Signs of Jewish life at Maryville

When you think of Maryville University, Jewish probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. After all, its founding roots are within the Religious of the Sacred Heart, a Catholic Order. But since 1972, the university has been nonsectarian, and according to several top administrators, committed to broadening its student population.

Two recent developments are likely to go a long way in helping the university achieve this goal, especially when it comes to its Jewish student body. The first is the announcement on Monday of the establishment of the Irma Sue Macy “L’Dor V’Dor” Endowed Scholarship for Jewish women, made possible through a $600,000 gift from the late Irma Sue Macy. Translated from Hebrew, the scholarship name means “from generation to generation.”

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A Missouri native, Macy lived in St. Louis for many years with her former husband, the late Peter Macy, owner of Mozel Chemical Company. She felt strongly about supporting young Jewish women in their pursuit of higher education. Her gift will provide scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students.

“Maryville is extremely grateful to Ms. Macy for her generous gift,” said Maryville University President Mark Lombardi. “We are honored to continue her legacy through this scholarship, which will provide significant opportunities for Jewish women at Maryville University for generations to come.”

Macy, who worked as a cartographer and an artist, pursued avid interests in art, American history and politics. A woman of deep faith, a milestone in her life was to convert to Judaism.

Open to new and transferring Maryville University students, the “L’Dor V’Dor” undergraduate scholarships will be funded at $5,000 each and the graduate scholarships at $10,000 each. They are renewable annually for as long as recipients remain in good academic standing. Macy’s endowment will ultimately provide up to four undergraduate scholarships and one graduate scholarship annually.

The second development is the creation of a new Jewish Student Union at the university, championed by Lindsay Eichaker, 18, of Chesterfield. A freshman majoring in physical therapy (she’s in the six-year program there that will lead to a doctorate degree), Eichaker felt there were Maryville students who needed to come out of “the Jew closet.”

“I’m active at my synagogue (United Hebrew) and I wanted to transfer that to my school,” she explained. “There are other Jewish students there and a number of faculty. I wanted to start something at the university so that everyone can feel comfortable being Jewish at Maryville.”

Eichaker says so far, two other Jewish students at Maryville are part of the new student union and the group has found a faculty advisor in Jesse Kavadlo, an associate professor in English who also is a member of Congregation Shaare Emeth. “I plan to put flyers all over the university to let people know about the group and attract new members,” said Eichaker.

Stephen DiSalvo, director of campus ministries and community relations, praised Eichaker for taking the initiative and says the university is very supportive of the new Jewish group.

“In the four years that I have been here, there hasn’t been an official Jewish Student Union with a set constitution and officers. I’m so excited by Lindsay’s efforts because I’ve wanted this to happen on campus for a while,” said DiSalvo.

Both he and Eichaker expect the formation of the new Jewish Student Union will lead to more Jewish-themed programming at the university. DiSalvo estimated that out of a student body of 3,600, about 30 or so are Jewish. But he was quick to add that the university wants to do all it can to establish stronger ties to the Jewish congregations in the area.

“One of our goals is making the campus more diverse, ” said DiSalvo. “We want our students to have a global education. The world is a diverse place and they should be in contact with people of all religions and cultural traditions.”

New sleep-away camp

on the horizon

Three St. Louisans recently purchased an overnight camp about 90 minutes from St. Louis in southern Illinois and plan to turn it into a first-rate sports program and character building experience for kids. Andy Brown, Dan Grabel and Mitch Morgan, who seem to have 100 years of summer camp experience among them, plan to open Camp Manitowa (the Great Spirit) in the summer of 2011, though the facility is scheduled to be open for retreats and workshop events this fall. More than $1 million will be invested on renovations and remodeling of the cabins, dining hall, athletic fields, activities area and more.

The trio bought the former 50-year-old Lake Benton Baptist Camp, which is located on the banks of Lake Hamilton, a 40-acre private lake adjacent to 19,000-acre Rend Lake. For more information, call 314-375-6766 or go to www.campmanitowa.com.

Forget Provincetown —

Tel Aviv is new gay haven

Apparently an item in the New York Observer, which was then picked up by the Forward, has touched off something of a Holy War among two gay-theme travel companies leading trips to Tel Aviv this spring.

“The Milk and Honey Tour” is the brainchild of New York gay party promoter Josh Wood, who has teamed up with Steele Luxury Travel to build a 10-day trip around Tel Aviv’s annual Gay Pride parade on June 11. Along with the usual sights–Masada climbs, Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall, Kabbalah workshops–the trip boasts making whoopee at Tel Aviv’s top gay nightclubs.

Then there is Russian-born porn king Michael Lucas whose nine-day visit includes Israel’s usual suspects, along with extras like Red Sea scuba dives, visits to Israeli military bases and meetings with local gay activist groups. And while Lucas insists his tour “is not a sex trip,” he does advertise a dinner with an Israeli gay porn star along with afternoons tanning at secluded gay beaches.

All the focus on Tel Aviv as a gay hotspot prompted Forward writer Michael Kaminer to ask David Kaufman, the journalist who wrote the Observer piece and has covered Israel for many publications, his opinion. Here’s what he e-mailed to Kaminer, who printed it in the Forward:

“Tel Aviv is many things, but a sex-dripping, extreme-clubbing, neo-Ibiza it is not. The men are certainly sexy and alluring, but Tel Aviv’s small size and relative homogeneity may leave many truly sophisticated travelers disappointed. On the other hand, Israel’s lack of formality translates into locals who are warm, welcoming and anything but uptight. This — far more than their appearances — is what makes Israelis great. The sex bit is just the window dressing.”