Columnist Lois Caplan

By Lois Caplan

THE HOLOCAUST IN THE FORMER SOVIET UNION: the 70th Anniversary of the Nazi German Invasion is the theme of the 2011 annual Yom Hashoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day.  At 4 p.m. Sunday, May 1 at Congregation Shaare Emeth, hundreds of St. Louisans will mark the largest ever annual community-wide observance of the deaths of six million Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust.  It will pay special homage to the 1.5 million Jews killed in the Soviet territories. 

Sponsored by the St. Louis Holocaust Museum and Learning Center, the program will include testimonies from the Museum’s Oral History Project’s outreach to the Russian community by Russian survivors currently living in St. Louis. It is also a tribute to local veterans of the Soviet Red Army who fought the Nazis. The commemoration will include liturgical readings, memorial prayers and music performed by Tova, Gabriel and Mischa Braitberg as well as a women’s choral group, composed of Survivors and Witnesses from the former Soviet Union. A procession of Torah scrolls rescued from the Shoah will also take place.  More than 1,500 of these scrolls were discovered in 1964 and sent to congregations around the world to serve as Holocaust memorials.

Among the survivors who will share personal testimonies is Sulamith Gipkin. Originally from Belarus, Gipkin was 8 years old in June of 1941, the year her family was rounded up and murdered in the mass killings in her hometown of Osipovichi near Minsk. Charna Palatnik, from the Ukraine, survived by hiding out until the war was over. She ran away and hid while her parents and siblings were murdered by the killing squads. Dr. Alexander Reznik from Moldova survived doing slave labor, but his mother and sister perished during the typhoid fever epidemic in the camp.

Beginning at 3 p.m. and continuing after the program, B’nai B’rith St. Louis will conduct “Unto Every Person There is a Name,” an international program in which the names of Holocaust victims are read by volunteers. If you wish to participate as a reader, call Diane Maier 314-442-3190.

Daniel Reich, Curator and Director of Education of the Holocaust Museum and Learning Center, explained, “The German occupation of Soviet territories is a significant chapter in the overall history of the Holocaust. It is often overlooked in the tragic history of the Shoah.”  Opened in 1995, HMLC has since hosted more than 30,000 visitors a year at the museum, which is free and open to the public.

RAY HARTMANN, wunderkind of journalism in St. Louis, is to be honored by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) at its Oceans of Hope Dream Gala on Saturday, May 7 at the Kemp Auto Museum. He will receive the organization’s Star of Hope Award for his longtime commitment to humanitarian causes. “Ray’s determination and tenacity to mold St. Louis (and the world) into the best possible place needs to be celebrated,” said Marie Davis, JDRF executive director of the St.Louis/Greater Missouri Chapter. Every spring the JDRF hosts a gala to raise awareness and funds to cure diabetes.  The California inspired party was described to me as “dining in the depths of the ocean…unearthing sunken treasures and boogie-ing on the beach to the Groovethan.” Individual tickets are $300 and sponsored tables of 10 begin at $3,500. For more information and sponsorships, contact the JDRF office at 314-729-1846 or at

Hartmann, a graduate of Parkway Central High School and the University of Missouri, founded The Riverfront Times in 1977, at the age of 24, which became one of the 10 largest alternative newspapers in the union. He became – and still is – a regular on “Donnybrook,” the Thursday evening news discussion show on Channel 9 (KETC) and is a regular contributor to – and co-owner of – St. Louis Magazine.

CIRCUS FLORA, St. Louis’ very own European style, one-ring circus, will soon be back in town celebrating its 25th anniversary jubilee.  Like any other kid, I am ecstatic when the circus comes to town. Now, instead of retired baby elephant Flora, there will be a brand new show, “Vagabond Adventures,” under the air-conditioned, red-and-white big top tent in Grand Center. “Vagabond Adventures” is set on the Floating Palace, a real circus venue that traveled up and down the Mississippi River before the Civil War. Reunited will be circus stars from the last quarter century such as the Flying Wallendas, the St. Louis Arches and everyone’s favorite clown, Giovanni Zoppe. Circus Flora runs from June 2 through June 26. Tickets now on sale range from $8 to $44. For show times, dates and tickets call 314-289-4040 or visit