Hundreds flock to United Hebrew for Millstone celebration

BY JILL KASSANDER, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

The St. Louis Jewish community was out in full force for Isadore E. Millstone’s100 birthday.

The parking lot at United Hebrew was over half full by 6:30 p.m. though the special Shabbat Alive service and celebration were not scheduled to begin until 7 p.m. Close to 1,000 people of all ages filled the main sanctuary and balcony, small chapel and bimah to honor a man who means so much to the community.

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Long time board member of United Hebrew and past president of the Jewish Community Center Marty Oberman attended the past presidents’ luncheon on Thursday honoring Millstone. Oberman arrived early Friday evening to get a seat since he knew there would be a crowd.

“Izzy loves Shabbat Alive and the community loves Izzy, I knew it would be a love fest,” Oberman said. “Izzy is the true definition of a legend in his own time.”

Harvey Greenstein, who has known Millstone for over 40 years, also attended the celebration. He was on the board of the JCC with Millstone. Greenstein recalled enjoying watching Millstone in action.

“Izzy always had a way to get to the essence of the question,” Greenstein said. “He is a treasure to the St. Louis Jewish community, the general community, the national community and the international community.”

Education was the theme of the special Shabbat Alive service because of its importance to Millstone. Cantor Ronald Eichaker set the tone for the evening by teaching the congregation a new tune. Then the local Teen Team, junior and senior choir members and a visiting Teen Team from Memphis proceeded up the center aisle of the main sanctuary singing and playing instruments led by artist-in-residence Rick Recht. Their energy was visibly contagious as the congregation joined them by singing, clapping and waving their arms.

Recht spoke about being inspired by the enthusiasm of the youth who are part of his Teen Team and Millstone who has “set an example by sharing and giving.” Recht shared a humorous story from his visit with the children at the congregation’s early childhood center earlier that morning.

“One of the little boys said he really wanted to come tonight to see what a 100-year-old man looks like,” Recht said. “Rabbi Rosenberg and Diane Deutsch confirmed if he wanted to come that was fine. But they told him Mr. Millstone does not look 100 years old.”

The hoopla over his age was amusing to Millstone as well.

“People seem awed by the very fact that a 100-year-old man is still walking around,” Millstone said. “It must be unusual because I’m getting a lot of attention from it.”

Millstone went on to share the importance of his longtime relationships with the JCC, Washington University and especially United Hebrew which goes back “the entire 100 years.” He talked about the role of his father, Louis Millstone, in the life of the congregation. Louis served as the executive secretary of the Temple for 40 years. When he died 60 years ago the congregational board passed a resolution acknowledging their “great sense of grief and loss.”

Rabbi Howard Kaplansky also spoke about the importance of Millstone’s father to the congregation. He pointed out that all visitors to the Temple’s main office are greeted by a portrait of Louis. Rabbi Kaplansky also explained the reasoning behind celebrating Millstone’s birthday on Shabbat Alive saying both are “innovative, forward looking, visionary and a celebration of life.”

“As part of the Shema we read you shall teach the commandments to your children, speak of them at home, on the way, when you sleep and when you rise up,” Rabbi Kaplansky said. “Mr. Millstone has taught us all by the way that he lives his life.”

Rabbi Kaplansky thanked Millstone and his family for allowing the congregation and the community the privilege of celebrating his life. The service concluded with Rabbis Kaplansky, Brigitte Rosenberg and Rabbi Emeritus Jerome Grollman giving Millstone the priestly blessing.

“Reaching 100-years-old is very emotional,” Millstone said. “Thank you all so much for coming. I appreciate it very much.”

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