Peter Yarrow to star at SMDS-RJA gala

Will wonders never cease? I have just learned that Peter Yarrow, the legendary folk singer, is Jewish. His parents, born in the Ukraine, changed the family name from Yaroshevitz to Yarrow after immigrating to Providence, R.I. Peter was born in 1938, graduated from Cornell University in 1959 and shortly thereafter began singing with Mary Travers. When they were joined by Noel Paul Stookey they chose the name for their trio — Peter, Paul and Mary — and the rest is history. Yarrow, also known for his strong commitment to social change, cites Judaism as one of the roots of his liberal views.

Having told you all this, I will now tell you that you can hear Peter Yarrow in the flesh on Sunday evening, May 4 at the Annual Gala of The Saul Mirowitz Day School — Reform Jewish Academy (SMDS-RJA). Called “Peace, Love and RJA,” the event will be held at the Ritz Carlton in Clayton beginning at 5:30 p.m. with an around the world buffet, followed by Yarrow’s presentation and a dessert buffet. Karen Smoller, co-chair with Mindy Horwitz, told me that there will be some sensational raffle items (no, no auction) like airline tickets, hotel and resort stays and jewelry. To reserve your place at $150 per person, call 314-569-2692.

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The gala will honor David Roberts and Sue Fischlowitz with the I.E. Millstone Community Service award for their commitment to SMDS-RJA and other organizations that ensure the vitality of the Jewish community. Rachel Katzman will receive the Mel Dubinsky Visionary award for her efforts to ensure that children of all learning styles are able to receive a day school education. Carol Rubin, SMDS-RJA’ founding Assistant Head of School, will be honored with the Keter Torah Award while four teachers — Sarah Bliss, Leiba Levine, Janelle Brooks and Milene Halperin — will be recognized for their five years of teaching excellence. Finally Saul and Barbara Mirowitz will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award for their continuous reaffirmation of their commitment to the school and to excellence in Jewish education.

If SMDS-RJA had painted a picture of the perfect program for their annual gala, they would unquestionably sketch Peter Yarrow. “Through his music and social activism, Peter Yarrow espouses the values we try to instill in our students each day,” said Phillip Dickstein, Head of School. A long-time activist, Yarrow has always used his music to inspire and energize social change. He considers his newest project — Operation Respect, an organization he founded in 1999 — to be the culmination of his many advocacies for justice, peace and a more caring world. Together with Educators for Social Responsibility, Yarrow created a character development curriculum that helps to build a climate of respect in classrooms and schools. The curriculum incorporates songs of justice and peace from past decades and inspires more that 20,000 schools nationwide including SMDS-RJA. You will get to hear some of these inspirational numbers at the gala on May 4.

KEVIN KLINE, ST. LOUIS’S FAVORITE STAR OF STAGE AND SCREEN , is to be honored by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) at their Evening of Legendary Hollywood Glamour on Saturday, May 10 at the Kemp Auto Museum. Tickets are $300 each, and all monies raised will go toward research to find a cure for juvenile diabetes and reduce the most dangerous aspects of this devastating disease. For information, call 314-726-6778. Sanda Rosenblum of JDRF explained to me that there are 32,000 Missourians with juvenile (type 1) diabetes and over 59,000 in Illinois. Half of all newly diagnosed cases are over the age of 18. Two years ago Israeli researchers found that the rate of new cases in juvenile-onset diabetes has increased in the Jewish population by 50 percent from 1985 to 1993, compared to 1965-1984. “Researchers are not sure of the reasons for the increase, but it seems to have something to do with the decline in breast-feeding, which is known to have a protective effect against the development of insulin-dependent diabetes in children. The children are attacked by their own immune systems and damage the insulin producing cells in the pancreas. Daily multiple injections of insulin keep them alive, but insulin is not a cure. Deadly complications are inevitable; blindness, nerve damage, kidney failure, heart disease and stroke,” Sanda told me. Oddly, I have always thought of diabetes as a “Jewish disease” although I know that other ethnic groups suffer from it. Nonetheless is seems like a good idea for Jews to support research into a disease which affects many of our co-religionists.