Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Vince Schoemehl: Roundtable on Racism and Segregation in St. Louis

Monday night, a small group sat down with former St. Louis Mayor Vince Schoemehl to discuss segregation in St. Louis and to answer one of his nagging questions, "Why don't my kids have any Black friends?"

Schoemehl, now President and CEO of Grand Center, was hoping to gain some insight into this question from a group of young adults.

The conversation jumped from the Metrolink, and lack of viable public transit in St. Louis, to the history of housing covenants, the public school system, the city/county divide, and more.

Schoemehl wanted to know how we get different people interacting across these constructed boundaries. The first step to integration, is interaction, and in St. Louis, without even knowing it, most of us step into segregated bars, clubs, and restaurants every day. In fact, one attendant remarked, the only place you see people interacting are at the large outdoor festivals like Live on the Levy, the jazz shows at the Botanical Gardens and the Festival of Nations, all of which occur in public spaces. Because so many neighborhoods are segregated, particularly between the city and the county, citizens of St. Louis aren't as exposed to heterogeneous populations and so aren't forced to interact with them.

It was agreed that we could throw around theories until we were blue in the face, so we decided to try to take action (this action is still being discussed).

Clearly, this isn't just a St. Louis issue, but as Schoemehl pointed out, St. Louis is a city that faces irrelevance if it can't move towards a more dynamic, post-racial culture.

What do you think? Have you make friends across the 'great racial divide'?
Read More......

Monday, November 23, 2009

Live Music and St. Louis

We spend a lot of our time here at the St. Lou Jew trying to figure what to get into next. A lot of it is music, and while St. Louis has a great music legacy, St. Louis of today isn't known for being a thriving music community. Truth is, though, that if you are prepared to dive in, you'll find a rich subculture of accessible and talented musicians.

Our story starts at the Broadway Oyster Bar, a personal favorite of mine, and St. Louis Luminary Ron Gubitz. Located downtown on Broadway, the Oyster Bar prides itself on New Orleans music, food, and culture. It is home to Gumbohead and the Funky Butt Brass Band, two of the most fun NOLA style groups in the city, and Friday night, hosted a new band called Hot Carl and the Cleveland Steamers (they joked that if they add a horn section, they'll have to call it the Rusty Trombones).

Speaking with Bassist, and KDHX engineer Andy Coco after the show, I got an invite to his musicians' holiday pot-luck and jam session. A sort of mini-Mecca for a lot of the guys who 'really play music' in St. Louis, the event was a sort of dream-come-true for any fan like myself. Members of all of the aforementioned bands, plus the Dogtown Allstars, Team Relevance, and others were all present. The jam session was amazing, with every musician taking a turn, and others grabbing cowbells, shakers, and other odds and ends to fill out the sound.

The ambiance was amazing. To have so many talented and experienced musicians and their fans in one place was unbelievable. And it needs to happen more frequently.

But say you don't happen to know any of the local artists. . . where do you start?

There are a number of smaller local venues that host great music. A few to start with, other than the Oyster Bar, are (in no particular order): Beale on Broadway, BB's Jazz Blues and Soups, The Gramophone, The FireBird, The Old Rock House, Off Broadway, and The Wedge.

The Riverfront Times is a decent place to hear about local music, but what the city really needs is someone with the knowledge and passion to create a site that will keep shows up to date and help people find out more information about artists they might like. Any takers?
Read More......

Friday, November 20, 2009

Lend A Hand, Make A Difference: Light Fest

It is pretty obvious that this economic situation is unprecedented in our lifetime.
What is often less obvious is the need this has created. The question is always, "how can I make a difference?"

On December 6th, Light Fest is hoping to help answer that question.

The community wide event is gathering food, clothing, getting blood donations, and more. Everyone can lend a hand in some way and this help has never meant more.

Even if all you can spare is an hour, it will be an hour well spent.

Please click here to see the schedule of activities, and click here to sign up to be a volunteer.

Whether you were born in St. Louis and never left, come here for school, or are on a work rotation, you have the opportunity to make a positive impact in this community. Read More......

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Shomer Negiah Panties: Maya Escobar Is At It Again

From the same artist who brought you Berlin's Eruv and Acciones Plasticas now comes Shomer Negiah Panties!

That's right, The St. Lou Jew's favorite Guatemalan-Jewish artist, Maya Escobar, has just releases her Shomer Negiah Panties on Etsy.

