon, where I was working for the state Fish Commission, and were surprised to learn of my feelings. My mom cried; my dad was upset. They were my liberal parents! Then they said I wouldn’t be happy for the rest of my life. I told them I would go straight, but I couldn’t play that role. When I finally confronted them, they accepted me for who I am.”

Swerdlow got involved with the gay-liberation movement in Oregon. He started a newspaper, and the police-advisory board asked him to join and represent the groups with which he was involved.

“Every Friday and Saturday night, young people would congregate on a street corner, and the police had tried to do something about it for years,” Swerdlow says. “At one meeting, they asked me where else they could go. Six kids had come into my office to raise money to open a club, so I told them to find a place, and I’d help bankroll it. A Realtor friend found a place, but it was a disaster. I got seven kids to help me do the work, and they worked seven days a week for 10 to 12 hours a day. I gave them a 49 percent stake in the business.

“We opened an underage gay/lesbian nightclub which became well-known, but overnight, the problems began. The police started coming and busting kids for curfew violations, batting them around and dragging them off. I consulted a lawyer and sent a letter to the city attorney, who sent a letter to the police department. Then they just stationed two officers in front of the club, waiting for kids to come outside.

“I then went to the head of the police bureau and began to learn about how politics works. I told him we couldn’t run the club if he kept putting police in front of the club. He got on the phone, requested some budget information—and then we never saw police there again. I learned that just because something isn’t right, that doesn’t mean it will get fixed. I also learned that something can get done if you have something hanging over someone’s head, like the threat to take away budget money. My experience with the club taught me not to just trust the system.”

The nightclub, which was sold in 1997, included a mini-studio for making films. “We did Night Scene for local TV with a focus on gay issues, and another show called Outrageous, and then a show about cannabis common sense, to help push toward legalization. The kids did the shows, including learning how to do the technical stuff.”

Swerdlow’s parents lived in Palm Springs, so he and his husband, Victor Michel—his partner for more than 27 years—would often come down to visit them. Swerdlow’s mom had taken ill and needed help, so he and Michel came to the Coachella Valley and stayed; they now live in Whitewater.

“We like it there,” he says. “There’s no businesses, very little traffic, lots of places to hike, and it’s close to the middle of nowhere, but not too far from somewhere.”

His path toward becoming a nurse began when he got a call from the hospital about his dad.

“I realized he couldn’t take care of himself anymore, and I decided to become a medical tech, ultimately going to College of the Desert and graduating as a registered nurse in 2006,” he says.

Swerdlow became involved in Democratic Party politics, representing a Riverside County assembly district on the party’s state central committee. He serves on the San Gorgonio Memorial Healthcare District’s board of directors.

Swerdlow has been passionate about the legalization of marijuana for many years. As a nurse, he is cognizant of the medical benefits of marijuana use, and has specifically championed the need for the Veterans Administration to make it available, despite the federal government classifying it as a dangerous drug. He was instrumental in getting language into the state Democratic Party platform supporting legalization prior to the passage of Proposition 64. He also has an online radio program and leads the Marijuana Anti-Prohibition Project, focused on the Inland Empire.

In 2012, Swerdlow started the Brownie Mary Democrats of California.

“I wanted to form the ‘Democratic Cannabis Club,’ but they didn’t want me to put that name on it, so I named it after the woman who was known for baking 600 brownies a day and delivering them to AIDS patients in San Francisco,” he says. “I want to get more involved in health-care issues, especially the need to ensure that everybody has coverage. And I’ll stay focused on cannabis. With thousands of people on alcohol or drugs, they can get off using cannabis. It doesn’t solve their problems, but it doesn’t have all the down sides, either. We need on-site use localities, and it should be as available as liquor.”

Lanny Swerdlow describes himself in a lot of different ways. I describe him as an effective activist.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

She left her native Missouri/Kansas at the age of 25 for San Francisco in 1970. She describes her artwork as “abstract impressionist,” and creates sculpture with a slightly sexual bent. She has lived in a sprawling home in Thousand Palms, which she hopes one day will be a museum, for more than 30 years.

Oh, and did I mention the peacocks?

Ramona Rowley, a vibrant 75 years old, envelops you with a warmth and openness that is both refreshing and unusual. She and her brother were born in Kansas City, Mo., and raised in Kansas.

“My dad was in the Navy and didn’t even see me until I was a year old. He had been raised on a farm in Kansas, got his education in agriculture, and ended up as dairy commissioner,” Rowley said. “My mom was also raised on a farm and became a teacher, but she had always wanted to be a hairdresser. She went to school and opened a salon in our home.

“The real secret is that she had always wanted to be an actress. She was very beautiful, loved children, always had flowers on the table, and always had a house full of everybody’s kids. My parents had dated since the ninth-grade.

“I wasn’t encouraged to love art. My grandmother was the first to call me an artist, and I had a second-grade teacher who told my mom about a picture I had done. I was 18 when I saw (a fine-art) painting (for the first time). It was (one of) Monet’s Water Lilies. I couldn’t stop standing in front of it. I took art history, looked at lots of photographs, and realized the difference when you’re standing in front of a piece of art.”

After a summer session at Washburn University, and in spite of the fact that the University of Kansas had an art department that beckoned, Rowley attended Kansas State.

“My dad had graduated there, and if I had gone to (the University of Kansas), I would have been a traitor!” she said.

Rowley had a first marriage (“to get out of the house”) and began working at the Menninger Foundation. Her husband was a therapist there in the children’s hospital, and Rowley worked as an adjunctive therapist focusing on art and horticulture, working with the occupational therapists.

“My office was in the greenhouse, and I got to watch bougainvillea blooming when there was snow outside. Everybody was jealous,” Rowley laughed. “I wasn’t just doing art, although I enjoyed it. My job was to help people to be creative. You have to learn to be alone and spend time dedicated to finding what your colors are.”

Rowley made the break and moved to San Francisco in 1970.

