News and Schmooze

The email, from Simone Bernstein, read like this: “This year I will be a senior at Clayton High School. I created this site out of sheer frustration. When I wanted to find a place to volunteer in the St. Louis area it was difficult to find a comprehensive list of opportunities for students under age 18. Most volunteer positions were only open to those 18 and older. Yet, both high school and middle school students also want to volunteer for the opportunity to give back to the community or for school community service hours, b’nai mitzvah projects, boy scouts badges and/or for the opportunity to gain job skills. Volunteering is a great way to give back to the community. I would appreciate if you could promote the site with teenagers and those looking for b’nai mitzvah projects.”

In a phone interview, Simone explained that she has volunteered at St. Louis Crisis Nursery, the Magic House and the St. Louis VA Medical Center. She started volunteering when she was 12 and she has been doing so ever since. She is on the junior board at the Crisis Nursery and currently volunteers at the GI Lab once a week at the VA Hospital. Her mitzvah project had to do with babies and learning; she celebrated her bat mitzvah at Congregation Shaare Emeth and attended Hebrew School at Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel and Shaare Zedek.

Simone says that volunteering has helped her “become more realistic about the world.” She thinks that more St. Louis teens would volunteer if it were easier for them to find opportunities to do so. That’s why she created The Web site, which Simone describes as a work in progress, lists about 20 agencies offering volunteer jobs to people as young as 10. Simone hopes to add many more groups to the site in the coming weeks. She has calls out to homeless shelters and other non-profits, as well as school principals. She also hopes that publicity will lead others looking for young volunteers to her site so that she, in turn, can publicize their organizations and the volunteer opportunities they offer.

Modern-day Hollywood movies about dating and sex among the geriatric set are pretty rare. Perhaps that will change as baby boomers continue to age, but right now, the only film that springs to mind is Boynton Beach Club, written and directed by Susan Seidelman. You could argue that Something’s Gotta Give, starring Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson, touched on these themes, though it’s hard to think of the former Annie Hall as a senior citizen (plus, Keaton was only in her late fifties when she made Something’s Gotta Give).

Now comes Play the Game, a film that features a love scene between an 82-year-old Andy Griffith and 79-year-old Liz Sheridan (who played Jerry’s mom on Seinfeld). The St. Louis Jewish Film Festival is offering a special preview of the film at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 26 at the Landmark Plaza Frontenac Cinema.

The comedy, directed by Marc Fienberg, tells the story of a young ladies man (Paul Campbell) who teaches his lonely, widowed grandfather (Griffith) how to play the dating game, while playing his best games to win over the girl of his dreams. But as David’s “foolproof” techniques prove to be anything but in his pursuit of Julie (Marla Sokoloff), the same techniques quickly transform Grandpa into the Don Juan of the retirement community. Slowly, the teacher becomes the student, and Grandpa must teach David how to win back the love of his life. The film also stars Doris Roberts of Everybody Love Raymond fame.

Tickets are $10 in advance and $11 at the door for the preview screening. Proceeds benefit the St. Louis Jewish Film Festival. For tickets call 314- 442-3175. The film is set for a regular run in St. Louis on Aug. 28.

The Princeton Review’s College Rankings for 2009 just came out and among the 62 categories examined is The Top 5 Schools for “Most Religious Students.” They are . . . (drum roll, please):

#5 Univ. of Dallas (Irving, Tex.)

#4 Hillsdale College (Hillsdale, Mich.)

#3 Wheaton College (Wheaton, Ill.)

#2 Brigham Young Univ. (Provo, Utah)

and coming in tops at #1 Thomas Aquinas College (Santa Paula, Calif. )

The book’s 62 ranking lists actually report the top 20 schools in each category, not just five, but room in this column is at a premium. Brandeis University ranks 18. Other categories include “Least Religious Students,” “Most Conservative,” “Most Liberal Students” and the one we are most interested in, “Great Financial Aid.” You can see them all at