Rapping the eclipse; Israel’s Miss World to visit St. Louis

Barbara Berson (center) with her daughter Elizabeth (right) and Elizabeth’s  boyfriend, Leo Diamant (left).

By Ellen Futterman, Editor

That’s a rap

Growing up in southern California in the 1960s and ’70s, Barbara Berson was always looking at the stars — and I don’t mean famous people. Her dad worked for Rockwell and NASA as an aeronautical engineer, helping to design spacecraft for the Apollo and Space Shuttle missions.

“My father showed us how to take a pinhole and create our own reflection,” explained Berson, who now lives in Creve Coeur with her family and attends Traditional Congregation. “My older brother built his own telescope so we could look at the stars.”

Berson pursued science, becoming a registered nurse and later, a certified yoga instructor. She also never lost her enthusiasm for stargazing.

So when she realized that St. Louis was “in the path of totality” to witness the moon obscuring the sun, better known as a solar eclipse, on Aug. 21, 2017, she couldn’t have been more thrilled. It was the first total eclipse in the United States since 1979 and the first to pass over the St. Louis area since 1442 — centuries before the city’s founding in 1764. 

As far as Berson was concerned, such a momentous occasion warranted, well, a rap song.

“I wrote half a rap before the eclipse and the other half after,” said Berson, who watched the event in Chester, Ill. She and her husband, Dr. Doug Berson, an allergist, see patients in Chester, which was one of the places in the St. Louis region that had the longest totality. 

“Then I gave (the rap) to my daughter Elizabeth’s boyfriend, Leo, to have him set it to music,” Berson added.

Leo Diamant, 20, attends Webster University, where he is a music major. “I thought it was a cool idea,” said Diamant, referring to Berson’s rap. “For me, writing lyrics is the hardest, but Elizabeth’s mom had already done this poem that she wanted me to set to music and rap.”

Berson explained that she chose a rap because “that’s the kind of music Leo likes and I wanted to help him with his portfolio. He’s really talented. I wanted to help him show he can compose music for other people and is collaborative.”

Diamant, who sings, plays piano, guitar and is learning the ukulele, said he and Berson “began working up some ideas and talking about which instruments to feature.” 

The finished song, “Quip for the Eclipse,” features Diamant rapping to music he composed, with Berson’s voice coming in at several interludes. To hear it, go to http://bit.ly/eclipse-song.

Crowning event

If you haven’t been to a Women’s Philanthropy event, consider attending “L’Chaim! Women Changing the World” with Linor Abargil on Thursday, Nov. 1 at the Ritz-Carlton. It begins with a reception at 6:15 p.m., followed by dinner and a program featuring Abargil, who is the only Israeli to be crowned Miss World.

Nearly 10 years before the #MeToo movement began, Abargil launched BraveMissWorld.com and started speaking out about sexual violence. In 1998, seven weeks before being crowned Miss World, an 18-year-old Abargil was sexually assaulted in Milan, Italy.

In 2013, “Brave Miss World,” a documentary film about Abargil, the assault and her subsequent activism was released, earning an Emmy nomination. In the film, she documents her journey and tells her story, as she reaches out to other women around the world, encouraging them to tell theirs. 

I’ve been to several Women’s Philanthropy L’Chaim events and have yet to be disappointed. They usually attract more than 500 women from all streams of Judaism, allowing time to meet and mingle, eat and listen, and still get home by 9:30 p.m.

Go to JFedSTL.org/L’Chaim2018 to register by Oct. 26. Tickets are $65 each; “Starting Strong with Linor” VIP Pre-Event tickets are $180 each and include one ticket to L’Chaim! 

Women’s Philanthropy is part of Jewish Federation of St. Louis. The L’Chaim event is co-chaired by Betsy Rubenstein, MaryAnne Smyly Sabin, Lori Sheinbein and Janie Roodman Weiss. The pre-event is co-chaired by Abby Goldstein and Karen Smoller. For more information, contact Katie Sheldon at [email protected].