“I found my life,” she said. “I was 25 and going forward to explore who I am and what I want. It was too hard to be an artist in Kansas.”

A mutual friend introduced Rowley to another artist, a Spaniard named Manuel deArce—and thus began a lifelong relationship.

“We lived together for 34 years before we ever married,” she said, her eyes sparkling as she talks about her beloved late husband. “He had a wife when we met. I had a boyfriend, and we were just friends. I was the only American in our group of friends. It was ’70s San Francisco. We were sitting on the floor and talking nonstop about art. He gave his wife a baby that she wanted, and we wanted to be artists. It turned out that everyone made the right choice. I think we followed not our egos, but our souls.

“When we met, Manuel didn’t like abstract art. He had trained at the school in Spain where all the great masters had trained. When we left San Francisco, I had been doing ceramics for over 20 years, using pink clay, whites and browns, sometimes lapis (a blue gem) or shells from the ocean, and colors that changed from glazing and with metal leaf.”

What brought Ramona and Manuel to the desert? “Manuel loved Palm Springs,” said Rowley. “He used to stop here on the way to do exhibits in Arizona and Texas.

“In the desert, I started out as a painter. Manuel and I were huge influences to each other, more about being artists rather than in the art itself. At 5 p.m., when the light changed, we would take my art and set it on the table, have a glass of wine and take the time to see what I had done that day. He never gave critiques, but he would say, ‘Do you mind if I turn this (ceramics piece) over?’ They would often have more power one way or the other.

“You need to find the colors: They tell you what to use. I reflected the sky and earth in Kansas. In San Francisco, it was blue and grey; I was painting torsos in lavender, blue and grey, with lots of full, round shapes. I’m a woman and intuitive; he was a Spaniard and very colorful. Manuel was using bright colors in San Francisco, but the desert environment changed what he saw.”

The house Rowley shared with deArce has their paintings, large and small, throughout, along with Rowley’s pottery and specialty pieces on the walls and shelves. Canvases stand along every surface.

“I’d like this to be a museum someday,” Rowley said. “I’d like to keep working for the next five years, then be doing exhibitions and classes.

“I had tried to tell my parents that I didn’t want to go to college, that they should send me to Europe. When my mom was 80, we were in Europe. She said to me, ‘We made a mistake. We should have sent you to Europe.’ Last year, I got to see Botticelli in Italy. While my legs are still good enough to travel, I’d like to go to different cultures and find out how people become who they are.”

Among many exhibitions and collections, Rowley’s art is included in the permanent collection at the Mingei International Museum in San Diego. She is also a photographer.

Rowley candidly talks about how her art suffered after deArce died in 2017.

“I had no joy in my life for almost three years. My paintings were bad,” she said. “Luckily, I was finally able to find a new ‘friend.’ Now I can channel the muses again. When I do that, I never do a bad painting. I’m finally ready to sign these pieces.”

Did I forget to mention the peacocks? On the sprawling cactus-laden grounds surrounding her house, Ramona has 11 peacocks roaming freely, including Houdini, a rare white peacock.

“I raised him from a baby. We even dance together; the males dance, you know,” she said. “We discovered Houdini wasn’t male when an egg was laid in the house. Oh, well.”

Ramona Rowley is a free spirit, a dedicated artist and a warm and lovely human being. And then there are the peacocks …

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

When I met Molly Thorpe, my first impression was of a coiled spring—ready to unleash energy and a positive attitude.

Thorpe, 65, born and raised in Los Angeles, has been a Coachella Valley resident for more than 40 years, and is currently a 16-year resident of Rancho Mirage. One of two children, she describes her mother, a catalog-layout specialist, as an excellent role model who never had a bad word to say about anyone.

“My mom was not judgmental and loved people for who they were,” Thorpe says.

Her father, who did advertising for May Co. and City of Hope, was a collector of books and records. (“He has about 7,000 LPs!”) Thorpe would go with him every weekend to check out what he referred to as “junk stores” looking for collectibles.

“When we were on our way home, he’d always stop for jelly donuts so mom wouldn’t be mad,” she laughs.

Thorpe has been with Jay, her “partner in crime,” for 24 years; they share four children and two grandkids between them.

“When we began doing charity events,” says Thorpe, “he’d get the to-do list, and he was always very good about it.”

After graduating from Fairfax High School in Los Angeles, Thorpe completed a degree in liberal studies at Cal State Northridge. She got a job that brought her to the desert: teaching fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders at Rancho Mirage Elementary School. She later completed a master’s degree at Cal State San Bernardino.

In 2007, Thorpe started a running program for students in the alternative-education program for at-risk students.

“Students Run LA had started, and more than 3,000 students participated through the Los Angeles Unified School District. I called them and wanted to start something like that out here,” she says. “We had students who had been expelled from Palm Springs Unified and Desert Sands. Many of them had never had any discipline to be on time or meet goals. I call it ‘Swiss cheese education,’ meaning they had missed lots of school, weren’t doing homework and had real holes in their education. They needed more personal time with teachers and a sense of camaraderie in class to form bonds. It helped that they had someone to talk to.

“They were afraid to be in the running program, but we assured them they didn’t have to be athletic, just determined. I figured if we could do one mile a day on week one, and get up to six miles a day, it would be good for them.

“My attitude was that instead of teaching them what they were ‘supposed to know,’ I would accept them wherever they were and take them as far as they could go. My thought was that if you could train students to run a 26-mile marathon, there was no reason they couldn’t graduate high school. Our high school graduation rate went from 62 percent to 90 percent!”

Thorpe taught at the Ramon Alternative Center and brought the running program to them. “The teaching situation was these were kids nobody seemed to want,” she says. “We had what was like a one-room schoolhouse, with grades 4-8 all in one classroom, at the most 20 students. It was an amazing opportunity to develop like a family.”

Thorpe worked with another teacher in what was known as the Rebound Program. “I had the younger kids, and she had the high school students. We did triathlon training with them for an event in Loma Linda for kids with physical challenges.

