Residents hope concert will keep services afloat

Harif, B’nai Amoona’s house band, will perform a benefit concert for the Covenant House chapel on Sunday, Nov. 27.


Singing for supper has long been an honored tradition in the performing arts-and now a local group plans to play and sing so that senior citizens may continue to have easy access to weekly religious services.

For more than 10 years, residents of Covenant House/CHAI Apartments could attend services every Saturday in their own chapel at 10 Millstone Campus. Now, because of a shortage of funds, services are held just twice a month-and that option may disappear soon.


“The residents really like the services, but we ‘re having a problem paying people to lead them,” said Dee Wolf, president of the Tenants’ Council at Covenant House. “People here are getting older and not contributing like they used to. We did have one generous person who got us through the summer, but we are about out of money.”

Currently, three lay readers lead services at Covenant House: Howard Belsky, Andrew Curry and Jay Englander. Their modest fee is $100 per service. Wolf met with them recently to discuss the fiscal dilemma. Curry offered a suggestion.

“Andy suggested bringing his band here for a benefit concert, and we were thrilled,” said Wolf. The concert, which is open to the public, will be at 7 p.m. Sunday in the dining room in Building One. “We’re not charging for the concert, but we are asking for donations to help us pay for services.”

Curry’s band, Harif (named for the spicy sauce that gives falafel its zip) is the house band at Congregation B’nai Amoona, 324 South Mason Road in Creve Coeur. Founded over two years ago, the band specializes in Jewish music.

Harif consists of Curry, his wife, BelleAnne Curry, Rabbi Josef Davidson, Steve Elfanbaum, Dan Friedman and Sharon Nathanson. Andy Curry-a cantor and a member of the Kansas Music Hall of Fame-is the group’s arranger, lead male singer and guitarist. BelleAnne Curry, a member of the St. Louis Jewish Women’s Choir, sings and plays percussion for Harif.

Davidson, interim senior rabbi at B’nai Amoona, plays trumpet. Elfanbaum plays bass and occasionally sings. Friedman is first violinist, and he also sings. Nathanson, a singer and violinist with Harif, has served as the cantor at B’nai Amoona since 2003 and was recently invested through the Cantors’ Assembly.

“We feel good about donating our time for this concert,” said Davidson. “We get to play in a communal setting where people can enjoy our music. Plus, because Covenant House has a large Jewish population that is not as mobile as some, this is a way to provide them with the kind of Jewish life they moved there to find.” He added that the concert will last about 45 minutes.

Harif plays at B’nai Amoona, occasionally leading services, and also for holidays and at special events. The band has even gone on tour, to Kansas City. “We are slowly getting known,” said Davidson. “We’ve got a special swing number-a Yiddish song set to a swing rhythm-that we’ll be playing at Covenant House, and we also have a liturgical number done in Iranian Jewish style, with a Middle Eastern sound.”

Some 550 residents, ranging from 62 to 100, live at Covenant House. Established in 1973 by a partnership among B’nai B’rith and B’nai B’rith Women St. Louis Councils, the Jewish Federation, the Jewish Community Center and the Jewish Center for Aged (now the Cedars at the JCA), the award-winning facility is one of the area’s largest non-profit, government-subsidized housing complexes for the elderly.

Wolf, 74, has lived at Covenant House for 11 years. She is retired from a career selling women’s clothing at upscale shops. Wolf was named president of the Tenants’ Council two years ago and has one year left in her term. “This job is almost full time,” she said, laughing. “The council is made up of 10 people, and we all agree that it’s important to keep services at the chapel going. If we raise enough money, we could go back to services every Saturday.”

Joan Denison, executive director of Covenant House, noted that rotating leaders for Saturday services has worked well. “One week the service is Orthodox, the next Conservative and then Reform, so everybody is represented,” she said. As many as 60 residents attend the services, held in the on-site chapel endowed by Helene and Carl Mirowitz.

Denison noted that tenants have always paid the fees for those leading services, raising money by holding rummage sales and game nights and also buying tributes for family members and friends on special occasions.

“Now they just need a bit of hope, a way to raise funds to have services,” she said. “When you get to this time of life, it is very meaningful to stay connected with your faith.”

Special Benefit Concert

WHO: Harif, Congregation B’nai Amoona’s house band

WHEN: 7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 27

WHERE: Covenant House/C.H.A.I. Apartments, 10 Millstone Campus Drive in Building One

HOW MUCH: Free (Donations appreciated.)

MORE INFORMATION: 314-703-7485