Josh Zakim Advances the Lenny Zakim Fund
The legacy of community champion Leonard Zakim is carried on by his family and the fund established in his name
February 25, 2013
At the age of 16, Saul Perlera arrived in Boston from El Salvador after a harrowing childhood. “I was going to be drafted into the guerrilla military against my will. I really did not understand the war at all, and I did not want any part of it,” says Perlera. “El Salvador was in turmoil and very unsafe, and there were no opportunities for a better life.” His father was killed when he was 7, and his three brothers and his sister were raised by his widowed mother. After making the difficult decision to leave his mother and siblings behind, Perlera immigrated to the United States, settling in East Boston. He lived with his uncle, who helped him find a full-time job at a factory. He also worked part-time as a janitor, making $3.65 an hour. A few years later, Perlera enrolled in English as a second language (ESL) classes at the East Boston Adult Education Center. He didn’t want to work the long, arduous hours at the factory for the rest of his life, and he knew that improving his English was his key to a better life. At the Center he completed his ESL coursework and then obtained a GED. His experience there gave him the knowledge and confidence to enroll in college and years later to open Perlera Real Estate, a profitable firm in East Boston—and to secure the better life he’d dreamed of when he immigrated to the city.
Perlera’s success was partly fueled by philanthropist Leonard Zakim, though Perlera didn’t know it at the time. A lawyer, the executive director of the New England Anti-Defamation League, and a tireless champion for civil rights, especially those of people stricken with poverty, Zakim established a fund that helps support nearly 50 grassroots organizations each year with grants of $5,000 to $15,000. One of those groups has long been the East Boston Adult Education Center. The fund has grown since Perlera started his journey, and since Zakim’s death in 1999 its work has been carried on by Zakim’s family. This year The Lenny Zakim Fund gave out $500,000, its largest sum yet, to a variety of organizations helmed by people like Dominic Avellani, founder and executive director of the Center.
Avellani’s story echoes those of many of his students. He was born in the mountains of Abruzzi, east of Rome, where he lived with no running water and little food. In 1958, at the age of 10, he immigrated to the US with his family and settled in the North End. He went on to earn two master’s degrees and work as a guidance counselor in the Boston public schools for 33 years. His idea for the Center came after watching his 70-year-old father struggle, and ultimately fail, to become an American citizen because of his poor knowledge of the English language and US history. Avellani vowed to help others succeed and did so by opening the East Boston Adult Education Center, assisting people like Perlera and later Miguel Andrade, who came to the Center with his wife to learn English and study for their citizenship tests. Avellani remained involved in the couple’s lives even after they had gained citizenship and opened a profitable grocery store. When he saw that their two daughters weren’t in school, he encouraged them to earn their GEDs at the Center.
When Avellani first met Lenny Zakim in 1995, Zakim was impressed by how the school was able to cater to many nationalities and stay open without taking money from the city, state, or federal government. The grassroots nature of the school, with its small budget, volunteer teachers, and storefront facility, inspired Zakim to help fund the Center.
“I am always impressed by the hard work of the students during my visits and have been lucky to speak at several of their graduation ceremonies,” says Josh Zakim, who now helps run his late father’s fund. “It is always an incredibly moving experience to see how the staff and students have achieved so much, and it is very important to me to be in the same place that my dad visited more than 15 years ago. Witnessing my father’s dedication to the pursuit of economic justice has always inspired me.”
Much of The Lenny Zakim Fund’s grant money comes from the annual Young Leaders’ Casino Night, cochaired by Josh Zakim, Sam Slater, and Amy Belkin. The Slater and Belkin families pay for most of the event’s cost, allowing all the proceeds to go directly to the Fund. In the last few years, the Fund has focused on violence prevention and job training. This often means working with nonprofit youth groups such as Youth and Family Enrichment Services, Dorchester Youth Collaborative, Journeys of Hope, and Venturing Out. While the money is critical for keeping these organizations running, the Fund also provides staff resources and training to help them assist their communities. It holds seminars and institutes for grantees on management, fundraising, and networking, as well as offering professional counseling in various fields. “We want to be able to give everyone the chance to learn English and become a citizen,” says Avellani. “The Lenny Zakim Fund is one of the few that helps small organizations, and in doing that it allows us to give our students the opportunity to fulfill their dreams.”
The fourth annual Lenny Zakim Fund Young Leaders’ Casino Night will be held on March 2 at 8 pm at the Four Seasons Hotel. For information on tickets, visit thelennyzakimfund.org.
photography by Ken Richardson (Zakim), Jamie Emmerman (Avellani); Jamie Emmerman (Andrade), Michael Blanchard (Casino Night), Ken Richardson (Student)
DJ Mario Beats Up the Beat
DJ Mario brings eclectic grooves and live sounds to the heart of Boston’s club scene.
