Muny to light up United Hebrew

Summer in St. Louis would not be a St. Louis summer without the Muny Opera. Since time immemorial the Muny has been presenting wonderful shows by great Jewish composers like Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, Richard Rogers, Oscar Hammerstein (half Jewish),and George Gershwin, just to name a few. On Friday evening, March 28 at 7 p.m United Hebrew Congregation will present “Jewish Songs of St. Louis Summers,” featuring Judith Newmark, theatre critic for the St. Louis Post Dispatch and the author of the recently published The Muny: Songs of Summer. Judy, assisted by a troupe of veteran Muny singers and dancers performing some of the memorable works left by Jewish composers, will discuss the Jewish influence on American musical theatre.

This is only part of what sounds like a super evening, or should I say “Super Shabbat”? United Hebrew Congregation at 13788 Conway Road is hosting what is called a “Synaplex Shabbat” which starts at 5:30 p.m. with wine and cheese, followed by a Kabbalat Shabbat service a 6 p.m. and then the Judith Newmark Muny program. Everyone is welcome and there is no admission fee, but if you have questions, call Ken Schwartz at 314-434-3404, ext.103.

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A word here about Synaplex, which is a new concept to me. Rabbi Brigitte Rosenberg of United Hebrew explained that Synaplex is an initiative of STAR (Synagogues: Transition and Renewal). “We had to apply to the program and then were accepted, the first congregation in St. Louis to be a part of the program. The biggest goal of Synaplex is to work on bringing people into the synagogue for Shabbat, which they call Jewish prime time. They recognize that some folks are not attracted to worship settings and suggest looking for programming and alternative options to bring people in. They don’t throw out worship — rather they add different things.” Rabbi Rosenberg explained.

If the nosh, prayer and musical theatre does not attract a large audience, I can’t imagine what will. I have no doubt that you will be looking for more Synaplex Shabbats, maybe next time at Congregation Nusach Hari B’nai Zion.

IT SEEMS LIKE ONLY YESTERDAY instead of some thirty years ago that a group of concerned parents got together to discuss the future of their developmentally disabled children, knowing that these kids would grow into needy adults. What was only a dream, a gleam in the eyes of these parents, has become a reality. Rainbow Village, a non-profit organization that provides safe, comfortable and affordable homes in the St. Louis Metro area for people with developmental disabilities, is the fruit of the labor of those parents. Over 225 men and women live in one of their 46 homes. The homes are maintained to the highest standards and residents’ needs are constantly monitored.

As a result, Rainbow Village is able to improve the quality of life for many men and women with developmental disabilities.

Costly? You bet. Therefore on Friday, April 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the Marriot St. Louis West, 660 Maryville Center Drive, Rainbow Village will hold its 12th annual dinner-auction, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow 2008.” The evening will be hosted by Fox 2’s Kevin Steincross and will feature silent and oral auctions. Among the auction items are week-long stays in Florida condos, fabulous gourmet dinners, tickets to some of St. Louis’ finest cultural events, beautiful jewelry, sports memorabilia and much more.

Central to this year’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” dinner-auction is the awarding of the Tice Humanitarian Award to Gerald (Jerry) Zafft, an outstanding attorney, for his many years of service to Rainbow Village.

Jerry’s commitment to assisting people with disabilities led him to become the prime author in creating Missouri Family Trust, now known as the Midwest Special Needs Trust. This is a nationally recognized, innovative approach, which permits a family to provide for their loved one’s benefit without jeopardizing his or her eligibility for government entitlement funding.

Proceeds from this year’s event will go towards expanding Rainbow Village’s number of community homes for adults with developmental disabilities. Individual tickets are $150 and tables of ten are available at $1,500. To reserve your place call Jo-Ann Goldstein at 314-567-1522, ext. 201 or visit In keeping with the “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” theme, Rainbow Villagers urge you to support their cause as There’s No Place Like Home.