JCRC leader studying in Israel, NCJW trip, musicpalooza

Maharat Rori Picker Neiss met up with some rabbis from St. Louis, who are also studying at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem this summer, as well as former Jewish Federation of St. Louis president and CEO, Andrew Rehfeld, who was speaking at the institute. From left to right: Rehfeld, Picker Neiss, Rabbis Karen and Daniel Bogard from Central Reform Congregation, Rabbi Michael Alper from Congregation Temple Israel and Rabbi Mark Fasman, formerly of Kol Rinah.  

By Ellen Futterman, Editor

Summer learning (for rabbis)

It’s always fun to see old friends, especially when you’re thousands of miles away from home. That’s the situation that Maharat Rori Picker Neiss, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, found herself in last week when familiar faces from St. Louis showed up at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem (see picture and caption at right). 

Picker Neiss is there as a David Hartman Center Fellow. She’s participating in a three-year fellowship program at the institute, which strives to enhance Jewish learning and professional development for rabbis; her cohort is focusing on rabbis working in nonprofits.

As she explained before she left: “I think the emphasis will be on how do we make sure that the work we do is not just the nuts and bolts of keeping our organizations running but ensuring our Jewish community is focused on competitive ideas and looking toward the evolving future of the Jewish people.”

Most of the seven fellows in Picker Neiss’ cohort are involved in newer start-up initiatives. St. Louis’ JCRC is the only legacy organization participating, said Picker Neiss.

“I think there’s a huge opportunity to think about what it means to take an organization working for eight decades and ask really critical questions about how it remains relevant in a world that is changing constantly,” she said.

After returning from Israel, Picker Neiss and the other fellows will meet in New York City a little more than a dozen times, from October through next spring, to continue working on and developing projects with mentors from the institute. They will also spend part of the next two summers in Israel.

“The challenge we have as a JCRC — and this is not unique to St. Louis — is that we’re often reactionary because that’s the nature of the work,” said Picker Neiss. “A crisis comes up and then we’re talking about where we want to be in relationship to that crisis. We don’t always take the time to stop and say, ‘Where do we want to be heading?’ 

“That’s what I’m hoping to be able to do (as a Hartman fellow) — to step back and say this isn’t just where do we need to be right now or where should we have been yesterday but where do we need to be tomorrow . . .

“I don’t expect to come back with answers but I’m hoping that the ability to frame the questions and have some thought can help to inspire dialogue within our community for us to then come up the answers that are going to be unique for St. Louis.”

Addendum to social justice trip

Here are some more details about the trip to Fort Sill, Okla. being planned by the National Council of Jewish Women St. Louis and the Heartland for Human Justice Coalition at the end of the month. The purpose of the trip is to protest the opening of the newest detention center and to participate in an interfaith vigil.

The cost is $225 for two people and $175 for one person, and includes bus transportation, a hotel room and breakfast at the hotel. Round-trip bus transportation only is available for $65. Other meals and incidental expenses are not included. Partial scholarships to attend this event are available. 

Buses will leave at 7 a.m. on July 31 from the Jewish Community Center near Creve Coeur and return close to 9 p.m. on Aug. 1.

To register, visit Eventbrite at http://bit.ly/ncjw-bus or the Heartland for Human Justice Facebook page or call NCJWSTL at 314-993-5181. 


A few local Jewish musicians are performing at some illustrious venues this summer. 

Bandleader and saxophonist Lenny Klinger will be part of a lineup that includes Monica Reed (back-up singer for Sting and B.B. King) and Bonnie Bramlett (of Delany & Bonnie fame) along with other notable St. Louis musicians at downtown’s National Blues Museum from 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday, July 28. Tickets are $25 and available by calling 314-925-0016 ext. 405 or online at www.nationalbluesmuseum.org.

On Aug. 2 and 3, Brothers Lazaroff will release their eighth full-length album, “Sisters And Brothers,” with performances at Jazz at the Bistro. Their first release since 2017’s “Laz Jazz At the Bistro” and first batch of new songs since 2016’s “Dangerous Times,” the Brothers teamed up with frequent collaborators and band mates Sam Golden and Andrew Warshauer (DJ Boogieman) in producing the new collection of songs.

Brothers Lazaroff will perform two shows each night, at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $22.50 and are available at http://bit.ly/brothers-lazaroff.

And finally, Mark Richman, who bills himself as “St. Louis’ favorite Sinatra singer,” is performing from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays at Kemoll’s Chophouse at West Port Plaza.