“When we heard about the shooting of a police dog called Ike, I wished there was something we could do. I thought about it and decided if we could run 10 miles and get sponsors at $1 a mile, we could raise $1,000 and donate it to the Police Department in Ike’s name. I managed to get two other teachers involved, and thought we could make this a 5k race within three months. We got lots of support from the community and raised over $16,000 for the Palm Springs Police Department K-9 Corps to purchase and train dogs.”

The event wound up becoming a regular event—and the 10th annual Run for Ike 5k is slated for Saturday, March 28.

Thorpe retired from teaching in 2016 but has stayed active through the Palm Springs Marathon Runners; she also continues to sponsor runs to raise money for charitable programs throughout the Coachella Valley.

Palm Springs Marathon Runners hosts six annual events that benefit programs like SOS Rides, for service members needing transportation to get home; the Mizell Senior Center’s Meals on Wheels program; the Student Scholarship Fund for the Palm Springs International Film Festival; Guide Dogs of the Desert; and the Run for Ike. Their “Red Carpet Run” includes tutus and tiaras for girls and women, tuxedo T-shirts for boys and men, and Gatorade in champagne glasses for all.

One event Thorpe is very proud of is her participation in One Run for Boston.

“It was a very cool cross-country race put on by two people from the UK as their way to honor and support the (victims of the) Boston Marathon bombing,” says Thorpe. “The run began in Santa Monica and ended at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Each participant ran a segment of the course, handing off a GPS baton from one person to the next. I ran the portion up Highway 62 from Palm Springs to Morongo Valley. It was a great experience and raised a lot of money for those who sustained injuries and the families of those lost.”

Thorpe accurately describes herself as athletic: She hikes at 5 a.m. every morning with a group of friends; she also swims, works out at the gym and cycles.

“I like to be busy,” she admits. “What made me who I am are my experiences and a lot of luck. I can admit it when I’m wrong, and people might be surprised to know that just about anything can make me cry.

“I find I appreciate life more now—and what you see is what you get. I try to be good to other people—loyal and goal-oriented—and I don’t like to see people hurting. I don’t understand why so many people don’t see the rewards of being kind.

“We take for granted the cards we’re dealt, always looking for excuses, but we live in a beautiful place in a great country. Look around. We’re very lucky.”

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

Conventional wisdom says that it takes at least four years to assess whether a startup business is viable, and seven to 10 years to make a business the success you had in mind when you began.

By those standards, Jenny and Oscar Babb have beaten the odds. The Babbs own four restaurants, three in the Coachella Valley, with the oldest being more than eight years old—and doing well.

Oscar Babb, 41, was born in Barcelona and describes himself as a “culinarian” (otherwise known as a chef) who cooked his way around the world—including working with Starwood Hotels in various countries—after leaving his native Spain in 2004. He cooked in the United States, originally in Seattle and then San Diego, before coming to the Coachella Valley six years ago.

“The Coachella Valley is the complete opposite of Barcelona,” says Oscar. “It has a special charm of its own, which is the greatest reason people have been coming here to vacation and retire for so long.”

Oscar has a sister, and he describes their mother as “a lovely woman and a fantastic therapist, hard-working, with a thirst for life and accomplishment.” He says his father loves discipline and order in his life (“He liked everything where it was supposed to go!”), but his passion is cars. Oscar recalls that after his father’s business career, he dedicated himself to auto classics, like his ’65 Dodge convertible.

“He would even polish the key!” Oscar says.

Jenny, 34, first remembers coming to the desert in 1985.

“I’ve always loved the Coachella Valley culture,” she says.

The eldest of three, she was born and raised in San Diego. Her parents have been married for 36 years, and her father is also a native San Diegan.

“My dad was very hard-working,” she says, “and a real leader of the family. He is stoic, even shy, and very ethical. His message was, ‘Do the right thing.’

“My mom was the bubbly free-spirit. I got that from her. Her message to me, way back while I was in high school, was, ‘Don’t let people get your goat.’ I’ve taken that to heart.”

Jenny earned a degree in business and marketing from San Diego State University, while waiting tables to help support herself.

“After school, I worked for a while at my aunt’s travel company doing sales management,” she says, “and then moved to The Broken Yolk, where I was managing by the time I left.”

Now married for seven years, Oscar and Jenny met in 2008 while both were working at a Broken Yolk location in San Diego. After helping other locations of the breakfast/lunch restaurant open, they decided they wanted to open some restaurants of their own: The Babbs agreed to take on Riverside County, to which The Broken Yolk wanted to expand. They opened their first franchise in Temecula. They later opened a Broken Yolk in La Quinta in 2014, and the Palm Springs location in 2016.

The downtown Palm Springs location, at 262 S. Palm Canyon Drive, includes an upstairs bar/restaurant space that has seen various owner/operators come and go. When the Babbs decided to open The Broken Yolk on the lower level of that location, they decided to open Moxie Palm Springs on the upper level.

“I always wanted to open a bar named to honor our beloved dog,” laughs Jenny, “and I think the name fits well with the Palm Springs spirit. We wanted the space to tell us what it wanted to be, and we came up with a neighborhood bar that reflects Palm Springs culture. We have bar food, are known for our craft cocktails, and have a very diverse offering of live entertainment every Thursday through Saturday, including acoustics, jazz, rock and Top 40 cover bands. We sometimes have a DJ—and it can get loud.

“Two Prides ago, our manager was talking about what we could do that would be different for the community—not just having rainbow flags. We threw a ‘Flamingo Party’ with lots of pink flamingos everywhere and a massive drag show. It was such a great party! Then Ross Mathews, from RuPaul’s Drag Race, heard about it, and some RuPaul ‘girls’ appeared that night. We now have a drag show every Sunday, along with a Bubbly Brunch.”

Oscar jumps in: “As a couple, we’ve always been around other people, making friends and experiencing new things and styles. The idea was to have everybody from every culture welcome—American, Mexican, LGBTQ. We’ve had an Irish fiddler, and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo.”

