Hadassah to honor three

HadassahLogoRedThe Houston Chapter of Hadassah will salute Sonia and the late Harold Raizes, The Rose nonprofit breast cancer organization and Hayley Feldman, leaders of “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” at its 2011 Women of Courage benefit. The gala luncheon and auction will be held Sunday, Feb. 13, beginning at noon at the Westin Oaks Hotel.

“We are thrilled to incorporate several ‘firsts’ this year -- the first time Women of Courage has honored someone posthumously, the first time to honor a man, the first time to honor an organization and we’re introducing our first-ever Woman of Tomorrow Award recipient,” said Joy Blog, event co-chair (with Linda Rubenfeld).  

Representing “Yesterday” is the late Harold Raizes, a venerable Houston businessman, Jewish leader, and kind and loving husband, father and grandfather. Starting in the 1940s, Harold encouraged his wife to become involved as a Hadassah volunteer. He took pride in Sonia’s rise in the Hadassah organization, where she blossomed in her Hadassah leadership positions. 

“I couldn’t receive this honor without Harold, of blessed memory, being honored too,” said Sonia Raizes, reminiscing how her husband, a former president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston and a Hadassah Associate and committed supporter of Hadassah, was always at her side at Hadassah functions.

Sonia Raizes, who, along with The Rose, signifies “Today,” first joined Hadassah when she was a bride in Mason City, Iowa. A National Associate of Hadassah and a member of the National Board of Hadassah, she served as the National Fundraising Task Force Coordinator for the Greater Southwest Regions and Area Founders Chair for the National Major Gifts Department. She has held portfolios on the local and regional levels of Hadassah and has given courses in training for fundraising, membership and leadership. Sonia Raizes has served as area chair for Houston’s Cancer Drive. Her community involvement also includes leadership roles with Young Judaea, United Jewish Appeal and her synagogue board and Sisterhood.   

The Rose is the city’s leading 501(c)(3) non-profit organization providing mammography screening, diagnosis, access to treatment and support to all women regardless of their ability to pay. Last year, The Rose provided 27,837 screening and diagnostic procedures for those able to pay; 15,680 screening and diagnostic procedures at no charge to low income, uninsured women; 7,621 free patient navigation services to other treatment patients without insurance.

The Rose co-founders, Dixie Melillo, M.D., a general surgeon specializing in breast cancer, and Dorothy Weston Gibbons, CEO, will accept the Women of Courage Award.

The “Woman of Tomorrow” —representing the future of Hadassah —  is Hayley Feldman, a third generation native Houstonian, who learned the values of volunteerism by her family’s example. In Hadassah, she has been active in the LeAtid group for 11 years, holding many positions, including membership vice president and president. At the Houston Chapter level, Feldman has served as membership vice president, on the Strategic Planning Committee and has coordinated mailings of the Women of Courage luncheon invitations. She is a PTO vice president and board member for Beth Yeshurun Day Schools, Federation Collage 2011 Kick-off co-chair and has been active in the Congregation Beth Yeshurun Sisterhood and the Friends of Godwin Park.

Tables and individual tickets for the Women of Courage Luncheon are now available for purchase. To obtain full details, please call 713-661-1022.

Hadassah, a 2005 Nobel Peace Prize nominee, is the largest volunteer women’s organization in the U.S. with more than 300,000 members, including more than 3,000 in the Houston area.

Fit to drink?

water-faucet2Multi-billion-dollar sales of bottled water and water filtration systems are largely predicated on public perception that tap water in many major U.S. cities is unsafe to drink. In Houston, water quality has come into focus recently, with reports from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) shining a spotlight on the presence of radiation in the city's water supply and its potential link to cancer.

Scientists­––and even the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which monitors public water supplies––agree that radiation in the water can trigger cellular mutation and cancer, but the EPA sets the limit on levels of radiation based on cost vs. risk. Water supplies can be made risk-free, but at a higher cost, the TCEQ's website explains:

"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency studied the health risks and the costs associated with reducing it — that is, at what point do the costs of further reducing the risk outweigh the expected benefits? In this analysis, the EPA used an estimate generally considered to be conservative — the point at which the risk was no more than an additional two cases among 10,000 individuals," the site says. "In the EPA’s analysis, that level of risk is reached by people who drink two  liters — about a half a gallon — of water every day for 70 years at any one of these levels of radiochemical content:

  • For radium, 5 picocuries per liter (combining both isotopes, radium-226 and radium-228).
  • For the gross alpha standard, 15 picocuries per liter.
  • For uranium, 30 micrograms per liter."

