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By Carol Felixson

“Back in the late 1980s, on one of my weekly walks in the neighborhood, I realized that what I thought was a bank on Main Street was really a synagogue!” longtime Mishkon member Phyllis Sorter said.
When she returned in 1999, at the beginning of Rabbi Dan Shevitz’s term as rabbi, she said she felt at home in the neighborhood.  Phyllis appreciated that Mishkon offered Saturday morning Shabbat services and was close enough to her house so she could walk to shul.
“I liked how services were lay-led and the friendliness of the people,” Phyllis said. She mentioned Jeff Gornbein and Fredricka Martin, who immediately invited her to lunch.
She thought, “This is the place for me!” Jeff took care of Phyllis’ feeling intimidated by all the Hebrew in the service.  She took his Prayerbook Hebrew class, and she became a model student.  Sometime after joining Mishkon in October 1999, Phyllis said, she wanted to learn to chant Haftorah, and she began practicing.
“My repertoire includes Micah, Vayigash, the middle section of Yonah, Ki Teitzei, and Balak, which holds a special place in my heart since it was my first Haftorah I chanted in memory of my mother’s yartzeit,” she said. “It was a challenge to learn it and even more to recite it in front of other people.” But in her quiet and gentle way, she has embraced challenges her whole life.
Phyllis is a Renaissance woman. She went to nearby University High School followed by her undergraduate years at UC Berkeley, then a double master’s degree in Anthropology and Library Sciences at UCLA. She appreciates the people of California for a good education at a reasonable price in those days, she said,
“I finally graduated with a law degree from UCLA Law School,” she added.  Phyllis retired in 2014 from her first and only law job, working at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center, where she practiced federal and hospital law.
Not only did Phyllis have a thriving career at the VA, but she also met, married in 1991, and worked with her Bashert, Tom Sorter!
“We started out as friends, then colleagues, and romance bloomed,” she said.  They are a physically active couple, practicing yoga together for many years. They play tennis and bike regularly.  Phyllis and Tom are frequent travelers. They enjoy San Luis Obispo, New York, Tahiti and environs, and Europe – particularly France.
“Tom’s dream,” Phyllis said, “is to go to Antarctica. I’m happy to tag along.”
A lover of all things French, she has studied the language for more than 10 years. Many of the books she reads and CDs she listens to were purchased in Tahiti and are in French.
“Besides traveling,” Phyllis said, “in my spare time, I love playing Rummy Q, reading, watching PBS television shows and listening to music.”  Her favorites include mellow rock, Baroque, Blues, and Classic Rock, She also enjoys music at Mishkon, like the Kabbalat services led by Rabbi Josh and Happie Hoffman.
She would like to see a resurrection of Blessings and Brunch at Mishkon. She has no problem finding food to eat. “I was originally a vegetarian,” Phyllis said. “I’ve now added fish and chicken to my diet.”
Never bored, she finds that her pet cats and volunteer work keep her quite entertained and busy. Phyllis volunteers two days a week at Best Friend’s Kitten Nursery, whose focus is finding foster homes for the kitties. She has two cats at home, an old street thug, Cassio, and a younger kitty, Bruno, who is quite pretty and quite rambunctious. Her volunteer hours extend to Mishkon.
“I served my time on the Board,” Phyllis said. “I helped Adrienne Enzer start our once-a-month Monday Game Day, and now I enjoy lighter-weight jobs – doing odds and ends like stuffing envelopes, pulling weeds, and painting railings!”
Phyllis is lucky to live by two mottos. The first is from her mother:  “Do the right thing. Don’t indulge the self or fool yourself. And know the difference between need and want.”  The second is the last line from Micah, “To do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.”
Thinking about what she likes about Mishkon, Phyliis said, “Everything.  Mishkon rocks!” If Mishkon rocks, then Phyllis Sorter is one of Mishkon’s rock stars!
Thu, June 13 2024 7 Sivan 5784