The Babbs expect to have children someday, but for now, they’re focusing on their business and their two English mastiffs. They describe themselves as huge animal lovers, and have bird-feeders all around their house. They love to hike with their dogs, and have already conquered Mount Whitney and Mount Everest (to the base-camp area). Amazingly enough, they also love going to new restaurants.

Jenny and Oscar Babb are having the time of their lives. They’re busy, successful and still expanding their horizons into new business ventures—like a partnership in a brewery in Mexico City.

“I really do enjoy the work,” says Jenny. “I’m a people-pleaser. I hate conflict, and that’s where Oscar comes in; he’ll confront things I don’t want to. Also, my friendships are important. We spend so much time together, it’s good to have some separate time. Sure, we want to (eventually) slow down. It would be nice to be able to go to bed early once in a while. We bit off so much so fast.”

Then both Oscar and Jenny agree: “But it’s our community and our friends—this is what we do,” Jenny says.

And they’re doing it well.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

Susan Moeller describes herself as someone who was never an expert. “So I just asked a lot of questions—and got things done.”

Moeller, now 75, first came to the desert in 1993 as redevelopment director for Cathedral City. Born in Superior, Wis., she arrived in Southern California at the age of 8.

“We lived in Long Beach and could see the racetrack at Los Alamitos from our backyard,” she says.

During World War II, Moeller’s father was rescued in France by Gen. George Patton. “My mother didn’t know if (my father) was alive when I was delivered by the nuns,” Moeller says. “My mom worked for BFGoodrich doing special-project work, but she never really knew how smart she was.”

Moeller’s dad was a truck driver, and was the first in his family to attend college. “He was the youngest of eight kids, always known to everybody as ‘Uncle Buck,’” Moeller says. “He was a good man, and would always help anybody who needed it. My dad died when mom was 60, and she lived into her 90s, always doing projects and keeping herself busy. That’s the main lesson I got from her: ‘Just keep on keeping on.’

“My younger brother and sister and I were always encouraged to follow our dreams. My sister became a teacher and coach, my brother a CPP (certified payroll professional). I just always wanted to have a ‘me.’”

After attending California State College at Long Beach, majoring in English with a minor in drama, Moeller joined an improv group and performed at colleges throughout Southern California. After some time as an English teacher, Moeller was hired as a project aide for the city of Fresno. She found herself working for a man from India who had been trained at the United Nations; he was impressed with Moeller’s communication skills.

“Because of my teaching background, he had me review whatever he wrote,” she says. “I’m very intuitive, while he was very methodical. What I learned was how to write grants for federal funding. We needed to find solutions for housing, infrastructure, redevelopment and education, but it was the 1960s, and we were able to get money for drug-prevention and treatment programs. I learned to identify problems and think from the perspective of what we could do to fix them. We would then talk to officials in the field to figure out what would work.”

Moeller’s career later took her to Santa Ana, where she wrote and reviewed grants as director of the South Orange County YMCA (“It was the first time I had worked with a board of all women; we got a program for mature women adopted!”); and, after almost 10 years in Cathedral City, to Redwood City for another decade, where, Moeller says, “It all came together. We could get to a point where projects would start to fall apart, but I thought of myself as an opportunity broker, and it all just jelled. I know about redevelopment, and I loved it.”

Moeller says, somewhat surprisingly, that spirituality was an integral part of the work she did with city governments. “It was a kind of synchronicity. I was able to make good things happen for people. I’m particularly proud of the investment in downtown Cathedral City.”

Moeller’s affection for Cathedral City shines through when she talks about her time there. “I watched community faces as they toured what we had done to downtown. People were so proud. They were worth the investment, even though, here in the valley, there is still prejudice against Cathedral City. When I first got here after having worked in seven other cities, I felt like the Coachella Valley was (behind) 10 years, regarding everything from housing to civil rights to agriculture.

“The city manager was Bruce Liedstrand, and he was my mentor. He was willing to work with the community for two years to come up with a vision. In the other cities down here, it would get to a point where the community wouldn’t even know what the planners were doing. Bruce made sure the community ‘owned’ the project.

“There’s still a lot to be completed, and the proposed casino will help if it’s connected to downtown, and people can take advantage of that connection.”

Moeller is now retired.

“There are things I like about retirement, and things I don’t,” she says. “I retired in 2012, but I guess I didn’t really retire. I depleted myself with care-giving when my mom died, and then my son broke his leg. (Moeller has two sons, as well as step-children from her current marriage.) And now I’ve had a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. When the tremor started, I was told to slow down, and to think of it as just stuck energy. I’ve finally shifted my attention to me as a project.”

While talking to Moeller, one gets the sense that she’s a gentle soul.

“I’ve always wanted to see people come together, and I think people yearn for community,” she says. “I guess I’m a Pollyanna: I like to see the glass half full. I believe people want to do the right thing and be part of something bigger than themselves.

“My bottom line has always been: Don’t be afraid to ask the questions that might make you uncomfortable, but which can lead you where you want to be.”

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

If you’ve ever wanted to see the world, you should be envious of Rolf Hoehn.

Hoehn, a Palm Desert resident, is currently director of business development and sponsorships for Desert Champions, LLC, managers of the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament. However, his story begins in Cologne, Germany, as the only child of an Austrian-Romanian stay-at-home mother, and a father who opened travel to South America for Lufthansa Airlines.

“My mother was always open to new experiences,” says Hoehn, “and through her, I learned to appreciate exposure to different cultures. My dad taught me about what it means to have a strong work ethic.

“When I was 15, we moved from Germany to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I learned Portuguese as a second language and enrolled in the American school. … About 80 percent of the children (were) of American families from, for example, the diplomatic corps in Rio. Most of the rest were foreigners, like me, and a small number were native Brazilians. I also hung out with Brazilian friends, so I learned the ‘good’ street words as well. It was a very different experience from my upbringing: different routines, different customs, basic things like different times to eat. I think the best thing I got from that experience was appreciating the way they taught us about what it meant to live in a community.”

