B’nai Amoona bids farewell to longtime mashgiach

By Lois Caplan

“BYE BYE BETSY” is the lamentation of many Congregation B’nai Amoona members as their beloved mashgiach, Betsy Enger, prepares to retire after almost 30 years on the job.  What is a mashgiach? It is a Jew who supervises the kashrut (Jewish dietary laws) of a kosher establishment. 

Growing up Presbyterian in north St. Louis County, Betsy realized early on that she wanted something different in her religious pursuits. 

“Some souls are just born into the wrong religious body, and I was one of them,” she said. 

After studying a number of religions while a student at the University of Missouri, she converted to Judaism under the guidance of Rabbi Benson Skoff of Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel, Rabbi Arnold Asher of Shaare Zedek and Rabbi Bernard Lipnick, of B’nai Amoona. 

A member of B’nai Amoona with her husband since 1969, Betsy became an active volunteer, gave birth to daughter Tova and eventually immersed herself as a volunteer, cooking for various synagogue events. When the need for a mashgiach surfaced, Betsy was approached to take the job full time. She accepted. 

The job became her passion, and she worked with many memorable characters who were visionary and passionate about their Jewish lives, Judaism, and how food plays an important and integral role.

Supervising every synagogue event at which food is served requires Betsy’s presence. It is not surprising that she works six- to eight-hour days, mostly seven days a week. 

Michael Samis, executive director at B’nai Amoona, believes that after Betsey retires, she will return to volunteering in the kitchen where she started. 

“She’s got knishes in her blood and that’s hard to give up,” he said.

A special “Bye Bye Betsy” dinner will be given in her honor at 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25, at the Ritz-Carlton, 100 Carondelet Plaza in Clayton. Reservations are $125 per person. For more information or reservations, contact Barbara Shechter at [email protected] or call her at 314-576-9990, ext. 126.

PAUL TAYLOR DANCE COMPANY, one of the world’s most highly regarded performing arts companies, will kick off Dance St Louis’ 50th anniversary season at 8 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 2, and Saturday, Oct. 3, at the Touhill Performing Arts Center on the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus. We are so fortunate to have Dance St. Louis as a presenting organization; it is only one of six remaining dance presenting organizations in the country. 

Paul Taylor, now an octogenarian, is the last living member of the pantheon that established American modern dance.  

The St. Louis program includes three of Paul Taylor’s works: “Mercuric Tidings,” information or messages that are being brought to you by the god Mercury; “Three Dubious Memories,” which explores the subjective nature of memory; and “Piazolla Caldera,” a look at the attitudes implicit in the tango.

Tickets for these very special performances are $28 to $50 and are available at the Dance St. Louis box office, 3547 Olive Street in the Centene Center for Arts and Education in Grand Center. Call 314-534-6622 or visit dancestlouis.org.  

There’s a great free, preshow program, the Marjorie Orgel Speaking Dance Series, in the Touhill’s Terrace Lobby at 7:15 p.m. It is  hosted by Michael Uthoff, artistic and executive director of Dance St. Louis.

A FEW YEARS AGO, my husband and I were in New Orleans, where we heard a young, talented performer named Banu Gibson. I talked about her a lot but never expected to see her again. Then my mail came from the Sheldon announcing that Banu Gibson would appear there at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25, in a program called “40 years of Randy Newman.” 

The Sheldon describes Banu as a swinging jazz singer who stands at the top of her field as a leading interpreter of music from the early 20th century. For tickets, at $30 for orchestra or $25 for balcony seats, call 314-534-1111 or visit thesheldon.org.

BOWLING, ANYONE? The National Pancreas Foundation has planned the inaugural “Strike Out Pancreatic Disease — There’s No Time to Spare” fundraiser from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 18 at Olivette Lanes, 9520 Olive Blvd. The foundation hopes to raise awareness of the daily challenges faced by those who have pancreatitis or pancreatic cancer. A $25 donation covers bowling, shoes, food and prizes; there will also be a silent auction. For more information, call 866-726-2737 or visit http://npfbowling.kintera.org/stl.

AN UPCOMING TRIVIA NIGHT will benefit A.R.C. Angels Foundation (AAF), a group dedicated to saving lives by getting teens actively involved in the prevention of teenage suicide — the third-leading cause of death among youths between the ages of 10 and 19. 

Created to celebrate the life of Avery Reine Cantor, AAF provides educational programs that empower teens to recognize the signs and symptoms of suicide and take the necessary actions to stop the loss of life. The trivia night takes place Saturday, Oct. 3 at Congregation Shaare Emeth, 11645 Ladue Rd. Doors open at 6 p.m. and trivia begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $200 per table (up to 10 people), or $25 per person. The event will include a silent auction and 50/50 raffle. Light snacks, soda, water and coffee will be available. Purchase tickets by sending a check to A.R.C. Angels Foundation, 16502 Meadow Hawk Dr., Wildwood, Mo. 63038 or pay online through the group’s website: arcangelsfoundation.org. For more information, visit the site or contact the foundation’s president, Rick Cantor, at 636-405-1746.

Looking ahead, the group will also hold its Second Annual Run for the Angels 5K walk/run fundraiser on Nov. 7.