Humans of Cranston

Posted 12/20/22

Humans of Cranston is a recurring column showcasing the stories of Cranston residents’ community involvement, diversity, and unique life perspectives.

Pam Schiff is an award-winning reporter …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Humans of Cranston


Humans of Cranston is a recurring column showcasing the stories of Cranston residents’ community involvement, diversity, and unique life perspectives.

Pam Schiff is an award-winning reporter who has lived in Cranston for 32 years. She worked for the Cranston Public School Department for 15 years and currently serves on the executive boards for several local organizations.

“I grew up in Hamden, Connecticut ... my whole neighborhood, we were white Jewish families. It was very unusual to see a tree or anything; they were there, but just not the norm, so moving to Cranston, and especially the east side, and seeing the diversity and embracing it and realizing, ‘we’re all the same! We want our kids to have a good education, we wanna have food on our tables, we want to be able to take a vacation, we want our neighbors to like us, we want to be a good neighbor, and we just want the city to realize how diverse the city itself is,’ because when you look at the City Council, there’s not a lot of diversity, or the School Committee. But at the same time, a lot of the people in the diverse community don’t know how to run, don’t understand how to run, or just think somebody else will do it, and I hate the cliché that it takes a village, but it really is every moving part: the parents, the grandparents, the neighbors, the teachers, the custodians. Everybody plays a part in raising a Cranston child, and everybody needs to take that part seriously, and everybody needs to realize, ‘you have value, and the kids of Cranston have value, and if we can make them feel good about themselves, then they’re gonna turn around and bring it back into the community, back into their homes, back into their schools.’ A ‘good job, Joey!’ a ‘good job, Lucy!’ goes a long way for a lot of kids.

My son attended the March of the Living, which is where they spend a week in Poland visiting concentration camps and then they do a week in Israel after that, and it really made me appreciate my Judaism a lot more. I don’t consider myself practicing; I don’t go to services, I don’t light my Shabbat candles, but for example, I wouldn’t have my picture [for this article] with the Christmas tree. I light my menorah every year, y’know; I’m very proud to say I am Jewish, but I don’t need to prove it by going to temple or being out there. But my mom just moved to the Jewish assisted living, so my Yiddish is picking back up, so spending time with her there, I’m getting more reacquainted with my background and my history. I also find it very interesting that so many people in Cranston don’t know what Hanukkah is, or Passover. When my son was in elementary school, I would go in and play dreidel with the kids and had to bring Starburst because you couldn’t bring anything with nuts. Normally you play with pennies, but no money in the school, so I had to sit after Halloween and buy the Starburst packages and sort out pink, red, yellow, oranges and make them into teams, and then as the kids got older, like third and fourth grade, they’re like, ‘Oh, I’m with Ben, his mom’s gonna come in, we’re gonna do dreidel.’ I used to bring in latkes for the kids and everything, so it also helped him have a stronger Jewish identity for himself. I remember one day at Supercuts a woman said, ‘did you write your letter to Santa?’ and Ben was like six or seven and he goes, ‘nope, I’m Jewish, I have Hanukkah,’ and I was like, ‘yay Ben, good for you!’

I’ve enjoyed my years in Cranston, and I’ve noticed that as my life cycle in Cranston has changed, the people I’m involved with have changed, my causes have changed, and I’ve matured. As my son has matured and moved out, my interests in Cranston are different and Cranston has changed, but the heart and soul of Cranston is still the same, and everybody I’ve met through my causes are just looking for a better Cranston. And they’re not saying Cranston is bad, but no place and nobody is perfect. If you can do one thing, smile, say thank you, hold the door open! You don’t need to spend a dime to be nice. Be cheap, share a smile.”

This project has been made possible by a Rhode Island Foundation Community Grant, and the efforts of the OneCranston Health Equity Zone of Comprehensive Community Action, Inc. in partnership with the Cranston Herald and Timothy McFate. Want to nominate a Cranston resident to be featured? Email JB at jfulbright@comcap.org.

humans, Schiff


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here