Lipnick, Cohen named ‘Men of the Year’

BY ROBERT A. COHN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF EMERITUS

Rabbi Bernard Lipnick, rabbi emeritus of Congregation B’nai Amoona, and Dr. Gerald Cohen, a local podiatrist long active as a volunteer at Congregation Shaare Emeth, were honored as the first local recipients of the “Man of the Year” Awards, by the Midwest Region of the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs, an arm of the Conservative movement.

Over 150 people filled the auditorium of Congregation of Shaare Emeth, where Rabbi Lipnick and Dr. Cohen were honored for their many years of service to their synagogues and to the entire community. David Propper, president of the Shaare Zedek Men’s Club, served as the master of ceremonies, and he was joined by Jeff Weis, president of the B’nai Amoona Men’s Club in extending a warm welcome to the attendees, and in paying tribute to the honorees. Words of greeting and congratulations to the honorees were also extended by Rabbi Mark Fasman of Shaare Zedek and Rabbi Carnie Rose of B’nai Amoona.

Sandy Victor of Chicago, president of the Midwest Region of the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs, presented an overview of the organization’s mission and its efforts to provide support and mutual sharing of programs and ideas with affiliated Men’s Clubs, and also the Man of the Year Award program. He congratulated the Men’s Clubs of Shaare Zedek and B’nai Amoona for organizing “such a well-attended event and for selecting such deserving honorees.”

As president of the Shaare Zedek Men’s Club, David Propper offered remarks on Dr. Gerald (Jerry) Cohen. “Jerry Cohen left his home in the East and joined the Navy in 1946. After completing his military service, he enrolled at Washington University, where he met a classmate, who invited him to his home for Shabbat. There he met his classmate’s sister, who became his future bride, Marion. Gerald and Marion have been married for 56 years.”

Propper added, “In the many years Jerry and his family have been a part of Shaare Zedek, Jerry has been involved in many roles. He was a Scout leader when his son was a member, a Youth Advisor when his daughters were part of USY. He was instrumental in facilitating the admission of our Youth Group into USY, and he and Marion co-chaired our Israel Bonds Committee for 13 years.

“Jerry has been serving up the morning minyan breakfast at Shaare Zedek for many years,” Propper continued. “Jerry has been working to improve his Hebrew so he could recite a Haftarah, which he did for the third time this past January….Jerry continues to maintain his podiatry practice on a part-time basis, having maintained a full-time commitment for more than 40 years. He has been recognized as a past president of the St. Louis Podiatry Society and was selected as the 2004 Podiatry Man of the Year for the State of Missouri. Jerry’s interest and love of children continued through his professional career as he performed magic show’s for school children throughout the area as ‘Footso the Clown.’ In summary, Jerry displays a love of family, synagogue and profession that is hard to match.”

In his acceptance remarks, after thanking the Men’s Clubs for the honor, Cohen entertained the audience with samples of his magic tricks, much to the amusement of those in attendance. In the first trick, he transformed a section of the Sunday newspaper into a paper tree, and in the second, he brought down the house by tugging on a cord for an extended time, at the end of which appeared a pair of boxer shorts.

Rabbi Lipnick said that Dr. Cohen was a “most difficult act to follow,” but he good-naturedly performed a trick of his own with his necktie that was similar to that of Dr. Cohen.

Jeff Weis, as president of the B’nai Amoona Men’s Club, said, “When we discussed who to honor with our first Man of the Year Award, the decision to select Rabbi Lipnick was reached in a nano-second. Rabbi Lipnick, a native of Baltimore, has devoted all of his life to B’nai Amoona, the St. Louis Jewish community, and indeed all of humanity. Of Rabbi Lipnick it can truly be said, that he not only talks the talk, but very literally walks the walk. Back in the troubling sixties, Rabbi Lipnick walked with Dr. Martin Luther King and the freedom marchers when that was not an easy task, and when such actions were very unpopular around the nation. He has been a father figure and a mentor to so many members of B’nai Amoona, and I can recall him attending one of our Men’s Club meetings, where he challenged us to become a vital and meaningful part of our synagogue’s life. Thanks to that talk, our Men’s Club took his message seriously, and have continued to follow his example of doing what we can to assure our synagogue’s future and to help the entire community.”

In his remarks, Rabbi Lipnick amused the audience with references not only to Dr. Cohen’s magic tricks and humorous words, but also by sharing the fact that he attended with his wife a special performance sponsored by the National Council of Jewish Women, St. Louis Section of the play The Vagina Monologues, which took place at the site of the former B’nai Amoona synagogue. “Here I was in the very same room where I had given hundreds of sermons over 35 years on what I hoped were very weighty topics, looking a big red letter ‘V’ on what used to be our bema.”

Rabbi Lipnick praised the vital role which women are playing in synagogue life and said he was proud that B’nai Amoona “was among the first to have egalitarian services. At the same time, it is very important that men in our synagogues continue to play vital and meaningful roles. Many of our fine synagogue presidents were first presidents of their men’s clubs. We of course have had and have many fine women who have served as synagogue presidents and other leadership positions. But our Men’s Clubs play a very important role in assuring that the men among our members continue to be actively and meaningfully involved in our synagogue life.”

The awards were presented to each of the honorees by Sandy Victor of Chicago, president of the Midwest Region of the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs, who congratulated them and expressed appreciation to B’nai Amoona and Shaare Zedek and their Men’s Clubs “for their outstanding leadership in putting together such a wonderful first Man of the Year Awards event.”

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