A CBE member for 30 years, Carol Shuchman organizes our annual Respite Bed Shelter, which she helped to launch eight years ago. The five-week shelter – operated in conjunction with CAMBA – is hosted in the Rotunda; it provides 12 homeless men with a warm, safe place to sleep, and a hot, protein-based meal prepared and served by CBE families and volunteers.
Photographed and Interviewed by Nate Jaffe, Communications Associate
“Do what you love.” – Carol
Nate: How long have you been connected to CBE and what brought you here?
Carol: We began our connection with CBE through an interfaith marriage course led by Rabbi Weider. Several years later – when our eldest son entered ECC – we began a more regular engagement, which has continued through three bar/bat mitzvahs and two cycles as a Trustee. Both of us were raised with strong ties to organized religion – my grandfather was a well-known Conservative Rabbi in Philadelphia and Kendall’s father and extended family include several United Church of Christ pastors – so finding a spiritual home was important.
Nate: Where are you from? If not, NYC, how did you get here?
Carol: Born in Center City Philadelphia, my late father’s decision to become a law professor took us all over the U.S.: Connecticut, Arkansas, Indiana, Maryland and California (I was in 3 high schools in 4 years) ; I graduated from high school in Palo Alto, and then came back East to Brandeis and Brown. With an M.A. in demography, New York beckoned to launch my career – initially in the Port Authority’s Planning and Development Department, and various other positions with the PA over an 18-year period. My parents lived in Greenwich Village during that time, and Kendall and I married and began our family in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens.
Nate: What motivates you?
Carol: I like problem-solving, especially when other people can be engaged in the effort. Although sometimes it’s easier on my own, adding others to the mix can make it more fun. Coordinating our two-block association is a great example.
Nate: Where is the most interesting place you’ve visited?
Carol: Turkey. Our last au pair was from Istanbul. She lived with us for several years while completing her masters at Brooklyn College, and began her work career. As her “New York family” we were honored guests at her wedding, the centerpiece of two wonderful weeks exploring Turkey – the moonscape of Cappadocia, hot-air ballooning, ruins at Ephesus, and the cosmopolitan sites of Istanbul. And it was World Cup season, so every stop had to be timed to watch the U.S. matches, the last of which was on a hotel roof near the Blue Mosque!
Nate: What in your life are you most proud of?
Carol: Apart from my husband and three children, I am very proud of the CBE shelter, which Betty Leigh Hutchinson and I started together, and annually review our commitment to it on behalf of the CBE community. It’s a great way to express our Jewish values. Fortunately, CBE has the space, a congregation and neighbors willing to volunteer – all of which makes it work as an annual exercise. CBE Staff provide great support, but it’s really a volunteer-driven effort
Nate: Anything you’re currently reading or watching that you’re really invested in?
Carol: I just finished Michael Ondaatje’s book Warlight; it’s the story of a family around the time of World War II in London, and the parents – who are spies – basically leave their kids and they try to keep them safe, but wartime London is a crazy place. It’s an amazing story, and goes back in forth in time, really well done. I’m also watching Mrs. Wilson on PBS. It’s also about people in MI5 – a man who dies, after which his wife discovers that he actually had three other families, six other kids, about which she knew nothing. It’s actually based on the memoir of one of the women who was married to the man.
Nate: Is there a movie, TV show, or book that had a big impact on you?
Carol: Recently, it’s Call the Midwives – about women in a poor section of London in the 1950s and 60s. It hits on all the issues that poor women today are dealing with – family planning, domestic violence, lack of education and other challenges.
And a unique experience: just released, the new PBS-produced movie The Chaperone by the Downton Abbey team; our house was used for the apartment scenes with Elizabeth McGovern and Haley Lu Richardson.
Nate: Describe a past experience, from any point in your life, that defined or impacted who you are today.
Carol: Like many New Yorkers, 9/11 is that event. For 18 years, I worked in the World Trade Center, helping manage the complex itself. That morning, running a bit late, I was on my way to my 88th floor office – buying coffee in the mall – when debris began to fall from the impact of the first plane. I was able to quickly evacuate, watching with horror as the morning’s tragic events unfolded. I reconnected with my husband at my parents Greenwich Village apartment, and eventually began the walk home to Brooklyn, meeting friends and neighbors along the way. When we arrived on our block, neighbors were waiting to greet us – making me appreciate community and family even more than I ever had. And then the candles came out to light the night.
Nate: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Carol: Do what you love.
Nate: What do you like to do when you have time off?
Carol: I’m an avid reader – all types (I’m in three reading groups), but especially love murder-mysteries. And knitting has become a passion – both on my own and with friends.
Volunteer at the Respite Bed Shelter!
Carol is looking for volunteers to help at the upcoming shelter, beginning May 19.
Click here to learn more and sign up!