"These levels are called the maximum contaminant level, or MCL, for the respective substance. The only way to remove the risk entirely is to reduce the level of radiochemicals to zero. The cost of completely removing the radiochemicals and disposing of the resulting waste safely could make your water too expensive to use."

Test results dating back to 2004 provided by the TCEQ show the water supply in specific areas of the City of Houston have had high levels of gross alpha and gross beta radiation, and high levels of radium and uranium, the latter of which is known to concentrate in certain areas of the body, leading to bone and liver cancer and blood diseases such as leukemia. Whereas the MCLG, or the federally recognized public health goal, for both gross alpha and beta particles is zero, the legal limit (MCL) is set at 15 pCi/L (picocuries per liter) for alpha, and 50 for beta. In the test results, alpha particles in some areas of town measured as high as 389 pCi/L and beta particles measured 226 pCi/L (both in San Saba WSC, 2006).

Such findings put Houston squarely in the hotseat with environmental watchdog groups like the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Working Group (EWG). Based on those same test results, EWG ranked Texas cities like Arlington (#1), Fort Worth (#3), and Austin (#7) among the nation's top 10 for best water supplies. Houston fell to #95 of 100 cities ranked for its poor record.

Still, the City of Houston contends its water supply meets EPA regulations, and its Drinking Water Quality Report, 2009, seems to support that declaration--even though it isn't as detailed as the TCEQ findings in pinpointing specific neighborhoods. It does show the results for up to 97 potential chemical contaminants, including lead and arsenic.

A statement by Jun Chang, P.E., deputy director of the city's Public Utilities Division city's addressed the issue on the Public Works and Engineering website ( by saying that the problem is limited and isolated.

"Recent media stories have raised questions over the quality of the water you drink. The City of Houston takes these matters seriously. However, the issue raised is limited only to a small number of isolated groundwater wells that were built by Municipal Utility Districts which were inherited by the City through annexation," Chang writes.

"Since 2002, gross alpha particles, which are naturally occurring in aquifers, have been detected in some groundwater wells that the City is replacing. Only six of seventy-eight wells had levels of gross alpha particles approaching regulatory standards and only one was in excess of the maximum contaminant levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). That well is not being used now, nor does the City expect to need to use it in the future. The City will soon decommission the site entirely. The remaining five wells have been used intermittently and water from these wells is diluted by mixing it with surface water before it enters the water distribution system. Therefore, the levels of gross alpha particles in the water reaching the public are all within the federal and state limits for safe water. Residents should rest assured that the City’s drinking water is among the safest in the country."

Does drinking bottled water provide any more protection? Not much, experts and environmentalists concur. For one thing, much bottled water on the market is merely treated tap water with many of the same chemicals present––lead, chlorine, herbicides and pesticides. Furthermore, phthalates from the plastic bottles are known to leach into the water over time. Birth defects and changes to hormone levels in laboratory rats have been some of the effects associated with this exposure, and in one Swedish study, a potential link to autism in children was found.

Still, the notion that bottled water is healthier persists. The bottled water industry reached its peak earnings in 2007 with $11.5 billion in sales, but dropped slightly in 2008 and 2009 due to the recession, according to a 2009 study conducted by the Beverage Marketing Corporation. The average American consumes 26 gallons of bottled water per year, says the International Bottled Water Association, ranking the beverage second only to soft drinks in popularity.

Stitched in Time

Stitched_Crew2Houston auteurs Jena Moreno and Nancy Sarnoff didn't know a lot about the filmmaking process, nor did they know much about their subject matter — quilting — when they embarked on their first documentary film, Stitched, last year. Now, they have developed a passion for both.

“My grandmother was a quilter, and I have memories going down to her basement in Ohio and seeing this big wooden frame with her quilts,” Sarnoff said. “I knew she made ‘blankets,’ but I didn't know why or what the process was or what it meant to her.” 

The idea for Stitched emerged after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, sending scores of evacuees into Houston’s convention spaces like the George R. Brown — just weeks before the annual International Quilt Festival was due to open there. The festival opened on time, unimpeded and drew a crowd second only to that of Houston’s Offshore Technology Conference, which impressed Moreno and Sarnoff, both veteran business reporters for The Houston Chronicle

“One day I looked up and there were all these quilters walking around downtown carrying their bags, and it seemed to me that the city was getting back to business after all the chaos,” Moreno said.

The backdrop of the quilt festival and its competition for the International Quilt Association’s “Best of Show” prize seemed like a great foundation for a documentary film, Sarnoff added. 

