New Jewish arts festival and an ‘older’ one

By Ellen Futterman, Editor

One ‘cool’ Jewish festival coming this fall

This week we turn our attention to the burgeoning arts scene in STL, with lots of news (and some schmooze) to report. “Hamilton” fans, be sure you read to the end. 

For starters, mark your calendars for Sunday, Oct. 14. Not only is it yours truly’s birthday, but it also is the first of what hopefully will be an annual community festival highlighting Jewish arts and culture. 

Called Sababa, a Hebrew slang term meaning “cool,”  this day-long, free celebration will feature a high-caliber juried art show along with regional and nationally known musical acts, unique food booths and family-friendly activities. Synagogues and local Jewish organizations also are invited to showcase their group’s activities. 

“Presented in collaboration between the Jewish Federation of St. Louis and the Jewish Community Center, Sababa is St. Louis’ premier Jewish arts and culture festival,” said Stacy Wolff Smart, the festival’s program coordinator. “Sababa is a cutting-edge, outdoor festival showcasing the vibrancy of contemporary Jewish culture. It will feature local, regional, and national visual art exhibits, food experiences, musical performances and St. Louis Jewish community organizational booths.  

“I am very excited for the opportunity to be able to help bring this level of community to the St. Louis region.” 

Smart notes that other Midwest cities hold similar festivals, which have grown in popularity over the years. The Greater Chicago Jewish Festival has been around since 1980 and typically brings in more than 20,000 people. Kansas City’s Jewish festival, which began in 1994, has been reimagined and tweaked over the years. In 2017, after a five-year hiatus, nearly 10,000 people attended the city’s Jewish Cultural Fest. 

Sababa organizers launched the event’s website this week, which in addition to festival information includes an application for prospective artists wanting to show their work. Organizers are hoping to feature a broad range of mediums, including visual art, photography, ceramics, jewelry, fiber and mixed media.  

Artists must have some connection to Judaism, but their work does not have to be Jewish in nature. 

Sababa will take place on the campus of Washington University while students there are on fall break. The co-chairs of the festival are Diane Balber and Alissa Duel; steering committee members are Shira Berkowitz, Shelley Dean, Blair Kweskin and MaryAnne Smyly Sabin. For more information, go to 

Just in CASE 

While you’ve got the Magic Marker out, circle the dates April 19-29 for the third annual CASEfest. The acronym is short for Celebrating Art for Senior Engagement as this St. Louis area-wide festival provides more than 65 events, including lectures, art shows, workshops and performances for seniors to experience.  

Presented by the nonprofit Maturity and Its Muse, CASEfest will showcase creative work, promote arts-related aging programs and feature positive images of and for the local senior community to build respect and understanding between generations. 

“This really is an opportunity for older adults to immerse themselves in the arts, or even try something new, like a docent-led tour of the Contemporary Art Museum or a concert by members of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra that showcases the works of new composers from the University of Missouri,” said Lynn Hamilton, creator of CASEfest and founder of Maturity and Its Muse. “People say there are no new works, well here is an opportunity for them to see just what’s going on.” 

New to CASEfest this year is Circus Flora, featuring several performances earmarked for festival goers with tickets as low as $8. Other highlights include a lecture from a docent at Opera Theatre of St. Louis about the opera “Regina,” hands-on art classes including the making of self-portrait collages and a lunchtime theater performance at the Old Spaghetti Factory.  

“One of the reasons CASEfest exists is to ignite people, especially seniors, to become enthused about art and get involved themselves. Art is about enjoying life and having fun,” said Hamilton. “Life doesn’t end because of a certain number we turn. Creativity is healthy for us, for everyone, and the arts play one of the biggest roles in keeping us more active as we age.” 

She notes that seniors in need of transportation to certain events can email her at [email protected]. For a complete schedule and more information, go to 

Barbie for the ages 

On the subject of active aging, let’s hear it for Iris Apfel. The 96-year-old Jewish style icon now has the distinction of being the oldest person ever to be immortalized as a Mattel Barbie Doll.  

Apfel’s doll won’t be found in stores, but Mattel said the company will be releasing a new line of dolls inspired by Apfel’s style this fall, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The toy company will promote the dolls on the Home Shopping Network, where Apfel has been promoting her affordable fashion line for the past seven years. She will design adult versions of the clothes that the dolls wear. 

Music to our ears 

Listening to live local jazz and heritage music just got better for St. Louis fans, thanks to the Kranzberg Arts Foundation (KAF). 

The foundation recently instituted the Music Artist in Residence Program, which helps local bandleaders build their reputations and resumes by providing them with performance, rehearsal and recording opportunities. In addition, the program puts these artists in venues in Grand Center such as the Dark Room @ The Grandel and the Wednesday Night Jazz Crawl so that they can perform for live audiences. Even better, most all the performances are free.  

 “One of the things we work hard at is tearing down the walls between the artist and audience so that local fans can see some of the best musicians St. Louis has to offer in professional environments, with state-of-the-art equipment, at no cost,” said KAF Executive Director Chris Hansen.  

The artists involved in the program are Bob DeBoo, Mo Egeston, Jesse Gannon, Anita Jackson, Ben Reece, Owen Ragland, Tonina Saputo, Kasimu Taylor and Ptah Williams.  

Hansen points out that “free music” can be heard in Grand Center more than 325 nights of the year. He also notes that the artists themselves do get paid a professional wage to perform, adding that KAF investments in the program exceed $100,000 annually. 

For more information, go to 

‘Hamilton’ lottery

Tickets to the hardest show to get tickets for just got easier.  

Forty orchestra tickets to the sold-out “Hamilton” at the Fox Theatre, running April 3-22, will be made available through a digital lottery for every performance for $10 each.  The digital lottery will open at 11 a.m. on Sunday, April 1 for tickets to the Tuesday, April 3 performance.  Subsequent digital lotteries will begin two days prior to each performance and will close at 9 a.m. the day before the performance.   

For details about entering the lottery and more information, go to