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Golf outing will raise funds for Parkinson’s research

Three years ago, just after Teaneck surgeon Lou Flancbaum informed family and friends that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, neighbors started bringing the Flancbaums dinner. Rabbi Elliot Schoenberg, a friend and fellow Cong. Beth Sholom worshipper, brought a golf club.

Though both gestures were appreciated by Flancbaum and his wife, Debby, the club proved to be the gift that kept on giving. Flancbaum, now 56, was told by his physician that exercise — yoga, Tai Chi, Pilates, dancing, and activities such as golf — can keep the progressive neurological condition from causing debilitating stiffness and loss of balance. “I had him enrolled in so many classes, he said he felt like an over-programmed 12-year-old,” said his wife.

But it was golf that particularly caught his fancy. So it was only natural to combine his love of golf with the quest for a cure for Parkinson’s, one of the most common disorders in people over 50. The Flancbaums and a committee of volunteers, recruited partly through the Yahoo group Teaneckshuls, will co-chair a June 11 fundraiser at Lochmoor Golf Course in Loch Sheldrake, N.Y., next to Vacation Village. The donation of $180 per player, to benefit the Michael J. Fox Foundation, will include the cost of two kosher meals.

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Members of the Pars for Parkinson’s committee include, from left, back row, Phil Rhodes, Ira Goetz, Debby Flancbaum, Dr. Lou Flancbaum, Brian Blitz, and Dr. Les Glubo; middle row, Mindy Silverstein, Ricki Kudowitz, and Avi Goldin; and foreground, Marlene Rhodes. Not pictured are Cindy Blitz, Tova Flancbaum, L’via Weisinger, and Alex and Vicki Wulwick.

“We chose the Fox Foundation because, outside of the [federal] National Institutes of Health, it is the only one really focusing on cutting-edge research likely to lead to new frontiers in the search for a cure,” said Flancbaum. “Its goal is to find a cure and then put a lock on the door.”

Meeting each Sunday for the past six months, the “Pars for Parkinson’s” committee — whose members hail from diverse Jewish communities in Teaneck, River Edge, Fair Lawn, and Englewood — has been recruiting players for the event under the auspices of the foundation’s Team Fox (see details at http://www.teamfox.org/2010/parsforparkinsons). Members include L’via Weisinger, Les Glubo, Marlene and Phil Rhodes, Cindy and Brian Blitz, Ricki Kudowitz, Orna Zack, Avi Goldin, Tova Flancbaum (Lou Flancbaum’s daughter), Ira Goetz, and Vicki and Alex Wulwick.

“We thought we’d raise $5,000, but have raised about $20,000,” said Debby Flancbaum more than a month before the outing. “I think ultimately we’ll see between $25,000 and $30,000, which is amazing. We’ve even gotten checks from total strangers.”

Thanks to the committee’s efforts, the only non-donated expense is the rental of the facility, a Sullivan County golf course where Lou Flancbaum takes lessons with resident pro Mike Deaver. “It’s an easy course, so it makes middle-aged Jewish guys feel good about themselves,” joked his wife. The former surgeon now shoots a respectable 94 or 95 on average.

Before his condition forced him into early retirement, Flancbaum was not a stereotypical golfer doctor. “Golfing passes a lot of time and is very enjoyable, which I think in my former life I never would have liked,” he said. “If you want to do it correctly, it poses motor challenges that are beneficial for my Parkinson’s. The right golf swing is complicated, which is why even Tiger Woods has a full-time coach.”

Flancbaum explained that intellectual and physical neurological challenges are considered at least as important as the Israeli-developed medication he takes to slow the disorder’s progression. “People used to think that once a nerve cell was injured, it was lost. But we are starting to understand that cells, and even organs, have ways of opening new pathways to weasel around injury.... The more you challenge yourself, the more you can recruit new cells and neurons to maintain function.”

He added that a possible link has recently been discovered between Parkinson’s and a form of Gaucher’s disease, a neurological condition prevalent in Ashkenazi Jews. Parkinson’s is not always hereditary, but this link may lead to its classification as a “Jewish disease,” Flancbaum said.

Sponsorship of Pars for Parkinson’s is solidly Jewish. Breakfast will be donated by Fusion Caterers, which caters lunch at New Milford’s Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County. The Flancbaums got to know owner Jay Marcus while volunteering at Schechter, where their granddaughter, Aleeza Reich, is a student.

Clark Lofman of Fish of the Cs in Teaneck is donating lunch; cakes are contributed by Zadie’s Kosher Bakery in Fair Lawn. Golf shirts are courtesy of Jonathan Speiser of Dougies BBQ in Teaneck. Five Star Caterers, also based in Teaneck, is throwing in the golf balls — three per player. In addition, Hoerr’s is sending potato chips and ShopRite of Liberty is providing soft drinks.

Cigars and beer, traditional to golfing culture, will be available as well. Debby Flancbaum said that nicotine in controlled doses has been found to ease the symptoms of Parkinson’s, “although I wouldn’t encourage people to start smoking.”

M&M Auto Group of Liberty is contributing the hole-in-one prize: a three-year lease on a 2010 Ford Fusion. “Usually, you have to buy insurance for a donated car, but they are covering that, too,” said Debby Flancbaum. “We’ve just been very lucky that the community has rallied around this idea.”

Committee member Avi Goldin said, “This is a cause that is of particular interest to me and my wife, Rena. We are familiar with the Michael J. Fox Foundation and participated in a previous event in New York City. My wife saw one of the original posts about the tournament [on teaneckshuls] and I responded that I would like to bring a foursome of golfers. Lou thanked me and asked if I would be willing to help them plan the event, and I agreed.”

