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Hope, Faith & Charity

[whitespace] A Photo Essay
By Christopher Gardner

'Hope is a waking dream.'

Monica Bocanega Sweet Fifteen

When a Hispanic girl turns 15, it is more than a birthday. It is a rite of passage called quinceañera. Monica Bocanega was presented to the world as a woman early this month by her anxious father, Jose Bocanegra. "I'm very proud of her ... What can I say? It's the best for me," he said. The church ceremony was followed by a party rivaling many wedding receptions, with mandatory attendance of all family and friends. "I'm very excited and a little scared," confessed a radiant Monica. "This means a lot to me and my family. It's tradition."

Esfir Dynkina Senior Year

'Not so quickly, not so quickly," pleads 87-year-old Esfir Dynkina. She is listening to an English test on cassette tapes with 30 other Russian emigrants. They are attending classes at the Jewish Family Center in Los Gatos in preparation for becoming naturalized citizens. Esfir has been a citizen for two years but wants to speak and understand English proficiently. Originally from St. Petersburg, she moved here seven years ago to be close to her family. At the spry age of 87 she brings the intensity and concentration of a college student to her studies. Says Esfir, "I am glad to be in America ... It is good."

the Tidermans

Party of 4

The ultrasound room in the Good Samaritan Hospital perinatal unit is kept warm and dimly lit as Sonnie Tidermans and her husband, Lucky, wait nervously. A previous test indicated there could be a problem with the pregnancy. When the ultrasound reveals that everything is normal and shows in undeniable detail that the Tidermans are destined for another boy, they break out in laughter. "You're going to have a little playmate! Sonnie tells her son, Trey. "A little brother," beams the father. With some of their fears assuaged, they totter off to get ready for the holidays and await the arrival of the new addition to their family.

Rabbi Noach Vogel

Laying of the Tefillin

In the early morning dawn, a group of men gather in converted office space off Meridian Avenue. Slowly they dress in the vestments of their religion (tallis and tefillin) and begin to pray. Chasidic Rabbi Noach Vogel joins this group for their morning ritual, then speaks about Judaism and faith. "In the earlier generations, people had faith without having a problem of believing, and in this generation everybody wants to know the facts: Why, why, why? So we study Chasidicism," he says. "We believe in a faith that is higher than understanding, higher than intellect. We believe that there are certain things that we don't understand. ... That is what we have to believe because it is beyond our intellect."

Sister Nhu Phuoc

Enlightning Strikes

Nhu Phuoc stands in front of the class. A Buddhist nun residing at the Duc Vien Community Pagoda in South San Jose, she has been following and teaching the ways of the master for most of her life. On Sundays the Temple is alive with services in the main room of the building, classes in the basement and a meal afterward for all who choose to stay. Sister Phuoc is matter-of-fact about people taking an active role in their destiny. She says, "Buddha cannot bring me to the heaven or push me down to the hell. I'm the one to decide ... I am the one who has responsibility for myself."

Sister Rosaria Sew Shall You Reap

In a little-known convent in Willow Glen, the sisters of The Divine Master quietly go about their day praying and sewing vestments for the Catholic church. They also operate a store that sells religious items, but they stay clear in their No. 1 mission: to pray. And they do so constantly. "I pray for everybody, anyone, anyone in need," says sister Rosaria. They take turns holding vigil in their small chapel and sewing and hand-embroidering garments that require many hours of work. Small and diminutive, they radiate a strength that belies their size. "Even though I do not see Jesus, I do not see God. ... I believe," says Sister Rosaria. "That's my greatest faith.

dog Bone Again

The clamorous din of excited dogs fills the air. There is no mistaking the kennel of the Santa Clara County Humane Society, where hyper pooches and indifferent felines reside at the largest such facility on the West Coast and third largest in the nation. With an impressive 95 percent adoption rate, the local animal shelter will care for about 33,000 animals in a year, who consume 80,000 pounds of food annually. The society can always use kibble donations, as well as animal toys. If you would like to help, call 408/727-3383

Ignacio Nunez Necessary Baggage

With the help of Cisco Systems, the airline industry, Del Monte and a host of other local contributors, San Jose's Second Harvest Food Bank gathered and distributed 16 million pounds of food last year. The food bank takes its mission statement seriously: "That no one in Santa Clara/San Mateo County go hungry." Ignacio Nunez (right) is trying to get into the high-tech world. He is a 57-year-old father of seven who is studying computer skills at the Center for Employment Training. He says the four to five bags of food his family receives each month from Second Harvest is a blessing. To make a donation, call 408/266-8866.

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From the December 24-31, 1997 issue of Metro.

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