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:


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 at Shabbat services, on the topic of mental health, including his own struggles with depression, and his current role as co-chair of Mount Zion’s Mental Health Task Force. The timing of this profile seemed appropriate, coming at the end of February, which is Jewish Disability Awareness & Inclusion Month (JDAIM), while also coinciding with the beginning of the Hebrew month of Adar, the month in which Talmud teaches that our joy should increase.

Let’s start at the beginning. Tell me about your growing up years.

I was born in Skokie, Illinois, and lived there a brief time with my family. My father was in what he used to call the “rag business” – he sold different lines of women’s clothes. He worked a five-state region, so when I was about two, we moved to Madison, where I lived until the second grade, then we moved to Edina where I lived through high school.

Growing up we always had a mobile home around – my father would clear out most of the furniture and keep all his clothing samples in it – and that became his showroom. He would pull up to department stores in different cities around the state and invite the buyers out to the motor home, and they would sit on the couch while he showed them samples. And then he would sleep in it that night. Some of my favorite vacations as a kid were in those motor homes. I remember I used to love being next to the little window above the cab, this was in the days before seatbelts, so I could get a great view as he was driving down the highway.

Did you belong to a synagogue growing up? Read more

Previously Featured Humans



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 »



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 »