Letters to the editor: Dec. 16, 2020

Seeking in-person services? We’re open

Regarding “Congregations adapt to COVID-19 for High Holy Days,” (Nov. 18), I want to let the community know that Traditional Congregation has been open for services since August 1, including Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Our Re-opening Task Force worked diligently to offer both in-person services on the High Holy Days as well as virtual programs on non-Yomtov days; approximately 50% of our adult members gratefully and safely attended one or more in-person Yomtov services.  Additionally, we offer modified in-person Shabbat services each week for a maximum of 40 attendees.  

We are blessed to have a large sanctuary in which attendees can come together for Shabbat services while physically distancing, and (thankfully) everyone has remained COVID-free.  If anyone would like to see if we have any spots available on Shabbat, please contact me no later than the Thursday prior at 314-576-5230 — we will welcome you with socially distanced open arms.

Marian S. Gordon, Executive Director, Traditional Congregation


Effort underway to  find veterans’ graves

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An ongoing gravesite search program seeks to identify an estimated 8,600 deceased war veterans’ gravesites in eight private St. Louis-area Jewish cemeteries. 

When identified and confirmed, flag-holding grave markers are placed for the Jewish War Veterans of the USA (JWV).  Jewish War Veterans Post 644, in conjunction with the Memorial Center, administers the issuing of Jewish War Veteran grave marker flag holders and flags for a suggested donation of $36 (double chai). Over 7,000 flags are placed on Jewish War Veterans graves in Jewish cemeteries in the St. Louis area. The flags are placed by more than 400 Boy Scouts and families every Memorial Day. The Jewish funeral homes in St. Louis notify the Jewish War Veterans when they perform a Jewish War Veteran funeral.  

If a Jewish War Veteran does not have a flag holder and flag or if the flag holder or flag is damaged, contact Leslie Birenbaum,  Jewish War Veterans Memorial Center at 314-518-3413 or Jack Lite at 314-567-1226. You can also email [email protected]  An alternative source for the Jewish War Veteran flag holder is www.jwv.org. It’s available for under $20 for veterans’ graves outside the St Louis area. 

A new initiative has started this year to identify headstones of our Jewish Veterans, sponsored by the family of Harry Seltzer. High quality decals will be discreetly placed on the headstones so that our participating Scouts can put a fresh US Flag on the grave.  

Thank you to Joy Seltzer and her sister, Jill Schupp, for making this program a success. If you wish to opt-out of the Decal Placement send an email to [email protected] and your request will be honored. Donations can be sent to St. Louis Jewish War Veterans Memorial Center, 12 Millstone Campus Drive, St. Louis, 63146. 

Les Birenbaum, Jewish War Veterans Memorial Center President


Pandemic exacerbates global hunger

Just in time for Hanukkah, we’re hearing hopeful news about a COVID-19 vaccine being available to essential American workers. However, we can expect a long lag in distributing vaccines to vulnerable people, especially if they live outside the United States. 

Vaccine nationalism is rampant as wealthy countries snap up early vaccine commitments. Sadly, impoverished countries with few safety nets for their citizens will wait the longest. People struggling here and around the world have been waiting for months for Congress to pass an emergency COVID-19 response bill. They need help now for the long, hard months to come. Meanwhile, global health problems rise as a side-effect of COVID-19.  

The World Food Program projects that global hunger will double, and thousands of infants will suffer or die of severe malnutrition. The WHO, Gavi, and UNICEF estimate 80 million children are at risk of vaccine-preventable disease for lack of access to regular health services.  

Senators Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley should prioritize passing an emergency COVID-19 package that includes at least $20 billion in funding for global health and nutrition to help lower-income countries.

Cynthia Changyit Levin, Town and Country


A popular idea worth considering

I think it’s about time that readers of this paper think about supporting a national popular vote for U.S. president where every vote is fair and equal.

Our present electoral system is neither fair nor democratic. It is state based. Every state except Nebraska and Maine give their electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the most votes in that state. The minority votes do not matter. In every other jurisdiction in the United States – state, county or local – the candidate who gets the most votes wins the election. That is the way most Americans view and support an election.

There is a way to change our outdated presidential election system. It is called the National Popular Vote Compact. It takes 270 electoral votes to win a presidential election. It has been signed by 15 states and the District of Columbia, which jointly have a total of 196 votes. Each state agrees to award all their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the most votes in the whole country. As soon as enough states with a total of 270 electoral votes sign the compact, the candidate with the most votes in the national will become president.

There will be a national popular vote compact bill in the 2021 Missouri legislative session. Hopefully, Missouri will contribute to bringing a national popular vote closer to reality.

Sydell Shayer, Creve Coeur


A welcome change to the discussion of race 

I wish to compliment Amissa Blumenthal for her Nov. 18 commentary “Hate for No Reason Has an Antidote.” 

Two reactions immediately came to mind after reading the op-ed. First, what a wonderful young woman, who can express her feelings about her racial situation so articulately and thoughtfully. 

Second, what a refreshing, positive discussion of race, free of the hate we find so often today on both the right (by Proud Boys and other white supremacist groups who spew racist bile) and the left (by Black Lives Matter extremists and others who also engage in racism through critical race theory that stereotypes all whites as racist and is finding its way increasingly into our schools and diversity training routines across society).

Amissa candidly expresses the pain she has experienced as a Black child in a white family but is careful to express also her love and gratitude toward her parents and her synagogue. One would hope the media would present more such treatments of race in America.

Marty Rochester, Clayton