Humans of Mount Zion

(Interviews with Phil Goldman as Inspired by Brandon Stanton\'s Humans of New York)

We will use this site each week to introduce Mount Zion members to one another, one member at a time. We each have a story to tell, and those stories can build connections between us.

Send us a message with your own interview requests, feedback, or questions!
This Week:


Having been born and raised in New Jersey, Brian Serle’s life and career led him to Milwaukee, Houston, Little Rock, New York, and Milwaukee again, before eventually serving as religious leader of a congregation in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and finally finding his home and current life in Saint Paul.

Brian has been a presence in and around Mount Zion during his past decade here, perhaps most notably for his guitar, his voice, and his flat-out ability to chant Torah and lead a service. In recognition of these and other efforts, Brian will be recognized as the Mount Zion Volunteer of the Year this coming Shabbat at our 161st Annual Meeting.

This photo shows Brian recently rehearsing for the upcoming congregational trip to Israel, by placing his note in the western retaining wall behind Walgreens, on Dodd. We met at Teresa’s restaurant nearby.

Let’s start at the very beginning, where were you born and raised?

I was born in New York City, and we lived just down the street from the Empire State Building, but I don’t remember any of that. We were only there my first two years until we moved, and I was raised in Union, New Jersey, a suburb of Newark. It was 20 miles from Manhattan, and I remember the house being built when I was a real little kid. I have pictures of me at the construction site. After the war, they were building these houses for $17,500. Kind of like Levittown houses. It was me, my parents, and eventually my two younger sisters. They were born and took up the space in the house. It was real nice when I had the place to myself.

Do you still have family around?

Yeah, my sisters now live in New York and in Georgia. My dad died about ten years ago. He sat down in front of the computer and ten years later he was dead. They had moved to Florida as soon as all of us kids moved out of town. They wanted to be someplace warmer, so that is where a lot of New York Jews go to die. They call it G-d’s waiting room. And my mother will be 90 in June. We’ll be taking her to Chicago to celebrate because that’s where all her grandkids are, my three oldest children all live in Chicago with their children, my six grandchildren. Continue reading »


Previously Featured Humans



November 3, 2016

Along with about 25 others, Toba and I were part of the Mount Zion group that travelled to Cuba this past spring. We had a chance to talk on one of our long bus trips along the road to Varadero. … Continue reading »



September 29, 2016

After a longer than expected hiatus, our Humans series will be rekindled with a discussion with Steve Greenberg, Mount Zion’s new Congregational Engagement Director. Not so much to learn about the position or his plans; there will be plenty of … Continue reading »



March 3, 2016

David grew up in the LA area, moved to Minnesota for graduate school, and has lived here ever since. It was here that he met and married his first Marianne, and eventually also his second, and current Mary Ann, while … Continue reading »



February 25, 2016

Joseph Thomas Marver (alias Tom, alias Yosef ben Hillel) was born and raised in Saint Paul, in his family’s home along Mississippi River Boulevard. Tom still seems to live life to the fullest, starting in the heydays of the 60s … Continue reading »



February 18, 2016

Abbey and her wife Deirdre live in St. Paul with their sons Nadav and Matan. Deirdre serves as a Program Manager with the Lutheran Volunteer Corps, while Abbey is a psychologist at The Center for the Victims of Torture. I … Continue reading »



February 11, 2016

Mia lives with her husband Seth Levin in Saint Anthony Park, where they are raising sons Aaron, who is currently at Grinnell, and Ethan, who will be starting at Macalester next fall, where he hopes to continue playing football as … Continue reading »



February 4, 2016

Born and raised in Needham, MA, Sue is the oldest of three children born to Barbara and Peter. Her undergrad years at Yale were followed in short order by medical school at Wash U., including studies in South Africa, and … Continue reading »



January 28, 2016

Peter and his wife Bonnie Rubinstein live in River Falls, Wisconsin, on property along the Kinickinnic River. It is there that he has long been active in a “mish mash” of endeavors, including most notably his avocation for theater. Bonnie … Continue reading »



January 21, 2016

As we approach the end of our first year of these Humans postings, I’ve opted to take the week off (go ahead, fire me!) – and will accept the kind offer of past Human Robert Garfinkle to profile yours truly … Continue reading »

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