Introducing the Light’s new comic; going ‘Positively Pink’

The first installment of the Jewish Light’s new comic ‘Sarah & Abra,’ which appeared March 2, 2016. The comic is created by Audrey Soffa.

Ellen Futterman, Editor

Funny girl(s)

We’re getting a jump-start on spring by adding a few new features to the Light, and would like your feedback. For starters, check out “Sarah & Abra,” an original comic strip about single young Jewish women roommates, created by Audrey Soffa, who works at Jweekly, the Jewish newspaper of northern California.

Soffa, 33, said that while working at Jweekly, it occurred to her that she’d never seen a Jewish slice-of-life cartoon that didn’t degenerate into thinly veiled political commentary, and was actually funny. 

“I figured there had to be a way to make a cartoon with an emphasis on modern Jewish life that wasn’t preachy or dull,” she said, “so I decided challenge accepted.”

Jweekly has been running “Sarah & Abra” for a year to favorable reviews from readers. The Light will be the second Jewish newspaper in the country to carry the strip, which will run each week on the Jewish Lite page (Page 13 in this week’s paper) along with our Jewish-themed crossword puzzle.

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Soffa said she decided to call her characters Sarah because “it’s a quintessential Jewish name” and Abra because at the time, it was the name of a co-worker at Jweekly. “I never even considered the whole Sarah and Abraham thing,” said Soffa, adding that about “95 percent” of the storylines are drawn from her own life.

“My hope is to get a reaction from it,” she added. “Obviously, it would be nice if people laughed, because the intention is to be funny.”

Email [email protected] with your thoughts.

News you can use

In addition, on the left side of the Features page (Page 12 this week), taking the place of Best Bets will be a weekly aggregate of interesting Jewish-related news and tidbits from the worldwide web assembled by staff writer Eric Berger. 

Clowning around (or not)

Just because Best Bets is being replaced doesn’t mean we won’t let you know about unusual goings on around town. On that subject, renowned author Salman Rushdie will join composer Jack Perla and Opera Theatre of St. Louis General Director Timothy O’Leary for a panel conversation about Rushdie’s novel “Shalimar the Clown,” and how Perla became inspired to develop the novel into an opera, at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 4 at the Sheldon Concert Hall, 3648 Washington Blvd. The discussion will be moderated by Reena Hajat Carroll, executive director of Diversity Awareness Partnership.

Rushdie’s novel centers on a Muslim man who becomes embittered when his beautiful beloved is taken from their Kashmir village by a U.S. ambassador. The woman, who is Hindu, will bear the ambassador a child named India. Shalimar decides to take revenge by assassinating the ambassador.

The collaborative process has resulted in OTSL’s world premiere of the opera in June. The event is free, but registration is required at otsl-stl.org.

Pink power

As many of us know, Ashkenazi Jews have a greater frequency of carrying certain changes in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which are associated with an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. About one out of every 40 individuals of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry have a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, as compared to one out of every 800 members of the general population, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

St. Louis Sharsheret Supports, a collaborative project of Nishmah, recently received a large grant from the Barnes Jewish Foundation to continue and expand its work educating the Jewish community about this increased heredity cancer risk among Ashkenazi Jews. “The BRCA genes were identified in 1994 and 1995 and yet many clinicians taking care of women with a family history of breast and ovarian cancer did not incorporate this information into their clinical care,” said Lynne Kipnis, Sharsheret Committee Chair.  “The BJ Foundation recognizes the significance of educating the St Louis Jewish Community about hereditary cancer risk. This grant supports the belief that, with education, families will be able to advocate for their own good health.”

As a result of the Barnes Jewish foundation grant, as well as support from other donors such as the Siteman Foundation, Nishmah hired Lynne Palan as the new Sharsheret Coordinator.  Palan has been a longtime volunteer in both the Jewish and general community and is a founding board member and past president of Nishmah, a program of the Jewish Community Center. 

Sharsheret Supports will host a “Positively Pink Party” to share its vision for expanded work in the St. Louis Jewish community. The free event will be held on Thursday, March 10th at the home of Stacy and Greg Siwak in Clayton. Space is limited so RSVP as soon as possible to Palan at [email protected] or call 314-442-3266. 

Girl power

The World Chess Hall of Fame in the Central West End is paying homage to women chess champions from the late 19th through early 21st centuries in a recently opened exhibit called “Her Turn: Revolutionary Women of Chess.” Featured are several top Jewish players, including Gisela Kahn Gressler, who won the U.S. Chess Championship nine times and whose grandfather was a rabbi and founder of the Jewish Theological Seminary; Russian-born Mona Mary Karff, who played for Palestine in 1937 in the women’s chess championship and later moved to Boston, winning seven U.S. women’s championships; Alla Kushnir, who immigrated from the Soviet Union to Israel in 1974 and was thrice Women’s World Chess Championship Challenger, and the famous Polgar sisters — Susan, Judit, and Sofia — whose father Laszlo raised them to be chess prodigies. Judit was considered the best woman player in the history of chess, Susan was the women’s world champion four times and Sofia is an International Master and Woman Grandmaster. Today Susan Polgar heads the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence at Webster University.

The exhibit, which runs through Sept. 4 and is located on the museum’s third floor at 4652 Maryland Ave., includes artifacts, score sheets and photographs from the WCHOF’s collection as well as loans from the John G. White Chess Collection at the Cleveland Public Library and numerous private collections. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free, though a $5 donation is suggested.

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