Hoehn’s father transferred to Chicago and later Los Angeles, but Hoehn stayed in Rio for his senior year of high school before joining his parents.

“I thought I wanted to be a journalist, but my father cured me of that when he took me on a visit to the Los Angeles Times,” he says. “I decided to work in my father’s office at Lufthansa, at the time when it was a great period of growth, as the airline industry transitioned to the jet age. It was a glamorous business. “

Hoehn next went to Wisconsin to attend Lawrence University. “It was a good liberal-arts school, and I had a couple of friends from Rio who were there,” he says. “I went full-time for two years and spent summers working at JFK Airport in New York for Lufthansa, doing baggage, catering, whatever. But after two years, I couldn’t find a job to help me pay for my education. My parents were in Hong Kong, and I returned to Los Angeles and transferred into USC, studying business management.”

After working as a AAA dispatcher (“It just didn’t pay enough”), Hoehn—whose parents were then in Pakistan—got a full-time job with Lufthansa and was accepted to New York University.

“I went to Karachi to stay with my parents for two months, then to New York. I worked at the airport as a customer-service rep, but because I was working full-time, I had to drop some classes, so I got a draft notice in 1966 for the Vietnam War,” he says. “I had the choice to enlist in New York, but because I had originally registered for the draft in L.A., I went back to California. Unfortunately, Fort Ord, where I would have trained, had closed, so I was instead sent to El Paso, Texas.”

After two years in the Army, Hoehn returned to New York and back to Lufthansa, in marketing management. He worked his way up and eventually became the marketing manager for North America. His parents by then had been in Belgrade and Nairobi; after they divorced, his father went to Peru.

“I took advantage of their various locations and visited Belgrade, Hong Kong, Karachi, Nairobi and Lima,” Hoehn says.

In 1981, Hoehn transferred to London as Lufthansa’s deputy director for the United Kingdom. He was later based in Kuwait, in charge of operations for three years.

“This was a very interesting period, during the Iran-Iraq war,” he says. “Being in that environment, I was exposed to the Middle East cultures. I was in Kuwait, Bahrain, the Emirates and Oman. Then it was back to New York, and I was promoted to general manager for sales and marketing for North America.”

So … how did he get involved with tennis?

“My father was an avid tennis player, and very good at it. I grew up playing tennis,” he says. “Part of the Lufthansa marketing portfolio was sports marketing, and my boss in Germany was also an avid tennis player. Lufthansa became the sponsor of the ATP Tour, later sponsoring other tournaments as well. My introduction to tennis here in the Coachella Valley was in 1986, when the site was at Hyatt Grand Champions. I developed a great relationship with tennis greats Charlie Pasarell and Ray Moore.”

In the early 1990s, Hoehn was head of sports marketing for Lufthansa, with offices in both Los Angeles and Frankfurt; during that time, Lufthansa was named the official airline of the International Olympic Committee.

Hoehn took early retirement in 1996 and began a consulting group in Los Angeles—but after a call came in 1998, he got back into the airline business, running the western division of Aeromexico.

By then, Hoehn and his second wife, Christy, were looking to move away from L.A. With their connections to the Coachella Valley, they settled here in 1999, with Hoehn commuting into L.A. Then, in 2000, he was asked to take over all operations in the U.S. for Aeromexico; he commuted back and forth from Palm Desert to the office in Houston and, every Wednesday, Mexico City. By 2004, Hoehn had tired of the constant travel and returned to private consulting.

After rekindling his relationship with the local tennis venue, in 2006, Hoehn became director of sales, and is now in charge of business development and sponsorships, working on everything that generates revenue—ticketing, hotel package programs, sponsorships, etc.

Hoehn is currently Palm Desert’s representative on the Palm Springs International Airport Commission and is vice chairman of the Greater Palm Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau.

When asked if he has a bucket list, Hoehn immediately responds: “I want to be able to get in the car and take three weeks of vacation at once, uninterrupted and disconnected.” He also beams about his step-daughter Ashley’s 18-year-old son, Hoehn’s only grandchild. “He’s taller than I am now!”

So will Hoehn ever fully retire? “I’ll work as long as I’m having fun,” he says. “I can’t see myself living to just sit around or play golf. If you slow down, your body slows down as well. I intend to stay active as long as I can.”

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

I first met someone with “sleeves” in 2001. He was a fellow law school student, and we were chatting on a balcony.

“Nice shirt,” I said, not knowing I was describing his tattoos. Once I realized it was body art, I was astonished. “Didn’t that hurt?” I asked.

“I guess so,” he said, “but it wasn’t all that bad.” To this day, I’m skeptical.

Robert DelSol Williamson runs Flagship Tattoo in Palm Desert. He is described by a neighboring merchant as “a real artist.”

Along with his wife, Amanda Marr, Williamson has been running Flagship Tattoo for four years, taking it over when the former owner decided to move on. The name Flagship came from the original founder’s father.

“I wanted to change the name,” says Williamson, “but left it because it was a known name in this location.”

Williamson got his first tattoo at age 17 along with his best friend, also named Robert.

“It’s kind of a funny story,” he recalls. “The age of consent was 16 at that time, so we walked into a shop holding hands and said we had just met on the Internet and knew we were in love. We wanted to get each other’s names. We drew up each other’s tattoos—mine a cactus with a sombrero as the “O” in the name, on my left ankle, and his as a wiener dog peeing into a Santa Claus hat with the pee spelling out ‘Robert’ on his shin. It hurt—no tattoo exactly feels good. We were young.”

Williamson, 30, was born in Tucson, Ariz., and raised in Silver City, N.M. He graduated with a master’s degree in art from Western New Mexico University, after attending the University of Arizona and San Diego State.

“I was always obsessed with drawing,” he says. “When I was young, I used to draw the flags of all the different countries in the world.”

Williamson is the youngest of five children. “I was raised by my mom, a hospice nurse and a real survivor. She taught me how to make the best out of life, because it’s over quicker than you expect.”