Shomer Negiah literally means to guard touch, and refers to adherence of orthodox Jews to a ban on physical contact with members of the opposite sex aside from one's spouse and family.

Escobar's juxtaposition of this stringent code with ladies' undergarments is interesting for a few reasons. She sees this project as something that allows Shomer Negiah women to have a bit of fun with their observance, allowing them to feel sexy without doing it immodestly. One comment on Escobar's site read, "I can see all of the SN girls giving these to each other as an inside joke".

As a special double St. Louis bonus, another St. Lou Jew favorite, Randy Vines was able to play a role in helping print the panties.

For more on Maya check out
Read More......

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Leora From Synagogue 3000 Visits Next Dor, St. Louis

She may have picked a pretty dreary time to experience St. Louis, weather-wise, but didn't slow down the activity at the Next Dor House.

Synagogue 3000 gave the initial grant to Next Dor which started the whole renovation/organization process in motion and Leora came in town to meet the Next Dor STL board, advisors, and peers.

It just so happened that Monday night, Rabbi Zvi Schwartz hosted an open dinner at the Next Dor house, which turned out to be the perfect opportunity for Leora to meet everyone.

There was a great turnout, as you can see below, and the Rabbi spoke briefly about the connection between this generation (dor) and the freedom (dror) to choose our destiny and our identity.

Leora sat down with most of the board individually and asked about each individual's background and interests, how they got involved in the project, and what they want to see come out of it.

While she had the opportunity to learn about us, we also had the opportunity to learn about Synagogue 3000.

There are a couple things that separate Next Dor STL from the other projects that S3K is involved with. First, all of the other projects stem from a single congregation. While Next Dor STL was initiated with a lot of help from Central Reform, the project isn't controlled by, a subsidiary of, or affiliated with the synagogue. Second, while every other site has a full time paid staff person, Next Dor STL does not, and is relying heavily on a board of young adults to make the decisions and reach out to the develop the project.

Next Dor STL is happy to be able to use the great resources S3K has made available to us to navigate the strange world of non-profits.

If you still haven't had the checked out the website , there is a bunch of new info up and we just got our facebook vanity URL hooked up (
Read More......

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Universalism vs. Nationalism/Ethnocentrism: A Jewish Dilemma

One of the fundamental points of tension facing Jews, particularly Jewish young adults in America, is the identity struggle between universalism and particularism (specifically Jewish nationalism and ethnocentrism). I just found a particularly interesting speech on this issue by none other than Natan Sharansky. The full text is listed below.

The following speech was given on November 9th, 2009. The transcription comes from this site

