This article appeared in the May 19, 2006 Jewish Advocate.
With Newton-bred flair, they uphold online community
By Susie Davidson
In the 20th century, it was the shtetl. In the 21st, it’s ShalomBoston.com.
The value of community can never be understated in Jewish culture, and the Newton-based website, with a homepage banner that states: “Everything For and About the Jewish Community in Greater Boston and Beyond,” carries tradition into a new age. Underneath is a link to the American Jewish World Service’s Darfur Action Campaign. A moving timeline rolls Ha’Aretz updates as a photo of a boy draped in an Israeli flag tops a section celebrating Yom Ha’Atzmaut. There are display ads, sidebars on the food section, summer camps, a marketplace, education, and Shalom.com’s signature store, and a subscription window. At the bottom is a “Did You Know?” section on Yom HaShoah. On the left, a vertical box holds links to the site’s informational bounty: demographics, local points of interest, calendars, a synagogue and minyan list, eruv information, Torah commentary, and Jewish life cycle needs, as well as resources for singles, volunteers, housing and job-hunters, trivia questions and opinion polls, For Sale items, a community forum, and more. It’s busy, yes, but indispensable. Just ask the site’s 400 visitors (responsible for thousands of daily hits), or the 2300+ subscribers to the weekly email newsletter.
The food and community forums facilitate invaluable interaction. Recent food posts include recipes, views on area Kosher spots, and event planning tips. Community posts announce art exhibits, an impending visit from a paper-cutter from Haifa, a Sunday Brunch club, a Hebrew-language baby playgroup, and a sale on Israeli DVD’s. Messages also pose questions on finding a Seniors group, a good Jewish man, genealogy help, a business partner and more. A “Chaimslist” right in our midst! Who knew?
The site was launched in August, 2000 aiming to become the premier on-line resource for Greater Boston’s Jewish community. Its extensive, searchable database covers local events, answers “Jewish” questions, and provides a yellow pages-type directory.
“If you are going to Boston, have a look here before you go,” said the Jewish Agency for Israel, which early on, cited Shalom.com as a Top Site of 2001.
“People have exchanged thoughts on Jews for Jesus, Holocaust
education, Palestinian politics, and more,” says Shalom.com founder and President Jamie Stolper. “People moving to the area have asked about different neighborhoods’ religious and secular characteristics,” she said, adding that the Calendar is the second most popular page after the home page. “Except around holidays, when the traffic to the recipes and food page hits the roof!”
ShalomBoston.com has also produced resource booklets on the Boston area for groups planning local conventions and events. Clients have included such the Maccabi Games, Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education, the Bureau of Jewish Education Special Education Department, and the Association of Jewish Libraries.
Stolper and her brother, co-founder Ross Silverstein, are third generation Newtonites. She attended Williams and Ward Elementary Schools, Weeks Junior High School, and Newton High School. Their mother, Vivienne Stolper Kalman, received an M.A. in Contemporary Jewish Studies in the first graduating class of what is now the Hornstein Program at Brandeis. Their father was a clinical child psychologist who worked in Newton schools.
“We are combining our love of Judaism with our business backgrounds,” said Stolper, who holds a bachelors degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a masters degree from M.I.T.'s Sloan School of Management. For ten years, she was a Senior Economics Consultant for Data Resources, Inc. Other clients included McGraw Hill, Inc. and Ernst & Young.
As the Hebrew valedictorian, she also received a Bachelor of Hebrew Literature from Hebrew College, along with the Benjamin Trustman Prize for General Excellence. A trustee of the college for over 20 years, she has served as its Treasurer and Budget Committee Chair, and is a member of its Board of Directors and Strategic Planning Committee. She has taught at Prozdor, Temple Israel, Temple Beth Elohim and Congregation Or Atid.
The very purposeful Stolper has been a board member of CJP’s Young Women's Division, and a member of the its Social Planning and Allocations Committee's Subcommittee on Jewish Education. She also served on the Executive Board of The American Jewish Committee. Both she and her mother have participated in the Synagogue Council of Massachusetts’s Unity Mission to New York City.
She lives in Auburndale with her husband David, who is a third generation Newtonite as well, just a few streets from both of their childhood homes. They have three sons: the youngest, Aaron, attends Brown Middle School. This month, Harold will receive a master’s degree from Columbia University in social planning and Samuel, a bachelor’s degree from Brown University in bio-medical engineering.
Stolper has been president of Newton Public School Parent-Teacher Organizations and the co-president of the PTO Council, and was active in the parent community at Solomon Schechter of Greater Boston. She is also active in Newton PAC, a group for parents of Newton schoolchildren with special needs.
Her family members were founding contributors to The Rashi School; she and her brother were co-chairs of its Cantors in Concert event. She is a member of Temple Emanuel and Temple Israel, a life member of Hadassah and the Brandeis University National Women’s Committee. She has served on Temple Emmanuel’s Finance and Administration Subcommittee of the Long-Term Strategic Planning Committee.
The family’s Newton ties, both religious and civic, are profound. The older sons studied at Prozdor, as will the youngest, following his May 14 graduation from Temple Emanuel. David Stolper has been active in Newton Little League and has run the Newton Athletic Association’s basketball program for 3rd-12th graders for many years. His manufacturing business, NPC Corp., is located in Newton.
“We chose to settle in Newton and raise our family here because of our deep personal roots in the community and the excellent services provided by the city,” said Jamie Stolper, who cited diversity, the varied characters of Newton’s villages, a first-class public library and school system, numerous playgrounds and parks, a farmers’ market, recreational activities, the involvement of residents in city life, and the responsiveness of the city’s elected officials and city departments.
Ross Silverstein, who holds a B.S. in Management from Boston College, an S.M. in Management from M.I.T.’s Sloan School and a J.D. from the B.U. School of Law, is the CEO of Natick-based iPROMOTEu, an internet company based in Natick. He was Executive Vice President and General Counsel for RE/MAX and a corporate attorney at Goodwin, Proctor & Hoar. He has been on Congregation Or Atid's Board of Directors and was Co-Chair of its Ritual committee; he was on the Board of Directors at the Rashi School as well. He and his wife have four children.
Content manager Julie Weisman is a second-generation Newtonite who met Stolper through Newton PTO work, where they discovered they had taken ballet lessons together as children. Adam Grossman, who was a computer science student at Brandeis, is webmaster. Harold Stolper works in administrative and technical areas.
Visitors can procure, along with crochet instructions for a post-9/11 Stars & Stripes Kippah designed by a 9-year old boy, and Stolper’s killer recipe for angel food cake with lemon-lime glaze, a number of Shalom-Boston emblem items that include a baseball-style hat, a tote bag, glass cups and a cuddly Lion of Judah.
Future innovations include an updated and more detailed database. “Our Marketplace will feature a classified ad section, and we will focus on volunteer and giving opportunities at our local charities and other non-profits,” said Stolper. Chat rooms and a Jewish personals section are also in the works. “There will be something for all components of our local Jewish community, including teenagers, singles, families, seniors, and individuals with special needs,” she continued. Guest columnists and original feature articles will add information, commentary, and humor. Stolper hopes that advertising and commercial support will increase as well.
“In order to continue to grow, ShalomBoston.com is always seeking investors who would like to reap the future benefits of an expanding business serving the needs of the local Jewish community,” she said.
Make the Kosher click: www.shalomboston.com.