Coming in October: ‘Jewish Lite’ page

If I learned nothing else during my tenure as an editor at a large metropolitan daily, it is that readers care more about two features in the paper than anything else: the comics and the puzzles. Sure, breaking news is important and those stories, along with controversial articles and investigative projects get a lot of buzz, but I am telling you that day in and day out, most major daily newspapers receive more calls about their comics and puzzles than anything else. Think I’m kidding? Try yanking Mark Trail or Funky Winkerbean and see the switchboard light up like Times Square.

The reason for this passion, I have come to believe, is that comics and puzzles are great diversions. And readers don’t like you messing with their diversions. Also, for many of us, the comics were our first entry into the paper; we fondly remember our parents reading our favorite strips to us as kids, until the day came when we could read them by ourselves. Puzzles, we know, help to keep the mind healthy and more alert, especially as we get older. And they’re often fun to do, or at least challenging and a tremendous source of pride when we actually complete a difficult one.

Beth Shalom Cemetery ad

It is with all of this in mind that the Jewish Light is adding a new page to the paper, aptly named Jewish Lite. Each week, beginning Oct. 7, the Jewish Lite page will feature Jewish- themed diversions including the Jerusalem Post crossword puzzle (ironically, created here in St. Louis by David Benkof); the comic strip Dry Bones, by Yaakov Kirschen of Israel, and trivia questions. Other fun diversions will pop up now and again, but I promise once this page gets going we won’t mess with your crossword puzzle or comic . . . at least not right away.

– It seem nowadays that every month — and week — of the year is earmarked for some important cause, be it breast cancer awareness (October) or mental illness awareness (Oct. 4-10). Not that there’s anything wrong with this. It’s just that with so many months and weeks devoted to so many causes and concerns, it’s easy for some of these to be overlooked.

One that recently made me take notice is “Lobotomy: A Piece Of Mind,” opening Sunday, Oct. 4. Sponsored by the Alliance on Mental Illness-NAMI St. Louis and the Missouri Institute of Mental Health to help commemorate National Mental Illness Awareness Week, the exhibit will be on display through December at the Missouri Institute of Mental Health at 5400 Arsenal Street. The opening will include a reception on Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m.

Hundreds of lobotomies were done from the 1930’s until the 1960’s, a period in which medicines for treatment were not available. Families and individuals with symptoms of mental illness were often desperate for relief and a cure. The exhibit was developed by Ellen Rosenbaum, a long-time volunteer at NAMI St. Louis and west St. Louis County resident. “The individuals who received this surgery were brave people whose lives were never the same again,” she says. “The stigma of mental illness and of the surgery itself prevented their stories from being told.”

The results of the surgery were mixed. A few people did improve, some did not, and a few died during the surgery or soon after. The exhibit will feature pictures of individuals who had lobotomies, diagrams of the surgery, and a timeline of treatments for mental illness. The pictures, from books and magazines in the public domain, have not been shown together in a formal exhibit.

– With performers such as Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellenkamp, Dave Mathews, Gretchen Wilson, Wilco, Jason Mraz and many more on the bill, it’s easy to forget the mission of Farm Aid, which takes place at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre on Sunday, Oct. 4 beginning at 12:30 p.m. The event, now in its 24th year, strives to raise awareness about the loss of family farms as well as raise funds to keep farm families on their land. Since 1985, Farm Aid has raised nearly $35 million to promote a strong and resilient family farm system of agriculture.

This year, Farm Aid organizers are encouraging all festival-goers to bring canned goods to the concert. The food will then be donated to the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry (HKJFP), a Program of Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JF &CS), and the St. Louis Area Food Bank. For more information, visit

– Starbucks is putting big bucks behind the notion that instant coffee has long been underrated. After months of selling its VIA brand instant coffee in Seattle and Chicago, the company on Tuesday began offering the dissolvable-in-hot-water drink to the rest of the nation and Canada.

Sold in cylindrical packets that come in packages of three ($2.95) or a dozen ($9.95), these single servings of instant coffee are now available in two flavors — Colombian and Italian Roast — and are kosher.

From Oct. 2 – 5, Starbucks invites customers to taste Colombia Starbucks VIA next to fresh-brewed Pike Place Roast and guess which one is the instant. Taste challenge participants will receive a coupon for a complimentary tall brewed coffee on their next visit as well as an offer for $1 off a VIA purchase.