Martha and Michel moved to Greenbelt in 1999 to take positions with the United States Department of Agriculture in Beltsville. Martha is a plant physiologist and Michel is a soil scientist. Their mutual interest in agricultural science led directly to their first meeting as graduate students at Kansas State University in 1988. After maintaining a sometimes long-distance courtship, Martha and Michel were married in 1994. Katia came along in 1997. Additionally, Martha and Michel have two adult children, Anna and Noah, from Martha’s first marriage. They are also the proud grandparents of beautiful Emma Liore Rose.
Upon moving to Greenbelt, Martha and Michel began searching for a synagogue, which Martha says was “very important” to them. They recall first meeting Alyce and Arnold Strasser of blessed memory, who gave them a sense of welcome to the community. David of blessed memory and Linda Spevack invited them for Pesach, and Martha and Michel knew they had found their spiritual home. They promptly joined Mishkan Torah .
Martha and Michel enthusiastically plunged into the life of their new synagogue. Martha remembers bringing Katia to help behind the scenes when Katia was only four years old, performing tasks such as working in the kitchen for the Friday night services and assisting at the annual Sisterhood Rummage Sale. Martha has fond memories of Katia collecting the HighHoliday chairs from under the basement, since she was small enough to reach chairs the adults could not access easily. Katia went on to set up a youth lounge in an underused Karp family school classroom as her bat mitzvah project, an enterprise which her kvelling parents enthusiastically supported. For two years, Martha or Michel prepared and served food every Wednesday for the Karp Family School, which meant that stressed families who had to feed their children on the fly between secular school and Hebrew School did not have to worry about dinner for their families.
Martha served on the Religious Committee for four years. She also helped on the Honors Committee for the High Holidays. As an active member of the Landscaping Committee, Martha managed the front yard landscaping, including the weeding and planting. She rounded up Michel and Katia to help out. Martha and Katia are both enthusiastic Sisterhood Members, and this year Martha is the Co-President of Sisterhood. Katia was even given an honorary membership when she was a preteen thanks to her enthusiastic contributions. Martha helped initiate the process of Sisterhood purchasing biodegradable tableware. She is the current Chair of Sisterhood catering. Martha and Katia and sometimes Michel have worked for years in the kitchen helping to prepare meals for special events such as b’nai mitzvot affairs, Sisterhood Pesach Seder, Keter Shem Tov, and the ever-popular Chanukah latke parties. Martha and sometimes Michel also worked at the Mishkan Torah booth at Fed Ex Field, and both Martha and Michel assisted at the Labor Day french fry stand nearly every year. Martha and Katia’s proudest achievement at Mishkan Torah has been their general support of Mishkan Torah activities and groups to help maintain “a vibrant community on a sustainable basis.”
Michel put in four years of distinguished service as Co-Chair with Diane Rubinstein of the Children’s Education Committee. That period was one of transition and growth for the Karp Family School, which saw the advent of Bret Goldstein as Education Director. During his time as Co-Chair, Michel organized the annual Book Fair every November. Michel remembers that he read more book reviews during those years than he had read books in his entire life. Michel considers the annual Book Fair to be his proudest Mishkan Torah achievement. Martha initiated the selling of fair trade chocolate, coffee, and tea during the Book Fair and Katia manned the cash register. The Book Fair benefited the Karp Family School. During those years, Martha Michel and Katia also assisted with organizing and running the annual Purim Carnival.Michel and Martha have shared their scientific expertise with the community. They have presented two programs on agricultural sustainability and climate change for the Social Action Committee and were on a panel addressing sustainable living. Additionally, both Martha and Michel have been members of the Social Action Committee.
For Katia, the Young Leadership Award will be the icing on the cake after her May graduation from Eleanor Roosevelt High School as a member of the National Honor Society with close to a perfect academic average. An avid soccer and lacrosse player, Katia engaged in a variety of school and community activities in addition to her wonderful work at Mishkan Torah. She is proudest of her involvement with the Interfaith Youth for Climate Justice and her tenure as a page with the Maryland State Legislature. Additionally, The Greenbelt City Council appointed Katia in 2013 to its Youth Advisory Committee, of which she is now the Chair. Katia plans to attend the Merit Scholars Program at the University of Maryland this fall.
You will want to be there on October 17 as Mishkan Torah honors this special family with the Young Leadership Award. There will be a Special Kiddush after the service where you can meet and greet our honorees. Although there will no charge for the Kiddush, in order to get an idea how much food to prepare, reservations are requested. There is also an opportunity to make donations in honor of our three special people. Reservations and donations may be made online or by using the flyer found in the September issue of “The Trumpet”. Make your reservations and mark this event on the calendar for the New Year now!