Toby Citrin and Phyllis Blumenfeld: Old Friends and New Members

Phyllis and I are approaching our 25th wedding anniversary next year. She’s a retired professor of education, having researched, taught and practiced educational psychology, student engagement and project-based learning at the UM School of Education for almost 40 years. I’m a “nominally retired” adjunct professor at the UM School of Public Health, having researched, taught and practiced public health policy, genetics policy and community engagement for 37 years. Phyllis grew up in Brooklyn (Brighton Beach), studied at Brown (then Pembroke) and received her Ph.D. at UCLA. I grew up in Detroit, attended Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and spent the next 10 years working in our Detroit-centered family business. After the business was sold I transitioned into academe when a series of voluntary positions in Detroit’s and Michigan’s health systems led to my being invited to join the UM Public Health faculty. Now that I’m reducing my university work-load, I’ve been increasingly active coordinating the Michigan advocacy activities for J Street.

My daughter Ana, from my first marriage, went to the University of California Santa Barbara and “never returned.” She’s now a public interest environmental lawyer defending the California coastal environment from the constant threats of developers. She and her husband, Tim, have given me two awesome grandchildren, Toby “the Younger” and Kaia (pictured here with Ana). Phyllis and I escape the Michigan winters by moving to Santa Barbara for several months each year.

Joining AARC marks for me the fruition of a spiritual path that included the birth of Temple Israel in the 1940s, the creation of Congregation T’Chiyah (now the Reconstructionist Congregation of Detroit) with Carl Levin and our friends in 1977, and a period of membership at Temple Beth Emeth. I’ve had a growing interest in AARC, where I have several valued friends and associates. Visiting a recent service and meeting Rabbi Ora made it clear that AARC would become a cherished spiritual home for us.