The hub of the synagogue, the arteries that lead to all parts of a body, the center cut- whatever we want to call the Temple office- our congregation is fortunate to have two extremely dedicated women working for the benefit of the synagogue. Together, Barbara Varga and Bobbie Kraus keep our business records in order, record and organize donations, answer the numerous questions that are called in and, of course, sell gift cards for our on-going fundraising project.
Barbara Varga, actually known as “Bobbie” in her family circle, sits to the left of the office door. She peeks around the divider to see who steps into the room. Barbara is the youngest of 7 children who grew up “dirt poor” in the town of Fort Barnwell, North Carolina. She said that there is a 31-year difference between her and her oldest sibling. Today, Barbara keeps in touch with her two living siblings that live in California and North Carolina. Barbara called growing up on the farm tough. Her family only went to town twice a year. Laughing, she said, “We had to pump sunshine starting at 4 am so it will reach us at 7!” That’s how far away the town was from everyone else!
Barbara said that she grew up in a very sheltered life. They were members of the local Southern Baptist Church and she never met or heard of Jewish people until she moved to Connecticut.
Over thirty years ago, friends in Milford invited Barbara to visit. They convinced her to stay and soon after, she met Laszlo Varga. Laszlo’s father came over to the United States during the Hungarian Revolution following WWII. He was instrumental for bringing many Jews to the United States. Many of these families settled in Fairfield County.
As you figured out, Laszlo and Barbara got married. They are proud parents of two children and grandparents of two. They also have bragging rights to having tons of nieces and nephews. Today, Barbara and Laszlo are members of a small Baptist congregation in West Haven.
Barbara explained that she is a “self–taught” office manager. “Almost 13 years ago when I was hired, Floyd Ozeck guided me along the way. I have learned everything on my own.” Barbara mentioned that working with Michelle Murphy, the TBS office chairperson, has been just wonderful and supporting. Barbara can’t say enough about the kindness that she witnesses on a daily basis in the office. A request is called in and the congregation answers immediately. It is truly a “caring community,” Barbara said. Whether it is honoring our veterans or donating to the Hamden Food Bank, the community steps in to assist. Five years ago, a car was driven into the side of the Varga home. You hear about these accidents on the news. You just don’t expect to receive a call at work from the Police Department. When TBS members learned about this personal disaster, they took up a collection to help Barbara and Laszlo cope a little easier. It was a very long nine months for the family.
Barbara recalled fond memories of those who once walked the halls of Temple Beth Sholom. She is proud to have a brick in the back walkway engraved in her honor. Barbara remembered the kind faces of Anne Lager, Leo Perkes, Ethel Litt, The Solcoff’s, The Bear’s, the Schreiber’s, and my dad, Sid Frohman, who always had a camera in his hand. She knows she can’t name everyone, but, “preserving our Temple memories are so important,” she stated. The brick walkway is just one way to remember.
Barbara is an avid reader. She loves to stay at home and just search the internet. “You can learn so much!” she said. She is a secret internet game addict, as well. She is on level 90 playing” Cradle of Persia.” She said that it is very good! You would probably want Barbara on your team if you are playing Scrabble or any word game activities- Laszlo just won’t play with her anymore!
So, I asked Barbara what she can tell me about Bobbie Kraus. “Who? The blonde?” she chuckled with that Southern charm.
Bobbie explained, “She calls me a lot of things! I know I am very forgetful. Barbara is very patient with me. She is so darn capable. Barbara makes quick decisions and I can’t. I get so stressed out- I admire that trait. She is so much fun to work side-by-side.” Bobbie is actually known as Barbara outside the Temple perimeters! Now, that can get confusing!
Bobbie Kraus has been part of our community for over 30 years! She did take a short three year leave when her husband took ill. After her husband passed away, Rabbi Scolnic saw Bobbie walking and asked if she was ready to return to the Temple workforce. “I am very glad to be part of the Temple. I have been here so long, I feel very sentimental about everyone,” Bobbie said.
Bobbie has three loving children and four grandkids. “We do everything together,” she said. We are on the go all the time! Between swimming, cheerleading, hockey, softball and baseball- there is no time to rest.”
Bobbie is also a very active member of the Spring Glen Church community. She is thrilled with the relationship that has evolved between TBS and the Church-especially the Ecumenical Blood Drive two times a year and the joint Life Cycles discussions that occurred this year.
Bobbie currently holds the committee title of Head of Alter Guild at the church. She takes care of the weekly flowers for the Church alter, organizes the donations for the flowers, helps decorate at Christmas and Easter. She is also responsible for replenishing the oil in the candles on the alter. She hopes to return to teach Sunday School someday. For the last ten years, Bobbie has been volunteering her time at Hospice. It is a very rewarding experience. Bobbie also loves to play golf. She enjoys keeping her hands busy knitting and crocheting. She is proud that she just completed an afghan.
If a person is a busy person outside of the work environment, we know that Bobbie is the type of person who is busy inside, as well. Bobbie recalled, in the days before computers, she would type the bulletin on a typewriter, print it on the Gestener copy machine, have purple-inked fingers and then collate all the pages at home! Good thing the electronic world has made advances!
Bobbie also reiterated the fact that she has fond memories of those who are no longer with us at TBS. She appreciates how she is treated everyday. Bobbie loves to visit with the congregants. When the K’Tanim kids stop in the office, colorful stickers are always waiting for them.
We are lucky that these two special ladies of Temple Beth Sholom also say they are friends for life. They keep our Temple life in order. Every two years, another elected TBS President comes into office and muddles through paperwork and procedures. Barbara and Bobbie’s flexibility and patience do not go unnoticed. Thank you for being part of our community.