Twenty years ago to this day, the Berlin Wall fell. Two great wars were being waged in those years. The first was a worldwide struggle to free Soviet Jewry -- a cause which galvanized Jews across the globe as no other cause had, since the establishment of the State of Israel. The second was the Cold War, the struggle of free democracies around the world against the tyranny of Soviet style communism. In each struggle, the fall of the Wall became a turning point. Right after that fateful November day, a great Exodus of Soviet Jewry began in earnest. And within months, the totalitarian stranglehold over Eastern Europe disintegrated before our eyes.
The fact that a single event on the world stage -- the fall of the Berlin Wall -- was the culmination of both struggles is hardly coincidental. It seemed to be history’s way of saying that, in a deep way, the wars were not really separate; they were simply two sides of the same coin.
For years, I had been a foot soldier in both these great wars. In the years before my arrest I was in fact the unofficial spokesman of two movements -- a human rights movement pressing for democratic reforms in the Soviet bloc and Soviet Jewry movement seeking the right of Jews to become free. In those years I was often pressed by my comrades in arms on both sides to make a choice between these two wars. You have to decide, they said, are you the fighter for human rights for everybody or are you fighting for the rights of your own tribe? Do you belong to the world of universal values or to the world of nationalist? I must say, I personally never felt that I needed to choose. And not only because I enjoyed both these battles, But because I felt that they are deeply connected. That in fact it is the same battle. The battle for freedom and the battle for identity was the same battle for me.
From where did the strength to fight for freedom come from? I was one of many assimilated Jews only because the Soviet regime put it as an aim to deprive people deliberately of any loyalties to their faith, to their nation, to their family. As the official definition of citizenship stated clearly -- all Soviet people are cogs in the communist machine. And we as cogs knew that we are slaves. But we had no strength to fight. After all, the only value left for us was our physical survival and there was no reason to risk it.
In 1967, the Six Day War in Israel reconnected us with our people, with our country and history, and gave us pride for being Jewish.
When did this situation change? In 1967, the Six Day War in Israel reconnected us with our people, with our country and history, and gave us pride for being Jewish. We discovered our identity and this empowered us to fight for our freedom. But even then we small group for Jewish activists could never have survived in the struggle in the Soviet Union if it did not immediately become the struggle of millions of Jews all over the world. Why did these Jews for 20 years spend their time energy trembling for fear when they traveled to the Soviet Union to bring us books and bring us information from the free world and to press on their governments? Many times I heard from many of these volunteer emissaries almost the same phrase. We are from the same cities, and it is almost by chance that we are there and you are here. They were also returning to their "shtetl" and getting from there their energy, their passion to fight for our freedom.
I remember when the time had come to make the last blow and have a historic march on Washington I remember there were some voices of skepticism. Will big numbers of Jews really come to Washington in the winter for such type of demonstration? In order to dismiss these doubts, I went from city to city, from federation to federation, all together 30 of them. And the response was always automatic -- of course we will be there. Not to be part of that demonstration was like not going to the Bar Mitzvah of your family. It was a family insult!
In fact this demonstration of a quarter of a million Jews in Washington in December was probably the biggest family reunion in history. So the energy that was released from going back to your people was the driving force of the great struggle for freedom. In fact the Berlin Wall was brought down because proud Jews, proud Czechs proud Germans, proud Catholics, proud Pentecostal together with a proud army of Jews brought down the Berlin Wall.
That's why the choice between two battles was fallacious.
Today we live in the global, post national, post modern, post identity world where people of the free world again are asked to make a choice between universalism and nationalism, between freedom and identity. If you believe in the universal values of freedom and human rights, why bother to stick to your national or ethnic identity we are asked.
This question hits home in an especially difficult way for Jews. Doesn’t Judaism prize tikkun olam, perfection of the world at large, as its highest value? If we insist on being part of a Jewish state, does that make a mockery of our larger, universal ideals? If so, do we really want to shelter ourselves in a Jewish cocoon of a state? Why insist on staying part of a small tribe, when the great, global melting pot makes nationalities seem like nothing more than sentimental reminisces.
And when one young Jew believes that he or she must make choice, that you cannot belong to both, they make the choice in favor of universalism. And then assimilation erodes our communities. And then it becomes more and more difficult for the people of Israel to defend their Jewish state. And our detractors sense our hesitation and our weakness and multiply their efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel.
Then the most awful thing happens, a young Jew after months and sometimes years of standing in the face of extreme and false slanderous attacks on Israel, finally says: Enough. I want to live in the world without Israel.
It's frightening enough when our enemies talk about a world without Israel, but when a Jews says this, it is the greatest victory for our enemies.
Just like 20 years ago, this choice between freedom and identity is a false one. We must remind ourselves that the Iron curtain was brought down and hundreds of millions found their freedom only because we found the source of strength in our pride and in our identity. We must remind ourselves that we succeeded in building the democratic State of Israel and bringing the ideas of human rights and equality to the darkest places populated by tyrants and dictators only because we were empowered by thousands of years of dreams and prayers of Next year in Jerusalem. Today I speak here as the Chairman of the Jewish Agency. A Jewish Agency which connects between the Jewish world and the State of Israel and which together achieved great things and made history -- rescuing more than 3 million Jews from pogroms and persecutions. It was the Jewish Agency which coordinated the efforts of all the Jews of the world in helping to build a strong and modern state of Israel. And today of course we must always be ready, and we are ready, to continue to save every single Jew, to help everybody who wants to join us in Israel and to help every Jew in need wherever they are.
Our main battle today is to strengthen, to deepen, to build and to defend our Jewish identity.
But our main battle today is to strengthen, to deepen, to build and to defend our Jewish identity -- the identity of one people, those in Zion and those in the Diaspora. And in this battle it was proved again and again that we need one another. Today, Israel experience programs bring approximately one third of the Jewish people to Israel. Our aim must be to connect every young Jew with Israel and to connect Israel with every Jewish community of the world. Like in the Soviet Union in the past, we need a strong Israel. But Israel today needs strong Jewish communities.
We have to be able to reach every young Jew in the Diaspora and in Israel by Jewish education. Through schools, special courses, cable TV and internet. And we must find a way to make it interesting. And we must be together not only in our great partnerships with Jewish communities, but we must expand these partnerships to every campus in the world where the battle for the future of our young generation is taking place.
Strengthening Jewish identity is the best answer in the struggle for Israel. Strengthening our Jewish identity is the best guarantee to continue kibbutz galuyot, gathering of the exiles. And most important today, like yesterday, returning to our Jewish roots, rebuilding our Jewish identity, can empower us to fight for tikun olam, with more justice and more freedom for everybody.
Read More......