Preconceived notions about quilters being white-haired ladies who stitch patchwork  bedcovers were quickly cast aside as the filmmakers saw what actually goes on at the George R. Brown. Traditional and art quilters of all ages and skill levels, and from around the world come to view a diverse and fabulous quilt exhibit — and to buy fabric, patterns, notions and sewing machines. A recent survey, Quilting in America, shows there are 21 million quilters in the U.S. alone, creating an industry worth $3.6 billion. 

“I didn’t expect to fall in love with the art of quilting and respect it so much, and to find all of these super-cool quilters who are not only fascinating to interview, but fun to hang out with,” Moreno said. 

The two reporters uncovered a compelling story. Three unique art quilters — Caryl Bryer Fallert, Hollis Chatelain and Randall Cook — not only compete for top prizes but also have generated some controversy. Traditional quilters with precise, hand-stitched works view art quilters as a different breed anyway, and the colorful works of these three create even more buzz because of their subject matter, methodology and technique. 

Fallert, of Paducah, Kentucky, was the first to win a major national prize with her machine-made quilt at a time when hand-made pieces were held in greater esteem by purists. Chatelain, of Hillsboro, NC, infuses her art with images of social and environmental issues and uses paint on her quilts as if on a canvas — a technique that had many competitors crying foul when she won the Houston festival’s top prize in 2004. 

Cook, a yoga and Pilates instructor from Rochester, NY, is one of a handful of men who quilt. His art quilts depicting male nudes have also raised eyebrows. The film is primarily about these artists, the challenges they face and the amazing art that anyone can relate to and appreciate. It’s about artists who are pioneers striving for acceptance in their art, Moreno said. 

Fallert won first prize for “Feathers in the Wind,” in the small, abstract art category, and Chatelain won the “Viewer’s Choice” award for “Innocence.

”To get their project rolling, Moreno and Sarnoff needed funding. First, they earned a grant from the Southern Documentary Fund, and then additional support was obtained through funding platforms Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. A website,, was born, and social media also helped garner support.

The filmmakers acknowledged that the Houston Film Commission has also been supportive, providing suggestions for producing and marketing the 70-minute film, which will debut in April, 2011. A three-minute excerpt was shown at the Aurora Picture Show’s Extremely Shorts Festival and won second place in a field of 90 films. 

Moreno’s husband, Tom Gandy, has had a pivotal role in their fledgling production companies, PictureSmith Productions and Frame1Media. Gandy, who has worked at two Houston television stations, was also Moreno’s cameraman when she ran The Chronicle’s bureau in Mexico City. Not unlike a quilter stitching together bits of colorful cloth, he now pieces together segments of videotape from their journeys and interviews, striving for a seamless final product. 

“If I weren’t married to the cameraman, this film wouldn’t be happening,” Moreno said.With no marketing experience, the small production team has big ambitions to market the film at festivals around the world. Stitched also may be a stepping stone to future projects, “if we continue to develop skills as filmmakers,” said Sarnoff, who is expecting her first child this December.

“So far, this has been so much fun, and everything has gone our way. We really haven’t failed at anything.” Moreno said. “I could see myself doing this for years to come.” 

Deborah Quinn Hensel is the news editor of Houston Woman Magazine.

Kinders give $15 million

Kinders2Houston philanthropists Rich and Nancy Kinder have gifted $15 million gift to Rice University to support expanded research in Houston and in major cities around the world by Rice’s Institute for Urban Research. The institute will be renamed the Kinder Institute for Urban Research in their honor.

“Thanks to the vision and generosity of Rich and Nancy Kinder, the Institute for Urban Research has the resources, leadership and academic strength to become the leading center for the study of the changing demographics and broader social issues facing all major urban areas," Rice President David Leebron said. “With this support, we can take another major step toward fulfilling our goal of being fully engaged with our home city of Houston, as well as serve as the locus of an international discussion of emerging urban issues.”The gift will support a number of research initiatives, including:

• In March 2011 the institute will conduct the 30th Annual Houston Area Survey — the          nation’s longest-running study of any metropolitan area’s economy, population, life experiences, beliefs and attitudes — and issue a special report and book on the three decades of research.

•  In April and May 2011 the institute plans to conduct the third Houston Area Asian Survey, which will reach a representative sample of 500 Asian-American residents of Harris County who will be given the option of doing interviews in Vietnamese, Mandarin, Cantonese and Korean.

• As part of a new multidisciplinary Global Urban Initiatives project, the institute will coordinate a significant transnational research effort in collaboration with colleagues around the world to conduct the equivalent of the Houston Area Survey in cities such as New York, Shanghai, Buenos Aires, Argentina and Mumbai, India.

