Time to nominate your Unsung Hero!

A scene from a past 2014 JCC Songleader Boot Camp.  File photo: Yana Hotter

Ellen Futterman, Editor

Time to nominate your Unsung Hero!

This week, the Jewish Light begins to once again accept nominations for our Unsung Heroes, who will be honored in our OY! Magazine and at a special reception the evening of Monday, May 22 at the Jewish Community Center’s Performing Arts Center. The nomination form appears below and will be in the Jewish Light for the next five weeks.

Nominations may also be made online at stljewishlight.com/unsung. The deadline for submissions is March 2 at 5 p.m.

The Light solicits nominations from the community of individuals and groups making a major impact without seeking substantial public recognition for their efforts. The honorees can be those making a difference within the Jewish community, or Jewish individuals making an impact in the community-at-large. 

A committee of Jewish community leaders then helps the Light look at the nominations and select the honorees.

The event this year will be co-chaired by Light Trustees Gary Kodner and Vicki Singer, with Light Trustee Sheri Sherman continuing to serve as a special advisor to the event. 

For more information about Unsung Heroes nominations or the May 22 event, contact the Light at [email protected] or 314-743-3660.

And the Oscar goes to . . .

Awards season is always a lot of fun in our office, since several of us love movies and love talking about them even more. Typically, Monday morning meetings include a short session between Bob Cohn and me discussing ones we’ve seen over the weekend, whether we liked them or didn’t, and delving into some of the finer points. The two of us have an unspoken competition to see who can see every movie and performance nominated in all the major Oscar categories prior to the Academy Awards. So far Bob is winning, though I still have a few weeks to catch up. The TV broadcast is Sunday, Feb. 26 on ABC.

This year, we decided you should be part of the fun. So we are inviting you to make your selections online in 11 of the top categories. We’re purposely leaving out ones like scenic design and film editing because, let’s be real, practically all of us mortals just guess at those.

We’ll run the results of the poll in Feb. 22’s paper, in advance of the show. To make your selections, go to stljewishlight.com and click on the Oscars banner at the upper right corner of the homepage. You have until 5 p.m. Feb. 20 to cast your ballot.


A boot camp to sing about

The 8th Annual Songleader Boot Camp (SLBC) National Conference will take place at the Jewish Community Center in Creve Coeur from Feb. 19-21. More than 250 rabbis, cantors, educators, song leaders, Jewish camp professionals and teen leaders are expected to attend in the hopes of expanding their leadership skills and inspiring change in their communities.

According to organizer Rick Recht, new this year is a SLBC Ramah Shabbaton weekend leading up to the national conference, focusing on prayer and song leadership skills specific to Conservative Movement settings. “We’re also featuring some particularly amazing Jewish leaders including Rabbi Sharon Brous, who just spoke at the (Women’s March) on Washington,” said Recht, adding that she will be featured with Rabbi David Ingber Monday night, Feb. 20, at a joint program between the SLBC and the Sh’ma Listen Speaker Series sponsored by the Jewish Federation of St. Louis. That talk will take place at 7:30 p.m. at the J.

For a complete schedule, list of faculty, cost and more information, visit songleaderbootcamp.com or call 314-991-0909.


Mental health follow-up

On Sunday, more than 75 people showed up to discuss “breaking the stigma of mental illness” in the St. Louis Jewish community. Several rabbis were in attendance at the J in Creve Coeur and spoke, including Jeffrey Stiffman, Susan Talve and James Stone Goodman, as well as Lou Albert, CEO of Jewish Family & Children’s Service. 

He extrapolated numbers based on the National Institute of Mental Health figures and the St. Louis Jewish Community Demographic Study, released in 2014 by Federation, to surmise that 7.4 percent of our Jewish community is living with a severe mental illness. This translates into 2,075 adults 18 and over and 2,480 children under the age of 18.

“We are talking about mental illnesses that have a significant disruptive effect on a person’s day-to-day life,” Albert said. He listed a number of services that JC&FS provides to this population but emphasized, as did others, much more needs to be done.

After several speakers, audience members were invited to chime in; several spoke eloquently of dealing with their own mental illness, or that of a family member. One man suggested better educate ourselves about mental illness. Another implored everyone to add a suicide prevention hotline number (1-800-273-8255)  to their contacts. Paraphrasing, he said, “You may not need it but someone you know might.” 

Goodman, who has been on the front line of the effort for more services and resources for people living with mental illness, feels strongly that the community needs to hear “The Stories” directly. He has collected dozens of them, and shared several with the Light, while respecting their confidentiality. From time to time, the paper will run these stories, including online at stljewishlight.com/the-stories. Here is the first, edited for space:

I am a survivor. I have attempted suicide several times in serious ways and I believe I am alive to share a few things I’ve learned. I hope this helps someone.

People could listen more with their eyes as well as their ears. When you are contemplating suicide, you don’t conceptualize it. You may not express it.

Be observant. Don’t ignore anything. Take everything seriously. I wanted someone to hold my hand — I’m not going to leave you, God will not leave you, I’m with you, I will never leave you. 

And most importantly: This feeling is going to pass. You don’t think it’s going to pass. You think it’s never going away. It feels permanent.

I wanted someone to say to me: I wish I could be there with you. Call me. Don’t be alone.