SSDS ‘Main Event’ to feature improv


Improv comedy will be one highlight of the annual “Main Event” fundraiser held by the Solomon Schechter Day School, which honors school supporters, and raises money for the school’s scholarship fund.

The event takes place at Congregation B’nai Amoona on Sunday, March 2, beginning at 6 p.m.

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This year, the Main Event’s organizers say attendees can look forward to an entertaining night for a good cause.

“In the past we had done a sit-down dinner, but more recently we decided to do something a little more casual. This should be a really fun evening,” said Lisa Binowitz, who is a co-chair of the event, along with her husband, Jay Englander, and Dorit Daphna-Iken and Harvey Iken. The honorary chair of the event is Eileen Schneider Edelman.

The Main Event will feature a heavy hors d’oeuvres cocktail reception, with entertainment from Paper Slip Theatre, an improvisational comedy troupe under the direction of local comedian Ed Reggi. The group has become a regular performer at the annual First Night celebrations held on New Year’s Eve. There will also be a gala silent auction.

Rabbi Allen Selis said the Main Event is one of two major fundraisers each year — the other is the school’s annual fall campaign — both of which support the school’s financial aid program.

“Every school is strengthened by diversity,” he continued. “We believe that economic diversity is an aspect that we don’t want to neglect and we have the entire range of income levels here. We see that as essential to who we are as a school.”

“So raising this money and giving it away is very deeply a part of our mission,” Selis said. The money also helps support students with special needs, he said.

“Without any additional grants or any additional outside funding, we give over $70,000 of hard-line budget to support the needs of children with special learning needs. We have a rock-solid commitment to continuing that and expanding that in the coming years,” Selis said.

Last year the “Main Event” raised $110,000 for scholarships, according to event organizers. The school awarded a total of $267,865 in scholarships last year. Selis said more than one-third of the school’s students receive financial aid.

This year’s Main Event will honor Christine and Dr. Alan Lyss as the 2008 Honorees, and will also recognize Harvey Greenstein with the Distinguished Service Award.

Binowitz said the honorees exemplified what the committee planning the event was looking for when they were deciding whom to recognize.

“We wanted to honor people who had done a lot for the school and a lot for the community,” Binowitz said.

Binowitz said the Lysses, whose three sons attended Schechter, have helped with fundraising at the school, and they have distinguished themselves in the broader community with their work to help patients with cancer. Christine Lyss is an oncology research nurse, and Dr. Lyss is an oncologist, director of clinical research trials for all areas of cancer at Missouri Baptist Medical Center, and medical director of the Alan P. Lyss Center for Cancer Care and Clinical Research at Ste. Genevieve County Memorial Hospital. The center was named for Dr. Lyss in November, 2007.

“It is a privilege to be able to honor a Schechter family for the energy they have put toward supporting and helping to heal those with cancer,” Rabbi Selis said. “My life has been touched very deeply by members of the family who have battled cancer and it is an issue that brings me to tears, and resonates very, very deeply.”

Greenstein, according to Selis, exemplifies the hard-working people that make community institutions thrive.

“Everywhere I have been, I see the institutions to strengthen the Jewish community never exist without people who are dedicated to them on a week-in, week-out basis doing the journeyman work that is so difficult and time consuming, but crucial in sustaining institutions,” Selis said. “That’s the kind of person that Harvey is.”

Binowitz had similar praise for Greenstein, who has been a Solomon Schechter board member, and an active part of the school’s financial assistance committee, in addition to being a past president of B’nai Amoona.

“Harvey works so hard to help people to be able to afford to go to the school. He has been very involved in the Jewish community overall, and has been such a big part in helping to fundraise for the school,” Binowitz said.

This is the first year that the school event has had an honorary chair. Eileen Schneider Edelman has been an active presence in the Jewish community, serving in leadership roles at B’nai Amoona and at the Jewish Book Festival, and on the boards of the American Jewish Committee, B’nai Brith, Hadassah, the Jewish Community Center, Jewish Federation and J Associates.

“Jewish communities once in a while have the gift of the people who really care about the big picture in the community, and how people can find their place in that community. Eileen Edelman is one of those individuals,” Selis said.

The “Main Event” takes place at Congregation B’nai Amoona on Sunday, March 2, beginning at 6 p.m. Tickets are $125. For more information, contact Solomon Schechter Day School at 314-576-6177.