He describes his dad as “cool,” although they were estranged and had little contact until about two years ago. “I learned from my dad that actions affect people,” he says.

Marr, also 30, the eldest of two, was raised in the Palm Springs area. Her dad was a plumber, and her mom was involved in the horse industry and made sculptures. Marr and Williamson met in a photography class at College of the Desert, where she is working to complete an associate’s degree.

“I took a photography class at COD,” says Williamson, “mainly so I could use the darkroom. I love taking pictures. After we met,” he laughs, “I started really going to class.” Marr runs the administrative side of the business.

Williamson began his tattoo career while still in school, working “here and there on impulse. Then, one day, I decided I wanted more and got involved in the industry. I started asking lots of questions. The experienced tattoo artist I was working with found out I was studying art, and after I finished school, I served an apprenticeship for two years with him.”

Williamson has never done ink on Marr. “She has two tattoos that she gave herself, one on each leg. I won’t do a tattoo on her. What if we didn’t stay together,” he laughs, “and I knew she was walking around with pictures I had done? Or worse, it’s too easy to criticize my own work, and I’d have to be looking at it every day. Besides, she’s more artistic than I am. She has a geometric pink tattoo on one thigh, and she’s very into Japanese culture, so she has a ginkgo leaf on the other.”

When a client comes in for a tattoo, Williamson makes a drawing based on what the customer describes. “I work on the picture with them, and then draw something up to make a pattern. I have a Thermofax machine that puts out the pattern on paper. Then I put it on the customer and press it on so the lines transfer to their skin when I remove the pattern. It takes about 30 minutes to do a small tattoo. There are times when someone has to come back because of how long it will take. If they change their mind, they’re stuck with half a tattoo.”

Williamson, who has family connections to Norway, has recently established residency there, and his goal is to open a shop in Europe.

“I wanted to pick a place in Europe that would allow me to open a shop, perhaps in Belgium or Germany, and Norway was a good choice to establish residency,” Williamson said. “Amanda would have preferred Japan, but everything there is super-structured, and the lifestyle is so different. We plan to keep both locations going once we’re established in Europe.”

Williamson’s current passion is photography. “I take pictures of things I find attractive to the eye,” he says, “mostly people. I also do site-specific installation art that’s meant to change the feel of a space for a period of time.”

What’s the most challenging tattoo Williamson has ever done?

“I did a koi (fish) sleeve,” he says. “Doing Japanese tattoos involves lots of structural rules, so it’s difficult to get it right.

“Maybe the one I’m most proud of is the one on my neck, with the founding year of the Socialist Workers Party that I wanted to memorialize. I once thought about changing the name of the shop to something like The Red Star, but,” he laughs, “Amanda said it might not be right for Palm Desert. She was right, of course.

“I think the most difficult one I’ve done is the magical Japanese Daruma doll (a magic symbol of revival and never giving up, which is believed to bring good luck) on my leg. It’s so intricate.”

I always thought I wanted a tattoo, perhaps a small heart on my hip. I’m still skeptical, but if I ever decide to cross that off my bucket list, I’ll definitely seek out Robert DelSol Williamson. After all, as his neighbor says, he’s a true artist.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

Some people drop names to impress you. Others can't help it.

Jane Summer, 73, unconsciously drops names like Clint Eastwood and Janeane Garofalo. When you grow up in a company town, and the “company” is the film and television industry, you can’t help it.

Summer started her career, after only six months of college, at Creative Management Associates, working with producers like Barry Diller and Leonard Goldberg. She went on to read scripts for well-known agent Mike Medavoy, who had become vice president of motion pictures for CMA, and she subsequently met film greats like director/writer Michelangelo Antonioni, and stars like Donald Sutherland and Rosie Grier.

Born in Providence, R.I., Summer was raised in Beverly Hills from the age of 2, along with her older sister.

“We moved to Doheny Drive,” she says, “right around the corner from Chasen’s,” then a famous Beverly Hills restaurant. “My dad used to play cards with Dave Chasen. I remember back in those days, we could buy a pickle for 5 cents at the deli on Beverly Drive, and ride our bikes to school. The milkman and the vegetable man would come around, and of course there was the Helms Bakery bread truck.

“It was a different time and a charming place to grow up. You saw stars and others on the streets and in the restaurants. When you grow up there, you know people in the industry. It wasn’t a big deal, just part of the hometown experience

“My mom was very beautiful and talented. She was an actor and ballerina whose father ran a carnival. My dad was from an upper-class wealthy family that didn’t approve. My dad had a furniture store, and then he bought a Cadillac car lot. I remember when he got a 1954 turquoise El Dorado with a leather top and seats! We belonged to the Sand and Sea Club in Santa Monica, the only beach club which would accept Jews at that time.

“My family fell apart when I was 8, but throughout all the drama and trauma, he never walked away. My dad had a great sense of humor. I learned about perseverance from him.”

From the ages of 11 to 16, Summer lived at Vista Del Mar, a Jewish agency that provides residential care and education, along with other services. “I had good influences there,” says Summer. “I may not have been privileged, but I grew up in a privileged environment, which saved me and sent me on my way. It was definitely an interesting part of my life.”

Summer moved back in with her father from ages 16 to 18—and then was on her own. She left the talent agency when it merged with another company and became ICM.

“I had a great friend who worked for (agent and producer) Freddie Fields. She then went to work for the Cousteau family, and I ended up taking her job as Philippe Cousteau’s assistant—setting up productions, helping the crew get equipment, and things like housesitting. When they moved their headquarters, since I had been doing writing, I had a friend who introduced me to Los Angeles Magazine, and from there, I went to Playboy Magazine, where I worked as an assistant story editor. The story editor then was Mimi Roth, whose son, Eric, wrote (the screenplay for) Forrest Gump.

“When Playboy closed its Los Angeles offices, I met someone who worked for the Smothers Brothers. I just had beginner’s luck. After 10 years of doing public relations, I went out on my own, because it turned out I was good at creating a story and selling it for media coverage. I worked with restaurants—and the irony is I don’t cook at all.

