David hasn’t strayed far from his Highland Park roots. Growing up in Saint Paul, he attended the Saint Paul Public Schools, eventually returning to work for that school system after receiving his Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Grinnell College, in Iowa, where he met his future wife Laura.
His parents are synagogue members Joann, retired from teaching at Randolph Heights Elementary, and Joe, who is well known in the world of education policy. David and twin sister Elizabeth have a younger sister Laura, while he and (wife) Laura have their own set of twins, two and a half year old daughters, Margaret and Siri (named after a grandmother, but still, they wouldn’t mind if the popular Siri app fades from memory as she grows up).
David is currently nearing the end of his doctoral studies in Counseling Psychology at Saint Thomas, and will soon finish his internship at Fraser, where he splits his time between assessment and counseling, of both kids and families.
Let’s start with your schooling.
I went to Highland Park High School. I was the news editor of the school paper our senior year. And I ran cross country. Cross country was not a passion – that was one of the things you do so you have a well rounded college application for college. But I really loved journalism.
Though about that time, I talked to (former Mount Zion member, now noted Chicago columnist) Gail Marks Jarvis, who was at the Pioneer Press at the time. My dad wrote a column for the Pioneer Press for many, many years, on education. And while I was in college Ms. Marks Jarvis told me “Dave, journalism is changing dramatically, so unless you are either willing to do this job for very, very little money, or you just love it so much that you don’t care, you might want to consider other options. Because regular newspaper journalism is really going away.” So I got my degree in Economics.
After I graduated, I was home on break and ran across my favorite high school teacher, Mary Haug, who was beloved by many, many generations of students there. And she mentioned that the Saint Paul schools were hiring a lot of technology people, so I interviewed and got that job after college. And I worked my way up from tech service to project management while I was there. I was always good with computers.
Its one of those things where I thought my life was going to go in this direction, and it ended up going this way. It was a chance meeting with Ms. Haug. At Target.
Did you meet Laura at Grinnel?
Yes, I was a senior and she was a freshman, and we met at Chalutzim, a Jewish group on campus. We had Shabbat dinner every Friday night. She was not Jewish at the time. She had grown up on a farm in rural Minnesota, about 45 minutes from Winona and went to high school in Winona. But she had babysat for a Jewish family that lived two farms away, so she knew a lot about it and was interested in it.
In fact her parents are here in town today. They have an organic farm that includes several acres that are dedicated to berries, and they sell to a lot of restaurants in the area. It’s called Blue Fruit Farm. They have spent several years preparing the land and cultivating the plants. They are getting calls at this point from as far away as England asking to order their organic berries. If you know anything about farming, which I don’t, and Laura gets a chuckle out of this, it’s all about blue fruits, like plums and berries, and blueberries. Last year they only harvested about 75 pounds of blueberries, but this year they have had 600 pounds of blueberries just last week alone. They often bring us fruit when they come to town, whatever is fresh.
Note: Berries from Blue Fruit Farm are included on the menus of several Minneapolis restaurants, including Lucia’s and Birchwood, among others.
So what is Laura doing?
Laura’s major was in Biochemistry, and she went to the UofM medical school, and is now a family practice physician with Allina in their Eagan clinic.
I’m trying to picture where that is.
There’s a Culvers across the street.
Oh, OK! I know exactly where that is! I get my oil changed next door. So what does one do as a family practice doc, does she does deliver babies?
She probably delivers about four a month, on average. But mostly she sees patients, and is on call periodically, and what they call ‘rounding’.
But there is an interesting twist to the story. Laura’s grandmother got remarried a few years ago, to a wonderful man. They lived in the mountains north of Atlanta, and every year they would come up here and go fishing with Laura’s dad and mom. Her father is a very good fisherman, a big outdoorsman.
So about a month and a half ago, her step-grandfather was going to be 93 the next week. And that Saturday they had gone fishing, and when they came back here Laura’s grandfather wasn’t looking so good, so Laura said “let me take a look”, and then she said “let me get my stuff … why don’t you take the girls inside”. So I did. While the girls and I were playing out back, Laura’s mom came and told me that Laura had just pronounced her grandfather. He had just sat down and she felt for his pulse. And when she looked up at her grandmother, her grandmother said “he’s gone”, and Laura just nodded. And the paramedics did come, but it was over. So she has been there for a lot of beginnings, but she has also been there when some people have passed on. It was a very powerful moment for the family.
That certainly does give you pause.
You had mentioned your father was born Jewish, and your mother Catholic, so can I ask, how were you raised?
We were brought up in the Unitarian church, and celebrated both Hanukah and Christmas.
When I was born, Mom hadn’t converted yet, but I went to study on the Alexander Muss program in Israel my junior year in high school, and I converted about that time. Actually my mom and siblings did also, all on the same day at the mikvah that had been on Randolph. Which we jokingly call the Mikvah Coffee House, since the building has since become a coffee shop. But the mikvah itself has now moved to further in Highland Park, at least that’s where it was when Laura got dunked as well.
So you could say the first mikvah was also converted, I suppose.
But then we had a really wonderful Rabbi at Grinnell, Rabbi Brin. Her family is from up here too.
There is a display about Ruth Brin in Lipschultz Lounge.
Yes, that’s Rabbi Brin’s mom. She was giving Laura lessons in Hebrew, and helped her through the conversion process.
