Three generations of the Gallant family chair 60th anniversary committee


Longtime community volunteers Paul and Diane Gallant, along with their children, Steve and Amy Gallant, and grandsons Richie and Tommy Gallant are the three-generation chairs of Kaleidoscope Israel, a community-wide series of events to celebrate Israel’s 60th year of independence.

Kaleidoscope Israel is sponsored and coordinated by the Central Agency for Jewish Education and funded through the Jewish Federation of St. Louis. “We really were excited about working with our family, and to have Kaleidoscope Israel show a positive spectrum of what Israel represents, not only to Jews, but to the world,” said Diane Gallant in an interview last week in the St. Louis Jewish Light office.

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Paul and Diane Gallant, both current members of the St. Louis Jewish Light Board of Trustees and its Executive Committee, have long been active with the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, its annual campaigns and numerous local Jewish agencies, as well as B’nai Amoona Congregation. They are best remembered for having been co-chairs of the unprecedented Israel Expo ’75. That one-week event in May 1975 attracted over 75,000 people from Greater St. Louis to the Wohl Building of the Jewish Community Center, which was transformed into a virtual replica of the major sights, sounds and smells of the State of Israel, complete with a scale replica of the Western Wall, Israeli food, products, works of art and entertainment and participa tion by a wide variety of Jewish community organizations, as well as involvement of members of the Baha’i, Christian and Muslim communities.

“We loved chairing Israel Expo ’75, but we do not plan to attempt anything on that large a scale for Kaleidoscope Israel,” said Paul Gallant in the interview with the Jewish Light. “That was wonderful for its time, but that was then and this is now,” Gallant said. “We are really excited about the passing the torch from generation to generation theme.”

Paul and Diane Gallant, their son Steve Gallant, an attorney, and his wife, Amy Gallant, who teaches elementary school in Kirkwood, recently went with their sons Richie Gallant, 17, a senior at the Whitfield School. and Tommy Gallant, 15, a sophomore at Parkway Central High School, on their first three-generation family trip to the Jewish State. The experience of that trip, which has been meticulously commemorated in a scrapbook of memorable photographs assembled by Diane Gallant, prepared the entire group for the challenge of heading up Kaleidoscope Israel.

Linda Kraus, board president and Sonia Dobinsky, interim director of the Central Agency for Jewish Education, said when the idea came together for Kaleidoscope Israel, “we felt it would be wonderful to approach the Gallants to lead this major community-wide project. We could not be more pleased that they enthusiastically accepted.”

Paul and Diane’s grandson Richie Gallant spoke glowingly about the family trip to Israel and how they would harness the energy and use it to help them lead Kaleidoscope Israel. “We basically visited all of the major places to see in Israel. They were all interesting and worth seeing,” he said. “The first night, as soon as we arrived, we immedidately went to the Western Wall. It was Shabbat, and one of the Orthodox Jews in a big hat approached us to complete a minyan of ten worshippers, and we accepted.” Paul Gallant pointed out, “We provided the last four people needed to provide the minimum number for a traditional prayer service. It was thrilling to perform a mitzvah as our first act in Israel. It was one of many moving experiences.”

Tommy Gallant said, “It was awesome that I was standing on such ancient sites. I climbed Masada in 28 minutes. It was fun picking grapefruit on the Golan Heights. I loved seeing the Ayalon Institute, where a kibbutz secretly made over two million bullets for the 1948 war. It made me very proud to be Jewish.”

Among the many photographs lovingly mounted in the album assembled by Diane Gallant are photos of the entire family standing on the Golan Heights, the former Syrian territory which was captured by Israel in hand-to-hand combat during the Six-Day War; pictures of Richie and Tommy after they had floated in the Dead Sea, and were coated with mud, and the entire family feasting on falafels.

“We want to share with the entire community that there is so much that is positive and enjoyable about Israel,” Diane Gallant said. “There are thriving businesses, major universities and museums, artistic and cultural life, and incredible historical and biblical sites. All of these are part of what we call the Kaleidoscope of Israel.”

Richie and Tommy Gallant are eager to assemble a group of local young people and children from all age groups to be part of a Teen Steering Committee. For Amy and Steve Gallant, the trip was also “truly incredible, amazing really,” said Amy Gallant. “Our kids Richie and Tommy have always had such a wonderful relationship with their grandparents, and for all of us to share the trip to Israel was priceless. We want to build on those memories in working on Kaleidoscope Israel.”

Steve Gallant mentioned that he had not been to Israel since he was a teenager and thought the changes were remarkable. “It was wonderful to be there this time and share it with my family. Now our hope is to bring Israel to life in our community.”

Diane Gallant said, “We are in the opening planning phases at this point, but already much progress has been made. We want to thank CAJE for sponsoring and coordinating Kaleidoscope Israel, the Jewish Federation for arranging the funding, and Gary Kodner for designing the terrific logo, which we will use on all of our materials.” Paul Gallant added that a full calendar of events leading up to the actual 60th anniversary of Israel’s independence in May 2008 will be assembled and published in the St. Louis Jewish Light and venues will be selected.

Diane Gallant quickly chimed in, “…and events are being planned to feature Israeli food, art, entertainment and cultural activities. We really enjoyed our family trip to Israel, and we are very excited that three generations of our family have the honor of chairing this fantastic series of events. One of our goals is to stimulate other families to visit this wondrous state of ours. They’ll be glad they did.”