LIVING HISTORY: Janet Singer Applefield was 6 years old when she saw her mother for the last time, divided by a ghetto fence erected by the Nazis in her native Poland, in 1941. Two years later, 33-year-old Maria Singer would be shot to death at the Plaszow concentration camp.
Now 78 and living in Canton, Applefield has spoken publicly for at least 25 years about her harrowing childhood experiences. The only grandchild of a prosperous Jewish family living outside Krakow, the blond, wavy-haired girl was sheltered by a Catholic family and given the birth certificate of a deceased child. After the war ended, her father, Lolek, rescued her from an orphanage for Jewish children. They emigrated to the United States in 1947.
On March 15 at 2:30 p.m., Applefield will visit the Robbins Library in Arlington. Her appearance is part of a series of the programs and discussions inspired by this year’s Arlington Reads Together selection, “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak, which tells the story of a young girl living with a foster family in Germany during World War II.
Applefield said she shares her own story as a “witness to history” to warn of the dangers of prejudice and discrimination. She also discusses instances in which strangers risked their lives to save hers, and how her mother’s fate was uncovered only in the past year through the research of Karolina Panz, a Catholic graduate student in Poland.
“I talk about how choices, big choices and small choices, make history, and so you must think about the ones you make every day,” said Applefield, who still works part time as a clinical social worker. “The message is to be an upstander, not a bystander, any time you see something that is wrong.”
For the complete list of Arlington Reads Together events, which begin at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday with a Guys Book Group discussion at the library, call 781-316-3200 or visit www.robbinslibrary.org. To learn more about Applefield, visit www.janetapplefield.com.
OUTSTANDING ALUMNA: Needham resident Mary Beth Claus Tobin (inset), founder and executive director of the Tobin Family of Schools in Natick, Needham, and Westwood, was recently honored during the 125th anniversary celebrations of Wheelock College in Boston.
Tobin, who holds a master’s degree with a concentration in early childhood education from Wheelock, was one of 125 alumni who were recognized by the college for furthering its mission of improving the lives of children and families.
Tobin is a founding member of the Natick Children’s First Council, Massachusetts Independent Child Care Organization, and Early Childhood Professional Association. She is a former member of the state’s Advisory Council on Early Education and Care.
Tobin was a teacher and mother of two young children when she opened her first preschool in Needham in 1980, in an effort to support working parents with a focus on the whole child. Today, her six schools have programs for preschool through fifth grade, as well as after-school programs for both private- and public-school students.
Tobin, now the mother of four children and grandmother of five, said she was “delighted and most grateful” for the recognition from Wheelock.
“Especially,” she added, “given that it highlights the important role that independent, family-focused early childhood programs play in supporting families, and educating and caring for children.”
TOP VOLUNTEERS : Jill Hai and Marc Rubenstein of Lexington will be presented with the Maxwell Burstein Volunteer Award by Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Boston at the Newton-based agency’s annual gala on Saturday, 7 to 10 p.m., at the Black Falcon Cruise Terminal in Boston.
The award is presented annually to individuals exemplifying the spirit of volunteerism and community leadership.
“We are continuously impressed by the work that JBBBS does throughout our community to make meaningful differences in the lives of children, their families, and adults with disabilities,” Rubenstein said. “We are honored to be selected by this agency that we respect so much, and to be recognized along with the truly impressive prior recipients of the Burstein award.”
Hai is on the board of directors for Combined Jewish Philanthropies, where she is a member of the Commission on Strategic Priorities, and the Organizational Development Committee. In addition, she is a board member at the Lexington Education Foundation, and chairwoman of the town’s Capital Expenditures Committee, and is involved with Temple Isaiah in Lexington. She is a graduate of Cornell University and Vanderbilt Law School.
Rubenstein is vice chairman of the Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters board of directors, and sits on its executive and strategic direction committees. He also serves on the board of overseers at the Boston Museum of Science, the Headmasters Council of the Loomis Chaffee School, and committees of Combined Jewish Philanthropies and Temple Isaiah. A partner at the law firm Ropes & Gray LLP, he is a graduate of Cornell University and Cornell Law School.
For more information, visit www.jbbbs.org.
FRACKING ISSUES: Educator, author, and researcher Henry “Jake” Jacoby of Belmont will be the featured speaker at this week’s Walden Forum session, where he will present “To Frack or Not to Frack: The Shale Gas Revolution and Its Discontents.”
In his presentation, slated for Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the meeting house at First Parish of Wayland, 50 Cochituate Road, Jacoby will describe how advances in drilling technology and hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking’’) of shale resources have resulted in lower gas prices and reduced oil imports. However, the process has been banned in some places because of its troublesome environmental consequences.
Jacoby, an emeritus professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management and a cofounder of the Cambridge school’s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, will present the associated risks, rewards, facts, and fears of fracking. Although Massachusetts does not have terrain suitable for hydraulic fracking, Jacoby said, the issue is still relevant.
“I hope to set the stage for an active discussion of the regulatory and other public policy issues that will be with us for decades to come,” he said.