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:


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 turned out to be both timely and poignant, given the community commemoration of Yom Hashoah that was hosted later that week at Mount Zion. To the point where Adam suggested that we wait to take his snapshot at the commemoration, and in front of one of his favorite pieces in the exhibition “Lest We Forget” by Sandra Brick. The piece is entitled “Empty Frames” and combines the tradition of Jews leaving a stone when visiting a grave, with the stories of millions whose graves will never be found, and whose life’s stories will never be told, leaving behind but an empty frame.

Tell me about your growing up years.

I grew up on Irving Avenue in South Minneapolis. My mother Karon is still living there. She had grown up in a farming family near Aberdeen, South Dakota where she was the oldest of five. She started out at Brainerd community college and then finished here at the U, as a Phi Beta Kappa in English. She worked in sales for a lawyers’ cooperative publishing firm and did well enough by her late 20s to start investing in real estate, including our house on Irving, and a ten-unit apartment building near here, actually, at Selby and Lexington.

My father’s name was Philip. He passed away last January, and he was good bit older than my mother. The best we can tell he was born in about 1927. He was a Holocaust survivor who came herein ’48 or ’49, with the help of Jewish agencies, and he was taken in by a family in St. Paul. They may have been from Mount Zion. I still have to look into that.


At first there were three of us brothers. I was the second, and 18 months apart from both my older brother Kiva, and my younger brother Geoff, spelled with a G, so we called him Goof. Then when I was about seven my youngest brother Josh, or Justin, came along. And all four of us ended up going to Torah Academy in Saint Louis Park. My mom had grown up Lutheran so she converted, and she actually converted twice. The first time it was performed by a Reform Rabbi, but as we got into our teens, most of our classmates at Torah Academy were from observant orthodox families, and there were concerns that our family be strictly Kosher, so my mother and all of us boys went through the conversion ceremony as well, prior to my older brother’s bar mitzvah. It seemed odd but we did it.

What do you know of your father’s story? Read more

Previously Featured Humans



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 »



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 »