October 08, 2012
Near the entrance at a recent private party on Newbury Street, DJ Mario is working two turntables, hands constantly in motion, smiling as the beats shift and the tempo ebbs and flows. “When I’m spinning,” he says, “I’m the happiest I could ever be.”
Growing up in Roslindale, Mario Papathanasiou knew in high school that he wanted to be the guy manning those wheels of steel. Now 34, record time DJ Mario brings eclectic grooves and live sounds to the heart of boston’s club scene. by jim sullivan Papathanasiou recalls the specific moment of transcendence. It was 1995 in Europa—now the site of Bijou, a club where he used to spin—and DJ Manolo “pulled something out of my childhood, ‘Din Daa Daa,’ from the movie Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. I’d never heard a classic song like that mixed with house music. I remember that vividly in terms of what I wanted to do.”
While at Emerson College in the late ’90s, he started to spin at local clubs. In 2000, he moved to Los Angeles, where he became a resident DJ at The Standard hotel and also took on an assistant producer position at Warner Bros. Television. In his spare time, Papathanasiou scoured yard sales in search of vinyl gems and built a 6,000-plus record collection. Now he has brought those sounds back to Boston. Before landing his Bijou gig, he was resident DJ at Gypsy Bar, as well as the music director and resident DJ for Bond restaurant and lounge at The Langham hotel.
Today Mario also has a company called Every Second Counts (ESC): Music and Design, where he creates music for corporate events, high-end retail openings, and weddings. Part of that ESC gig is booking himself to spin with live musicians, often from Berklee College of Music or the New England Conservatory. From his initial weekly drummer/DJ mash-ups at Bond (he’s done about a hundred of these), Mario has since worked with 15 groups of musicians— usually trios and quartets, but once an octet—giving him a network of about 50 musicians in total. “I could be mixing song A into song B,” he explains, “but leave room for percussion, like a Latin rhythm that creates a different vibe. For melodic instruments—strings, horns, guitars, piano—they would take the lead on melody, and I would back up the beat and chop up different instrumentals. It’s something I’m trying to build into the future.”
What does Mario bring to the party? It depends on the party. “There are many genre and subgenre designations,” he explains. “I like to cross-pollinate between the current hits and known classics of all those genres, with the song selection completely determined by the audience and environment.” On a perfect night, he says, “You play the hits and people are jamming. Then you play something that’s off-genre or off-time-period and get that reaction, when you see that swell of joy—you get goose bumps. That’s what brings you back every day.”
photography by kristie rae gillooly
Mahmud Jafri Squashes It
Before entering the office to his new showroom, the owner of Dover rug smashes balls on the squash court.
February 27, 2012
Three generations of Mahmud Jafri’s family have worked hard in the rug business and played hard on the squash courts. For the first time, those two passions have been united, with Jafri’s new Dover Rug & Home location in Natick. The 36,000-square-foot space will have three squash courts attached to the showroom, which Jafri plans to use for junior squash clinics and, of course, for personal use.
Every morning, before heading down Route 9 to work, Jafri plays squash on his home court with a friend or the English coach he’s hired. “Squash requires both physical and mental fitness,” he says. “It’s a game of strategy that you can have with you for the rest of your life.”
Jafri grew up in the 1950s in Pakistan, which dominated the global squash scene for decades. That same part of the world has long been known for its heritage-quality rugs. His grandfather started the family business in the late 1800s in the region of India that is now Pakistan. “He had a vision,” Jafri says. “It was an agricultural society with few opportunities for women outside the house. He thought to set up looms inside the home for women to work and still be with their families. It became a business model for the government.”
After Jafri came to the United States to do his MBA at UCLA, he worked for an investment firm and relocated to Boston in 1978. Four years later he took over the family business here in the US and brought the company into retail (before that it was strictly wholesale). With the Natick facility, he can accommodate his vision for the growing company all on one floor, including consultation areas for designers, upscale residential contractors, and their clients. Over the years, he’s seen how his passions for squash and his business have converged—he understands that both the sport and business require not just toughness and muscle (physical or financial), but also strategy. “You have to have both short- and longterm vision,” he says. “You have to see each game as well as the whole match.” Dover Rug & Home, 721 Worcester St., Natick, 508-651-3500.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ERIC LEVIN
Roommates: Tom Werner and Russell Goldsmith
These Harvard class of 1971 roommates remain as close as ever, bonding over banking, baseball and Bartley’s Burgers.
October 10, 2011
Dugout buddies: Tom Werner (left) and Russell Goldsmith used to co-own the Padres
When they first met as roommates in their sophomore year at Harvard College, Beverly Hills native Russell Goldsmith had the sheen of Hollywood on him, and Tom Werner was looking to make the acquaintance of a particularly pretty classmate. “Tom was very welcoming,” says Goldsmith. “Little did I realize he had an ulterior motive—he wanted to meet this girl I knew, Wendy.”
