Class Correspondent

For this latest issue of Brandeis Magazine, I again e-mailed a series of questions to members of the Class of 1952: “What has the technology revolution wrought in your everyday life? How many electronic devices do you have, and how many apps do you use? Facebook? Twitter? Do you text your grandchildren?”

Sandy Lakoff, the first to respond, wrote, “Like everyone else, I feel I am becoming an instrument of my electronic instruments. I am starting to read newspapers online. I keep in touch … almost entirely by email. I have a new book coming out that was not only written on the computer but sent to the publisher … as files sent as email attachments. … I struggle to use PowerPoint on a laptop (with the help of a graduate student teaching assistant, for whom it is child’s play).” Sandy also admits to having a satellite radio, wireless speakers in various parts of his house, a cell phone with Bluetooth, a GPS and an iPod, and says he does his banking online. However, he confesses that he resists Facebook, LinkedIn and Kindle — but can’t explain why. He wrote about the advance of technology in an op-ed piece that appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

Roz Berger Spielman reports that she and her husband, Bernie, have joined the technological revolution. “As a former librarian who oversaw the change from paper card catalog to online catalogs and online reference databases in my small public library, I am happy to say that we are enjoying our Kindle electronic book devices,” she writes. But she admits to having a traditional book “at the ready.” They both have cell phones but do not text very often, and they use a laptop and PC for Internet access only.

Audrey Rogovin Madans just bought a new Apple computer. She says that though she is “not too savvy on Facebook,” she has joined up. On the nontechnological side, Audrey writes that about a year ago she became a great-grandmother. She serves on the board of her temple and represents the interfaith organization in Mecklenburg County, N.C. She is also a member of the Charlotte Community Relations Board. With high praise for Ruth Abrams Goldberg ’53, Audrey says the two continue to be close friends.

Al Zadig reports in to say that, between them, he and his wife have 11 children and 21 grandchildren. “I had to laugh when you asked about electronic devices,” he wrote, “since most all of them seem like amazing gadgets that others use and understand. I’m content to be a bit old-fashioned and leave the new stuff to younger folks (younger either in chronological age or spirit).”

Barbara Koral Raisner joins in the discussion with a skeptical account of the tech revolution. “Technology? What technology?” she dissembles, but then goes right on to confess, “Here I am sitting at my computer, which could occupy me half the day if I let it. Between the e-mail, Facebook and the solitaire games, it’s a terrific time waster. … I do have a rudimentary cell phone, but since it’s rarely turned on no one ever calls me on it unless we’ve made a specific appointment. I make calls very infrequently but like to know that it is there for an emergency. I have no other ‘apps’ and I don’t know what texting is all about. My ‘partner’ Ed and I find that we so enjoy being with friends our own age because none of them will be looking at a BlackBerry or receiving cell phone calls while we’re at dinner. My adult grandchildren politely put aside their gizmos when we’re at the table, but what I see of other young people makes me sad. I sing in a large chorus, and I watch them sneaking looks and texting during rehearsals. I think they are addicted. I do wish I could figure out how to program my VCR-DVD machine to record a program while I’m away. I used to do it with my old TV and VCR, but with cable and FIOS I’m all screwed up. Otherwise, I’m fine with technology as long as I don’t have to understand it or use it. It’s great to be a dinosaur.”

Elliot Morrison says, “We have several computers plus a couple of cell phones, an older portable Gamin GPS, a Kindle, an iPod Touch and an older iPod (my wife likes her toys). However, we don’t have apps, we don’t text, our phones are dumb (as opposed to smart). We actually talk to our grandkids (imagine that!). One of my pet electronic peeves is that every spot on earth is now a phone booth, but I can’t deny the convenience when needed.”

Marshall Sterman replied to my email by sending in his personal blog, which was about the large payouts to employees on Wall Street and the “big deal” that the media, especially The New York Times, are making about Goldman Sachs. Marshall freely admits that his reply was, in fact, not a reply, but “a whimsical intent to say hello to my fellow friends/classmates and share a few thoughts, however irrelevant they are.” Thus we conclude that the world of technology has given Marshall the tools to blog.

As for me, I confess that I like many of the new technological devices and programs, although I know it requires some effort on my part to get comfortable with them. I like my flat-screen TV, FIOS, DVR, laptop computer, cell phone, first-generation iPod and GPS. I plan to get a smart phone, Blu-ray for Netflix, and a Kindle. However, I will not participate in any social networking. Guess I have grown accustomed to a condition called privacy and am loath to lose it. In any case, however much our classmates may protest about the newness of it all, we all seem to be availing ourselves of much of it. As for news, I can report that I recently co-edited the latest volume of “Studies in American Jewish Literature,” an anthology of essays in memory of a colleague. I did it all from home, at my desk, on my computer.

Caroline Shaffer writes in to say that she has returned to using the name by which we knew her during her first three years at Brandeis. She reports many other major changes and activities in her life: “On Feb. 10, I became a Roman Catholic and was baptized, had my First Communion and was confirmed. I have never been as happy and as fulfilled as I am today, having come home to the origins of the Judaic-Christian heritage.” She teaches online courses and is vice president of Suncoast Writers and Authors Group. “The Executive Connection,” her study of the press secretaries of New York mayors, was revised and republished in 2010. 

The young “pioneers” are now celebrating the happy arrival of the next generation. Among those who have become great-grandparents: Florrie and Stephen Meltzer, Joan and Gene Saklad, Len VanGaasbeek, Millicent and Larry Nigrosh, and Phylis and Sandy Acker. May they live happy and healthy years.

Alex Banks and Ruth Shiller ’53, P’78, P’82, are staying active in retirement. Alex does volunteer work serving as editor of a monthly community newspaper, the Greenbriar at Whittingham Voice, and preparing federal and state returns for middle- and low-income taxpayers through a free service supported by the AARP Foundation and IRS. Ruth is president of the League of Women Voters’ local chapter and is involved with environment, government and health care issues. Their four children, two daughters-in-law, one son-in-law and five grandchildren are all doing well.

An essay and two poems by Marilyn Bentov will appear in the 2011 edition of the Jewish Women’s Annual Literary Review, which has, for several years, published her work. Marilyn has been a contributor to several literary journals and to National Public Radio.

Marvin March, P’94, writes that he probably was the last member of our class to become a grandparent. “My daughter, Keira ’94, made me a grandfather in August 2010. My son Daniel’s wife will oblige in 2011. Needless to say, the March clan comprises late bloomers, starting with me. I had child in 1970. Is anyone later?”

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