Recipe for healing: Shabbat dinner with friends

Preparing Shabbat dinner every Friday is nothing new for Rebecca Brown, who has doing this for her family since 2005. But this year Rebecca and her husband Steve decided to expand the experience: each week they invite a different family to their home to share in the Friday night meal, which always features a dish that Rebecca has never made before. Then she chronicles the evening and other key events that took place in her family’s life that week in her blog,

Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? But then Rebecca Brown would be the first to admit that in the last year, not much has been simple. Last year, her husband pled guilty to obstruction of justice that sent former State Sen. Jeff Smith to prison for a year and a day. Former State Rep. Steve Brown and Smith, both Democrats, pleaded guilty to lying to federal officials about their involvement in a 2004 mailer targeting Russ Carnahan, who was then running against Smith for Congress.

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Steve Brown’s admission led to his resignation from the General Assembly last August. He cooperated with prosecutors, which was likely a factor in Brown being sentenced to two years probation and a $40,000 fine rather than serving any jail time.

“We had a very tough year, but we’re doing OK, ” says Rebecca Brown, a lawyer, who went back to work at Washington University where she is an adviser at the law school. She and Brown live in Clayton and have two children, ages 5 and 2. They belong to Central Reform Congregation.

Perhaps Rebecca Brown best explains the family’s Shabbat dinner plans in her blog when she writes: “In 2009 Steve pled guilty to obstruction of justice in a widely publicized federal investigation. What played out in the media was only the tip of the iceberg. Steve and I spent hours upon hours strolling our two-year-old daughter trying to recount where things had gone so totally wrong. And even more hours trying to figure out where we would go next. What did we want for ourselves, for our marriage and for our children?

“In September at Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year – I vowed to slow down each Shabbat. To cherish the moments with my family and to appreciate that together we are greater than the sum of our parts.

“On New Year’s Eve Steve and I talked again about our resolutions. And so was born “A Year or More of Shabbats.” Our effort to try to put our life back together, reconnect with our friends and family and teach our children that down is not out.

“This is our journey.”

Rebecca Brown says the biggest surprise about the Friday night dinners “is how healing it has been for our family.”

“We couldn’t do it two weeks ago because our kids were sick and we were untethered all week,” she explains, “The kids didn’t have something to look forward to.

“The healing nature of this has been phenomenal. The writing has been cathartic. It’s been a way for me to get outside what is inside. It’s a way for me to encourage Steve and give him support and nag him about moving on without saying it so much to his face.”

Rebecca says that her husband, a lawyer, is still weighing his employment options as he decides what to do next. Meanwhile, he is volunteering two days a week at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri. Look for Rebecca Brown’s columns to appear in upcoming editions of the Light as part of the paper’s “Dor to Dor” series.

Controversy over Israeli tourist ad

A British advertising watchdog says a tourism poster cannot be displayed because the image showed the Western Wall of the Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock, both of which are in East Jerusalem and part of the occupied territories of the West Bank, according to several Jewish Advertising Standards Authority last week upheld a complaint about the ad produced by the Israeli Government Tourist Office and displayed in London subway stations.

Replying on behalf of the IGTO, the State of Israel Ministry of Tourism (SIMT) said the ad provided “basic, accurate information to a prospective United Kingdom traveler who wanted to know what to expect in Israel.”

Meanwhile, a Facebook page, calling to “Stop the UK Advertising Standards Authority creating an Israel Boycott,” has been set up and has attracted nearly 4,000 friends.

Story of Warsaw Ghetto told in song and dance on KETC

Professor David Roskies of the Jewish Theological Seminary has written that a little known poem, “Masada,” by Isaac Lamdan, “more than any other text inspired the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto.” Now a new London musical, “Imagine This,” tells the story behind Roskies’ quote when it broadcasts on public television stations, with an airing at 2 p.m. May 2 on Channel 9 (KETC-TV).

According to press material, “Imagine This” is about a group of actors in the Warsaw Ghetto who struggle to keep the dream of freedom alive among the prisoners of the ghetto by performing the epic tale of Masada, the ancient Judean mountain where 2,000 years ago a band of courageous rebels held 10,000 Roman soldiers at bay. Even as their play merges with the reality they are trying to escape, laughter and love manages to transcend the boundaries of the ghetto walls.

Comparisons have been made to “Fiddler on the Roof,” in the way that this new musical deals with sobering subject matter through song and dance. So check it out, or set your TiVo to watch it later. Part of the funding for this presentation came from Alberici Cotractors of St. Louis