Remembering Richie

Richie (left) and Jordan Herskowitz

By Ellen Futterman, Editor

Remembering Richie

Richie Herskowitz was born with Cystic Fibrosis (CF), a genetic respiratory and digestive disease. In 1996, at the age of 6, Richie became the youngest CF patient to receive a double-lung transplant. The operation took place at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

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For eight years, Richie enjoyed a healthy life thanks to an anonymous organ donor. During that time, he pursued all things sports, especially basketball, organizing a weekly NBA pool with his friends. But at age 14, Richie’s lungs started to reject his medicines and he died of CF-related causes at age 17, just shy of finishing his senior year in high school.

During Richie’s time in St. Louis, he and his family got close to several families in the Jewish community. One of these families was the Hartmans, whose son, Noah, is a seventh grader at Solomon Schechter Day School. “They became part of our family while they were here,” said Margie Hartman, who is Noah’s mother. She explained that when it came time for Noah to decide on a mitzvah project for his upcoming bar mitzvah at Central Reform Congregation, he wanted to do something to benefit Richie’s Spirit, a non-for-profit named in Richie’s honor that promotes organ donation and awareness.

The result is “Hoopin’ It Up For Richie,” a three-on-three charity basketball tournament organized by Noah and Azeyah Boyd, another Schechter student. The tournament is designed for players in fifth through eighth grades, and will take place at the JCC on Sunday, April 17 from 3-6 p.m. (registration starts at 2 p.m.).  The cost to enter is $25 and proceeds will benefit Richie’s Spirit.

In addition, Richie’s brother, Jordan Herskowitz, will perform his one-man show in St. Louis at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 16 at the Black Cat Theatre, 2810 Sutton Boulevard in Maplewood. Jordan, who now lives in New York, explained in an interview that he created the show, “Jordy Pordy,” as a way of dealing with his own struggles of growing up Jewish in Texas, being the middle child with both of his brothers born with Cystic Fibrosis, and his family’s journey with organ donation.

“I really didn’t start creating it with Richie in mind,” Jordan, 24, explained. “I was a senior in high school and had the chance to see Billy Crystal’s one-man show, ‘700 Sundays,’ on Broadway. I was mesmerized by his story and seeing just him on stage and thought to myself, ‘I want to do that one day.’

“A few years later, one summer while in college, I had the opportunity to pursue that idea. Richie was still living at the time. The show was mostly about me but it wouldn’t be fair to talk about who I am today without mentioning my family and what Richie went through directly and indirectly.”

Jordan’s performance here will be his first in St. Louis. He hopes that young people “trying to discover where they fit in” will be part of the audience because he feels the show has something to say to them.

“Its main message is that it’s OK to be quirky and unique,” he said. “You can be who you are and not feel bad about it.

“The show also gives me a chance to share Richie’s story and the fact he lived a great life even though it ended at 17. Through it all he never complained.”

Tickets to the show are $15. For more information, go to www.jordypordy.com or www.brownpapertickets.com.

Grrrl power

Friendship is the theme of this year’s pre-Passover Journey Event, which takes place from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday and is sponsored by Nishmah. The program promises to be incredibly special as it pays tribute to the beauty and complexities of friendships among girls and women.

The afternoon will start off with a kosher dairy brunch (Kosher dietary laws observed). Then through song, story and video, performers and presenters will open their hearts and depict examples of how personal friendships have affected their lives. I am pleased to be one of the presenters, and will read a piece I wrote after a dear friend – and possibly the funniest woman I ever knew – passed away from breast cancer at the age of 54.

Highlights will include musical numbers by Washington University’s all-female a cappella ensemble, a video presentation featuring the 65-plus year friendship between Marilyn Fox and Lenore Pepper and the retelling of the biblical friendship between Ruth and Naomi performed by Chazzah Joanna Dulkin.

The event will take place at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center on the campus of UMSL. Adult tickets are $45 and tickets for children under 18 are $30. For more information, contact Ronit Sherwin 314-862-2777 or [email protected]

So come and celebrate sisterhood with your mother, sisters, aunts, nieces, daughters and girlfriends. Let’s all take a break from all the noise of our daily lives and cherish one another as we give thanks for our upcoming celebrations of Passover.

Call for challah covers

The Museum of ImaJEWnation is partnering with the Jewish Community Center to present an exhibit called “Drama on the Sabbath Table, the Role of the Challah Cover,” from May 15 to June 10 at the J’s Arts and Education Building, 2 Millstone Campus Drive. This exhibit, inspired by midrashim about challah covers, explores rivalry inherent in the world and ways to mitigate its hurts.  A “call to artists” was sent out earlier this year and now they are designing challah covers that either recognize a problem or offer a way to soothe the pain and soften the blow.   

Do you have a challah cover that “witnessed” a great story at the Shabbat table? Will you lend it and share the story for this exhibit? If so, please contact Naomi Fishman 314-477-5772 or Rabbi Brad Horwitz 314-442-3271. For more information, go to www.imajewnation.org