Scientific star, nature Shabbat, Rabbis Against Gun Violence

Stacey Newman is Missouri state representative of the 87th District, which includes Clayton and parts of Brentwood, Ladue, Richmond Heights and University City.

By Ellen Futterman, Editor

Walk this way

If, perhaps, you missed the 2017 St. Louis Walk of Fame induction ceremony in the Delmar Loop this week, you might not know that Nobel laureate Rita Levi-Montalcini, who conducted groundbreaking research at Washington University from 1947 to 1977, is the latest star on the famed street. 

Neurobiologist Levi-Montalcini shared the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in 1986 with biochemist Stanley Cohen, formerly of Wash U., for breakthroughs in the study of cell growth and development. She was born in Turin, Italy to Sephardic Jewish parents and died at age 103 in 2012 in her native country. She never married and had no children.

Walk of Fame founder Joe Edwards and Holden Thorp, provost and the inaugural Rita Levi-Montalcini Distinguished University Professor at Washington University, were slated to speak at the brief induction ceremony Thursday (April 6) at the site of her star, 6136 Delmar Blvd., near the Regional Arts Commission. Edwards said Levi-Montalcini was the only one to be inducted at this time.

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“Rita Levi-Montalcini was a model of academic life,” Thorp said. “She was an engaged member of the academic community, brilliant scholar and lived a life informed by her voracious curiosity and desire to see knowledge shape the future.”

In her autobiography, “In Praise of Imperfection: My Life and Work,” Levi-Montalcini described her three decades at Wash U. as “the happiest and most productive years of my life.”

Since 1988, nearly 150 notable St. Louisans who were either born here or spent their formative or productive years here have been honored on the Walk of Fame, which celebrates greatness in the arts, entertainment, science, politics, civil rights, sports, literature, journalism and other fields. Among Jewish St. Louisans who have received stars are writers Stanley Elkin and Howard Nemerov; scientist Barry Commoner; screenwriter and director Harold Ramis; producer David Merrick; politician Harriet Woods; cartoonist Albert Hirschfeld and conductor Leonard Slatkin.

Hagaddah with heft

Rep. Stacey Newman, D-Richmond Heights, who is committed to doing all she can to stop gun violence in Missouri and the rest of the country, works with a group called Rabbis Against Gun Violence. She passed on a Passover seder supplement devised by this group with readings intended to raise awareness and inspire action. 

 “Every day, approximately 91 people are killed by guns and more lives are destroyed by gun injuries and loss of loved ones,” said Eileen Soffer, executive director of Rabbis Against Gun Violence. “At the Passover seder, we are told to see ourselves as having personally left the ‘narrow places’ of Egypt/Mitzrayim and to expand upon the story. It is a remarkable opportunity to remember our ancient liberation from slavery as well as to explore, engage, and wrestle with contemporary issues of injustice and oppression. It urges us to ask how we will make not just this night, but also the year ahead, different from all others.”

Alternatives to the Four Questions and 10 Plagues are suggested so, for instance, instead of spilling a drop of wine in the name of frogs, lice, boils, locust and so forth, we do so in remembering just 10 of the many mass shootings in the United States:  Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Tucson, Sandy Hook, etc.

Those interested can download the supplement at ragvtest.weebly.com. The first seder takes place Monday evening (April 10). 

aMUSE yourself

Mark your calendars for April 20-30 when the second annual CASE (Celebrating Art for Senior Engagement) Festival returns with a slew of programming designed for the region’s older adult population. Presented by Maturity and Its Muse, which strives to promote positive, productive aging through the arts, CASEfest will showcase creative work, promote arts-related aging programs and feature positive images of seniors in the community to build respect and understanding between generations. 

“CASEfest is about enjoying life, having fun and bringing together the power of the arts to energize and transform the well being of older adults,” said Lynn Hamilton, creator of CASE Fest and Maturity and Its Muse. “Art and artists have the ability to inspire all of us to try our hand at something we always wanted to do.”  The 10-day festival offers more than 60 programs dedicated to everything from yoga and meditation to creating art, including self-portraits; current events; music; literature; and film, including several screenings. Most all of the events are free. 

Jewish highlights include a Jewish textile presentation by Sharonon Shatton (10:30 a.m. April 24 at the Jewish Community Center); a movement class with Alice Bloch and Dancers (10:45 a.m. April 26 at Kirkwood Presbyterian Church); a concert by Chavurat Shira, Congregation Temple Israel’s choir (7 p.m. April 27 at Temple Israel), and a Jewish-Cuban presentation by Cuban-born Ben Minoff (10 a.m. April 30 at Temple Emanuel). 

For a full listing of events, go to maturityanditsmuse.org/calendar.

Communing with nature

St. Louis-area Jewish families are invited to participate in a special overnight nature program called “Shabbat b’Teva” from 4 p.m. Friday, April 28 to 9 p.m. Saturday, April 29 at Babler Outdoor Education Center in Wildwood.

The goal of Shabbat b’Teva is to reconnect individuals and communities to their ancient, earth-based Jewish heritage in the hopes of building community, strengthening Jewish identity and inspiring people to care for our precious world. Programming will be led by staff from Wilderness Torah, the Center for Earth-based Judaism.

The costs for those sleeping at Babler Outdoor Education Center are: $60 per adult, $50 per child. There is no charge for children who sleep in a portable pack and play (which families must provide). The prices for those not sleeping at Babler are: $50 per adult, $40 per child. Included is Friday night dinner plus breakfast, lunch, and dinner on Saturday. Meals are “kosher-style” and vegetarian options will be available. Space is limited and registration will be accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis. The last day to register is April 16.

The program is sponsored by an Anything Grant from the Staenberg Family Foundation in conjunction with Shevet Keshet, Friends of Israel Scouts – Tzofim.

To learn more about Wilderness Torah, visit wildernesstorah.org. For more information, contact Galit Lev-Harir at 314-409-6772 or by email at [email protected]

Wash and wear

Got a washer and/or dryer you’re looking to donate? Some of the 23 St. Louis area schools involved in the National Council of Jewish Women-St. Louis Section’s Kids Community Closet program have asked for donated washers and dryers. Apparently, some teachers are taking home kid’s clothes and washing them in their own machines so these kids can come to school with clean clothes. Having a washer and dryer on site would take a huge burden off of these teachers. 

If you would like to donate, call Beth Feldman at NCJW at 314-993-5181.

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