NJT’s 21st season, milestone birth, Jewish Food Pantry

Jerry Vogel and Will Bonfiglio perform in New Jewish Theatre’s ‘Old Wicked Songs.’  Photo: Eric Woolsey

By Ellen Futterman, Editor

Toasting 21

As it enters its third decade, the New Jewish Theatre plans to celebrate its 21st season (2017-2018) with four out of five St. Louis premieres. 

According to Kathleen Sitzer, artistic director of NJT, the only show that has been staged before in St. Louis is the season opener, Mitch Albom’s “Tuesdays with Morrie,” (Oct. 4 – 22). Based on Albom’s best-selling book by the same name, the adaptation explores the relationship between the writer and his professor/mentor, Morrie Schwartz, after being diagnosed with ALS. 

Next up, NJT will present a one-man show written and performed by California actor Phil Johnson called, “A Jewish Joke” (Nov. 29-Dec. 10), in which he portrays an irascible Jewish comedy writer in the 1950s at the height of the McCarthy Hollywood Blacklist era. The story probes issues of censorship, guilt by association, government intimidation and destruction of careers and lives when the writer learns that his name has appeared on “the list.” 

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Sarah Treem may be best known for her Golden Globe-winning TV programs “The Affair” and “House of Cards,” but she is also the playwright of “The How and the Why,” a two-woman show that will be produced by NJT Jan. 24 – Feb. 11. The play deals with the workings of science and family and the impact of both on the lives of two women scientists, one near the end of her career and the other just starting out. 

The full title of  NJT’s April production (April 4 – 22) by David Ives is a mouthful: “New Jerusalem – the Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza at Talmud Torah Congregation: Amsterdam, July 27, 1656.” Yet the play depicts exactly that. In the 1600s, Amsterdam had given special asylum to the Jewish community, but with one caveat: no Jew could speak of religion to any local resident. Spinoza’s radical beliefs on God and religion draw him into a riveting trial, which irrevocably challenged Western thought. 

The season closes with an irreverent adaptation of Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya”by Aaron Posner, called “Life Sucks”(May 23 – June 10). In it, a group of old friends, ex-lovers, estranged in-laws, and lifelong enemies gather to grapple with life’s thorniest questions—and each other.

Season tickets as well as Flex passes (a five-ticket package to be used any way the ticket holder likes; for example, five tickets for a single show or any other configuration of the five tickets) will be available beginning May 8. For more information, call the NJT box office at 314-442-3283 or go to newjewishtheatre.org. Single tickets will be available beginning Aug. 15. 

Oh baby!

Lena Tzipporah Labovitz was the 500th baby to be born at the Mercy Birthing Center, the St. Louis area’s first in-hospital low-risk birthing center operated by certified nurse midwives. Lena, who was born 7 pounds, 15 ounces. at 6:56 a.m. on April 6, is the first child of Laura and Ben Labovitz of Clayton. The couple belongs to Young Israel.

“We chose to give birth at Mercy because of its natural, non-invasive birthing center for low-risk mothers,” said Laura. “I had an incredibly intense, peaceful labor and delivery. The midwives and nursing staff at the Mercy Birthing Center are phenomenal. We were able to go home within six hours of delivery. It was an incredible experience.”

The birthing center, located on South New Ballas Road in West County, was first opened on Labor Day, Sept. 1, 2014. Laura and Ben were presented with a basket of goodies from the Mercy Hospital Gift Shop when they returned for Baby Lena’s 24-hour checkup and newborn hearing screening.

Channeling Lois (Caplan) and Stanley (Kowalski)

“Light up the Zipper,” a short film highlighting the former St. Louis Garment District, will be featured at a  cocktail reception at the Missouri History Museum from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Monday, May 1. Proceeds from the event, which costs $50, will benefit the St. Louis Fashion Fund. The film interviews several members of the local Jewish community who owned businesses or worked in the garment district here; Fran Zamler is chairing the event. Call 314-400-9300 for tickets or more information. The film will also be part of the Jewish Light’s Women in Business gathering Monday, June 26 at the Ritz Carlton in Clayton. More details on that super terrific event to come.

Meanwhile, if you’re up for something completely new and different, consider entering the STELLA! Shouting Contest, Sunday, May 7 at Sophie’s Lounge at the .ZACK in Grand Center.  The free contest is being held in conjunction with the second annual Tennessee Williams Festival, May 3-21. First prizewinner receives — of course! — a case of Stella Artois beer, second place gets a six-pack and third place, a festival poster. Those interested in showing off their vocal chops need to email [email protected] to be placed on the list. For more information about the festival, go to twfstl.org.  

Bag this

TheHarvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry has been selected as a beneficiary of the Schnucks – Bag 4 My Cause program for the month of May.

For every Schnucks reusable bag with the message: “Every bag feeds a neighbor in need” purchased at three  Schnucks locations — 10650 Olive Blvd. and 12756 Olive Blvd., both in Creve Coeur, and 8867 Ladue Road in Ladue, the food pantry will receive a $1 donation. Each bag costs $2.99.

“This opportunity, sponsored by Schnucks, will provide funding to continue supplying nutritious food to our community’s children, adults and seniors in need,” said Judy Berkowitz,director of the Jewish food pantry, which serves more than 7,000 people of all faiths each month.

Prayers for rabbi’s recovery

Extending prayers, best wishes and positive vibes to Rabbi Carnie Rose of Congregation B’nai Amoona, whose most recent MRI scan showed some signs of potential re-growth on his brain, where a tumor had been removed three years ago. 

When I spoke to the rabbi Tuesday, he sounded upbeat and optimistic as he awaits additional medical opinions, but said he would be taking leave for part of the summer.

He made it a point to say he wanted to thank well-wishers for their support and caring, and will keep us posted on his recovery. Should you wish to daven on his behalf, his full Hebrew name is HaRav Carnie Shalom Ben Ateret Ester VeHarav Noach Feivel. 

Refuah Shleimah, Rabbi Rose — here’s to a full recovery.