Although things didn’t pan out with Wendy, Werner, now co-owner of the Boston Red Sox and the coproducer of That ’70s Show and other TV hits, and Goldsmith, CEO of City National Bank in California, have a relationship that’s spanned more than five decades. Together they ran the Dunster House drama review and even filmed a documentary about Israel on a trip there in 1971. That film project turned out to be a harbinger of sorts. Since graduating in 1971, the pair worked together at ABC and Republic Pictures, and co-owned the San Diego Padres. Although the sports and television industries seem dissimilar, Werner says that in the end, it’s all about creating a quality product.
These days, the guys see each other when Werner flies out to Los Angeles to meet with his production team on NBC’s new sitcom, Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me Chelsea, or when Goldsmith flies into Boston to cheer on the Sox with Werner from his owner’s box in the EMC Club.
Maybe their lasting relationship has something to do with their mutual admiration and easy camaraderie. “Tom continues to be a creative force in American culture and he does it with integrity. If it wasn’t for Tom, I never would have tried to own a baseball team. Even his golf game is admirable.”
Werner speaks just as highly of Goldsmith. “He’s someone I’ve always turned to for wisdom and advice,” he says. “We played golf last weekend, and Russell won’t tell you he hit every single fairway.”
Back in their early days at Dunster House, they didn’t have time for the links, but they did dine often at Mr. Bartley’s Gourmet Burgers, which serves a creation Goldsmith is dying to try: the Tom Werner burger. When Bartley’s names a sandwich after you, it’s a sure sign you’ve made it.
5 Minutes With: Hamish Linklater
The fashionably daring actor shares his fall favorites.
August 23, 2011
An accomplished stage and screen actor (and comedian who has charmed our socks off), Hamish Linklater sits down with Boston Common to share his memories of growing up in Massachusetts, his eccentric fashion dos and don’ts, and why one should never take his hat off in a bar. Get to know him here, then see him star in the upcoming romantic comedy Lola Versus.
Describe New England Style—does it influence your own wardrobe?
No one wears preppy like a New Englander. It’s almost not preppy; it’s practical. That said, I hate polos and chinos. I like boat shoes but only ironically, as I get seasick.
What do you consider your fall uniform?
Old Levis 501s or 517s I’ve had since high school, Nike Air Force 1 sneakers, unironic T-shirts, a fitted MLB hat, leather jacket under a jean jacket.
What are your fall must-have items?
I like to wear two jackets at once. It makes me look more imposing, and with that many pockets I probably won’t need a backpack, although it always takes me an hour to find my keys. I like a beanie and a scarf, but never matching. I used to like a cardigan, but the cardi market is beyond the oversaturation point. Red and black or green and black plaid on whatever is a yes!
How do you wear a suit?
I prefer a slim-fitting suit, never three buttons. I don’t like a spread collar, and I loathe a skinny tie, on me at least—I’m skinny as it is, and I feel they make me look fat. I never know what shoes to wear with a suit and skew towards boots. But no sneakers!
According to People, we've got a monopoly on the world's sexiest men.
December 08, 2010
People magazine confirmed what we already knew; New England men are sexy. Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Matt LeBlanc and Patrick Dempsey are all featured in People’s “Sexiest Man Alive” 2010 issue. Bravo! These handsome and uber talented stars managed to score titles in “Sexiest Man Alive” and “Sexy at Every Age” categories. We hate to boast but with Ben Affleck on our men’s cover, how could we help but say, “We told you so”?
Get to know the chief executive optimist of Life is Good and cofounder of the Life is Good Kids Foundation.
October 06, 2010
BOSTON: Keeps me optimistic. It’s a symbol of resilience. What came out of this little town is America.
MY INSPIRATION: Comes from kids like Lindsey Beggan, who beat terminal bone cancer at age 9—she believed in the power of optimism and that life really is good. She’s now in college. Her story stayed with us when we decided to start the Kids Foundation.
I'VE LEARNED: That there’s no difference between social injustice like violence and poverty, and physical illness like cancer. Both are life-threatening challenges; one just seems distant and the other seems more possible.
PLAY IS IMPORTANT: Because that’s how children heal. Trauma affects more than 20 million kids in the US . Fear changes how the brain and body develop. Adults talk it out; for kids, healing has to be physical. Project Joy became a part of our Kids Foundation this year to help children focus on joy instead of trauma.
I STILL PLAY: As much as I can! I’m climbing a mountain in a few hours, then playing football later this week. I still see live music. I’m a horrible surfer, but I’m learning.
I BELIEVE: Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.