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:

Julie Sorokurs Hart

Introducing our first ‘online’ member to join Mount Zion, though in this case, one tapping into very early roots in our congregation.

But first, a glossary:

  • Lanie rhymes with Janie
  • Lyone rhymes with Lion (and Lyone had been Linetsky or Lenitsky)
  • Rosenblum actually had been Schatz

And don’t be surprised if you find two more Julie Sorokurs’s in the world. You’ll see.

So let’s start at the very beginning, where you born and raised?

My mom is from St Paul, and my dad grew up in North Minneapolis.  So my mother and her sister grew up at Mount Zion and they were both confirmed and married there.  In fact, as I was looking this stuff up I realized that my baby naming was at Mount Zion – all in the current location on Summit.

We’ve posted a home movie from the family of a congregant showing Mount Zion being built in the late 50s.  Maybe your folks are in it. I’ll send you a link.

Wow!  That would be great.

So my mother’s maiden name was Riva Lyone, and her Hebrew name was Rivka Malka. The only reason I bring that up is because I still have Paymar cousins who belong to Mount Zion and are related to my mother’s grandmother, for whom she was named, and she was a Paymar.

Would that include our Lanie Paymar?

That’s right! Lanie rhymes with Janie. I know that because I was at the Mount Zion cemetery visiting my grandparents’ graves a few years ago, and I turned around and there was Lanie’s headstone.  And I nearly had a heart attack because I said “she’s not dead yet!”, but on the headstone it has her name and it says “Lanie rhymes with Janie”.  But fortunately, I don’t think there were any dates on it yet.

Where were your growing up years?

I was born when my family still lived in an apartment in Saint Paul, but by the time of elementary school we had moved to Minneapolis, first on Lyndale near the creek and later in Saint Louis Park.  We were eventually members of Adath and then the old Beth El.  But by high school we had moved to Florida, where most of my dad’s family lived, central Florida to be specific.  So I went to junior high and finished high school in Florida.

And I have an older brother and his family who are in the Tampa-Clearwater area, and a younger brother who actually knows Shai! He made aliyah in 1989 and lives near the Golan Heights, in the first Kibbutz in Israel – Degania.

I’ve been to Degania! On a Federation trip years ago. I still remember that they’re proud of the fact that Moshe Dayan grew up there. And they have a Syrian tank that was destroyed and now sits rusted out at the front gate.  Have you been there?

No, I am the only member of my family that has never left the North American continent.

How about your schooling and career?

Well I went to Florida State in Tallahassee and got a liberal arts degree, but my first job actually was at Disneyworld during high school.

What was your job there, did you wear a costume?

Oh no, thank God! As an employee you hear the horror stories of the kids that run up to you in costume, and they kick and punch you, and the heat inside those costumes was horrible! You couldn’t pay me enough to do that.

I’ve ended up working in commercial insurance, first in Florida, and then I moved to Connecticut right after the High Holy Days in 1992, when they had an opening in my company’s Hartford office.  So I’ve been here for about 30 years, and I don’t retire until July 4, 2026.

Do you have any hobbies, interests?

Well my mother started me in genealogy when I was very, very young, and now I have reams of paper everywhere, and multiple family trees on line and but I mostly keep them current on my hard drive.

Well I head up a Jewish Genealogy small group here at Mount Zion.  Sounds like you’ll probably jump to the head of the class! We have a wide range of skill sets and abilities so I try to come up with topics that will be of interest across the board.  I assume you have some pretty interesting family stories you can tell.

When I visited the Twin Cities on a genealogy tour in 2007, I visited the cemeteries, and met with friends from my childhood. And from there I went up to Winnipeg because my great grandfather was buried there in the midst of the Depression, but nobody could afford a headstone at the time, so I had to find his grave.  I went to the cemetery office and they had a map and told me where it was, but there were four graves at the site and just a small depression in the ground, so they came out and walked me around until I found it.  I later had a headstone made and placed on his grave, and now I’ll be able to find him again.

And I can give you the short, short version of another story.  My mother’s father was Bill Lyone, and his family name had originally been Linetsky or Lenitsky – we don’t know for sure since there are no vowels in Hebrew, or Yiddish either.  At one time the Linetsky family lived in a sod hut, in the Dakota Territory.  And my mother was very interested in that, and just about the time she passed, I was contacted by a head of the Painted Woods group, Richard Levine.  Apparently while the family was in North Dakota there was a synagogue in Saint Paul, which at the time was probably Mount Zion, and they were sending wagons of supplies to the people, the farmers, the immigrants in the Painted Woods.

Editors note: an equally short, short version of an entry describing Mount Zion in the 1880’s from our 150th Anniversary Commemorative Book

In the midst of celebrating the success of the (mid 1880’s) building project, the members (68 families) faced a new challenge. Two hundred refugees from Russia arrived.  In early July another thirty-five came, followed by an additional two hundred on July 14. They had no money and little clothing…. To meet the ongoing need, Rabbi Wechsler and congregation president Austrian developed a plan to settle the refugees on farms in North Dakota… In spring of 1882 eleven families moved to Painted Woods colony on the Missouri River south of Bismarck.  By 1884 there were 312 colonists, which was the high point of the colony’s population.  Unfortunately, the colonists, who were tradespeople, lacked agricultural experience, and a series of calamities – crop failure, bad weather, and prairie fire – doomed the settlement.  With his scheme a failure, Rabbi Wechsler resigned.

So the ultimate question we all want to know, is how did you come to find and join Mount Zion?

A friend of mine from Minneapolis connected me to some online Jewish services. There was a very large, cathedral like Reform synagogue in Manhattan, but I was looking around for something a little different.  And a cousin of mine teaches kids at a very small synagogue, but they weren’t zooming anything.  And I looked at the two Reform synagogues here in Hartford, but one is another large cathedral like space, and the smaller one just didn’t feel comfortable. I was a bit older than most congregants, and I didn’t have any kids.

So around High Holy Days this year I was looking around for services and on a fluke I picked Mount Zion and looked to see if they were streaming and they were! So I attended a couple services, one on Shabbat and one during the High Holy Days, and I liked the feeling of the congregation, and I liked the clergy, and I thought it feels like this could be the place.  So that’s how I started.

Final question – how do you like your name used? I see you logged on with a middle name.

Professionally I go by Julie Hart, but for personal things I use Julie Sorokurs Hart, so that people can find me.  Sorokurs is my maiden name.

So you were born and raised Julie Sorokurs?

Yes, and I’m one of three Julie Sorokurs’s in the world. I know it is an unusual name, but by now I have connected with the other two and found that we are related.  And so now I can differentiate myself from my cousin in Sweden and my cousin that lives in London.

Maybe Shai can start another small group – of Julie Sorokurs’s in the world. Thanks for chatting with me. You’ve incentivized me to call another genealogy group gathering, so I’ll be back in touch. In this new age it seems there will many ways for you to become involved – even (or especially) if online.

So welcome to our first truly online member of Mount Zion.  Actually, welcome home.

Previously Featured Humans



May 10, 2018

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 … Continue reading »



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 »