Shaking a grogger for the Food Pantry

Rabbi Ze’ev Smason at Nusach Hari B’nai Zion ascribes to the same theory as many of us journalists. He knows good ideas aren’t just hatched, but recycled as well. So after hearing what a colleague had done, the rabbi decided to adapt the concept for Purim services at his shul, scheduled for 7:15 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27 and 8:15 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 28.

“It’s well-known that one of the highlights of the reading of the Book of Esther (the ‘Megilla’) is when the congregants shake their ‘groggers’ (noisemakers) when they hear the name of the wicked Haman,” he explains. ” This year, we’ve partnered with the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry to provide groggers to our congregants that are boxes of pasta. They’ll be shaking boxes of pasta instead of bells, whistles, etc. After the holiday, the pasta — 250 boxes — will be donated to the Food Pantry, and with the money we earn from selling the boxes at $4 a piece, will support our synagogue’s ‘chesed committee,’ which provides food and meals for the needy. “


Smason said Paul Mendelson, a friend of the Olivette shul, donated 160 boxes and Schnucks and Shop ‘n Save kicked in the rest. He is hoping Dierbergs and Aldi’s will also donate pasta or gift certificates to the cause.

“The way I see it, it’s a win, win, win situation,” says the rabbi. “The Food Pantry wins, the synagogue wins and congregants win because it makes Purim that much more fun.”

Just to be on the safe side though, Smason has a bunch of youngsters coming in prior to Purim to tape up the boxes so no pasta shells go flying during the services.

To buy boxes of pasta in advance, call NHBZ at 314-991-2100.

‘Volunteen’ takes off

You may remember Simone Bernstein of Clayton, who began the website because she was frustrated by the lack of volunteer opportunities for St. Louis area middle and high school students. To her delight, the website took off and now lists about 15 organizations looking for volunteers between the ages of 12 and 17. The success of the site encouraged Simone to organize the 1st St. Louis Youth and Family Volunteer Fair to be held at the Magic House in Kirkwood from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 11. “It will be a great way to let St Louis families, students, and even pre-school age kids learn about the agencies and organizations in our region, how you can volunteer and/or ways that you can donate to help support local causes,” says Simone. ” The entry fee for the Magic House and Volunteer Fair will be a can of food to be donated to local food banks.”

More than 20 family friendly volunteer organizations are scheduled to be at the event. “It will be a great way to find interesting volunteer work for students as well as summer opportunities, spread the spirit of volunteerism and even to fulfill community service hours for National High School and Middle School Honor Society,” says Simone.

She is also hoping more local non-profits will be added to the list. Interested organizations can contact her through the website. “We are trying to keep fees low at $25 per non-profit organization,” she adds. “Our goal is to keep the fair green, paperless and postage-free.”

So spread the word to friends at school, scout meetings and youth activities, and be sure to mark the date, April 11, on your calendars.

K.C. Jewish state rep up for Army honor

Many of us in the Jewish community know Jason Kander as one of the few Jewish legislators from Missouri, a Democrat state Representative from Kansas City. What you might not know is that Kander serves as a captain in the Army National Guard and that his service with the 140th Regional Training Institute as an Officer Candidate School Platoon Trainer is getting national attention. Kander, it turns out, was one of 10 finalists for the Army Reserve Association’s Maj. Gen. Strom Thurmond Outstanding Junior Officer of the Year Award.

“He is an exceptional soldier who is extremely competent, articulate, and very highly motivated,” says Lt. Col. Michael Winkler, administrative officer for the 140th, in a statement released by the Missouri National Guard on its website. “He is completely dedicated to the military service in general, and to the Officer Candidate School in particular. He devotes many extra hours of personal time to ensure he is the expert for every event that he teaches and evaluates.”

Kander joined the military after September 11, 2001 because he saw a need to help his country.

“I was in Washington, DC on 9/11 and was standing in line to give blood when they came out and said they didn’t have enough resources to take any more blood,” Kander explains. “I wanted to make a contribution and made a decision right then that I would join the Army and fit my civilian career around my service.”

Kander enlisted in the Army National Guard with an infantry unit and later became a military intelligence officer in the Army Reserve. He served in Afghanistan as the Political-Military Intelligence Officer for Combined Forces Command-Afghanistan from 2006 to 2007 – replacing an officer five ranks his senior. He was charged with conducting classified intelligence investigations into corruption and espionage in the Afghan government.

According to the website, Kander’s commanding officers in Afghanistan described him as an outstanding leader who volunteered for dangerous assignments. The U.S. Director of Intelligence in Afghanistan advised the Army: “Watch this officer’s career closely; he is one of the best.” After returning home in 2007, Kander resumed his law practice and transferred to the Missouri Army National Guard.

The Maj. Gen. Strom Thurmond award for recognition of excellence in achievement and service to the military and national security was supposed to be presented on Feb. 9th in Washington. But inclement weather and the closing of federal offices there have pushed back the ceremony and a new date is pending.