A Realtor with Realty Executives Boston West, Ali Corton is a visible member of the Metrowest community at large and the Jewish community. For more than a decade, she has never shied away from taking on leadership roles. She is the current co-chair and past grants co-chair for CJP’s Metrowest Planning Committee, and she served as a board member for Jewish Family Service of Metrowest from 2010 to 2013. Here, Ali shares with us her infectiously positive attitude toward Jewish community life in Metrowest, whether at Jewish institutions, synagogues, or around the dinner table. Ali and her husband, Mitch, live in Framingham with their children Will (8) and Mollie (4 ½).
What brought you and Mitch to this area, and how did you settle on Framingham?
I grew up in Clarks Summit, Pa., a suburb of Scranton, and Mitch is from Glens Falls, N.Y., between Saratoga and Lake George. When we moved from Colorado in 1999, we were drawn to the Boston area and later Framingham — we were seeking a taste of urban but didn’t want to lose sight of the mountains or beaches. My extended family is originally from here — my grandfather grew up on Revere Beach — and lots of cousins are still here. It was close to family, and lots of our friends were here too. There are parks, green space, music, theater, culture, and a vibrant Jewish community.
How did you and Mitch get involved in the Jewish community, and how did you choose those activities, both social and volunteer?
Our social lives are largely driven by our athletic interests — golf leagues, tennis clinics, hockey games, etc. We are also lucky to live in a great neighborhood with lots of friends, That is a perk of being a Realtor. It’s like having inside information about the community!
Working at CJP for a few years running GesherCity, a program for connecting newcomers to the Boston area, had so many perks. We made a lot of friends, connected to many local agencies as volunteers, and had the unusual opportunity to experience many synagogues in a short time span.
After moving to Framingham, we gradually got involved with JFSMW, Temple Shir Tikva in Wayland, and continued working with CJP’s Metrowest Planning Committee. I’ve also participated in many programs with the Framingham Moms Club and the Framingham History Center.
The Pew Research report that came out a few months ago didn’t tell us anything that many of us don’t know already — temple membership for young families is down. Unlike many young couples, you and your husband chose to join a temple even before your children were of Hebrew school age. Why?
Our parents had all been active in temple life, and we both feel that our summer camp experiences — we met at Kutz Camp in Warwick, N.Y. — led us to join Temple Shir Tikva before we had kids. We met a number of other young couples there who were in the same situation, some of whom grew up at TST and had strong connections to the community and to each other. We wanted a taste of that, too! Our friends there have become like our extended family.
Through JFN, we’ve learned that many parents are seeking a Jewish environment for their children, even if they choose not to go a more formal route. How would you encourage young families to carve out a Jewish niche for themselves?
There are so many ways to create a Jewish niche in Metrowest. They range from temple hopping — many have Tot Shabbat programming and holiday gatherings — to attending the occasional PJ Library, JFN, MWJDS, or JCC program. While synagogue membership may be down, it seems that locally, the level of engagement among non-temple Jewish groups is quite strong.
What have you found most inspiring about your work in the Jewish community, and what do you hope that your involvement teaches your children?
My most inspiring “work” was as the co-chair of the CJP MW Grants program. I got to see what was up and coming — like the sneak preview of JFN during its inception. It was an opportunity to help shape the face of the community and ensure my kids would have lots of options at every stage of their lives, from Welcome Baby! to seniors programming at Shillman House in Framingham.
We want our kids to understand that there is a whole world out there and that Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) is not just something we do once a year. They have a keen sense of what it means to help those who are less fortunate, and our mission is to make sure they do not lose sight of that.
My kids inspire me every day with their acts of kindness, too. We’ve created a family tradition that stemmed from the book Have You Filled a Bucket Today? Each night at dinner we share two good things that occurred in our days and one thing we did to be a “bucket filler.” Some days it’s being a courteous driver, holding a door for someone, or just giving a smile to someone who was sad. But it often makes us all think about our actions and how we can strive to fill a bucket. I am continually impressed in the ways Will and Mollie fill buckets. They help friends clean up, offer a hand when someone trips and falls, offer to help a teacher — and even help one another on occasion!
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