To Laugh! at the J; B’nai B’rith Institute; A COCA farewell

Columnist Lois Caplan

BY LOIS CAPLAN

TO LAUGH! “Jews and Jewish Humor; a Five Thousand Year Love Story,” will be explored at the JCC on from 7 to 9 p .m. Wednesday, July 14 at the Staenberg Family Complex in the Arts and Education Building.  Leading the discussion on the evolution of Jewish humor will be Craig Neuman, co founder, writer, director, producer and actor for the critically acclaimed comedy troupe Just Kidding. Neuman spent three years with Just Kidding touring hundreds of college campuses and entertaining audiences across the country. You are invited to get involved in the discussion when the group examines different kinds of humor that reflect transforming ideas of Jewish identity in a tolerant (and not so tolerant) society. “We will look at how Jewish humor has changed over the generations,” explained Diane Maier, coordinator of the program. RSVP to Maier either at [email protected] or 314-442-3190.

 JEWS IN AMERICA is the subject of the 58th (honest) Annual Alfred Fleishman B’nai Brith Institute of Judaism to be held the weekend of Friday, October 29 and running through Nov. 1. Fleishman, for whom the Institute was named, would be so thrilled because his friend Rabbi Jeffrey Stiffman will be the Scholar in Residence and Fleishman’s admirers, Tommy Goldenberg and Barbara Helmer, will provide the entertainment for this weekend of learning and sociability. Rend Lake Resort in Southern Illinois, which is about a two hour drive from St. Louis.  Bus transportation will be available.

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Rabbi Stiffman’s three lectures will be on “American Jewry, what makes us unique?” “Was American Judaism really fragmented in the 19th and 20th century?”  and “Trends Toward Unity.”  Here is an opportunity to learn about Reform and Conservative Judaism in America, German and Eastern Europeans and Anti-Semitism here and abroad. Learn about new movements – Traditional, Reconstructionist and Renewal. Co-presidents Rosalie Brasch and Gerry Cohen assure me that the accommodations are excellent and the staff is very congenial which makes for a happy weekend. It is not too early to make your reservation for this very popular weekend.  To do so or for more information call Rosalie at 314-872-8477 or Gerry at 314-432-3891.

SO LONG, STEPHANIE – HELLO KELLY. At the end of June, Stephanie Riven said farewell to COCA, the Center of Creative Arts, founded in 1986 with Riven as its director. Since that time, it has become the fifth largest multidisciplinary community arts center in the United States. I remember sitting in what until recently had been B’nai Amoona congregation and listening to Richard Baron who was aided and abetted by the late Dorothy Dubinsky.  Baron told about his dreams for COCA and I said to myself, “Likely story.” Those dreams have come true.  Its mission to enrich lives and build community through the arts is a fait compli. Its programming includes and extensive arts education program in dance, music, theatre, voice and visual arts and offering 500 classes, camps and workshops annually.  That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Replacing Riven (no one ever thought that was possible) as executive director is Kelly Lamb Pollock, who joined COCA in 1997 and served as its director of development for eight years.

UNION OPERA. I don’t think there is anything Jewish about Gilbert and Sullivan, but my Jewish friends of yore all loved the literate nonsense created by this awesome twosome. As a Savoyard (that’s a fan of G&S whose wonderful plays were performed at the Savoy Theatre in London) I have seen a lot of their remarkable work including “Pirates of Penzance” starring Kevin Kline. Now the Union Avenue Opera is opening its season with “Pirates” starting July 9.  It will be followed by Donizetti’s “La Fille du Regiment” (Daughter of the Regiment) made famous by Beverly Sills) and closing the season is Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades.

 For opera, an expensive art form, Union Avenue Opera’s tickets are reasonable.  For more information call 314-361-2881 or log on to www.unionavenueopera.org.