Possible bias incident at SLU; The Chagall-inspired ‘Dreamcoat’

A swastika formed of votive  candles found outside a SLU residence hall.  

BY ELLEN FUTTERMAN

Possible bias incident at SLU

The Jewish Student Association (JSA) at St. Louis University is hosting a Holocaust and Hate Crime Remembrance event at 7:45 p.m. Sunday at the University’s clock tower in the center of campus.  The event comes in the wake of SLU students finding a burning swastika formed out of votive tea candles outside a residence hall April 23, as well as the recent shootings in suburban Kansas City at a Jewish Community Center earlier this month.

Three SLU departments are investigating the swastika incident, according to a spokesman, as are the St. Louis Metropolitan Police. So far, no suspect has been identified.

In an email sent to the Jewish Light on Tuesday, Sarah Friedman, president of SLU’s Jewish Student Association said, “As a Jewish student on campus, I am concerned about the well-being of all members of the SLU Jewish community. Each member of our Jewish Student Association (she said there were 10) has experienced some degree of intolerance against Judaism during their time at SLU. These incidents range from individuals having coins thrown at them to people at parties yelling that they want to throw them into ovens.”

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Friedman said that after SLU Department of Public Safety officers dismissed the swastika incident as “just a prank,” students called the St. Louis police. The SLU spokesman wouldn’t comment on DPS’ actions but said the university “takes all acts of bias seriously and investigates them fully.”

Friedman said the JSA invites members of all targeted populations to speak and pray against hate crimes at the Sunday event. The JSA was also working with SLU’s dean of students and members of the university’s Diversity Leadership Cabinet to enact change on campus.

The SLU spokesman said some students had reported seeing the candles outside the residence hall in a circlelike pattern before they were rearranged into the shape of a swastika. He called the incident “isolated” and said he knew of no other reports of similar bias-related incidents involving swastikas at SLU.

Rabbi Hershey Novack, co-director of Chabad on Campus, said that the administration at SLU has been “generally supportive” of the Jewish campus community and the organizations that serve students. 

“The broader issues that we face at SLU emerge from a small number of Jewish students, not anti-Semitism,” he said.

The university released the following statement:

“A full investigation into this incident is being conducted by our Office of Student Responsibility and Community Standards in conjunction with the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity, as well as the Department of Public Safety. Although we are unable to comment in detail with respect to an open investigation, students have reported seeing the candles unlit in a different pattern outside the residence hall earlier in the evening. At this time, we have not determined who originally placed the candles there or for what purpose. We also have yet to determine who is responsible for altering the display, but our investigation is ongoing.

“At SLU, we’re committed to providing a caring, effective and uniform response to anyone who is affected by a bias incident. We also have a number of programs and policies in place to address them. For example, four years ago, we adopted a new Hate Crime and Bias-Related Incident Protocol that ensures that incidents are addressed swiftly and aggressively, and that counseling and other support services are readily available to victims. Under the protocol, these cases also receive priority in our student conduct system.”


Couple are living a “Dreamcoat”

Real-life husband and wife Ace Young and Diana DeGarmo may share top billing in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” playing at the Fox Theatre through May 11, but to hear them talk about it, the colorful dreamcoat is the show’s true star.

“I literally disappear into it,” said Young, who plays Joseph to his wife’s Narrator in the touring musical.  “It is so vibrant, so gorgeous. I feel like a giant ray of beaming light when I put it on.”

Young and DeGarmo say the show’s costume designer, Jennifer Caprio, drew inspiration for the one-of-a-kind coat from Marc Chagall’s 12 stained-glass windows at the Abbell Synagogue at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem. The Jewish artist’s famed windows, which took two years to complete, are  based on the Biblical story of Jacob’s blessings on his 12 sons, the fathers of the 12 tribes of Israel.  

Chagall, upon dedicating the windows Feb. 6, 1962, said: “This is my modest gift to the Jewish people who have always dreamt of biblical love, friendship and of peace among all peoples. This is my gift to that people which lived here thousands of years ago among the other Semitic people.”

Caprio has explained that each of the 12 panels on the coat was hand-drawn and that the motifs were then hand-painted on the fabric. These were then appliqued onto the 12 panels, each a different color for each  brother. Because the artist who translated the sketches and the fabric printers were located in North Carolina, most of the approval process for the coat was done electronically. 

“Jennifer somehow incorporated all 29 colors from (“Joseph’s Coat” song lyrics) into the design,” Young said. “The coat has more dressers than I do and definitely more security.”

Speaking from a tour stop in Oklahoma City, Young, 33, and DeGarmo, 26, couldn’t have been sweeter or  more excited about performing “Joseph,” which was the first Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical to be performed publicly.

Though Young and DeGarmo competed in TV’s “American Idol,” they were on during different seasons and didn’t meet until they worked together in the Broadway revival of “Hair” in 2010.

“We truthfully became best friends during the production,” DeGarmo said.

But it wasn’t long before best friends became something more. As is customary on “Idol,” past competitors are often part of the audience at the season finale. For Season 11, host Ryan Seacrest invited Young and DeGarmo on stage before the winner (Phillip Phillips) was announced. That’s when Young surprised DeGarmo by proposing to her in front of 21 million people.

“How could I say no?” she joked. 


Drink up

Israeli craft beer has arrived in St. Louis.

Malka Beer, from the Malka (meaning “queen” in Hebrew) Brewery in Yehiam, located in the western Galilee, was one of the first microbreweries in Israel. It maintains a tradition of handcrafting small batches of beer, specializing in traditional Belgian, German and English styles, while imparting a local Israeli twist: using natural water from the Ga’aton Springs. 

And, of course, it’s kosher.

According to Sublime Importers in Dallas, which is bringing the beer to St. Louis, Malka Blonde Ale, Malka Pale Ale and Malka Dark Stout are now available at the Wine and Cheese Place in Clayton and at several area Randall’s and Friar Tuck beverage stores.

For more information, visit sublimeimports.com.