50 Year Celebration of Friendship & Macrobiotics
With Michael Rossoff & Lenny Jacobs
At the height of macrobiotics in the Boston area, there were about twelve study houses, including a working farm in Wakefield, Massachusetts. Living in a group house was not required, but the lifestyle offered a unique opportunity to learn and participate in the powerful sense of camaraderie and shared goals with this remarkable diet and lifestyle. In 1969 macrobiotics, both the philosophy and the food, was far more radical that it would be in today’s society.
Lenny discovered the Unique Principle and Zen Macrobiotics in 1967 while studying at the University of Chicago. He was introduced to macrobiotics by the same person who gave him his first LSD sugar cube. Macrobiotics seemed to promise a foundation for enduring personal and social change, far beyond a brief “cool and far out trip.”
After graduating from the University of Chicago in 1968, Lenny became a public school teacher on the south side ghetto area of Chicago, in the area known as “Woodlawn”. He taught in an inner-city school for one year, where the challenges were greater than the rewards. The war in Vietnam was raging and he was not willing to enlist or be drafted. He moved to Boston to the center of the storm, to join the very vital and inspiring macrobiotic community.
Meanwhile, Michael was working in a photography lab in Washington, DC while living with a rock band. He was partly absorbed in their free-wheeling lifestyle but searching for a way to free himself from the hippie lifestyle. He was also already interested in food and better eating. By serendipity Michael went with his older brother to an ashram in Vermont where macrobiotic food was served. After one week of eating in this new way, he felt a profound urge to change his life. Macrobiotics sounded like an exciting new path so he hitchhiked from Vermont to Boston, where he found Michio Kushi within a few days. Michio Kushi challenged him to live the macrobiotic lifestyle for one year, then decide whether to continue with it. As mentioned, he soon met Lenny at the Beacon Street study house.
At the time they began their macrobiotics studies, Michio Kushi was the primary teacher in the Boston area. Michio taught every Tuesday night at the Arlington Street Church -- and often taught some other night as well. Sometimes a guest teacher would lecture at these sessions: Michel Abehsera, Masahiro Oki, Noburo Muramoto, and others presented their East/West perspectives and insights. Shizuko Yamamoto was the preeminent teacher of shiatsu massage.
After moving into the study house with Michael and 20 plus others, Lenny became a cook in the first macrobiotic restaurant in Boston (Sanae) in 1969. Michael and Lenny worked together at Sanae Restaurant until Lenny left in early 1971 to run the kitchen of (what was then called) the Big Sanae -- eventually re-named the Seventh Inn.
Michael, Lenny and most students at the time believed macrobiotics to be the springboard of a new consciousness about whole foods and health. The macrobiotic community was an early advocate for organic farming. Many early students moved on to related fields such as acupuncture, shiatsu massage, yoga and other healing professions, as well as organic food businesses. That “generation” of macrobiotic students wanted a peaceful revolution and transformation of diet, health care, and adoption of Asian philosophies and practices. In the early years in Boston there was little talk of disease, instead they were passionately interested in discussing the intersection of philosophy (especially yin/yang) and insights into healing.
Lenny became the publisher of East West Journal in 1974, and published articles that provided the foundation of a new way of living in the world, including introducing umeboshi, tofu, miso, green tea, futons, acupuncture, and organic whole foods into the American lexicon. Exploring and pioneering new insights about society, complementary medicine, and whole natural foods, while learning the publishing business on the fly, that was part of the challenge, the thrill, and the opportunity for Lenny. East West Journal was one of the vanguard magazines at that time, joined by Mother Earth News, Coevolution Quarterly, New Age Journal, and Yoga Journal.
While Lenny stayed in the Boston vicinity until 5 years ago, Michael moved back to his hometown of Washington, D.C. in 1972 with a new family. He soon started an East West study house in Arlington, Virginia. It wasn’t long before community interest grew rapidly. His then-wife, Jeanne, gave cooking classes, Michael gave lectures and shiatsu massage classes. A highlight of this time was in the mid-1970s when Michael started a macrobiotic lunch program at St. John’s Episcopal Church across from the White House. Hundreds of government workers, lawyers and other professions came daily for these fresh, healthy foods. Bill Spear, who began his studies there, participated and eventually took over running the program. It was a great success until the church changed leadership and cancelled the project.
When Michael was still living in Boston, he attended a lecture on acupuncture by JR Worsley at one of Michio’s Tuesday night talks. The lecture included a demonstration with acupuncture needles. JR Worsley was a British acupuncturist who was starting a school, College of Chinese Acupuncture UK, and was in the U.S. to recruit students. This new school focused on the important role 5-Element Theory plays as a foundation of Traditional Acupuncture. The meeting with Worsley was a powerful experience for Michael. Right away he knew that acupuncture would be an integral part of his destiny.
A few years later Michael went to England to study acupuncture at the Worsley School. Classmates included fellow macrobiotic students Sandy Greenberg and Rebecca Wood, plus two men who became well-known in other fields — Eric Utne and Robert Gerzon. This was an immersion study that helped Michael begin his acupuncture practice in Virginia. At the same time, in the mid 1970s Michael began teaching an 8-month healing course based on macrobiotic principles and Oriental medicine. It is during this time that Michael met Ken Becker who took the course (Ken and another macrobiotic friend, would go on to start Imagine Foods). Michael and Ken have remained friends ever since.
In early 2015 Lenny moved to Asheville to live and work with Becky Cannon, whose devotion to macrobiotics goes back to the 1970s. At that time, Becky, after spending a couple of years in Japan, had created an East West center in her home. She also began selling natural baby products, mail order, from a small room in her house (advertising her company’s products, during its early years, in East West Journal). She has now developed that small home business into a thriving business called Green Sprouts (greensproutsbaby.com), with more natural baby products than can be described in one sentence! She and Lenny travel to many countries to trade fairs and to search for and find creative ways to develop other natural, healthful baby products.
During the past 30 years Michael travelled extensively, teaching about macrobiotics and Oriental medicine healing. He taught in Europe, Israel, Canada and America. Recently he has limited his teaching and counseling travels to England and the Washington, DC area. His office for counseling and acupuncture is in the downstairs of his home, conveniently located near downtown Asheville. He still loves deepening his understanding of the subtle powers of healing.
Pictures shown at the party.
Some of them are published elsewhere
on the website, and many are new. Enjoy!
Some of them are published elsewhere
on the website, and many are new. Enjoy!
* * Click an image to enlarge it. * *
And finally ...
And finally, just before the party, two wonderful friends of Michael's sent this video in acknowledgment of Michael's work as counselor and teacher. Many thanks to Marlene & Mike Pendley!