Jews in the news December 2010

During the month of Cheshvan, Jewish Social Action Month, the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) organized several community drives to help those in need. A childrens’ book drive collected several hundred books donated to area Head Start programs and children in the St. Louis public schools via the community organizations Ready Readers and UrbanFuture. In this photo are Chloe and Benjamin Cedergreen, with books they helped deliver to Ready Readers.

B’nai Amoona, MERS-Goodwill

The annual B’nai Amoona Electronics Recycling Drive, co-sponsored by MERS-Goodwill and the City of Creve Coeur, collected 230 tons of electronics. That total filled 16 53-foot tractor-trailers.


MERS-Goodwill also noted that the total amount of electronics did not include many large commercial donations that were scheduled for pick up, rather than the drop-off at B’nai Amoona.

In addition, Phyllis Cantor of the congregation’s Social Action Committee and one of the event’s founders, reports that B’nai Amoona also collected cash donations of $5,560, which provided Thanksgiving turkeys for 560 families, through eight food pantries.

Crown Center for Senior Living

It’s been debated for decades: is sour cream or applesauce the best accompaniment to the potato latke. Crown Center for Senior Living diners took part in a Hanukkah contest, and during the “Great Latke Debate,” they tasted, voted and found that although it was a close race, sour cream was the victor. By “close,” we should note that only one vote separated the winner from the loser.

Next Dor

Next Dor’s “Hannukaversary Party,” celebrating the organization’s first year serving Jewish adults in St. Louis, drew close to 100 people and raised more than $730. The Saturday night party was organized by Joshua Nissenbaum and Jake Talve-Goodman, with help from Next Dor staff and volunteers.

A mix of young adults integrated familiar Hannukah traditions like latkes and sufganyot (Israeli jelly doughnuts) with a few new “spins,” including “No Limit Dreidel.” “Both Nissenbaum and Talve-Goodman wanted to do something to support Next Dor and bring people together,” said Yoni Sarason, program director at Next Dor, “and the Hanukkah theme of rededication fit perfectly with celebrating a full year of community and events in the repurposed and renovated Next Dor house.”

The Hannukaversary party was supported by donations from Major Brands, Magic Hat beer, and STL-Style. Kosher food was catered by Simon Kohn’s.

Over the last year, more than 330 young adults have attended over 120 programs, events and gatherings organized at Next Dor. Next Dor receives funding from Synagogue3000, Jewish Federation of St. Louis, and the Kranzberg Family Foundation, as well as individual donors. To help support Next Dor, or receive further information, email [email protected].

Project Backpack

More than 80 supporters attended Project Backpack’s annual fundraiser luncheon at Russo’s Spazio Cafe Westport in November. Project Backpack supplies backpacks filled with necessities and comfort items for local children who are taken from their homes due to domestic violence and other crisis situations.

Project Backpack Board member Fran Wilner of Glendale chaired the event along with Judy Glazer.   “We were delighted to be working again with the Russo family, who have so generously provided their facility and worked with us so that much of the luncheon proceeds will help to fill backpacks,” said Willner.

Judy Pearlstone, director of Project Backpack, was one of the Jewish Light’s 2010 “Unsung Heroes.”

St. Louis Hillel

In November, Aviva, a student group for Jewish Greek women at Washington University advised by St. Louis Hillel, hosted a Shabbat dinner on campus, bringing together Jewish women involved in the various sororities on campus. With 40 women in attendance, the annual event offered the women an opportunity to eat together and observe Shabbat in a different venue than they were accustomed to. Challot at the dinner were provided by Challah for Hunger, another student group on campus that bakes and sells challah to benefit the AJWS Darfur Relief Fund and the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry. Additionally, the dinner was a kickoff for Aviva’s collaboration with the St. Louis Section of the National Council of Jewish Women’s Kids Community Closet initiative. The group sponsored a drive with NCJW to benefit the program that is housed in various schools in St. Louis. The event was made possible by the Stern Family Foundation.

Solomon Schechter Day School

This year Solomon Schechter celebrated the gift of tzedakah each day during Hanukkah. Students brought in donations each day for different local organizations, place them in decorated boxes in the school’s lobby. At the end of the week the boxes were used to create a menorah.

