Monday, November 22, 2010


Last night, at a cozy house in Dogtown, a number of St. Louis' funkiest musicians came together for an event known as Friendsgiving.
Friendsgiving, at its simplest, is a potlock jam session, where participants bring a dish or an instrument and eat and play well into the night.

Organized and hosted by KDHX's Andy Coco, who plays in numerous St. Louis bands (Gumbohead, Dogtown All-stars, Hot Karl), the evening brought together some great people, food, and music.

Check out two of the Jams below. Apologies for the video quality, this was taken with a mobile phone.

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Moishe House St. Louis Gets Recognition

The St. Louis Moishe House has done it again, winning Moishe House's House of the Month award. This award, which highlights one of the 33 houses across the world, recognizes the work that the newest combination of residents have done.

In the month of October, MHSTL hosted events for Simchat Torah, Shabbat dinners, attended screenings of an Israeli film, Lebanon, held current event discussions, and a social action Halloween program.

The St. Louis house, which was founded in 2008, is currently located in Richmond Heights. To learn more about the group, check them out here and on facebook, here. Read More......

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sklar Brothers Bring The NSFW, Young Adults Dig It

This past Saturday night at a ballroom at the Sheraton in Clayton, comedy duo, the Sklar Brothers, unleashed their humor on the Young Professionals of the Jewish community.

The event, organized to celebrate the end of the 2010 Federation annual campaign, brought together around 300 young adults (and some not so young) to laugh at the unique tag-team style of the St. Louis natives.

The brothers, known for their work on HBO and elsewhere joked about everything from growing up thinking they were poor, to problems buying the story of the original "Karate Kid" and brought some refreshing vulgarity to a world of Jewish events often known for being rated PG.

Although the language was at times gratifyingly crude, the controversy from the evening came from a decidedly different place: the cost.

The cost of the event, $15, could only be paid once a minimum $52 contribution had been made to the Federation. That brings the cost for two to over $80. In fairness, the donation goes towards the Federation's support of basic social services, agencies, advocacy, and sexier things like Next Dor and Moishe House. Last year, the minimum donation was $100, pointed out the YPD staff person, and truly, for those of us to earn an income a dollar a week isn't really a lot to ask.

But what about all of the graduate students, new arrivals and unemployed young adults living here? Many of them aren't particularly situated here in St. Louis, have little affiliation with the city or the Federation, and tend to simply not have a lot of spare cash. For several friends, they found the required donation distasteful and a turnoff. They felt disenfranchised and saw the whole thing as a reassertion that Federation sees them only as the contents of their pocketbooks.

In my opinion, the whole issue comes down to one of communication, and might have been avoided by a slightly different marketing campaign. A casual perusal through the promotional materials will show that the impetus of the event was communicated in a way that led to a bit of confusion. Many people don't understand what the campaign is and so saying that the event celebrates its close didn't help to disambiguate. Instead, the materials could have pointed out that as a thank you to all of those who enabled Federation to continue its important work in the community with a minimum donation of $52, an event was being organized with famous comedians, candy, and an open bar for $15, which is not a bad deal. From there, communicating that it is not too late to take advantage of the event by making the minimum donation is relatively easy. That clarifies the purpose of the event, the reason for the minimum donation, and includes a call to action to inspire those stragglers to donate.

In the end, I was able, through some finagling (and a larger than minimum donation), to ensure that a friend of mine who couldn't afford it, but loves the Sklar brothers, was able to attend. The event was well produced and put together, and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. It was certainly a success, but even from successes, one can draw lessons from the tensions along the way.
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Friday, November 12, 2010

St. Louis Young Adults Make Waves in NYC

This story is reposted from and can be found here

When the St. Louis Next Dor delegates spoke at a Synagogue3000 Conference in New York City recently before 176 attendees representing 53 congregations across the country, everyone listened with rapt attention. The four 20-somethings representing St. Louis - David Elias, Aliza Haber, Ariel Lyons-Warren and Yoni Sarason - were the youngest group of presenters addressing one of the most important issues facing our Jewish community – how to engage young Jewish adults. And they posited a unique model.

Rabbi Aaron Spiegel, CEO of S3000, said of the Next Dor STL contingent, “They not only provided a pilot project voice about what and how they’ve created a successful young Jewish adult engagement initiative, but also demonstrated to the mostly Boomer and Gen X crowd that young Jewish adults really do know what they want and how to go about creating sacred community on their terms.”

