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Seder for kids

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Ellen Futterman, Editor of the St. Louis Jewish Light

Posted: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 3:55 pm | Updated: 4:09 pm, Wed Mar 6, 2013.


It’s Passover 2010 and you’re ready to start the seder at your sister’s home in Ladue. A few minutes into the Hagaddah, your grade-school age niece and nephew, and the other kids at the table, begin to get antsy. Being the fun, creative aunt you are, you scramble for cardboard and markers, and craft makeshift bingo cards with words that correspond to the Hagaddah and story of Exodus. The next thing you know, the children — as well as the adults — are listening intently, hoping a word from the board is read so it can be covered and yelling “Bingo” is in reach.

That’s pretty much how Tamara Pester came to create Passover Bingo.The game includes six colorful boards, 96 foam pieces to act as markers for the bingo squares, instructions and a word list. 

“All of the kids at that Passover loved it and wanted me to make one for them for the following year,” says Pester, an attorney who lives in Denver. Most Passovers she travels to St. Louis to join her sister and brother-in-law, Michelle and Dan Spirn, and their children for the holiday. The Spirns are also attorneys and belong to Shaare Emeth.

“Everyone I talked to about the game thought it was a great idea,” Pester says. “So I got more serious about it, hired a graphic designer and once I was satisfied with the look, found a manufacturer. We got our first shipment back in the fall.”

She says most of the feedback has been very positive, though she has heard from a few who feel making a game out of a Passover belittles it.

“I consulted several rabbis in Denver and they support (the game),” she says. “They felt anything that keeps young children engaged during the seder — and learning — is a good thing.”

The game sells for $24.99 at Ten percent of the proceeds go to fund various Jewish non-profits, including the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project and Aish Hatorah.

You are our eyes and ears

Sometimes I’m asked where the newspaper gets story ideas. Often, I say, from readers like you.

I can’t stress how crucial it is — and how much we appreciate — readers cluing us into local people doing interesting, important work in the Jewish community as well as unusual places or events that might not be on our radar. Sure, we hear about plenty of these from various organizations and other sources. Yet no matter how hard we may try, we can’t know about everything. And we can’t begin to cover something if we don’t know about it in the first place.

I am so thankful for the email addresses and phone numbers of former Jewish St. Louisans sent to me by Light readers before I went to Israel in January. Was I able to be in touch with all of them while I was there? Of course not. But now that I have contact information, I can begin to cultivate a relationship with some and, hopefully, include mini-profiles about what they are doing in upcoming installments of our “Israel Alive!” section.

Reader input is the life-blood of newspapers, big and small. That doesn’t mean every time a reader sends in a story idea it will get used. Promotional and self-serving suggestions often get tossed. But I know that there is so much in our community that merits coverage, from budding entrepreneurs and artists to social justice initiatives to advancements in science and technology. And that’s just barely scratching the surface.

So don’t be shy. If you think you’re onto something that might be a story, give me a call (314-743-3669) or drop me an email ( Together, we can flesh out the idea and discuss the possibilities.

Speaking of remarkable Jewish St. Louisans . . .

Like a number of college graduates, Melanie Goldstein has elected to continue her studies abroad. However, in her case, it’s largely because she is the recipient of a prestigious U.S. Student Fulbright award.

After graduating from Clayton High School in 2008, Melanie attended Stanford University, where she majored in music and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in June. Currently, she is studying violoncello with Marianne Chen at the Scuola di Musica di Fiesole in Florence, Italy and conducting research on classical music in the hopes of making it more accessible through innovative programming and technology. She also was recently named co-principal cellist of the Orchestra Giovanile Italia, Italy’s professional training orchestra, and will tour throughout Europe with the ensemble.

As you can imagine, her parents, Maxine and Ken Goldstein, are beyond kvelling. “We’ve been proud of her and her sister (Andrea) every minute of their lives,” says Maxine, adding that she has no idea how Melanie and Andrea, who is an accomplished violinist and studying science at Stanford, inherited such musical talent. “It’s certainly not my side of the family,” she jokes.

Melanie was principal cellist of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra and associate principal of the Honors Orchestra of America, and has collaborated with conductor David Robertson, violinist David Halen, and soprano Christine Brewer. She celebrated her bat mitzvah at Congregation B’nai Amoona, where Cantor Sharon Nathanson served as a mentor.

“Sharon had Melanie play cello at Kol Nidre services, which was a very big deal at a Conservative synagogue,” says Maxine. “After Melanie graduated and went to college, Andrea took over playing violin.

“Sharon was very important to both in terms of her support and encouragement.”

In the fall, Melanie will return to Stanford for a master’s degree in “Music, Science, and Technology,” a one-year program that integrates neuroscience/perception, computer science and music fields.

Why does my brain hurt just writing that?

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