Tour starts with Jewish community

Tour starts with Jewish community

BY KEREN DOUEK, STAFF WRITER

A project that seeks to chronicle histories of the St. Louis area’s different cultures will start with the Jewish community. The Missouri Historical Society will kick off “History Happened Here: A Virtual Tour of St. Louis’ Cultural Communities” with “Chapter One: St. Louis’ Jewish Community” on Mar. 2 at the Marcella Wiget MacDermott Grand Hall Missouri History Museum.

“We began with the Jewish community in hopes of continuing this with the myriad of cultural groups that we have in St. Louis,” said Tami Goldman, the cultural tourism manager for the Missouri Historical Society and project manager for “History Happened Here,” an interactive Web site providing a virtual tour of historic sites in St. Louis.

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Approximately one year ago the project came together with the help of an advisory board that helped to select appropriate sites for the project. The advisory board consists of Goldman; Philip Deitch, the chairman of the board; Batya Abramson-Goldstein of the Jewish Community Relations Council; Dr. Walter Ehrlich, professor emeritus at University of Missouri-St. Louis; Rabbi Randy Fleisher of the St. Louis Rabbinical Association; Ronni Handelman of the Jewish Community Relations Council; Terry Hieken of the Saul Brodsky Jewish Community Library; Linda Koenig, a Historical Tour Guide; Barbara Raznick of the Saul Brodsky Jewish Community Library; Richard Stein of the Jewish Federation and Rabbi Jeffrey Stiffman of the St. Louis Rabbinical Association.

“It started with 10 sites and we thought at the time we were going to do physical markers,” Goldman said, “and as we were working we found there were 25, then 50, and now we are up to 90, and there are more, but we needed to cut it off just to get this started.”

The committee came up with approximately 90 sites which show how the Jewish community began and the contributions the Jewish community has made to St. Louis.

The Web site will provide a look at the sites with a description and information on their historical significance, and track the history of the Jewish community through photographs.

Deitch said he sees the project as “trailblazing” in that it is “creating a model that will be able to collect, celebrate and share the beauty of our region’s broad diversity as this project spreads to document additional cultural, religious and other communities.”

“What better way is there to honor our communal fathers and mothers than to document what they did with their lives?” he asked.

Ehrlich said he hopes the effort will inspire the community’s synagogues and communal organizations to research and create their own detailed Web sites that can all be linked together.

Deitch expressed gratitude to Dr. Robert Archibald and Tami Goldman of the Missouri History Museum “for their vision and energetic support of this effort. And it has been a special pleasure to draw on the work and wisdom of Dr. Walter Ehrlich, whose research and published works on the history of the St. Louis Jewish community have inspired us all,” Deitch said. “By increasing our shared knowledge of each other’s communities we will further contribute to building the larger caring community,” he said.

Handelman, who is chair of the events committee, also expressed gratitude to Archibald, “for his vision to project and promote the uniqueness of the individual communities that make up the whole of St. Louis.”

“It really is an honor that the Jewish community is the first chapter in this wonderful endeavor,” she said. “The event Mar. 2 will be our opportunity to celebrate our history and our present as an integral part of St. Louis.”

The kickoff party will be at 7 p.m. and will include an introduction by Dr. Robert Archibald and a Web site presentation by Goldman, as well as “St. Louis Memories” by I.E. Millstone. There will be a kosher dessert reception with music by members of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra following the program. The event is free and open to the public. To RSVP, call 314-361-7229.

Keren Douek is a staff writer and can be reached at [email protected]