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Update on Next Dor Furniture, Idn Raichel and More

Furniture has arrived at Next Dor! We are now proud owners of gorgeous and huge dining room table with matching chairs, a big sectional sofa, which is still wrapped until we can clean up a bit, and some other 'goodies'.

Hit up yoni at nextdorstl dot org to see the place!

Also, tonight, St. Louis hosts both Israeli music sensation Idan Raichel, and the Washington University Graduate School Battle of the Bands.

So much music in one night? The St. Lou Jew will be covering both (and performing at one), so stay tuned for pictures! Read More......

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Little Haimish Get-together At Next Dor

Programming at Next Dor officially kicked off last night with a conversation with Bob Gershen and Jan Miller, hosted by JGrads and the Jewish law society.

What did you miss?

Haimish is defined as informal and relaxed by the Jewish English Lexicon and is probably a good way to describe Next Dor's first program.

Bob started off talking about how he used his experience as an actor to create presentations for lawyers to improve their courtrooms presentation skills. After hearing about a woman in Florida who taught acting skills to lawyers, Bob developed a seminar which he taught to LA County prosecutors.

He moved back to St. Louis, figuring that the connections he had would let him really hit the ground running, but he found that trial consulting wasn't as accepted in St. Louis as it was elsewhere. It took four years of travelling around the country gaining experience before he found demand for his skills in the St. Louis market. As Bob put it, "new ideas come to St. Louis last".

Bob spoke about how testifying is often a frustrating experience for witnesses, partially because it violates nearly every rule of conversation etiquette because there are so many constraints on what you can say and when you can say it. What Bob often does is to work with lawyers and witnesses on preparing them for the process of testifying.

Jan worked for the Department of Justice, which he says is "bar none, the best place to gain experience". He talked about the transition from working for the government as a prosecutor to being a client lawyer in private practice. Ultimately in private practice, you have to answer to the client, who may not always be correct.

Jan recommends that those who want to become litigators start with a smaller firm. He started at a firm in NYC and ended up spending most of his time in the library, until he made the move to Boston, where he was able to gain more hands-on experience.

The event was well received by the participants and JGrads is interested in continuing the series with other local lawyers.

If you know anyone who might be interested in speaking, please have them contact yoni at nextdorstl dot org.

Read More......

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

JGrads and JLS Host Bob Gershen and Jan Miller At Next Dor

The first event at the Next Dor house goes down tonight!

Interested in Litigation? In serving as a Federal Prosecutor? In things that you can do with a law degree that don’t involve practicing law? Or in discussing life after law school? Join the Jewish Law Society of Wash U Law, JGrads, and the Next Dor House ( for an informal talk with Bob Gerchen and Jan Miller on these topics and more. Bob Gerchen serves as the Director of the St. Louis Office of Litigation Insights and focuses on such fields as trial based jury research, mock trials, and mediation. Jan Miller, currently a Partner at Thompson Coburn, served as the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of Illinois and as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland before that. This event is open to all.

We'll try to take pictures and video! Read More......

Monday, November 9, 2009

Knowing Is Half The Battle: Afghanistan

Interested in the latest information on Afghanistan?
Please join Truman National Security Project Founder and CEO, Dr. Rachel Kleinfeld, for a conference call briefing on Afghanistan.

Tuesday, November 9
12:30pm EST / 9:30am PST
Dial (712) 775-7000
Enter Code 254870#

You can RSVP through Facebook by clicking here, and you can join the Truman Project's Facebook group here.

*Q+A time will be provided*
What is Afghanistan 101 you ask? Good question:
-- Understanding the relationship between al-Qaeda and the Taliban and how it affects our Afghanistan debate
-- What exactly was the counterterrorism strategy of the Bush administration?
-- Why and how a counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan could succeed or fail
-- Different viewpoints and goals of different parts of the military
-- Pakistan!?!?
-- The President's main options Read More......

