Evening of comedy, fun planned

As a Midwestern Reform Jew born during the era of assimilation and Rabbi Ferdinand M. Isserman, I viewed “parochial” schools as objectionable and never, no, never, thought that there would ever be Jewish “parochial” schools. Wrong, not just a little but a lot. Among the proliferating Jewish day schools are the H.F. Epstein Hebrew Academy, Solomon Schechter Day School, and Torah Prep School for boys and girls representing the Conservative and Orthodox communities. Never, I again assured myself, would there be a Reform Jewish day school and again, I was dead wrong.

In 1995, results of a demographic study of the St. Louis Jewish community revealed that 60% of the 60,000 Jews in the area identified themselves as Reform Jews, and 23% said they would consider sending a child to a Reform Jewish day school if it were available. Within five years funds were raised, a location found, a director and staff hired and in August of 2000 the first kindergarten class was welcomed to what, two years later, became the Saul Mirowitz Day School-Reform Jewish Academy (SMDS-RJA). From that first class of five year olds, SMDS-RJA has grown and now serves 85 students, kindergarten through fifth grade, offering the highest quality of secular and Jewish education, empowering students to become lifelong learners and apply Jewish values to all aspects of life.

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On Sunday, April 29 from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. the community will gather at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Clayton to celebrate the remarkable success of SMDS-RJA and to honor Marsha Grazman who is retiring as head of the school. Also to be honored for their invaluable contribution both to the school and the community will be philanthropists Nancy and Randy Green and teachers Carol Erbar and Jan Goldman. Reservations starting at $150 per person may be made by calling the school office at 314-569-2692.

SMDS-RJA’s “Evening of Comedy and Celebration,” an annual fundraiser for the school, will feature standup comedian Rabbi Bob Alper, an unorthodox comic who has performed everywhere from Hollywood’s IMPROV to the Montreal Comedy Festival. Rabbi Alper was ordained at the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati and was the first Jewish person ever to earn a doctorate from the Princeton Theological Seminary. He performs nearly 100 shows per year and has appeared on Good Morning America, Showtime, the BBC and CNN. Besides being a very funny man, Rabbi Alper continues to conduct services for congregations in Buffalo and Philadelphia. His performance will be preceded by cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and followed by coffee and dessert.

Marsha Grazman, a long time educator in our city, will be given special recognition for her vision and leadership of SMDS-RJA. From the beginning of the young school’s existence seven years ago, Marsha has guided the school and has nurtured it as it has grown from eight to 85 students. She has helped to create a model for academic excellence that last year earned the school a prestigious ISACS accreditation.

Congratulations to Marsha, the Greens and all the interested individuals who gave St. Louis its first Reform Jewish day school.

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