Faces of Long Island celebrates the uniqueness of everyday Long Islanders. In their own words, they tell us about their life experiences, challenges and triumphs. Newsday launched this social media journey into the human experience to shine a light on the diverse people of this wonderful place we call home.

‘2015 and even this past year were hard, though they are reminders that we have one life and need to keep moving forward and doing what we can to enjoy the ride.’

East Hampton

“2015 was hard. I was diagnosed with an unruptured brain aneurysm at age 35 after attending a 5k honoring a friend’s sister, who had passed away of a ruptured brain aneurysm.

“Multiple doctors had told me nothing was wrong, despite experiencing facial drooping and tingling. At the 5K doctors spoke about tests and symptoms and I knew I needed those tests. After surgery, the doctor told me my aneurysm was growing and would have been a fatal rupture if left untreated. Also, within that 12 month period, I lost a dear friend and a cousin. They were ages 35 and 48, respectively. I had started Exploring Paths in 2013 to teach students how to cycle and to get them out exploring and experiencing what NY had to offer. Partnered with the YMCA and Citi Bike classes began, as well as rides to museums, nature preserves, anywhere that might spark an interest, and seeing their reactions to these destinations and experiences was incredibly fulfilling.

“My aneurysm and Sanae’s and Monique’s passing strengthened my desire to find a way to ensure more students and those wanting to explore had the opportunity. That’s where I wanted to make an impact. My career has been in technology, though wanting a mix of my passions I had been toying with the idea of making Exploring Paths full-time.

My aneurysm and Sanae’s and Monique’s passing strengthened my desire to find a way to ensure more students and those wanting to explore had the opportunity.

“In 2019 I began building a tech platform to encourage teens and the young-at-heart to explore the world. COVID sped it up. In March 2020, I was hospitalized, and that April I lost my job. Needing to fully recover, I decided to move to Long Island and spend time on Exploring Paths. EP launched in May, and in addition to helping youth and families find destinations to visit, our app will be supporting local museums’ youth programming. We have 162 explorers and over 1,100 global in-person and virtual destinations and experiences for them to find. I’m also excited to expand the program to Long Island and will begin teaching classes this summer. 2015 and even this past year were hard, though they are reminders that we have one life and need to keep moving forward and doing what we can to enjoy the ride.”

‘I’ll start by saying that I grew up knowing very specifically that I didn’t want to be a rabbi.’

East Hampton

“I’ll start by saying that I grew up knowing very specifically that I didn’t want to be a rabbi. And the reason I had that question posed in my head is because my father’s a rabbi and every single person who I met growing up asked me, ‘Do you want to be a rabbi just like your father?’ And the answer that I had formed in my head was a very concrete, ‘No.’ I always had a strong Jewish identity. I went to Jewish summer camp, went to religious school…but I just knew it wasn’t my path.

“When I got to college, things changed. It was a period of self-discovery. On a whim, I took an intro to Hebrew Bible class. I thought it was an ‘easy A’ because I know all these stories! It turned out not just to be more challenging than I thought, but also very revelatory. It made me think about sacred Jewish text in a way that was deep, meaningful and beyond the surface.

The question became eventually, what do you want to do with your life? I realized that it had something to do with creating a Judaism that was different than what I grew up with — something that would engage the future generations.

“And that was kind of the hook. I didn’t want to become a rabbi just because of that one class, but I did want to take another class. And so eventually I found myself teaching at a religious school nearby my university, studied abroad in Israel, and found an affinity to Judaism in a way that I never really felt before. The question became eventually, what do you want to do with your life? I realized that it had something to do with creating a Judaism that was different than what I grew up with — something that would engage the future generations. The one thing that’s very consistent about Judaism is that it constantly changes from each generation to the next, and that’s partly what’s kept our tradition alive for thousands of years. It’s the ability to adapt, to be creative. And so, although I’m a rabbi like my father in that we share the same profession, I’m very much a rabbi unlike my father. And he’s proud of that.

“When you become a rabbi, one of the traditions is that the president of the college ordains you. But when one of your parents is a rabbi, they also take part in that ordination. My father met me in front of the arch and offered me blessings as I was literally becoming a rabbi. That was one of the more special moments I’ve had with him, where his role as a rabbi is directly associated with who I am today.”