The S3000 event brought together Jewish organizers, rabbis, congregational leaders, federation representatives, experts in communal initiatives and others committed to community building for Jews in their 20s and 30s. The goal of the conference was to have a free-thinking and honest conversation about how to reach the next generation of Jews. And underlying that was to explore the relevance synagogues will play in the future of Jewish life. Next Dor, which is a national initiative for engaging young Jewish adults, is typically organized by rabbis that forge connections, build community and launch peer-driven initiatives – both in and around the congregations that host their endeavors.

But Next Dor STL takes a different approach.

Sarason, founder and a current staff member, explained it this way. “We tap young local talent to reach post-college and pre-marriage Jewish adults (ages 21 to mid 30s). Most other Next Dor sites are ensconced with a synagogue; we are independent. Other sites use their funds to hire a professional while we use it to renovate the space – we have our own house near Central Reform Congregation with whom we have a special exchange. We also focus on non-traditional programming that doesn’t take place within the confines of an institutional setting such as a synagogue or Jewish organization.”

Rabbi Susan Talve of CRC, who accompanied the Next Dor STL delegates, explained the laissez-faire set up between Next Dor STL and her congregation. “Our hope was that Next Dor STL would provide a space for young adults to find meaningful relationships, conversations and experiences.” There were contingencies in setting it up, she noted. “There were core values we expected the young people to build on like embracing the LGBT community, Jews of color, open to interfaith relationships and Jews by choice. I hope also at this critical time in their lives, in an economy that is tough for many of them to find work, they know they can still be part of something bigger than themselves, find ways to help each other and serve the common good.”

Lyons-Warren , one of the initial founders and a current board member, pointed out that Next Dor STL is indeed a Jewish community space that serves the common good. Available to and welcoming for young Jewish adults, it’s non-denominational and independent of any one synagogue. “The most important goal is providing a safe comfortable place to be…the Jewish identity will follow. Our generation does not respond to the same types of outreach as our parents’ and grandparents’ generations.”

Next Dor STL has empowered young people to form their own community. “It’s about letting us have the reigns, the power and the resources rather than conforming to someone else’s concept. Young people are full of ideas, but they’re not necessarily listened to. Here our ideas have come to fruition without the typical roadblocks,” said Sarason.

Elias, a program director and board member, said he views Next Dor STL as a success “if there are a plethora of options out there for young, Jewish adults to explore. I want young people to realize that St. Louis has a lot to offer and I see Next Dor STL as a resource for young adults and a conduit to other organizations within the city."

Haber calls Next Dor STL her lifeline to the Jewish community. “I moved back to St. Louis from Chicago, heard about Next Dor and went to a couple of events. I started to think, ‘Hey, this is pretty cool.’ I went to more and this led to other involvements. I’m more involved in Jewish social life and living than ever. Now I’m a youth director for USY, I have new friends and networking opportunities that helped me find work. In fact, my whole life revolves around things I’ve done and people I’ve met at Next Dor.”

Since opening, hosting its first event a year ago on Nov. 10, 2009, more than 300 young adults have made 1,500 visits to St. Louis’ Next Dor, participating in more than 100 programs that include social action projects, educational events and social and recreational programs. This is the tip of the iceberg. Sarason wants to ignite more relationships with existing organizations which have had not as much success with young adults in the past. “For instance, we did an interfaith dialogue with ADL that was successful. We’re doing a movie series with them. In essence, we’re taking the programs out of the institutional setting and having conversations that allow young people to express themselves and do something meaningful.”

Next Dor STL’s model has put the St. Louis Jewish community on the map, said Sarason. “I’ve heard from people in Houston, Detroit, New York. We’ve had initial conversations and many have said, ‘Wow, I would like to visit St. Louis. It sounds like a great community.’”
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Monday, November 1, 2010

Eyal Kless, World-Renowned Violinist to Speak at Next Dor

Eyal Kless, born in Israel, has performed and taught throughout the world, fast establishing himself a dynamic and versatile musician. During his visit to St. Louis, to play at Powell Symphony Hall, he will also be speaking at Next Dor.

The small gathering, taking place at 7 PM on Tuesday, November 2nd, will be an intimate conversation with this fantastic musician. For more information about the event, click here.

Eyal's performances will take place Wednesday, Nov. 3, at 7 p.m. at the next “On Stage at Powell” program at 7 p.m., and on Monday, Nov. 8, 7:30 p.m., at Washington University’s New Music Building, 560 Music Center. Read More......