Gaza and Goldstone: The Debate

For those of you following Goldstone report, a UN backed report on the recent Gaza war which accuses Israel of war crimes, Justice Goldstone recently debated his findings at Brandies University.

This marks the first time that he debated his findings with an Israeli political figure, former Israeli ambassador Dore Gold. The two men agreed that the UN is biased against Israel but disagreed on a great many other points.

The debate is one that needs to be had openly and honestly as most people probably haven't read the report but have read of it.

To view the video, please click here.
Read More......

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Next Dor Upcoming Programs

The house is looking gorgeous, and there are already a few things on the November calendar. From dinners to local influencers, there is a already a wide variety of things slated to take place. Read on for glorious details.

The first official event at the house will be sponsored by JGrads and the Jewish Law Society and will take place on Tuesday, November 10th at 7:30 PM. Details below:

A Conversation with Bob Gerchen (Director, St. Louis Office, Litigation Insights) and Jan Miller (Former U.S. Attorney for the Central District of Illinois; Current Partner, Thompson Coburn)
Interested in Litigation? In serving as a Federal Prosecutor? In things that you can do with a law degree that don’t involve practicing law? Or in discussing life after law school? Join the Jewish Law Society of Wash U Law, JGrads, and the Next Dor House ( for an informal talk with Bob Gerchen and Jan Miller on these topics and more. Bob Gerchen serves as the Director of the St. Louis Office of Litigation Insights and focuses on such fields as trial based jury research, mock trials, and mediation. Jan Miller, currently a Partner at Thompson Coburn, served as the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of Illinois and as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland before that. This event is open to all – for more information e-mail rbmoreen (at)

Beginning next Wednesday, November 11th, Shulchan Ivrit (Hebrew Table) will kick off weekly gatherings in the Next Dor house. Designed to just give people the opportunity to practice their Hebrew, it accommodates all levels from native speakers to those who learned a few words on Birthright.

The following week on Monday the 16th, drop by the house around 7 PM for dinner (kosher and free!). Meet other young Yids and see the house for yourself.

Finally Wednesday, November 18th, come over at 6:30 PM to meet State Representative Jake Zimmerman, who can explain why public transportation is falling apart in St. Louis while rural MO gets money for new bridges, why healthcare reform isn't easy, and what it's like being one of the only Jews in the state legislature.

As always, you can check out the calendar at If you have an idea for how to use the house, you can use the website to submit it.

For more info, email nextdorstl (at)

Read More......

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Update on the HUC situation: Save HUC and it's role

You might remember our previous updates on Hebrew Union College and the social media campaign being organized at Well, some big announcements were made yesterday.

Yesterday, by a vote of 43-5, the Board of Directors of Hebrew Union College decided not to close any of the campuses.

This is a huge win for Judaism between the coasts.

Sources in Cincinnati have named as an important factor in the letter writing campaign that shifted the momentum in the struggle.

A recent article from Cincinnati magazine even called out the site:
With every campus under scrutiny, supporters in all three cities rallied to defend their turf. Students, alumni, and others wrote letters and made phone calls. There were Facebook and Twitter campaigns and a Web site, Ellenson, the school’s president, received more than 10,000 letters and e-mails from supporters. “I was actually quite pleased how vital people thought HUC was to the life of Reform Judaism in the communities in which we serve,” Ellenson says.

I just want to assess how it was that attracted over 10,000 visitors.
First, how much would a traditional media campaign to reach that many people have cost?

Postage alone would have been $4000.

How much was the campaign? Less than $20.

By using an easy to remember domain name that forwarded to a free wordpress blog, the whole thing probably took all of half an hour to set up. The facebook cause that attracted several hundred people grew organically and directed people back to the site. Additionally, by using Twitter, and connecting with Rabbis and Jewish organizations around the country, the message spread even further.

Word of mouth seems to have played a big part, as a demographic that is not traditionally associated with facebook wrote a fair number of comments on's posts.

Clearly, this issue resonated with a large number of people, who felt compelled to take action. In this case, it seems as though that action had its desired effect.

We'll keep you updated, but for now, I know a lot of people who are breathing a sigh of relief.

Read More......