Baseley brings ‘green’ ideas to B’nai El


B’nai El’s temple administrator Susan Baseley is a one woman powerhouse: she does it all.

“I do everything from answering the phones, accounting, facility management, contracts with vendors, producing the newsletter, creating flyers, event planning and management and maintaining a relationship with Saul Mirowitz Day School which rents a large portion of our building,” Baseley said.

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She is also involved with the City of Creve Coeur and chairs their Recycling, Environmental and Beautification Committee. Rabbi Daniel Plotkin said Baseley’s involvement in the Creve Coeur City Government has added a new dimension for the congregation.

“Her enthusiasm and proactive work on the environment has spilled over into our congregation,” Plotkin said. “The Social Action Committee has embraced many of her ideas and she has inspired me personally to make some changes in my own life.”

Some of the changes Baseley has brought to the synagogue include the native Missouri wildflowers planted in front of their building.

“We purchase biodegradable paper products, use compact florescent light bulbs and recycle,” Baseley said. “I am also interested in bringing in fair trade coffee and having a fair trade fair at the synagogue.”

Her active involvement in the environment wasn’t Baseley’s first career choice when she entered the University of Maryland in College Park. She had dreams of becoming an astronaut. However, times were different then.

“I was told women would not be sent up to space,” Baseley said. “I said never mind and graduated with a degree in geology.”

She worked for a contractor with the Department of Energy after graduation before deciding to pursue a different path. She quit her job and moved to Israel spending six months in an ulpan at Kibbutz Beit Hashita in the Jezreel Valley. Baseley’s mother was born in Tel Aviv.

Her mother’s family had fled to the land that would become the State of Israel in the 1930s. Baseley’s grandparents lived in Germany where her grandfather was a manager of a department store. Baseley said people told him he looked like a Hollywood movie star and the people he worked with didn’t know he was Jewish.

“One day my grandfather was invited by co-workers to attend a Nazi meeting,” Baseley said. “He went straight home to his wife and told her to pack up — they were out of there.”

He moved his family including his mother, his brothers and their young wives to Israel. So the next generation of the family was all born in Israel and saw it become a state, said Baseley. Economic hard times in Israel in the 1950s led the family to take up an uncle’s offer to sponsor the entire family to come to the United States.

“My mother came to the United States as a teenager,” Baseley said. “She totally assimilated and never spoke Hebrew to her children. Ironically three of her four children wound up studying in Israel.”

Baseley left Israel after her future husband Rick flew there to bring her home. They married and when Baseley got pregnant the couple decided they wanted to raise their family on a farm. They purchased one near Camp David, Maryland in a small town with no other Jews in the area.

“The town was wonderful and opened their hearts and homes to us,” Baseley said. “They totally embraced us.”

Baseley was the president of the elementary school’s Parent Teacher Association. The school invited her to bring in a menorah to put on display and she distributed dreidels to the students. One of the teachers created a special Hanukkah art project for Baseley’s children rather than have them do the Christmas project.

The family moved to St. Louis in 1996 where Baseley’s interest in the environment and can-do attitude has influenced many aspects of her life over the years.

She supports local vendors, farmers and grocers and loves going to farmers’ markets at Tower Grove and Kirkwood. Baseley also promotes the use of cloth shopping bags and has made some for herself.

One day Baseley decided she wanted a new purse and made it herself, by hand. Other people admired it so much Baseley made more leather purses and belts. She hasn’t sold any yet because she “can’t bear to part with them.” However, she did make it easier on herself to create those projects by purchasing a sewing machine. Of course that purchase led to a new hobby: quilting.

On nice weekends you can find Baseley and her husband riding their Harley motorcycles. This summer they are planning a trip to Sturgis, S.D., for the big annual Harley destination event.

Baseley and her husband Rick are the parents of two active sons. Josh is a sophomore at Missouri State in Springfield and Logan is a junior at Parkway North High School. The family has always enjoyed high adventure vacations. Baseley crews on an all- woman sailboat team which competes in regattas every year on Carlyle Lake. She also co-manages Logan’s lacrosse team.

“I love to party and go out with friends,” Baseley said. “And I truly care about the people who are members of B’nai El.”