J Associates honors ‘Mitzvah Stars’


The J Associates named its 2010 Mitzvah Star honorees: Simone Bernstein, Semyon Mugerfeld and Phyllis Siegel.

Simone Bernstein

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Frustrated at 12 years old trying to find volunteer work, Simone started her volunteer career at the Magic House.  At 13, she began volunteering St. Louis Crisis Nursery and last summer she worked at Touchette Regional Hospital in East St. Louis.  She is also a volunteer at St. Louis John Cochrans Veterans Administration Hospital and is an assistant teacher at Shaare Emeth Religious School. In addition, Simone, 18, is the creator of St. Louis Volunteen.com, a website promoting local youth volunteer opportunities

This Mitzvah Star’s future goals include creating a not-for-profit organization and a National Teen Volunteer Site, especially for teens in smaller communities. 

Simone also has received several major local and national honors, including the Prudential Spirit of Community Award, which is given to one student per state for volunteer service and will be awarded to her in Washington, D.C.  She has received the Bank of America Student Leader Award, the Jamala Rogers Youth Visionary Award, the St. Louis City/KMOV Do the Right Thing Award, the Princeton University Book Award and the President’s National Volunteer Service Award.

Semyon Mugerfeld

Born in 1921, in Krivckik, Russia, Mugerfeld spent his adult life as an Electrical Engineer in Angarsic in Siberia.  He retired to Odessa, after 39 years in electrical construction.  Finally, his daughter convinced him and his wife, Maria, to move to St. Louis, leaving the anti-Semitism of Russia behind.

Mugerfeld volunteers at the Jewish Food Pantry packing and stocking food. This extremely dedicated (almost 90 years old) Mitzvah Star has volunteered at the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry for almost eight years. Mugerfeld also serves as a Russian translator for many of the Food Pantry’s Russian clients. 

Mugerfeld has been married to Maria for 62 years.  They have two children and three grandchildren.  They walk the JCC track twice a day together, at morning and at night. 

Mugerfeld says that life in America is “good” and that he “likes working with nice American people.”

Phyllis Siegel

A volunteer organizer extraordinaire,  Siegel arranges Mah Jong groups, theater groups, tennis groups and bridge groups. She has organized events to benefit various charities, such as Jewish Food Pantry, Alzheimer’s Association, Holocaust Museum and Learning Center, National Council of Jewish Womens’ Back to School Store and the St. Louis Breast Cancer Coalition.  Her next event is for Caring for Kids.  

Siegel can also be found every year at the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival Book Store at the Jewish Community Center.  She is an avid tennis player and arranges an interclub team at the Vetta Concord Sports Club. 

Siegel taught 31 years at Beasley Elementary School in Mehlville School District.  During these years, she always volunteered to run the school’s talent show.  She also took her classes once a month to volunteer at Veteran’s Hospital.  She presently teaches bridge through the St. Louis community college system. She received her Life Master in bridge last year.

Siegel’s lifetime dream was to go to seven continents and attend four Grand Slam tennis events. She has accomplished both. She also walked a half marathon last fall, accomplishing another dream.

Siegel says that volunteering “gives me a chance to help others by doing what I like to do and helping people do those things, too.”  Her favorite saying is, “Like what you do and do what you like!”