Letters: Remembering Malachi Owens Jr., ‘My Unorthodox Life’ and more

Remembering Temple Emanuel’s longtime cantorial soloist

I was saddened to read of the passing of Malachi Owens Jr., cantorial soloist at Temple Emanuel, in the June 30 edition.

Eric Berger’s article gave excellent coverage of Owens’ career of almost half a century at Temple Emanuel and mentioned his career as an electrical engineer, as a railroad engineer for the St. Louis Zoo railroad, as a longstanding member of the St. Louis Symphony Chorus and as a stalwart of Galilee Baptist Church. Mention was also made of Owens’ high school choir director, Dr. Kenneth Brown Billups, who taught Owens that basses can sing with finesse. 

One more aspect of Owens’ varied career was his association with Billups after Sumner High School. For some decades, Owens was a singer, soloist and associate director of Billups’ adult volunteer choir, the Legend Singers, and toward the end of his life Owens was proud that he had assumed Billups’ long-held title of music director at Antioch Baptist Church, near Sumner High School. 

May the memory of his wisdom be for a blessing.

Fred Blumenthal, St. Louis

Helping JCC campers was a ‘blessing’

On Saturday, July 10, about dark, my pastor, Janine Rose, called and said she needed some help. So my wife, Debie, and I got into our truck and headed out. 

We got to where your youth group [of campers from the Jewish Community Center’s Camp Sabra, who were on a two-week tour of Colorado was stranded. My friend Morris was already there, and we loaded all the camping gear and personal belonging into our trucks. 

We received so many thanks from your group. It was a true blessing from God to be able to help your youth. These young men and ladies are a great example for all youth to follow — a very impressive group. A great big “atta boy” to their parents. 

This group brought a special blessing to our town. A lot of our townspeople really opened up their hearts to help out. The biggest lesson is when we help someone in need, God’s blessings just flow like a river. 

Yep, life just don’t get no better.

Steven Knuth, La Veta, Colo. 

Read more about the Camp Sabra campers here.

‘My Unorthodox Life’ shows many ways to be Jewish

I agree with much of what Rabbi Yonason Goldson says about “My Unorthodox Life” (see his commentary above — it was originally published last week on stljewishlight.org), but it is dangerous to criticize things we haven’t seen for ourselves, and we should know better. 

The show is a train wreck, for sure, reality TV at its best and worst. If you watch the show, you’ll see while a lot of the time Julia Haart is very critical of the community she left. She also celebrates her son, who is still frum and figuring out how he wants to be. She also remains friends with her ex-husband, who is still observant.

Of course, the show is full of drama and criticism but also shows people balancing a frum life with a secular life. She clearly suffered trauma in her ultra-Orthodox world, but that’s only one group in a vast spectrum of the strict Orthodoxy. 

I would recommend that you watch the show with a careful, critical, inquisitive mind, and you will learn that there are many ways to be Jewish. Love thy neighbor as thyself.

Erin Rovak Henderschedt, St. Louis

Anger, outrage crowds out real dialogue

In a recent series of publications in the Jewish Light, a discourse has begun to brew around bullying. It has become increasingly apparent that no one in this conversation is ready to accept the impact of their actions; rather, they couch their choices in freedom of speech or the defense of the State of Israel.  

Ultimately, this is about sinat chinam, baseless hatred. An atmosphere of anger, outrage and cynicism has developed out of resentments for those who are different. It is not reasonable for grown people to behave this way or for bystanders to allow it to continue. The space that this outrageous and hateful behavior is taking up is edging out room for real dialogue, communal gathering and acts of loving kindness.  

We just observed Tisha B’Av, a moment in time when we recall the destruction of the Temple and how it was our own baseless hatred and bullying behaviors that wrought destruction on the Jewish people. All the petty and mean behaviors that the Jewish people participated in would surely be considered legal in today’s society. As we’ve established, you can say whatever you want, pretty much. The outcome is still the same though: destruction of a gorgeous and holy community. 

The law doesn’t care about what the consequences of your words are right now. That is not what this is about, and it has never been what it is about. This is about how we treat one another and whether G-d will consider it holy and righteous. 

I pray that the readers of the Jewish Light will take stock of their behavior, their actions, their words and go into Elul with the intention of doing better. Love your neighbor as yourself. Do not bear false witness against your neighbor. These are the words we should be spreading and publishing. These are the words we should have inscribed on our hearts as we await to be inscribed in the Book of Life.  

Tasha Kaminsky, St. Louis