Students gathered in the lobby each morning to light the candles, recite the brachot (blessings) and sing Hanukkah songs.

Upper School students helped educate the student body about the organizations chosen to honor.  Each day a new middah (value/character trait) was shared by teachers, including kavod (respect), chesed (kindness), achraiyut (responsibility), sovlanut (tolerance), ezra lazulat (helping others), ahava (love), gevurah (heroism/courage) and Tza’ar Ba’alei Chayim (taking care of animals). Students supported and discussed the following organizations: JFCS’ “Hanukkah Hugs,” the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry,” NCJW’s Back to School Store/Kids Community Closet programs, JFCS’s “Paws for Cause,” and Crisis Nursery. The eighth grade students lit the eighth candle and the entire student body created cards for Israeli Soldiers and students in Yokneam-Meggido.

United Hebrew

United Hebrew honored members of the Laiderman family at its fall fundraiser and Grand Finale Gala. The congregation presented the third annual Irene Fox United Hebrew Ruach Award to Lorraine Laiderman and her children:  Howard and Bonnie Laiderman; Barry and Lisa Laiderman; Steve and Tammi Laiderman; Caryn and Marshall Burstein; and grandchildren, in recognition of their dedicated service to the congregation over the years.

“This award was established to recognize those who embody the ruach (spirit) of United Hebrew and Judaism,” said Ed Becker, president of the congregation.  “The Laiderman family exemplifies the true meaning of the award,” he continued. Lorraine’s husband, the late Stanley Laiderman, served the congregation as president in 1982 and 1983. Fifteen years later, his son Steve became president of U.H.; they became the only father and son to have served as presidents of the congregation in its 173-year history. Steve continues to chair the U.H. Endowment Committee and has provided leadership on several initiatives, including the campaign to fund a new Torah for the congregation in 2007.

The family shares a long history in philanthropy and community service.  They are active supporters of numerous Jewish and community-wide organizations.

Young Professionals Division

Jewish Federation’s Young Professionals Division hosted a 2010 Campaign Closing Celebration featuring the Sklar Brothers. “One Night Stand Up: A Night of Comedy with the Sklar Brothers” benefited the Federation’s family of 50+ agencies, programs and services in St. Louis, Israel and overseas. More than 250 young adults enjoyed the entertainment, open bar and assortment of candy. Melanie Winograd, Ross Silverman, Adam Berkowitz and Andrea Kass were chairs of the event.

Community kudos

• Two named to USCJ offices

United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism’s newly formed Central district elected its first slate of district council officers recently, and two St. Louisans were among the officers elected: Mueriel Carp and Harriet Shanas.

Carp was named district chair and Shanas was named district secretary; both will serve for the next two years.

Before she became district chair, Carp served as the district’s interim chair and president of the United Synagogue’s Mid-Continent region. She is a member of Congregation B’nai Amoona in St. Louis.

Shanas is a past-president of Shaare Zedek Synagogue in St. Louis. She also serves as chair of Emtza region United Synagogue Youth (USY).

United Synagogue’s Central District represents more than 100 United Synagogue member congregations in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

• St. Louis contingent at NewCAJE conference

Some 350 Jewish educators from around the U.S., as well as from Canada, England, and Israel, gathered for the founding conference of NewCAJE (New Coalition for Alternatives in Jewish Education) earlier this year in Waltham, Mass.  Educators at the conference from St. Louis were Susan Silver of United Hebrew Congregation and Liz Singer of Jewish Family and Children’s Service and Congregation Shaare Emeth.

The conference represented a fresh start, said NewCAJE founder and President Rabbi Cherie Koller-Fox, utilizing opportunities to reframe the organization and adapt it to the changes that have occurred in the past 35 years. The national organization Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education (not to be confused with the local Central Agency for Jewish Education) announced it would close in early 2009, ending the annual national conference it held.

The conference program included workshops given by 133 presenters, including one from St. Louis’ Liz Singer on, “From Glee to Grey’s: Using Popular Culture to discuss difficult subjects.”