The Flancbaums hope to get close to the maximum capacity of 72 golfers, and if the event is successful, plan to make it an annual outing.

 
 

Golfing fundraiser renamed in memory of Paul Kudowitz

Pars for Parkinsons benefit tees off in May

An annual golfing benefit for Parkinson’s research was started by and for one Bergen County Jewish family last year. Now, the circle has widened.

Pars for Parkinson’s was the brainchild of Teaneck’s Dr. Lou Flancbaum and his wife, Debby. Lou Flancbaum, a surgeon, had to retire at age 53 in 2007 because of the progressive neurological condition. He discovered his passion for golf after his physician recommended exercise to stave off the stiffness and loss of balance that accompany Parkinson’s disease.

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Dr. Paul Kudowitz COURTESY KUDOWITZ FAMILY

Last spring, the inaugural event raised more than $44,000 for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, with the help of a cadre of volunteers recruited through the “teaneckshuls” and “englewoodshuls” Yahoo groups. One of those volunteers was Ricki Kudowitz of Englewood, herself a Parkinson’s patient.

This year, the May 15 event has been renamed Pars for Parkinson’s: The Paul Kudowitz Memorial Golf Outing, in memory of Ricki Kudowitz’s husband, an anesthesiologist killed by a car as he walked home from davening at his son Brian’s home in Englewood on Dec. 24. A month later, his 13-year-old daughter, Moriah School eighth-grader Sabrina, came along to the Pars committee meeting.

When Debby Flancbaum showed the group some sample Michael J. Fox Foundation rubber bracelets, Sabrina offered to sell them at Moriah and got permission to do so.

“I’ve sold 35, and there are more kids waiting for the next batch to come in,” Sabrina told The Jewish Standard.

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At last year’s Pars for Parkinson golf outing are, from left, Steven Levy, Dr. Lou Flancbaum, and Jay Greenspan. This year’s outing has been renamed in memory of Dr. Paul Kudowitz of Englewood, pictured at top, who was killed in a hit-run accident Dec. 24. Paula Kelly/Paula Kelly Designs

The bracelets are available in royal blue and pink, with orange and red lettering that says “Team Fox” and “Paul Kudowitz Memorial Golf Outing.”

The next batch of 1,000 also will be sold by Sabrina’s older sisters — Cara, 21, at Rutgers University, and Ariele, 25, and Shanna, 24, who live and work in Manhattan. In addition, bracelets will be sold at the Frisch School in Paramus by Haley Silverstein, whose mother is on the Pars committee and whose grandfather had Parkinson’s. The Kudowitz daughters made a Facebook page to help promote the bracelets.

Brian Kudowitz and his wife, Laura, are raising funds for the charity event and are planning to compete in a triathlon this summer for the benefit of the Fox Foundation. “Laura bakes and sells challah every week and earmarks the proceeds to the triathlon and Pars,” said her mother-in-law.

The oldest Kudowitz daughter, Robyn, and her husband, Jonathan Katz, had volunteered to donate hot dogs and burgers for the outing through their Kosher Sports business even before the death of her father.

“We’re a family of doers,” said Ricki Kudowitz. It had been her husband who had noticed the posting on Englewoodshuls about the Pars for Parkinsons committee and had encouraged her to get involved. “He was always a proactive person. He believed you get things by going after them.”

Children of several other committee members have pitched in to solicit corporate and goods-and-services donations, said Flancbaum, including her own daughter, Rachel Sicolo, who works at Kessler Rehab Center and got a donation of anesthetic ointment for the golfers.

“Everyone’s children were moved by what happened with Paul,” said Debby Flancbaum. “It’s very touching. Haley Silverstein never met the Kudowitzes but she wants to start coming to the meetings with her mother. The story has touched people and made them think twice about the fragility of life. There is a feeling that they want some good to come from [the tragedy].”

The second annual Pars for Parkinson’s Golf Outing will take place at Terry Brae Golf Course in South Fallsburg, N.Y. “The excitement and tremendous support mounting around this year’s event make us confident that we will reach and surpass our new goal of $50,000,” said Lou Flancbaum.

The event costs $180 per person or $600 per foursome and includes golf, a cart, kosher continental breakfast and barbecue lunch, beer, soft drinks, a Team Fox golf shirt, a sleeve of balls and other assorted items. The hole-in-one prize is a car, donated by M and M Auto Group of Liberty, N.Y. Hole sponsorships are available for $250, $500, $750, and $1,000. Details are available at www.tinyurl.com/pars-for-parkinson-s.

Among other businesses donating goods and services are Herr’s; Monticello ShopRite; David’s Cookies of Fairfield; Jon-Da Printing of Jersey City; and Butterflake Bake Shop, Sababa Grill, Sammy’s Bagels, Ma’adan, and BLD Fine Art, all of Teaneck.

The Pars for Parkinson’s committee members are Teaneck residents Brian and Cindy Blitz, Ira Goetz, Avi Goldin, Les Glubo, Phillip and Marlene Rhodes, Rabbi Barry Schlesinger, Marcy Rubin, L’via Weisinger, Mike Markel, and Bob and Suzan Topaz; Mindy Silverstein of Fair Lawn; Alex and Vicki Wulwick of River Edge; Tova Flancbaum of Manhattan; and Englewood residents Ricki Kudowitz, Jonathan and Robyn Katz, Brian and Laura Kudowitz, and Sabrina Kudowitz.

 
 
 
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