Great Big Challah Bake; Joe Cocker tribute; Judy Newmark

Knead to know

The annual Great Big Challah Bake is still taking place this year — only virtually. Local organizers Rene Price and Barbara Strashun explained that due to personal issues, they weren’t able to plan one enormous event so they decided on many smaller ones. 

“You can do it at your own home, or you can ask to do it at someone else’s home,” explains Strashun. “We have people who want to host others, and we are happy to match them with people who would like a place to go.”

The challah bake will take place on Thursday, Oct. 25, just as it is taking place with hundreds of thousands of Jewish women around the globe. Those interested in joining the event locally, can go to and fill out the necessary paperwork. Challah recipes will be provided, along with inspirational Jewish music playlists, challah braiding instructional videos and small gift bags for guests. The form also allows you to designate whether you want to host your own bake with family and friends, be invited to someone else’s or invite others to yours.

In addition, Price and Strashun are happy to send a “challah coach” to anyone’s home that evening who wants help. A challah coach? Who knew?

“Rene and I usually are on top of this, but we had some personal challenges and were not able to get it together this year,” says Strashun. “But we didn’t want to not do it. This is a different way, so we thought we’d try it and see what happened.”

Meanwhile, Price says she and Strashun are already working on the 2019 Challah Bake, which they say will likely be one enormous event.

Cocker meets cabaret

Bob Gerchen used to be in a band called Two Jews Blues. “The thing is, there were actually three Jews in it,” he says. (The other two, for those curious, were John Wallach and Dr. Bob Shuman.) Now that band is called White Collar Crime.

“We were formed to open for the Liverpool Legends at a J Associates benefit in 2012 and stuck with it,” says Gerchen, explaining that White Collar Crime has six members, including Gerchen, who is the lead singer.

And it’s Gerchen’s singing that will be front and center when he performs the musical stylings of Joe Cocker at 8 p.m. Nov. 1 as part of the Gaslight Cabaret Festival at the Gaslight Theatre, 358 N. Boyle Ave. He will be backed with a little help from the St. Louis Grown Blues Band.

“I did a cabaret show for the 25th anniversary of CRC (Central Reform Congregation) about nine years ago,” says Gerchen, who used to be president of the congregation. “I’ve dabbled in cabaret and done a cabaret open mic thing. Then Jim (Dolan, organizer of the cabaret festival) and I met each other through our mutual admirations — Katie McGrath and Storm Large. Jim kept telling me to bring him a show. 

“Finally, I had this idea. I’ve always been deeply fond of the music of Joe Cocker — it’s the narration of my life — so I said to Jim, ‘What do you think of a cabaret show tribute to Joe Cocker?’ And he said, ‘Bring it.’”

Gerchen will not only be performing Cocker’s originals but also several of the songs Cocker covered such as Gary Wright’s “Love is Alive” and Etta James’ “Out of the Rain.” 

“You sort of hit your mark in the music business when Joe Cocker covered your song,” says Gerchen, whose day job is as a jury consultant.

By the way, you can see Gerchen perform this weekend as part of the cast of “The Little Foxes” at the St. Louis Actors Studio ( for more information). He will return to the Actors’ Studio next year in “True West,” by playwright Sam Sheppard, April 12-28.

“As an actor, I’ve been in retirement for 26 years,” says Gerchen. “I left it as a profession when I started raising kids and traveling for work. It was hard to find the time to do a show.

“But now the kids are old enough to take care of themselves.”

In addition to Gerchen, be sure to check out some of the Gaslight Festival’s other cabaret shows, such as Faith Prince (Oct. 26), Jimmy Webb (Oct. 28), Katie McGrath (Nov. 9), Ken Haller (Nov 10 & 18), Christina Bianco (Nov. 16-17) and Storm Large (Dec. 11), among others. For tickets and more information, go to

Judy, Judy, Judy

You might notice a familiar byline in this week’s paper, Judith Newmark, the longtime former theater critic of the Post-Dispatch. Although Newmark retired from the P-D this summer, she adheres to that age-old saying: “You can’t keep a good theater critic down.” So she has started a blog called, where she posts her reviews of recent theater productions. Her blog can also be accessed through the Light’s website, at, and she also will do some occasional writing for the Light.

Take a look at her most recent story about the Yiddish production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” now playing in New York, on page 13.