Jewish Federation celebrates women in the clergy

By Lois Caplan

CELEBRATE WOMEN IN THE CLERGY on Tuesday, Jan. 13, when Women’s Philanthropy of Jewish Federation of St. Louis hosts a landmark program that will bring together female Jewish religious leaders. It’s a first and, I truly believe, that never before has our city claimed the distinction of so many outstanding female leaders: Rabbi Amy Feder of Congregation Temple Israel, Rabbi Andrea Goldstein of Congregation Shaare Emeth, Rabbi Susan Talve of Central Reform Congregation, Rabbi Brigitte Rosenberg of United Hebrew Congregation, Cantor Sharon Nathanson of Congregation B’nai Amoona, Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh of Temple Emanuel and Maharat Rori Picker Neiss of Bais Abraham Congregation. 

Join them at 6 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center Arts & Education Building, 2 Millstone Campus Drive, for drinks and appetizers to be followed by a program moderated by Ellen Sherberg of the Business Journal at 7 p.m. Thanks to the generosity of the Sherri Schechter Memorial Fund, the event is free to the public.

MIND FEST, entertaining classes on a variety of subjects, has announced its January calendar. It starts with Be Selfie Savvy, followed by Exploring Jazz and How St. Louis Added the Cool, Philosophy and the Art of Living and the most helpful subject for people like me: Select Your Tech – Understanding your Smartphone and Tablet. Taught by Julie Osherow, you will learn how to live with hand-held technology. Anne Murphy is a co-founder of Mind Fest, whose classes are held at the Novel Neighbor, 7905 Big Bend Boulevard. The costs are very reasonable, $20 or $25 for each session. For more information, call Anne at 314-640-7392 or visit

I CAN’T RESIST telling you a success story. It concerns Sam Hellman Mass, son of former St. Louisans Nancy Hellman and Bill Mass and the grandson of Rose Mass. Sam, 29, has known since he was 14 that he wanted to be in the culinary arts. He also has a master’s degree in business. Today, Sam lives in Austin, Texas, where he co-owns a restaurant called the Odd Duck, which was recently named the national restaurant of the year in the 2014 Eater Award From Coast to Coast competiton. Sam is much admired in Austin for co-owning the national restaurant of the year. 

OPERATION FOOD SEARCH is seeking donations of high quality new and very gently used designer handbags for its third annual “Purses for Pantries” fundraiser. The luncheon and auction of handbags, vintage pocketbooks, evening clutches and accessories will be held Saturday, March 7, at the River City Casino & Hotel Event Center. 

Examples of designer purses sought for the event include those from Armani, Alexander McQueen, Betsey Johnson, Burberry, Chanel, Prada, Christian Dior, Christian Lacroix, Coach, Faberge, Fendi, Enid Collins, Gucci, Pucci, Ralph Lauren, Hermès, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Tory Burch, Kate Spade, Valentino, Yves St. Laurent and others, each with a minimum value of $100.

Donors submitting qualified purses will be entered into a drawing for a $500 shopping spree and free admission to the event.  The deadline for donations’ is Feb. 11.  Purses may be dropped off at Operation Food Search, 6282 Olive Boulevard in University City, or phone Derek May at 314-726-5355 ext. 24 to make arrangements for pick-up. 

Skip Spielberg is honorary host of the Purses for Pantries event, which will feature silent and live auctions of handbags, including designer bags by Louis Vuitton, Rebecca Minkoff and more, with proceeds supporting the Operation Food Search backpack program for children. 

ST. LOUIS’ CIRCUS HARMONY made international headlines this summer when its youth circus performers were stranded in Israel at the height of the Gaza conflict. The young acrobats were in Israel as part of Circus Harmony’s Peace Through Pyramids program with the Jewish/Arab Galilee Circus, a program they have been doing since 2007. Shortly after the young circus artists returned to St. Louis, Ferguson exploded in the aftermath of black teenager  Mike Brown being killed by a white police officer.

“It seems that Peace Through Pyramids is needed as much in St Louis as it is in Israel,” said Circus Harmony’s artistic director, Jessica Hentoff. “We are a social circus,which means they use circus arts to promote social change by building character in individuals and bridges between communities. Of the 600 children we work with in the St Louis metropolitan area, over 70 percent are considered at-risk youth residing throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area.”

Circus Harmony funds its work through grants, private donations and performances by its acrobatic troupe, the St Louis Arches, as well as classes at City Museum, Raintree School and elsewhere. The Regional Arts Commission has chosen Circus Harmony to be a recipient of its first Social Impact Grants. Circus Harmony is going to take the children who went to Israel into Ferguson to present their Peace Through Pyramids program to children there, providing a starting point for creating a youth circus troupe in the Ferguson community. 

In addition, Cirque du Soleil is returning to St. Louis and has selected Circus Harmony to be a benefit partner because of its work with at-risk youth. For the Jan. 9 performance of “Varekai” at Chaifetz Arena, 100 percent of the ticket sales will go to Circus Harmony’s Flying Children Scholarship Fund provided the tickets are purchased through Circus Harmony. Those who buy a benefit ticket will also receive a ticket to see the Jan. 24 performance of Circus Harmony’s new show, “Guibilante.”

Benefit tickets are available at or by calling 314-436-7676. 

OPERA THEATRE OF ST. LOUIS does not open its season until May, but already its beautiful brochure is in opera lovers’ hands. I was thrilled to see that St. Louisan Ryan McAdams will conduct “The Barber of Seville,” which opens the season May 23. Ryan’s parents were neighbors in the Central West End, and I have fond memories of watching 4-year-old Ryan practice his bow to the audience.  Could it be that he knew at that age he would become a world-class conductor? Season tickets to “Barber,” “La Rondine,” “Richard the Lionheart” and “Emmeline” are available at 314-961-0644 or online at