By developing comparable measures of the attitudes and beliefs of urban residents on issues like immigration, the environment and outlooks on the future, the institute will be able to explore systematically the similarities and differences in the perspectives of area residents in comparison with other major coastal and global cities.

Rice established the Institute for Urban Research in its School of Social Sciences in February by bringing together two existing centers: the Center on Race, Religion and Urban Life and the Urban Research Center. Sociology professors Stephen Klineberg and Michael Emerson co-direct the institute. 

“Generous, rigorous and committed to excellence and to making a difference are words that best describe Rich and Nancy,” said Jim Crownover, chair of the Rice Board of Trustees. “Their goal is to understand and address root causes of problems, and they use their resources and talents to make Houston a better city. Their association with Rice makes Rice a better university.”

“We are huge believers in Rice, a world-class institution,” said Rich Kinder, who is chairman and CEO of Kinder Morgan, one of the largest pipeline transportation and energy storage companies in North America. “We have tremendous respect for Stephen Klineberg and Michael Emerson and their accomplishments. This is a unique opportunity to position the Institute for Urban Research to serve Houston and Rice and to be a resource for coming generations of American cities.”

Rich and Nancy Kinder co-founded the Kinder Foundation to support education, urban green space and other quality-of-life issues.

Art for Cancer Network

Among prognostic tests, blood workups and chemo regimens, doctors at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center can now request a session with a professional artist on their patients’ charts.

Inspired by her belief of the transformative power of art, Jennifer Wheler, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Investigational Cancer Therapeutics at M. D. Anderson, founded the 501c3 non-profit organization COLLAGE: The Art for Cancer Network in 2006 to bring innovative art programs to people living with cancer. 

COLLAGE brings local artists to M. D. Anderson to work with cancer patients in a variety of mediums, including collage, digital photography, shibori (fabric painting), Chinese ink art and watercolors through in-hospital workshops and an artist-in-residence program. To date, COLLAGE has reached over 1,000 patients, family members and cancer care providers.

Programs are designed with the needs of different patients in mind. In the Palliative Care Unit at M. D. Anderson, artists capture and transcribe patients’ visions into painted, drawn or video taped works of art because many have advanced disease and are not able to make their own.

Wheler, who has a degree in art history and worked in a Manhattan art gallery before deciding to attend medical school, brings her own perspective to the program.

Dr. Wheler says, “As an oncologist, I witness firsthand the hardship and suffering experienced by cancer patients. Drawing on my background in art, I was inspired to merge the disciplines of art and medicine to create dynamic programs to support patients and their caregivers. 

“I founded COLLAGE to provide innovative arts programming to people living with cancer. With the early support of M.D. Anderson President Dr. John Mendelsohn, and further support from The Menil Collection, Dr. Eduardo Bruera, Dr. Razelle Kurzrock, Susan French and Laura Fletcher (among many others at M.D. Anderson and the Houston community), COLLAGE has, in a short period of time, established pilot programs that have been enthusiastically received by participants and family members. Our programs include art workshops led by talented Houston artists and an Artist-in-Residence Program where artists work one-on-one with patients in waiting rooms, in hospital rooms and in treatment areas. To date we have had over 1,000 participants in our programs. The feedback has confirmed my belief in the power of art to transform lives.  

“Often participants will say ‘I am not creative’, or ‘I haven't done art since I was in fifth grade.’ These same participants often create the most wonderful work, and then return for further workshops — having artists work with them to tap into their creativity is a remarkable thing to witness.

“COLLAGE has been a tremendous source of satisfaction for me, and I feel privileged to be doing this work.  The benefits for participants are as varied as the artwork they create,” she concluded.

Laura Fletcher of Sarasota, FL moved to Houston in 1996 to attend Rice University for graduate school. Recently, someone very close to her passed away from brain cancer. While volunteering at the Menil Collection, she learned about COLLAGE and decided to take a class.

“I enjoyed being part of the class and seeing how the instructors inspired the patients. It also gave me a chance to express some of what I was feeling. The classes made it possible to get the hard-to-verbalize feelings all out.

”Karen Boyce Eckhardt, a three-year cancer survivor, attended her first COLLAGE class December. “I had never held a paint brush in my hand before going to a COLLAGE class, never painted as a child,” says Fletcher.  “I remember feeling freedom when I did this painting because it was done standing rather than sitting. I felt very fluid and free.” 

She continued, “I write fiction and poetry for a living and am always striving to paint with words, I figured why not try to so the same with a paint brush.” 

Wheler, who works with breast cancer patients enrolled in Phase I clinical trials testing new targeted therapies at M. D. Anderson, plans to develop research measuring the impact of COLLAGE on patients’ quality of life.

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