Supermarket crucifix controversy; aliyah engagement

A letter to the editor in last week’s Jewish Light expressing displeasure about a crucifix hanging in the customer service department of the new downtown Schnucks Culinaria store touched a nerve with several readers. Lori Willis, the grocery chain’s director of communications, was aware of the letter, but said the Schnucks family, which owns the store, had allowed store manager Tom Collora “to express himself in that way.”

“Tom is a 40-year veteran of Schnucks and he felt very strongly about displaying the cross as a symbol of his faith,” she said. “It is not his intention (or Schnucks) to offend anyone, but rather to be respectful to all of our customers and their opinions. (The cross) is a welcoming expression for Tom and is not meant in any way to promote one religion over another.”

Willis said the only other Schnucks Supermarket that displays a crucifix is located on Arsenal Street, close to the Hill neighborhood, which Collora had managed before the Culinaria opened last month. Willis also noted that she and Collora are having on-going discussions about the cross, adding “we don’t want to minimize anyone’s concern.”

“I really can’t speak to whether it will come down,” Willis continued. “We’ll definitely bring both sides of this issue to (management) so that they can continue to review it.”

Trip Straub, owner of Straub’s, another local family-owned grocery chain, said the wide practice among most retail and grocery stores “is a non-bias approach to political and religious signage and symbols. It’s easier to say no to everyone than (be perceived) as having any kind of bias or favoritism.”

Added Straub: “The only time this issue ever came up was last December when we opened a new Straub’s in Ellisville. We had a Christmas tree, and someone said, ‘Where is the menorah?’ I said, ‘You know, you’re right.’ By then it was too late in the game to put one up but if we put a tree up this year, we also will have a menorah.”

Everyone loves a good love story. This great one, from Mordechai and Debbie Simon of University City, concerns their eldest daughter, Nechama Dina Simon, who made Aliyah last week on the last of Nefesh B’Nefesh’s chartered aliyah flights for 2009.

The flight was designated as a “singles flight” and there were 81 singles among the 200-plus new olim aboard. As part of the welcoming ceremony at Ben Gurion International Airport, Nechama Dina was called to the podium to receive her citizenship papers. Shortly thereafter, Zach Taylor, her boyfriend, was called up. There, in front of the throng that had gathered for the festivities, he proposed marriage to her. And yes, she accepted.

Nechama Dina Simon was born and raised in U. City and attended Torah Prep and Bais Yaakov, and visited Israel twice before attending seminary there for a year. She is currently a student at Bar Ilan University where Zach will begin classes after being discharged from the Israeli Army this month.

The couple met through mutual friends in Israel in December 2008. A spring 2010 wedding is planned.

Congratulations to Debbie Greenberg, of Creve Coeur, who has been selected for inclusion in the national “Counselors That Change Lives Program.”

Greenberg (spouse of Jewish Light Trustee John Greenberg) is director of college counseling at College Bound St. Louis. She will be honored at the National Association for College Admission Counseling convention on Sept. 25 in Baltimore.

The “Coun-selors That Change Lives” award recognizes those whose dedication to the college counseling profession reflects the mission of CTCL.

The program is a way of acknowledging all that they do to help students and families on a daily basis.

Tamir Goodman, the former high school phenom once known as the “Jewish Jordan,” will announce his retirement from pro basketball, the Baltimore Jewish News is reporting.

The first Orthodox Jewish player to professionally in Israel and for a brief stint in the United States, Goodman will make the announcement this week at the Jewish Children’s Museum in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Goodman, 27 was dubbed the “Jewish Jordan” in a Sports Illustrated feature when he starred at the Talmudical Academy in Baltimore. He plans to continue to spread the gospel of basketball, Israel and Jewish outreach after his retirement.

A 6-foot-3 point guard, Goodman played five seasons for four Israeli teams. His squads reached the Israeli Cup finals and the Premier League semifinals.

In 2007, he returned to the United States to play for the Maryland Nighthawks in the new Premier Basketball League but was injured after two games. Goodman has had career-altering injuries to a knee and to both hands.