All a-board? Not exactly

Members of the community came together for the dedication of the community mikvah on the Millstone Campus in honor of the late Rebbetzin Paula Rivkin. Photo: Lisa Mandel 

By Ellen Futterman

All a-board? Not exactly

On the heels of a new Missouri “Christmas law,” which allows for religious celebrations of this federal holiday in public schools and public buildings, comes a decision by the Missouri School Boards Association (MSBA) to hold its annual meeting in 2014 on Rosh Hashanah.

“I’m really upset about this,” said Dee Mogerman, a longtime member of the Parkway School Board and president-elect of Temple Israel. “Rosh Hashanah is a very important Jewish holiday. How would someone who is Christian feel if the meeting was held on Christmas?”

Mogerman and school board officials in other area districts say 2014 won’t be the first time this has happened. The state school board group also held its annual meeting on Rosh Hashanah in 2011, much to the chagrin of several Jewish school board members. When they complained at the time, they were told by the school board association they would try to be more sensitive to the timing in the future.


Commenting on the 2014 meeting, Brent Ghan, chief communications specialist for the organization, said, “We try to be sensitive to all our school board members. We value and celebrate their diversity just like we do all of our students across the state.”

Ghan said that for a long time, the meeting was held at Tan-Tar-A Resort in Lake of the Ozarks the last weekend of October. More recently, the meeting was moved to the last weekend in September, but still held at the same place, he added.

“We want to be consistent and have the meeting the same weekend every year so that our members can plan on it,” said Ghan.

However, in a letter to Parkway School Board President Beth Feldman, the MSBA’s executive director, Carter D. Ward, explained that while he “regrets the fact that next year’s conference conflicts with Rosh Hashanah,” the association “had no choice but to schedule the conference during that weekend in order to secure the property. It was the only fall weekend available at Tan-Tar-A when we signed the contract for our conference.” He added that the association would do its best to avoid such conflicts in the future.

Remembering the rebbetzin

If anyone was deserving of tributes and laud, it was Rebbetzin Paula Rivkin, who died in October, 2011. Throughout her life she was praised not only for her role as the wife of the Chief Orthodox Rabbi of St. Louis, which she took very seriously, but also for her community service. Her outreach efforts included serving as a member of the board of directors of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, the board and advisory committee of the Jewish Light, and as the driving force behind the refurbishment of the Vaad Hoeir’s community mikvah. She was also, along with Judy Zisk Lincoff, the co-founder of the Jewish Council Against Family Violence (JCAFV), which was committed to ending spousal, child and elder abuse.

Last week, a plaque in Rebbetzin Rivkin’s honor was dedicated at the community mikvah on the campus of the Jewish Community Center in Creve Coeur. It was an intimate affair, presided over by Rabbi Yosef Landa of Chabad of Greater St. Louis, who told the group that the mikvah is the holiest of Jewish places.

“Rebbetzin Rivkin was incredibly influential and we wanted to honor her memory,” explained Zisk Lincoff. “She transcended all parts of the Jewish community.

“I am the most reformed Reform and she was Orthodox but we worked beautifully together. That’s just the way she was.”

Zisk Lincoff, a member of Congregation Shaare Emeth, said the two started the domestic violence council in 1994 because both felt strongly that Jewish women of all backgrounds dealing with abuse issues needed a safe place to go for help. Recently the council disbanded, although most of its programs found homes with other St. Louis agencies.

“Rebbetzin Rivkin’s basic premise was one person at a time to save a life,” said Zisk Lincoff, who currently works as a therapist in private practice. With that in mind, it seems fitting that the dedication on the plaque quotes from the Talmud: “A person who saves a life has saved an entire world.”

Added Zisk Lincoff: “What I remember most about the rebbetzin is her wisdom, passion and fairness because she wanted to reach everyone. She cared so much.”

Sale away

Drat, wouldn’t you know I’d be out of town for Couturier, one of my favorite annual shopping extravaganzas. This National Council of Jewish Women’s signature event takes place Nov. 7-9 at the Resale Shop, 295 N. Lindbergh Boulevard in Creve Coeur. 

Last year, I managed to nab a couple of Nanette Lepore dresses for next to nothing and a houndstooth print vintage jacket that makes me feel like Audrey Hepburn every time I wear it. Word on the street is that this year’s event is similarly stocked with high-end designer clothes, handbags and my favorite five-letter word, shoes.

For those (like me) who want first dibs on a great sale, a $10 donation at the door gets you into the sneak-peek preview from 4-8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7. The event continues from 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Nov. 8 and from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Nov. 9. For more information, go to Proceeds benefit women, children and families in the St. Louis community.

Hmm, think it’s possible to Skype the sale?