Jewish Journal

The Next (Jewish) Miss America?

By Jonathan Maseng, Contributing writer

January 10, 2011 | 6:07 pm

Loren Galler Rabinowitz.

Loren Galler Rabinowitz.

Loren Galler Rabinowitz is not an overachiever. Not to say that she hasn’t achieved more during her 24 years than most accomplish in a lifetime; however, none of it came without expectations. Galler Rabinowitz has felt the pressure to succeed her whole life and has borne it well. You’d be hard pressed to find a more driven or dedicated individual, but no amount of drive can easily explain how a fiercely intellectual woman who graduated magna cum laude from Harvard ended up on stage in spangles with a tiara on her head and the title of Miss Massachusetts.

Galler Rabinowitz was born in Brookline, Mass., into a family of physicians. As a child, she accompanied her mother on trips to her clinic in Barbados, where she worked with underprivileged children. “I’ve been involved with medical research my whole life,” said Galler Rabinowitz, who, by the age of 14, was helping write grant requests and caring for people at the clinic. 

Galler Rabinowitz has a particularly strong relationship with her mother, a major role model in her life. It was through her mother’s influence that Galler Rabinowitz would find her first passion. “My mom was a ballerina, and when I was small, she took me ice skating. It became something we did together.” It was on one of her childhood trips to the rink that Galler Rabinowitz was discovered by an Olympic skating coach and put on the track toward stardom.

Paired with skater David Mitchell, Galler Rabinowitz soon rose through the ranks of U.S ice dancers. She and Mitchell won the bronze medal at the 2004 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. “I so desperately loved skating. It was my singular focus for 10 years,” Galler Rabinowitz said in a recent phone interview. However, her Olympic dreams were star-crossed: A shoulder injury to Mitchell sidelined the pair for the 2005 season, and they never recovered their previous chemistry. To make matters worse, Galler Rabinowitz was about to lose someone who had been her inspiration for years.

When she was just a child, Eva Vogel had been rounded up in a Nazi sweep with her family and put on a train to the Belzec concentration camp. Vogel’s father, wanting to spare her the horrible fate that awaited her, pushed Eva out the small window of the train so that she would have a chance at freedom. Eva managed to find a sympathetic Christian family to take her in. With her blond hair and green eyes, Vogel spent the rest of World War II as Katrina, an assumed identity. After the war was over, she married Henry Galler and eventually made her way to America, where she, Henry, and their daughter, Janina, settled in New Orleans.  Years later, Janina Galler would marry Burton Rabinowitz, and among their children would be a talented young ice dancer named Loren.

Loren’s grandmother Eva was her idol. She’d dedicated her post-Holocaust life to traveling around to schools with her husband and preaching against racism and bigotry. Galler Rabinowitz is effusive in her praise of her grandmother. “One of my most cherished memories is spending time in the kitchen with my grandmother. Every time I make her famous matzah ball soup, I feel closer to her, like I’m bringing part of her with me.”

In August 2005, like some cruel joke from above, Hurricane Katrina, bearing the same name that had once saved Eva Galler’s life, crashed into the city of New Orleans. Their home damaged, Eva and Henry were forced to move to Texas, but Eva couldn’t stand the strain. A few short months later, she was dead.

With her skating career over and her beloved grandmother gone, Galler Rabinowitz was forced to consider a new direction in life. She took a trip to Israel to help care for a sick relative. It was her first experience in the Holy Land. “I’d never been there before and wanted to see it. It was really important for me to connect with where I came from and to get a sense of where I needed to go,” Galler Rabinowitz said wistfully. “I had the best time ever.  Having the ability to eat falafel four times a day after years of being on a skater’s diet was definitely something I took advantage of.”

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