Humans of Mount Zion

(Interviews with Phil Goldman as Inspired by Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York. These interviews have been edited and condensed.)

We will use this site periodically 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:


Diana Dean lives with her family in Saint Paul, including husband David Lipset and daughter Sophia. We initially met and talked briefly at a recent Tzedek Committee meeting, where I quickly realized that she might have a story to tell in this forum. As it turns out, Whole Foods was an appropriate place to meet, though the display case at Mount Zion seemed the ideal location for this photo.

Can you tell me about your growing up years?

I was born in Connecticut, but my grandparents owned a farm in Rhode Island, and we frequently went to visit them on weekends and summers. When my grandparents passed away, my father inherited the farm so we moved there when I was about eight or nine years old. It was a small, rocky, New England farm, in the Glocester township, where my grandpa had raised poultry – turkeys and chickens – and had a little apple orchard. So, our family has lived there for a few generations, doing subsistence farming, sometimes making a little income on the side. My sister is still living on the farm, but my brother now lives in Colorado where he started a helicopter business, including leasing and teaching.

In retrospect, by the time my dad moved us to the farm I think he had decided to embrace the life he had grown up with. He had also been interested in solar energy, during its earliest stages, and he built us a solar shower inside its own little house on the farm, where we could go out and take warm showers. It was great. In retrospect it was a great childhood because we really learned how to value our own labor. It was a good upbringing.

What did your folks do, before or besides farming? Read more

Previously Featured Humans



April 19, 2018

Adam and his wife Ali are newcomers to Mount Zion, but have already started to become familiar figures, including with Adam joining our Rashi study group on Thursdays as time permits. As you will see below, our conversation last week … Continue reading »



April 5, 2018

Linda and I first met at a recent event to welcome new members to Mount Zion, where she immediately endeared herself to me by mentioning that she had already read some of this Humans series. That, together with her confirming … Continue reading »



March 8, 2018

Sheila Schuman and her family were among the earliest Jewish settlers in Apple Valley when they arrived here about 40 years ago. Marty and Sheila still live there, while their daughter Bari and son Scott (each with two children of … Continue reading »



February 22, 2018

Al Levin (as in ‘begin’) grew up in Edina and now lives with his family in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis, not far from Peace Coffee, where we met recently. I first heard Al’s story last week, when he spoke … Continue reading »



February 8, 2018

Michele Rusinko has lived in St. Peter, Minnesota for the past 30 years with husband Robert Weisenfeld and son Josh. Michele and Bob are career Gusties at Gustavus College, where she is a Professor in Theatre and Dance, and Bob … Continue reading »



January 25, 2018

Charles Stander is a Michigan boy through and through, having grown up in Saginaw, and attending colleges in the state. He has retired from a career with the IRS, and now lives with his wife Terri in a “fixer upper” … Continue reading »



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 »