J Associates announces Mitzvah Stars

The J Associates have announced the 2008 Mitzvah Star award honorees. Rosalie Chod, Merle Hartstein, Ron Heller and Bruce Ratika will accept their awards at the J Associates annual Installation Lunch on May 15 at the JCC Marilyn Fox Building.

The J Associates regularly honor volunteers who have given extraordinary service to the community. The Mitzvah Star Award was established in February of 1989.

Rosalie Chod

Rosalie Chod said she wants to “give back to the world.” “I don’t want to need from others, but I want to be there for others.”

Chod has been on the Jewish Hospital Auxiliary Board for more than 30 years and currently serves as treasurer. At B’nai Amoona, she serves many functions, including vice president of the Sisterhood. When Rabbi Bernard Lipnick needed a minyan many years ago Chod volunteered and now she and her husband serve as Tuesday Minyanaires.

Chod is also an active member of Jewish Women International, helps plan and execute the B’nai Brith Institute and has served many years on the JCC Used Book Sale.

Chod is a graduate of Washington University. At 86, she stays active with many activities including knitting, reading, and exercising.

She is married to Leonard, has three children, and 10 grandchildren.

Chod has a positive outlook on life. She stated, “things can always be better, but they can always be worse. I talk to G-d every night. I feel my Judaism.”

When asked about her life dream, she replied, “Keep on breathing!”

Merle Hartstein

To quote Merle Hartstein, “It’s a wonderful opportunity of giving.” What Hartstein is referring to is her chairperson’s role in the Moas Chitim Fund. (Money for Wheat) In the 1920s the Vaad Hoeir decided it was the “time which we as a people became a nation,” and started the mitzvah of raising funds and distributing food to people in need during Passover.

Now, the recipients are spread out all over Missouri. The Vaad Hoeir completes this mission with the cooperation of the Jewish Family and Children’s Services.

Hartstein is a past trustee of Young Israel, a board member and committee member of CAJE and past president of the Friends of Epstein Hebrew Academy. Hartstein is also a life member of Hadassah and former member of the Chevra Kadisha Society.

Hartstein owned the Green Trails Book Shop for twenty years, and has been married to Jack for 48 years. They have three children and seven grandchildren. She enjoys reading, traveling and cooking.

She says volunteering is “a tremendous teacher of human behavior. It gives you a window into a life that’s real. I get to have a relationship with some of the people that we’ve helped.”

Ron Heller

Ron Heller believes that “a person never dies as long as they are remembered.” Because of his belief, he created the Minyanaire Program at B’nai Amoona in 1994.

When Heller’s father passed away, he vowed to say Kaddish for 11 months. It was then that he formed a group of volunteers, making sure there would be a minyan for years to come.

In December of 2006, Rabbi Rose went to Boston to receive an award recognizing this program.

Heller was on the board of B’nai Amoona for 15 years and has served as vice president of the congregation. Heller and his wife just established a new fund, Planting a Tree of Life in the Jewish National Forest in memory of every congregant who passes away.

Eleven years ago, Heller established Friday night religious services at Delmar Gardens West, organizing volunteers from B’nai Amoona to conduct services once a month.

Heller also set up the Chaplaincy Corps at Missouri Baptist Hospital six years ago. He makes an average of 2,500 hospital calls a year.

He said, “I’m not a rabbi. The title doesn’t make the person, the person makes the title.” His training comes from his 20 years in Toastmasters.

Heller is a life member of Life Skills, past director of the U. City Chamber of Commerce and President of the Advisory Group of the English Language School. Heller has been married to Gerry for 54 years and they have two children and two grandchildren.

In addition to volunteering, Ron loves sports, plays the piano, sings, and travels.

Bruce Ratika

If you hear beautiful music at Missouri Baptist Hospital, is could be violinist, Bruce Ratika, doing one of his many mitzvot. Bruce strolls around the hospital on holidays playing for patients and staff.

He also volunteers on Wednesdays and Fridays in the Radiation-Oncology Department and in the Surgical Waiting Room.

Ratika is always helping in different capacities at Missouri Baptist.

He volunteers every year at the Heart Fair and Flu Shot drive. He also plays his violin in the hospital chapel for all holidays.

Ratika is active in Mended Hearts, an organization affiliated with the American Heart Association. He procures funds for Camp Rhythm, a one week camp for kids from the Children’s Hospital Cardiac Department and he is on the Board of Directors of the New Outlook Pioneers.

In 2006, Ratika received the Ready, Willing, and Lively Award from the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program and Cardinal Ritter Senior Services.

Ratika is a retired engineer, but says, “Volunteering is the best job I’ve ever had.” He has been married to Fay for 52 years. Bruce and Fay have two children, three grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

In addition to volunteering, Ratika loves to boat, travel, fix anything, work on his computer, and of course, play the violin.