Lighten Up 2.0

The winning team in the ‘Lighten Up Weight Loss Challenge’ sponsored by the Jewish Community Center and the Jewish Light is shown with their JCC trainer, Brandon Patek. The women are (from left): Virgina Panzitta, Shawn Duggan, Lori Schuman and Patti Randazzo.

By Ellen Futterman, Editor

No matter how hard some of us try not to over-eat during the holidays, we eventually succumb. Our promise to show restraint when faced with the seasonal feedbag-which is seemingly everywhere-goes out the window at the first sign of (insert your favorite seasonal fattening treat). I know in my case, a bad cold and cough kept me from exercising for a few days, which then led to more days away from the gym because of (insert your favorite seasonal holiday excuse for not exercising).

The good news is that once again help is on its way. The second annual Lighten Up challenge, sponsored by the Jewish Community Center and the Jewish Light, will begin Jan. 16. For those unfamiliar, the Challenge runs for eight weeks (through March 11) as it encourages teams of four to compete against one another. The team that loses the highest total percentage of body weight wins the challenge and some pretty nice prizes. Prizes are also awarded to an individual male and female based on the highest percentage of weight loss.

So what do you need to do to join?

First, you need to be a member of the JCC. Second, you need to find three other people, also members, to join your team. If you’re having trouble with that, JCC staffers can help you organize a team with individual registrants. And lastly, you need to pay the registration fee of $30 a person or $80 for a team of four by Jan. 9.

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Additionally, teams can sign up for personal or group training sessions (for an additional cost), though these sessions are not required. Should you or your team opt for a training package, the entry fee will be waived.

As self-appointed team captain for one of the Jewish Light teams, I’m here to tell you competition from us will be tough. Last year, after just a couple of weeks, my team members wigged out and stopped their weekly weigh-ins, which are integral to the competition. That will not be tolerated this year (you hear me, Tom, Larry and Janice!). We’re in it to win it, even if as a sponsor we can’t take home the prizes.

So consider yourself warned as you get your teams together. To register and for more information, contact Katie Hughes at the JCC at 314-442-3176 or [email protected]

Pedal to the metal

It’s amazing what determination can do.

For more than a decade, 82-year-old Elsie Roth of Labadie worked to right what she felt was a terrible wrong done to her father, Army Sgt. William Shemin. Sgt. Shemin, a World War I veteran, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for heroism in France during World War I. But because he was Jewish and anti-Semitism was rampant at the time, Sgt. Shemin was not eligible to receive the nation’s highest award, the Medal of Honor.

Roth’s steadfast resolve has led Congress to recently approve a requirement for the U.S. military to review World War I records to determine whether Jews who received decorations should be upgraded to the Medal of Honor. The amendment to the Defense Authorization Act, which passed earlier this month and is expected to be signed into law by President Barack Obama, requires “the Secretary of the Army and the Secretary of the Navy to review the service records of any Jewish American World War I veteran awarded the Distinguished Service Cross or the Navy Cross for heroism during World War I and whose name and supporting material for upgrade of the award to the Medal of Honor.”

Roth urged U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., to introduce the amendment, which he did last year.

According to the citation for his Distinguished Service Cross, platoon sergeant Shemin showed “extraordinary heroism” on Aug. 7, 8 and 9, 1918 in Burgundy, France, on three different occasions when he “left cover and crossed an open space 150 yards, exposed to heavy machine gun and rifle fire to rescue wounded. After officers and noncommissioned officers had become casualties, Sgt. Shemin took command of the platoon and displayed great initiative under fire until wounded August 9.”

He received the Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest military decoration that can be given to a U.S. soldier, but felt his Jewish faith kept him from receiving the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award, Shemin-Roth said. She added that given the exemplary valor her father showed, she has been told Sgt. Shemin is likely to be a “shoe-in” to receive the Medal of Honor award posthumously.

Shemin, a first generation American born to Jewish parents who came to the United States from Russia in the late 1800s, died in 1973.

In learning the news, Shemin-Roth said, “It is so wonderful. A major wrong has been made right. It now opens up the opportunity for my father, and others, to receive a honor that should have been theirs so many years ago.”

Kudos to the cantor

Congratulations to Cantor Sharon Nathanson of Congregation B’nai Amoona who was formally certified as a cantor by the 600-member, international Cantors Assembly on Dec. 23.

Cantor Nathanson was accepted to the Cantorial Internship Program run by the Cantors Assembly, which allowed her to work with a mentor and receive formal cantorial training. The program, which is rigorous and difficult to get into, requires candidates to be a fulltime cantor for at least two years, fluent in Hebrew, have graduated from an accredited college or university and have a strong musical background.

“What Cantor Nathanson has accomplished in such a timely fashion is truly extraordinary,” said Hazzan Eric Syder, executive administrator for the Cantors Assembly, based in Akron, Ohio. “The St. Louis Jewish community should be very proud of her. – I know we are.”