Sheri has lived in Superior. And Duluth. And Kalamazoo. And Kenosha. And Indiana. And Illinois. And Texas. She (currently) lives in Maplewood.
She has been a member at various synagogues along the way, including Temple Israel in Duluth, where she was confirmed, and in later years at the Congregation of Moses in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Sheri was married to husband Joe, who worked as an engineer until he passed away after a long illness in 1993. She then returned to school for her undergraduate degree at River Falls and graduate school at Northern Illinois. She has been a member of Mount Zion since 2008, with their two sons Isaac, now 22, and Scott 21, both of whom were confirmed at Mount Zion.
We recently interviewed Sheri while she served as front door Greeter just before Friday Erev Shabbat services. She seems an able multi-tasker.
Tell us a bit about yourself. What do you do?
I am a Special Ed teacher for the blind and visually impaired, and a certified Orientation Mobility Specialist, with ISD 197, which covers much of Dakota County. Most of my kids are in Burnsville, but I see lots of kids from Burnsville, Bloomington, and Farmington.
Hang on a sec.
Welcome. Shabbat Shalom.
Do you not have a coat?
OK, I was born in Duluth and spent most of my life in Superior, Wisconsin actually. Came down here in 1981, my senior year in high school. I finished high school in Anoka, and then from there I kind of tromped around the US for a while. I’ve lived in Texas, Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan – but I’ve always come home to Minnesota between states.
My Dad is a retired salesman. His side of the family is still up north, but my immediate family is all in the Cities. And my Mom works in downtown Minneapolis, she is an accountant. She works for an engineering firm.
What do you know about your family history?
My maiden name is Burbul. It was originally Burbulsky. Latvian. My Dad’s mother Goldie was the oldest in her family, and was born here in about 1908. She was raised orthodox, including in Hibbing and Milwaukee for a while, but she ran away from home in her early 30’s. She worked at the Social Security Administration here in the Cities, where she met my Dad’s biological father, Frank W. He was Jewish, he was from New York, and he worked on the railroad. But he also worked for Kid Cann, who was the Jewish mafia down here.
Editor’s note: Kid Cann (born Isadore Blumenfeld, 1900 – 1981), was a Jewish-American ‘mobster’, who was based in Minneapolis, Minnesota for over four decades. Many consider him to be the most notorious mobster in the history of Minnesota.
According to family lore, Frank was an enforcer for Kid Cann. And he was killed in prison, probably somewhere around 1943. We thought he went to Stillwater (prison), but we haven’t found any records yet, but I’ve been working on that for a while. My grandmother found out she was pregnant with my father – he was born in ’42 – and she told Frank that she was pregnant, and he went into prison shortly after that.
My father lived in foster care for a couple years, until Goldie married Adam Burbul, a Catholic man from Superior, who eventually adopted my father. Their families had both come over from Latvia at about the same time, and possibly from the same village there.
I’ve been told that I look a lot like Goldie.
I know too much stuff. It’s crazy.
So you’ve been a member since 2008, how did you get active in Sisterhood?
When I first got here I started with Religious School Committee. I was on that for a couple, two, three years. But my kids were older, so I was kind of like the Chai School rep for that. And then I started getting active in the gift shop. And then from there I got active in the Sisterhood and I was the Religion and Education Vice President. And I did a lot of programming stuff.
And I am now a Co-President.
How did you end up at Mount Zion?
I went to see the play Autistic License, because my son is autistic.
And I was watching the play going ‘Oh please be Jewish, please be Jewish, please be Jewish.’ And then they did the Bar Mitzvah scene. And after the play I went up and talked to, I think her name was Stacey? (playwright and Mount Zion member Stacey Dinner-Levin)
And I said, ‘just tell me where you go to synagogue’. And she told me.
And I called – and I joined the next day.
Editor’s (second) note:
As it turns out, February is Jewish Disability Awareness Month, which reminds us of our morning liturgy Nisim b’chol yom (prayer for our daily miracles), that includes the verse:
Baruch atah, Adonai
Eloheinu, Melech haolam,
Praise to you, Adonai our God,
Sovereign of the Universe
Who opens the eyes of the blind.
The verse is generally considered to provide thanks for being able to open our eyes in the morning. To some commentators, though, the word ‘blind’ can be a metaphor for various other things, including our own lack of understanding as well.
Thanks to all who help to open our eyes.
And our doors.