M.O.T.: Member of the Tribe

A supporter of local charities and the M.O.T. behind M.O.T.

By Diana Brement, Jewish Sound Columnist

My editor ran into Ken Alterman at the Seattle Jewish Film Festival and rightly thought that he would be an excellent Member of the Tribe for this final newspaper edition of “Member of the Tribe.”

Savers CEO Ken Alterman
Savers CEO Ken Alterman,

A long-time supporter of the Stroum Jewish Community Center, Ken says he first became interested helping the J raise money when he worked for the local Pepsi Bottling Group — a job he moved here in 1994 to take. “We put a very aggressive program together to help with funding at the J” with a bank of vending machines, he says.

Now, as president and CEO of Savers Inc., the company that runs Value Village thrift stores, he is working to have his company expand the local charities it supports, which would hopefully include Jewish agencies.

Value Village sales have historically supported three charities: Northwest Center, Boys and Girls Club of King County, and Sight Connection for the Blind. Supporting other community initiatives is “something we’ve dreamed of doing,” he says, but it takes “a lot of technology…to do it right.” With that technology in place now, the company is moving closer to letting donors of goods choose different charities to support. It’s “kind of a no-brainer,” he observes.

That model was established with the recent opening of a Value Village in Issaquah, which led to a partnership with the Issaquah Schools Foundation. It might be soon — nothing official has happened yet — that you’ll bring your bag of used items to Value Village and designate proceeds to a local Jewish charity.

While he spent his early years in the Bronx, in an Italian and Jewish neighborhood just about a mile from Yankee stadium, Ken’s family moved to Stony Brook on New York’s Long Island when he was still in elementary school. “It was the first day of band practice in 7th grade” that he met his wife, Jennifer. Members of Herzl-Ner Tamid congregation, and the SJCC, of course, the couple has two grown children who live and work in New York.

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“I started writing this column for the Jewish Transcript in about 2000. It was called ‘Around the Town,’” says Diana Brement, “which didn’t make sense, since we were a statewide newspaper.” In those halcyon days, the paper was bigger and the column was longer with “room for three subjects and bigger words.”

Diana started with the Transcript in 1987 as the paper’s graphic designer, in desktop publishing’s early days. “We worked on tiny screens,” she remembers, and printed out 8-1/2 x 11 sheets of paper, which were pasted up on long light tables that ran the length of the office walls and hallway. (The tables still dominate the newsroom, but the lights haven’t been turned on in over a decade.) Diana also wrote book reviews and author interviews.

“I left the Transcript in 1993 to go back to school,” Diana says. “I needed some prerequisites and to do some volunteer work, and wanted to devote myself full time to that.” In March of 1994, Diana was accepted into the UW School of Social Work. In May of 1994 she became pregnant — with twins.

“I went to school for a quarter, then took leave for two years,” she says.

At that point it became clear that full-time motherhood would win out over full-time schooling. Around then, the Transcript’s editor, Donna Blankinship, called her to do some freelance writing. Diana’s been writing about people and books ever since.

Diana and her husband Larry Katz moved to Seattle in 1982 and she has worked continually in the Jewish community since 1984, when she became the communications coordinator for Temple De Hirsch Sinai.

Admitting to a weakness for all things food, Diana says she loves writing about foodies.

“It makes my heart go pitter-pat,” she says.

Another favorite topic is young people.

“It sounds corny,” she says, “but it really gives me hope for our world when I interview young people doing amazing things for tikkun olam.”

Diana looks forward to having a little more free time, and to actually reading — not just skimming— some of the review books she’s held on to. She hopes readers will find her from time to time in the new magazine that emerges later this year.

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Short Takes: Goldie Gendler Silverman has published her first novel, “Show Me Your Face.” The cookbook and textbook author and journalist says “it was fun to write, but not so much fun to publish.” She used Amazon’s Create Space platform, which means she did almost all the work herself. And, she adds, “now I have to market it.” Look for it on Amazon.com, of course. Goldie also wrote the enduringly popular “Backpacking with Babies.” I think we can call it a Northwest classic.

Thank you, loyal readers!