• Name: Adrienne Markus
  • Family: Married to Howard; son Jeremy, 17, and daughter Naomi, 15
  • Occupation: Certified Health Coach at Louis S. Wolk JCC
  • Volunteer Focus: At Federation, past Co-Chair of Young Women’s Outreach and past Co-Chair of Main Event; Board Member, Temple Beth El and Co-Chair of TBE Garden; Board Member of Brighton Farmer’s Market

 
 

  1. What does being Jewish mean to you?

 

 “Judaism has always been part of my life. My grandparents were Holocaust survivors, and my mother was a ‘hidden child’—left with families for periods of time to remain safe while her parents found work, re-settled, and essentially survived. She was born in Vitebsk, Russia, where Marc Chagall was born. After the war, her family moved to Canada and eventually to New York. I grew up in Forest Hills, Queens, which was very Jewish. Observing holidays was the norm. I went to Jewish camps, and then a teen summer program in Israel, where I went to the opening ceremony of the Maccabiah Games. Sitting in a stadium, recognizing the athletes, and realizing they are all Jewish was pretty profound. I went to high school in Manhattan, which was a bit more diverse; but it wasn’t until college that I realized not everything closes on Rosh HaShanah! My husband and I settled in Brighton partly because of the Jewish population, but also because of the diversity. There’s a kosher butcher, but there’s also the chance to meet families from different backgrounds, which has had a huge impact on our kids.”

 

 

  1. How did your career path lead to the JCC?

 

“My mother always fed us healthfully – putting wheat germ in our sandwiches and buying freshly-ground peanut butter. For a while I worked in marketing, but after my son was born I began taking more of an interest in food. How can I best prepare him for the healthiest life? I learned more about positive ways to get him to eat things. When he started school, I saw all the environmental influences that start to impact healthy eating. I volunteered for wellness committees to bring some positive changes into the classroom. My friends would ask me questions about food and say, ‘you should get paid for this!’ That was my impetus to change careers and get certified as a health coach. I started working at the JCC in 2012, with one-on-one counseling and group workshops.”

 

  1. How does your career and volunteer work connect with your values?

 

“I think food is really important in all aspects of Judaism, the days you eat a lot and the days you don’t eat anything. As a health coach, I like to meet people where they are; and I think that’s important in religion, too – finding what’s comfortable, what feels right, and what will work for my clients to help them move to a more beneficial place. On a bigger scale, if I can help one person make one positive change, that can snowball into more positive changes – and then create the impact to make the world a better place. If you feel good, you can do good. We do keep a kosher home and I don’t presume my clients do; but I believe when you keep kosher, you’re mindful of food and paying attention—which is key to healthy eating as well. You have to think about what you’re buying and read labels, whether for kashrut or for ingredients; they really go hand-in-hand. The garden at Temple Beth El is also an example of tikkun olam, making healthy eating more accessible to everyone. It can be cost-prohibitive for people to buy fresh produce and eat healthfully, so we donate the garden’s produce to Brighton Food Cupboard and Asbury First United Methodist Church. Supporting the Brighton Farmer’s Market is rewarding too: it’s warm and welcoming, almost an outdoor community center, and there’s always something good to eat.”

 

 

  1. Can you share something interesting about yourself?

 

 “I’ve always loved theatre and I’ve seen Hamilton three times. It turns out Lin-Manuel Miranda and I both attended Hunter College High School, in Manhattan. Through the alumni association, I got word of his show—this was back in 2015, when it was still in previews and you could easily get tickets. We sat there two-and-a-half hours with our mouths open. We got tickets again for February so my daughter could see it. The following fall my son had a cross-country meet in Manhattan; we waited on the cancellation line for nine hours and got front-row seats!”

 

-Melissa Pheterson