Mezuzah mitzvah

Josh Fingerman displays some of his mezuzahs made from Legos. For his mitzvah project, Josh sells the mezuzahs to raise funds for three nonprofit organizations.

Ellen Futterman, Editor

Mezuzah mitzvah

Josh Fingerman is creating custom-made mezuzahs from Legos as his mitzvah project. He sells them for $36 and has already raised more than $2,500, which he plans to donate to three nonprofit organizations, including Temple Israel, where he will become a bar mitzvah in October.

Josh’s mom, Jayme Fingerman, explained that Josh got the idea when he saw a Yoda mezuzah fashioned out of Legos on the door of Jed Filler, youth director at TI.

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“It isn’t an original idea,” said Jayme, “but when Josh saw the Yoda one, he decided that was what he wanted to do for his mitzvah project. So he researched how to do it and started making them.”

Josh has since made ones that not only resemble “Star Wars” characters but also sports players and mascots, superheroes and Disney princesses, among others. Hebrew scrolls are inserted into each, which can be easily removed if the buyer would prefer a kosher one.

Josh’s first success came at TI’s holiday bazaar last year. He arrived with 40 Lego mezuzahs in tow. After an hour, he had sold 35 of them. 

Jayme says the project has since taken on a life of its own, with Josh at the helm. She and her husband, Mitchell Fingerman, serve as Josh’s social media agents on Facebook, advertising the mezuzahs, because they don’t feel he’s quite old enough for his own profile. 

In addition to TI, Josh plans to donate to a dyslexia-related organization because he is dyslexic. He will be an eighth grader at Churchill School, which he has attended since the fourth grade.

“We never pushed learning Hebrew on Josh because we wanted him to focus on reading English. We figured whatever his bar mitzvah would look like, it would look like,” said Jayme. “But he loved Sunday school and really connected with Jed and is now learning Hebrew with a tutor.” 

Josh will ship the mezuzahs anywhere in the country. He’s already sent ones to Oregon, California and New Jersey, where a woman ordered four, one for each of her dyslexic children.

“What I’m most proud of is how Josh has followed through,” said Jayme, adding that she appreciates how the St. Louis Jewish community has embraced the project. “He has learned so much and it’s really built his confidence. And while it’s never been about the money, it’s great how much he has raised for charity.”

For more information about the mezuzahs, or to place an order, email [email protected]

The marshal plan  

Holocaust survivor Ben Fainer will be the grand marshal of the Creve Coeur Days Parade, which takes place starting at 1 p.m. Sunday, June 28. The route begins at Old Ballas and New Ballas roads, proceeds along New Ballas Road and ends at Congregation Shaare Emeth at New Ballas and Ladue roads.

Ben spent all of World War II as a Nazi prisoner, surviving for six years in six different concentration camps. After losing his mother, three siblings and more than 250 other relatives in the Holocaust, he was liberated by American soldiers while on a final death-march in the spring of 1945. He didn’t speak about his experience for decades, not even with his children, but eventually began opening up and wrote a book, “Silent for Sixty Years,” which tells of what he went through.

Thankfully, Ben hasn’t lost his sense of humor. When we talked about him being grand marshal of Creve Coeur Days, the community where he lives, Ben said, “I don’t know what to think about it. But then, why not? What else am I doing that day? In my old age, I got very popular.”

Speaking of age, when asked how old he is, Ben said, “Did you ever hear of Jack Benny?”

“So you mean to tell me you’re 39?” I said.

“No, I’m 84. But I feel like I’m 39.” 

Rock on, Ben!

And on the subject of age…

The Associated Press reports that Ingeborg Syllm-Rapoport will become Germany’s oldest recipient of a doctorate at age 102. Apparently, she wasn’t allowed to defend her doctoral thesis in 1938 under the Nazis because she was part-Jewish.  

According to the Wall Street Journal, Syllm-Rapoport, at just 25 years old, wrote her doctoral thesis on diphtheria, an infection that was among the leading causes of death for children in Europe and the United States at the time. 

Last month, 77 years later, the neonatologist passed an oral exam and was to receive her doctorate this past Tuesday, June 9, at the University of Hamburg. The university says that it “cannot undo the injustice she suffered … but can contribute to rehabilitating the darkest chapter of German history.”

Syllm-Rapoport emigrated to the United States in 1938 where she applied to 48 medical schools and was accepted by one: the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, reports the WSJ. She worked as a pediatrician and met her Austrian-Jewish physician husband in 1944; the two, along with their children, moved to East Berlin in 1952 where Syllm-Rapoport went on to found the first neonatology clinic in Germany.

I don’t know which to marvel at more: that a wrong has been made right nearly eight decades later or that at age 102, Syllm-Rapoport had the determination and smarts to pass her oral exam.

Dr. Uwe Koch-Gromus, dean of University of Hamburg’s medical faculty, told the WSJ: “It was a very good test. Frau Rapoport has gathered notable knowledge about what’s happened since then. Particularly given her age, she was brilliant.”