“I’d had a short marriage earlier that I left at 40 with a dog and a bed. Around that same time, I met my husband, Bruce, who was a restaurant reviewer. His wife had died, and I asked him, ‘Is there anything I can do?’ He said, ‘Yes, you can come out to Malibu and walk my dog. He’s very lonely.’ I drove out on a Sunday, and it turned out we knew so many people in common. Bruce and I were married for 12 years. He died in 2006.”

By 2011, Summer’s business had diminished as a result of social media.

“I’m basically very introverted. I had to be extroverted in my business, but I didn’t want to be constantly ‘out there’ anymore,” she says. “I started working when I was 13, after school, and I’ve always worked, no matter what was going on in my life. It’s just that I began to realize I wanted to change my life.”

In 2014, Summer relocated to Palm Springs for two years before settling in Palm Desert.

“My friend was going to school (here in the valley) and told me I could possibly get a scholarship,” she says. “I’ve been attending College of the Desert part-time working toward a liberal-arts degree, focusing on things like creative writing, theater arts, the history of jazz and art classes. This semester, I may take some time off. I don’t necessarily want to stay in school and complete a degree, but I know it’s good for me, and it’s always bothered me that I never finished school.

“Sometimes, I think maybe it’s time to go back to work. I do take care of dogs for people; I call my place Casa Dog Mom. And, of course, there’s my (dog) Lancelot. I’d like to get more involved in politics, with everything that’s going on. I just know I’m not finished yet.”

Summer has traveled to London, Paris, Canada and Mexico, and all around the United States. If money wasn’t an issue, she says, she would want to go everywhere.

“I speak some French, and would love to live in Paris,” she says. “I want to see Spain and Italy, and it would be great to be able to take an around-the-world cruise. I really regret that based on how I grew up, I’ve always been somewhat fearful.”

What is something people would be surprised to know about her?

“I love to sing,” Summer says, with her face lighting up. “I’m really good at it. I took voice classes, and this is what I should have done my whole life—be a chanteuse. One day, maybe I’ll muster up the courage.”

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

When many people hear the words “science, engineering and technology,” their eyes fog over.

Debra Vogler is working to change that.

“I’m so frustrated with the lay people who don’t want information on science and technology,” Vogler says. “We have to do a better job of communicating about what those fields are doing and the impact it will have. I’m doing what I can within my own little sphere of influence.”

Vogler, 66, has been a Palm Desert resident since 2012. Her husband, John, is the maintenance manager at The Living Desert.

“We moved in on Thanksgiving Day,” she says with a laugh. “Believe it or not, we both love the heat. We would come here for vacations and really loved it. We always said that someday, when we were ready, we’d move here. Then the right opportunity presented itself, and we said, ‘This is the time.’”

Vogler was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wis., along with her younger sister, now a lawyer. She attended Catholic schools.

“My mom, a bookkeeper and secretary, was a big influence, teaching me about perseverance and being the best you can be,” she says. “It was expected that I would always do the best I could. My father, a truck mechanic, was stricter than my mom, but I got the same message from him. It was the time of the rise of the women’s movement, and although he couldn’t quite fathom it, he was clear that he didn’t want his daughters to be under anyone’s thumb. He’d say, ‘When you start something, you master it. You’ll be able to write your own ticket. You’re not here to be a decoration or an ornament.’

“My father had me take piano lessons, and I actually thought I might become a concert pianist. But at about 9 or 10, I thought that if someone hadn’t discovered me by then, I wasn’t destined for Carnegie Hall.”

Instead, she began to develop an interest in science.

“My grandmother had a tiny TV set,” Vogler says. “I always watched Mr. Wizard, and thought that I wanted to be on TV. I remember reading about Einstein and learning about the universe. I also remember when John F. Kennedy announced we were going to the moon—I wanted to be an astronaut. I wanted to investigate and do as many things as I could. I always thought I would do it all. I loved science, and I felt you could help mankind by unlocking the secrets of the universe.”

After completing college and earning a master’s degree at Marquette University, Vogler left Wisconsin in 1977 and headed to Sunnyvale, Calif., for a career in Silicon Valley.

“I had majored in physics and minored in math,” she says. “I started working as an engineer in the defense industry. It wasn’t physics, but it turned out that I was very good at project management. I could assemble a team to get things done. I became one of the youngest project engineers in my field at that company. I also met my first husband there.

“After my husband died (in 1984), I took a break from engineering. I had always loved jewelry, and although I’m not the arts-and-crafts type, I had design ideas and could handle the marketing aspect. I took off for a couple of years and went to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco. I had fun, but I couldn’t really see myself doing that for too long, so I went back to engineering as a consultant. I moved into the semiconductor equipment-manufacturing industry.

“Around the mid ’90s, I realized that video was coming to computers, and I wanted to see how I could do that in a thoughtful manner, so I started volunteering to do training videos. I got experience with story boards, doing voice-over—and realized I really loved it.”

By 1998, Vogler had become disillusioned, upset that her engineering career wasn’t moving as fast as she had hoped.

“Promotions for women seemed to take forever,” she says. “I wasn’t that happy. I wanted to do other things. So many people don’t understand science, and the media doesn’t do a good job of explaining it. I had been interviewed for a report we were doing and found I was a natural in front of the camera. I decided I wanted to explore that pathway for myself.”

Vogler started her own media production company, Instant Insight Inc.

“I had come up with the idea of a children’s science show, Curious Duck, and executive-produced a pilot episode. The day we shot the pilot, I was really in my element. I thought it would be possible eventually, but rather than trying to build my own company at that time, I joined PennWell publications in 2001 as a senior technical editor. I’ve written hundreds of tech-news stories and produced and hosted several hundred video and audio interviews with semiconductor and photovoltaics industry executives and technologists.

