Supersized kickoff for 2010 Jewish Film Festival

A scene from Israeli film ‘A Matter of Size,’ which makes its St. Louis premiere at the opening event of the 2010 Jewish Film Festival.



JEWISH SUMO WRESTLERS! Think I am kidding? See for yourself on Sunday, June 13 at the Premiere Party marking the opening of the 2010 Jewish Film Festival. “A Matter of Size” is an Israeli film about four zaftig guys, drop-outs from a weight loss program, who discover Sumo wrestling and adapt to it as a team. Referred to as “fatsos in diapers and girly hairdos,” their film is a comedy but I am told that it is sensitive and charming.

“A Matter of Size” will be shown only once at 7:30 p.m. June 13 at Landmark Plaza Frontenac Cinema, following an International Buffet Dinner. Rosalie Rotenberg, co-chair of the Premiere Party with Aileen Wallis and Dee Wolf, says the menu of “light, pick-up and interesting foods is in keeping with the theme of the Film Festival – A Cinematic Journey.” As always, the party will be held in the Plaza Frontenac Center Court at 6 p.m. Given the recent economic downturn, the committee reduced the total evening’s cost by $25 per person. To make your reservation at $70 per person for the premiere party and the film screening, call the Festival hotline at 314-442-3179 or visit  Individual tickets for the film without the party are $15 for adults and $8 for those age 16 and under.

This is the 15th annual Jewish Film Festival. The 2010 Chairpersons are Judy Plocker and Dee and Jack Berman. Sixteen films from around the world, 13 of them St. Louis premieres, will be shown through June 17.  Sponsored by the Jewish Community Center Cultural Arts Department, proceeds from the Festival will help support the programming of that department.

ARLEN CHALEFF is small but mighty – mighty intelligent, persistent, supportive, strong and hard working. Chaleff, Vice President of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is in fierce competition with Jeffrey Pass, past President of the organization, to see who can raise the most dollars for their team in the NAMI Annual Walk in Forest park on May 29. Don’t bet on Pass, though giving him a few bucks may help make him the winner. Registration for the walk begins at 8 a.m. at the Upper Muny parking lot, and the walk starts at 9 a.m. No registration fee is required.

The Walk benefits individuals and families affected by mental illness in this area.  Research shows that one out of four families have critical mental health crisis – statistics accurate for the Jewish community as well as the general community. Chaleff said: “Mental illness is a chronic illness like diabetes and multiple sclerosis. What many people don’t realize is that it is more-far reaching than all of these illnesses, but stigma about the disease has prevented those afflicted from raising the funds and support it deserves. It’s time to get our heads out of the sand and address the impact it has on individuals, families, friends and community”

Adam Crane, Communic-ations Director of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, is the Honorary Chair for the Walk. Join him, Chaleff and Pass in their effort to add to the coffers of NAMI. For information on sponsoring a walker, call Chaleff at 314-994-7784. She may even give you Jeff Pass’ phone number.

THE SODA TAB PROJECT, started in 1997 at the Lewis and Clark School in Jefferson City Mo., is one of my favorite subjects. At that time a classroom teacher decided that a good way to teach the Holocaust was to have the kids somehow count to six million to understand how many Jews died. They planned on collecting tabs from soda and other kinds of cans, counting them and saving them in containers.

It was Shirley Mosinger who put me in touch with the project, as she had a grandchild in that class. She also became involved in the project and watched the collection there grow, barrel by barrel and line the corridors of the school. Mosinger used to say to me that holding the tabs in her hands made the project so real and that, in her imagination, the larger tabs may have represented the rabbis or leaders of the European Jewish Communities.

Yesterday, in an email, Mosinger said that after 13 years, the Soda Tab Project has been completed. On May 14 the school is having an assembly and reception to which Mosinger and her family have been invited. Dan Reich, Curator and Director of Education of the St. Louis Holocaust Museum and Learning Center is going with her. “The students are very excited about their accomplishment,” Mosinger said, and so am I.  But now what do I do with my stockpiled soda tabs? Maybe start over in remembrance of those lost in the Holocaust.