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St. Louis Jewish Light

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St. Louis Jewish Light

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NJT’s Rebekah Scallet to direct ‘The Immigrant’ with her own immigrant story in mind

NJT produced the play previously in 1999 and 2011
Rebekah Scallet is the New Jewish Theatre’s new artistic director

Rebekah Scallet would like to tell you a story. To do so, she’ll be taking the directing reigns for the first time since becoming artistic director of the New Jewish Theatre just over a year ago.

For Scallet, the show she is directing, “The Immigrant,” provides her the perfect platform both professionally and personally.

Written by Mark Harelik, the play tells the true story of Haskell Harelik, the playwright’s grandfather, who came to America in 1909 as part of the Galveston Project, which from 1907 to 1914 helped divert Jews fleeing the pogroms of Russia and Eastern Europe away from East Coast cities and towards the interior of the United States. Harelik made his home in Hamilton, Texas where he was taken in by a local couple.

Scallet’s immigrant journey

For Scallet, “The Immigrant” is the perfect play and the perfect story to make her NJT directorial debut.

“It is a very deeply Jewish story and one I relate to because of my family’s immigrant experience in coming to St. Louis,” she explained.

Scallet’s great-great-grandfather, Morris Cohen, first arrived in America in 1903. He eventually made his way to St. Louis, where he collected the discarded tools and repaired them at his tool shop on Fifth Street and Delmar Boulevard.  He then went on to create St. Louis-based Central Hardware. His son, Isadore, is the father of Norma Cohen Scallet, Rebekah’s grandmother.

On her mother’s side, Scallet’s great-grandmother, Sadie Ghertner, arrived in St. Louis from Romania in 1907. That same year Abe Kutten immigrated from Ukraine. The two were married in 1920. Their daughter Estelle Kutten married Nathan Perlstein, who came to St. Louis from Poland with his family when he was 8 years old. Perlstein, who like Cohen was an entrepreneur, went on to open Perlstein Furs in downtown St. Louis at 707 Washington Avenue. Estelle and Nathan Perlstein are Scallet’s maternal grandparents.

As a child, Scallet’s parents, Madelon and Andrew Scallet, z”l, moved their family to Little Rock, Ark.

“I also really connect with this play by sharing that ‘fish out of water’ experience that these characters have as the only Jews in this small town of Hamilton, Texas,” said Scallet. “What a uniquely southern Jewish experience, and one I got to live firsthand.”

“The Immigrant” on stage

When: Oct. 12-29. Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 4 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Where: Wool Studio Theatre, 2 Millstone Campus Drive

How much: Individual tickets are $27- $58.
More info: Tickets are available at 314-442-3283 or online at newjewishtheatre.org.

To honor the play’s subject matter, NJT is working with multiple local groups assisting local immigrants, hoping to bring awareness to current issues facing immigrants and refugees in St. Louis. They include:

  • A “needed item” drive in collaboration with the International Institute will take place throughout the showings.
  • On Oct. 4, the Jewish Community Relations Council will host a virtual program at noon. A panel will discuss topics like immigration resettlement while sharing stories from people who have immigrated to the United States.
  • On Oct. 21, following the 4 p.m. performance, a panel discussion will feature members of the Central Reform Congregation Resettlement Chavurah.
  • On Oct. 22, following the 2 p.m. performance, members of the Shaare Emeth Congregation Resettlement Group will host a discussion.
  • Finally, a welcome neighbor dinner will take place at the J between the 4 and 8 p.m. performances on Oct. 28.

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Jordan worked at KSDK from 1995 to 2020. Jordan is a three-time Emmy award winner who produced every kind of show from news to specials during his tenure, creating Show Me St. Louis, The Cardinal Nation Show. He started ksdk.com in 2001 and won three Edward R. Murrow Awards for journalistic and website excellence in 2010, 2014 and 2020. Jordan has been married for 25 years and is the father of two college students. He is an avid biker, snowboarder, and beer lover. He created the blog drink314.com, focusing on the St. Louis beer community in 2015. Jordan has an incredible and vast knowledge of useless information and is the grandson of a Cleveland bootlegger.