“Unfortunately, my mother had suffered a stroke in 1998, and I had to manage her health care until she died in 2007. Finally, in 2011, I started working on my own company again, and I’ve also been a senior technical editor for one client and assisted with the planning and organization of technical sessions for another. Getting into journalism eventually led me to doing video production and on-camera work. It was melding what I had done professionally with what I had wanted to do as a little girl—to be on TV. I’m now re-editing the original pilot of Curious Duck, hoping to break it into several mini-episodes, bringing a different dimension to what people think they already know.”

Vogler and I had a fascinating discussion about the difference between pure research and applied research—and a lot of it went way over my head, I must admit.

“Research affects the knowledge to produce something useful,” she says. “Real things happen out of theories. We’re at a point in history where we can’t just say, ‘I’m not a scientist.’ We need to figure out how science and technology apply to real life. I like to think of myself as being a bridge, because we’re getting to the point where what we used to do to make a living is vanishing. We’re not prepared for that. More and more people will start to feel that what they can contribute is no longer needed. It affects everything we do, including decisions we make as voters and how we prepare for the future.

“Scientists and engineers are advancing our knowledge about the universe and how it works. They’re finding ways to solve the problems of humanity. We owe the world more than just being here.”

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

What is it about the desert that encourages many people who come here to retire to instead rediscover their passion?

Joseph Gole (www.JosephGole.com), 72, is the cantor at Har-El Congregation, a Reform Jewish synagogue in Palm Desert. His career, in a way, began at age 9, when the teacher at his Hebrew school began to give him solos, and then at age 11 included Gole in Friday night services.

“I was actually the catalyst for my family becoming more religious,” he says.

“My mother wanted me to take math and science, but I knew I wanted to pursue music, because I knew that was where my strengths were. I did my first High Holidays service at 14, and while at Hebrew High school, when I was 15, my teacher brought me into another temple to do services. In high school, there was an arts direction you could take. At 16, I was singing with The Young Americans. I remember that while in high school, the choir teacher got another job and left; we had a madrigal group that I ended up conducting.”

Gole and his brother, an attorney, were born and raised in Los Angeles. Their mother, now 96, had emigrated from Poland at age 14. “She dabbled in real estate and could be very giving and charitable,” he says, “but … she had lost most of her family, and the trauma of those experiences never fully left her.”

Gole’s father, who died in 1999, was the youngest of nine children, born in America to Russian parents. “His mother was born blind,” Gole recalls, “and he was raised by his siblings. He worked as a contract administrator for the government. He was a very constant man, somewhat rigid, but he was also a frustrated musician and singer—that’s why he started me at 5 on the accordion. He was always very supportive of the direction I chose.”

Gole attended Los Angeles Valley College and then graduated from the music department at the University of Southern California.

“At 14, I had a band, hired the musicians, and played the accordion and sang. I put myself through school playing music at events like weddings and bar mitzvahs,” Gole says.

Gole’s first job as a cantor came at age 18 at Temple Emanu El in Burbank.

“It was part-time, a small synagogue, and I had a limited role,” he says. “I’d show up at services, conducted the choir, and assumed some responsibility.”

Gole later became cantor of Sinai Temple in Westwood, a Conservative Jewish synagogue, at age 25 and served there for 10 years. He moved on to other temples before returning for a second stint 18 years later.

In the Jewish religion, there are different strains of worship: Orthodox, the strictest in observances; Conservative, which relaxes some of the rules of the Orthodox—for example, allowing congregants to drive to services on the Sabbath; and Reform, which emphasizes Jewish ethical tradition over the obligations of Jewish law. The Reform movement, to which the majority of American Jews belong, has sought to adapt to modern sensibilities, and sees itself as politically progressive and social-justice oriented while emphasizing personal choice in matters of ritual observance.

A cantor is a clergy member who may lead worship, officiate at life-cycle events, teach adults and children, run synagogue music programs, and offer pastoral care.

Gole’s self-description as a cantor: “I’m not stuck in my ways. I like mixing it up. I like doing things differently. Until World War II, cantors were all European-trained and came from a very traditional environment. After the war, immigrants weren’t coming here so much anymore, and the schooling of cantors broke into different organizations.

In 2016, Gole—divorced after 28 years of marriage with two children, a son (now 26) and a daughter (31; “She gave me a beautiful grandson!”)—was renting in West Los Angeles when he realized what a value it was to relocate to the Coachella Valley.

“Although I wasn’t really ready for retirement,” he says, “I wanted to get away.”

Now working with Har-El, Gole is coaching a young man preparing for his bar mitzvah; and a young man singing for the holidays at the temple. He has gone on cruises as a pastoral presence for Hanukkah and Passover services on board.

One of his current joys is working with a group of older women who wanted to prepare for bat mitzvah, which was not necessarily available to them when they were young. Bar mitzvah has always been a rite of passage for young Jewish men at age 13, including the privilege of reading from the Torah in front of the congregation. In Conservative and Reform Judaism, bat mitzvah is now also available as a rite of passage for young women, generally performed by giving a lecture on a Jewish topic or reading from the Book of Esther in the Old Testament.

“The women I’m working with have developed a real sense of community,” Gole says. “The experience of studying together for bat mitzvah became very meaningful for them. To be able to have this interaction is what makes it all so meaningful for me.

“I realize now that at 25, I was scared. At 35, I was still in touch with people from my old temple associations. I hadn’t comprehended the impact I’d had on people—I hadn’t really appreciated (it) in the moment. That realization was very powerful for me, that I could touch people in such a profound way. It’s been an important part of my life ever since—the interaction with people at critical points in their life, whether happy or unhappy. The fact that I get to share in those moments offers a powerful opportunity.

“I’ve realized that my journey has been to explore and understand my inner self—a truly liberating experience. … My message is to follow your passion. Find mentors who will encourage you. Don’t be afraid. We’re all afraid. Just follow your heart.”

Cantor Joseph Gole has done just that, and rediscovered his passion here in the desert. Isn’t there a story in scripture about that?

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show That’s Life airs weekdays on iHubradio, while The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

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