Jewish Unity Live event will celebrate Torah, community

By David Baugher, Special to the Jewish Light

The St. Louis Kollel has long prided itself on linking the community to Torah. Now a Torah will be linked to Jewish Unity Live, the Kollel’s main educational event.

“We believe that God is eternal. We believe that the Torah is eternal,” said Rabbi Shlomo Soroka, associate dean of the organization. “The Jewish people are eternal, and they are all connected.”

This year’s Jewish Unity Live on Sunday, June 15, will be the 23rd annual iteration of the event and will be preceded by a procession to mark the completion of a new Torah scroll. The procession will go from the Clayton residence of the Goldmeier family to the Kollel in University City. The Jewish Unity Live event will follow at 7 p.m. at Logan College in Chesterfield.

“Jewish Unity Live is the Kollel’s signature event,” said Rabbi Shaya Mintz, director of programming and development,  “a time that we reflect on our successes and recognize those who have gone above and beyond for our programs and made them happen, whether it is through recognition of our donors or those who participate and are ambassadors for the programs.”


Eight people will be recognized during the festivities. Dr. Mickey and Bonnie  Goldmeierwill receive the Ohav Torah Award. Stacy Kass will be honored with the Eishes Chayil Award, and Richard Senturia will be recognized for his community leadership. Dr. Alan Lyss will receive an award for Jewish medical ethics, and Michelle Mufson will be given the Torah Champion Award.

Kevin Demoff, executive vice president of the Rams, will be honored for his contributions to a Torah & Turf program that has been successful in blending Jewish learning with football. Demoff allowed participants to use of the Edward Jones Dome for their championship match last year. 

Soroka marveled that someone as busy as Demoff had done so much to help.

“There is really nothing in it for him except for the fact that he cares,” Soroka said.

Perhaps most special of all will be the presentation of the Torchbearer Award to Holocaust survivor Ben Fainer, a Holocaust Museum lecturer and the co-author (with Mark Leach) of “Silent for Sixty Years,” about his experiences during the Shoah. One of the books of the new Torah will be dedicated to victims of the Shoah, including Fainer’s mother.

“That’s very important. We have to remember them,” Soroka said. “People say 6   million but it was not just 6 million. People have children, and their children have children. It is 600 million. It is really infinite.”

It is a fact that speaks somberly to the mission of the Kollel, which passes along the tradition of Jewish values and learning.

“It is not only about remembering those people, but what they stood for, what they sacrificed their lives for, to take the values and the heritage that they died for and make sure it lives on,” Soroka said.

Mintz said Jewish Unity Live is a celebration of learning but also a way for individuals in the different parts of the organization to get to know one another. People involved with business ethics events can interact with those studying medical ethics or mix with young professionals from Torah & Turf.

“With all of our programs, we are really just reaching out with the Torah that Hashem has given us and applying it to different people of different ages, taking it out to the community,” he said. “Putting this together with the completion of the actual written Torah just highlights and brings it all together.”

Mintz said that participants shouldn’t expect a typically stuffy awards ceremony dinner. In fact, the Kollel is aiming for a more casual outdoors event with barbecue and smoked meats on the menu.

“I think it is important to stress that it is not a sit-down dinner,” Mintz said. “People are mingling. People are meeting others.”

That informal blend of seriousness and fun will also be seen earlier in the day when participants will be invited to witness the completion of the Torah and are encouraged to learn from the scribe. During the parade to the Kollel, a truck will be on hand to dispense free ice cream.

“Our message this year is that the Torah was given by God and it is here to stay, just like the Jewish people are here to stay,” Mintz said.