Let’s get back to your career path.
After the Saint Paul Schools system I started at a place called Kroll Ontrack, in Eden Prairie. They made software for lawyers. But it was very intense, very high pressure, so I told Laura ‘when you are done with med school, I need to look for something else.’ I was on call 24 hours a day.
Eventually I talked to people, tried some career counseling, and took some tests. All the tests came back saying I should either be a teacher or a psychologist. Almost everyone in my family is a teacher, though I didn’t want to do that, but I had some informational interviews about psychology, and decided to go into that. But about that time my mom asked me one day if I wanted to read to her school kids, and I found that I really liked working with kids. So I’ve combined those things and am now into child and developmental psychology.
How about long term?
I am going to be working next year at a place called Stone Arch Psychology, in Minneapolis. Psychology training can be kind of like a buffet, you want to get as many varied experiences as you can. And with Laura being at Allina, they are also really interested in child psychology, and I have met some of those people, and really like them a lot.
We are up to the random round of questions. What was your Israel experience like in high school?
It was very cool. But I was there when Yitzak Rabin was assassinated, and it was probably the scariest night of my life. We were in a small discotheque, in Hod Hasharon, where the Muss High School campus is, or was. A tiny, tiny little town. And all of a sudden they turned off the music, and the smoke machine, and they turned on all the lights, and they said something in Hebrew, and everyone started freaking out. And then finally I heard in English that there was an assassination attempt, and everyone was supposed to get to their homes, and reservists were supposed to get to their base. And we didn’t know what happened, but we assumed the worst – that this was the start of some kind of invasion. We were terrified and went back to our dorm, and down to a little bomb shelter in the basement. Some of us, including me, were thinking this might be it. Every minute seemed like forever. Then finally, early in the morning they announced on the radio that it had been a lone Jewish settler. We had heard the helicopters hovering all night long, and thought we might be in the middle of a war zone. But it did not come to pass.
Next to last question, who cooks in the family?
Laura is absolutely the cook. She makes fantastic pasta. I make reservations. But I’m working on it.
Before we wrap it up, can you tell me about your involvement at Mount Zion?
Oh, I love Mount Zion!
OK, that’ll probably stay in.
While I was at Kroll, we had billing at the end of every month. And it was very busy that last week of the month. And I would sit at the Brotherhood bagel table that first Sunday of the month after, as a way of saying ‘I got through this. Thank God!’ And this is how I would say thank you for getting me through.
And I always loved how families were so active at Mount Zion, and there are so many things going on, there are so many activities. I love the fact there are so many opportunities for young adults to do things. I joined Mount Zion while I was in high school. I was in SPORTY and things like that.
But through my education in psychology I’ve learned how important it is for kids to have multiple adults, and multiple opportunities, not just in their home, but in the community. And to have leadership positions, and to have positions where people are listening to them, and have positions where they can learn from other people, and be respected.
So I feel that through my education, I appreciate Mount Zion as a community at a whole different level. That it provides those opportunities.
That’s the type of thing that I often hear during these interviews, and realize that I knew, but it’s nice to be reminded.
Sitting with the guys at the Brotherhood table, we’d be talking about stuff, and they would know all these different kids walking by, and all the kids would know them. And they’re not relatives! And their parents know each other. And kids would come up and give them hugs. And I thought, this is really cool!
It’s a real community of people, of different ages, and people know about each other, and they’re looking out for each other, and have the best interests of each other. You know all those things reduce so many risks for kids, across the board.
Back in the 70s there was all this research coming out that said ‘we know how to be the perfect parent.’ They actually set up labs where they had specially trained parents take care of their kids, and they had speakers and microphones. And what they learned was, it cannot be done. Even with two parents, there are so many roles, that you cannot provide everything a child needs. It turned out to be an abject failure, but in the ruins of that concept, was the sense that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ is absolutely true.
It is interesting to hear that history.
And I feel very lucky that growing up I had so many friends, including at Mount Zion, and I benefited from their parents in so many ways, and they were kind and supportive to me.
But also just knowing that Mount Zion is there.
I feel that environments like that are really precious. And they’re to be celebrated, and appreciated, because there are a lot of kids, a lot of communities, who don’t have those opportunities. I work with so many kids from around the Twin Cities – and the Boys and Girls Club is fantastic, and there are some other things that are really helpful – but its not just material poverty, there can be emotional poverty within a family, even in families with tremendous resources. A child doesn’t need to have perfect parents, who respond to them perfectly, but if they have someone in their life, a teacher, someone else who can be there, that can help them develop, take pride in themselves, so they can see themselves in different ways.
I feel that these are all things that people can get out of Mount Zion.
I’m just so proud to be a member of Mount Zion. On so many different levels. I think it is so remarkable, the resource that it provides for families, and for young people. And to help give kids, and teenagers, and young adults a place to be. A place to grow. A place to part of.
Wow. We may want to start a new column. David’s thoughts on Mount Zion and child psychology.
We could. A lot of people say that a good environment for kids should have this, this, this and this. And I’m thinking that Mount Zion has all these things, in abundance, and it’s not even like a group of psychologists got together and tried to create it, it just naturally evolved that way. Through a lot of effort, of course.
Indeed. And a lot of bagels.