Mistakes to remember, Medal of Honor, Poremba’s latest

President Barack Obama presents Ina Bass, left, and Elsie Shemin-Roth with the Medal of Honor for their father, Army Sgt. William Shemin, at the White House in 2015. Sgt. Shemin was recognized for risking his life during World War I to save the lives of others. Photo: Department of defense/Lisa Ferdinando

Ellen Futterman, Editor

To err is human…but still!

Regardless of the work we do, being successful requires us to pay close attention to detail. Certainly in the case of a doctor, paying attention to detail could mean the difference between life and death. But no matter what we do for a living, thoroughness and accuracy are essential to a job well done.

By the same token, mistakes happen. No one is immune. And while hopefully no mistake triggers a catastrophe (see doctor example above), we are often terribly embarrassed when we screw up, even if in the scheme of things, the mishap is somewhat minor. 

Last week the Light mailed invitations to our annual Unsung Heroes celebration on May 17. This year May 17 falls on a Thursday; however, our invitations say Monday. 

So how did this error occur? I’m still not sure, but for the past eight years the event has occurred on the third Monday evening in May. This year, because of Shavuot, the date was changed. Maybe that had something to do with the mix up.

Whatever the reason, I take responsibility. I’m the Light staffer shepherding this year’s Unsung event, which means paying close attention to every little detail among all the many details that goes into its planning and execution. Somehow, this detail got by me.

Of course this isn’t the first time I’ve made a mistake in print. After more than 35 years as a journalist, having written — and edited — literally thousands of stories, I’ve had my share of doozies.

Soon after I started at the Post-Dispatch in 1982 (long before spell-check), I was sent to Busch Stadium to interview fans during a playoff game between the Cardinals and the Braves. Now understand, I grew up on Long Island, where we have a different way of pronouncing certain words than here in Missouri (or is it Missourah?). Take the Braves’ home city. You call it AT-lanta but where I come from, it’s A-lanta, without the first “t.” And that’s exactly how I wrote it: the Alanta Braves, about 10 times, throughout the entire story. Despite two editors and three copy editors reading the story after me, “Alanta” is the way it appeared in the newspaper.

Then there was the time I wrote about a “flamingo” dancer when I meant to write “flamenco.” Or the restaurant review about a French bistro in Highland, Ill. called Le Bon Brasserie. The headline, in screaming 90-point type, read “Le Bon Brassiere,” which inspired the late Joe Bonwich, who was then restaurant critic at the Riverfront Times, to call me at the Post to say, “I have got to try that place!” 

True, some mistakes are humorous, though rarely do we feel like laughing when the onus is on us. Perhaps the only solace we can take after admitting and owning an error is to learn from it. In my case, you can be sure I’ll watch out for a flamenco dancer at a brasserie in Atlanta on Thursday, May 17.

Book smart

When U.S. Army Sgt. William Shemin, a World War I Jewish soldier, was posthumously awarded with the prestigious Medal of Honor in 2015, his daughter, Elsie Shemin-Roth of Webster Groves, could finally relax. For 13 years, Shemin-Roth had been fighting to right what she felt was a terrible wrong done to her father. 

Although he was awarded a Purple Heart as well as the nation’s second-highest military honor, the Distinguished Service Cross for “extraordinary heroism,” there was never any explanation as to why he didn’t receive the Medal of Honor. Shemin-Roth and many others are convinced it was because he was Jewish, and anti-Semitism was rampant at the time. 

So when finally President Barack Obama honored Sgt. Shemin in a White House ceremony with Shemin-Roth and other family members in attendance, she couldn’t imagine anything better. And while that day will remain indelibly etched in her mind, she is thrilled to have contributed her father’s story to a new book recently published by the Jewish Community of West Point called “Jewish Medal of Honor Recipients.”

“It tells the story of all 17 Jewish recipients from the creation of the Medal of Honor in 1862, with a profusion of spectacular photos,” said Shemin-Roth. “My father is No. 17, No. 4 in World War I, and the only recipient of the 4th Infantry Division during WWI. My picture receiving the medal with my sister from President Obama is on the cover.”

The glossy book, which costs $75, can only be purchased from the West Point Jewish Chapel Fund by calling 845-446-7706.  

King of the local dining scene

Perhaps you heard that Israeli native and local restaurateur Ben Poremba opened another eatery over the weekend called the Benevolent King in Maplewood. When I called to check in with Poremba, he said “things were going great” but couldn’t talk because he had “blood on his hands” from butchering whatever he was cooking up for dinner.

Poremba described the cuisine as “Moroccan Jewish,” making a point to add that it is not traditional Moroccan cuisine, which relies a lot on seafood. His Moroccan Jewish/Israeli dishes, which will change daily, are reminiscent of his childhood, he said, and employ unusual spice mixes and slow-braised meats. The restaurant also features a large cocktail and drink menu.

In addition, Poremba’s mother, a retired chef originally from Morocco, may lend a hand in the kitchen as well. Poremba’s parents recently moved to St. Louis from Israel.

The restaurant, located at 7268 Manchester Road, is open from 5 to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. For more information, go to thebenevolentking.com or call 314-899-0440.