Jewish cultural cruise tours the Caribbean

Think snow and sleet and piercing cold. Think February and runny noses. Now rethink that time of the year and picture yourself lounging on the sunny deck of the MS Westerdam in the Caribbean. In addition to the lovely weather, you are promised some fascinating ports of call like Aruba and Curacao, charming islands with fascinating old Jewish communities. Tempting, isn’t it?

This Jewish Cultural Caribbean Cruise on the Holland America cruise line is being sponsored by B’nai B’rith St. Louis. It departs from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Sunday, Feb. 1 and returns to the same city the following week, Feb. 8. In between, there will be tours of Jewish sites and lectures as well as religious services led by Professor Ori Z. Soltes, an outstanding professor of theology and fine arts. Basic cost of the cruise is $1,502 per person for an ocean view cabin occupied by two people, which includes a $100 tax deductible gift to the organization. B’nai B’rith’s Michelle Gralnick has planned the trip with the expert assistance of AAA cruise maven Margie Levinson, who will take care of all the reservations. Margie can be reached at 314-862-8021 x118, or you may speak to Michelle at 314-569-4122.

Having Ori Soltes as the cruise’s scholar in residence is a coup indeed. He is the Goldman Professorial Lecturer in Theology and Fine arts at Georgetown University and the former director and curator of the B’nai B’rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum in Washington, D.C. He earned his B.A. degree in philosophy from Haverford College, his M.A. degree in classics from Princeton, and his Ph.D. in interdisciplinary studies from Union Institute and University. Professor Soltes is the author of more than 130 articles, exhibition catalogues, essays and books and is the writer, director and narrator of more than 30 documentary videos. Among his most recent books are Fixing the World: Jewish American Painters in the 20th Century and The Ashen Rainbow: Essays on the Arts and the Holocaust. Known as a lecturer in universities and museums, Soltes has guest-curated exhibitions that have focused on diverse aspects of Western art throughout the ages and art from across the world.

I found him to be a really interesting speaker when he appeared here in St. Louis for B’nai B’rith a few years ago. I suspect that he will be a good traveling companion for those of you who go on the cruise.

WHAT’S SO FUNNY ABOUT THE GOLDEN YEARS is Ben Milder’s latest book of light verse. The theme he addresses in this collection allows him to dissect inconvenient truths about the aging experience, but he does so gently and with humor.

He hypothesizes on the tendency to believe that, somehow, we are younger than our chronological age (I, for example, am younger than my older daughter), the unwelcome intrusions of “senior moments” into our thoughts and conversations and the need to adapt to the physical limitations imposed by our bodies. According to John C. Morris, MD, Director of the Harvey Friedman Center for Aging at Washington University “This book enhances our understanding of the process of growing old as a natural outcome of a life well-lived and emphasizes that this process encompasses continued enjoyment, productivity and deeply personal experiences.”

A retired ophthalmologist, Dr. Benjamin Milder (also known as “Bud” to his intimates) is Professor Emeritus of Clinical Ophthalmology at Washington University. He has been writing light verse since the time of Methuselah (well, not really), and his passion has resulted in more than 1,000 poems and four published volumes of light verse. In 1979, I reviewed his award winning textbook on applied optics, laced with snippets of hilarious poetry and entitled The Fine Art of Prescribing Glasses: Without Making a Spectacle of Yourself. Later he penned The Good Book Says followed by The Good Book Also Says, both spoofs of the Old and New Testaments.

It was my intention to include a poem in this column, but in all fairness to Bud I simply could not cut one up (for reasons of space) and give you bits and pieces. So I will instead quote what he has to say about his What’s So Funny About the Golden Years. “It is a truism that none of us will get out of this alive. That said, there is no reason that we cannot enjoy the trip, laughing as we reflect on the past, planning for the future and, most importantly, enjoying the present. It is the aim of this book to assist you in accomplishing these ends.”

What’s So Funny About the Golden Years is available through or from the publisher, Time Being Books, 866-840-4334 or online at