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STL teens in top BBYO roles; NJT’s next season; Sing for Siteman

BBYO

Jill Goldwasser and Glenn Randall 

Teens on a mission

Three St. Louis-area teens are taking on major leadership roles on an international Jewish platform.

Earlier this month, at BBYO’s International Convention in Denver, St. Louisans Jill Goldwasser, a junior at Ladue Horton Watkins High School and member of Temple Israel, and Glenn Randall, a junior at John Burroughs School, were elected as two of 12 teens to lead the organization internationally. Each will serve as a vice president of Judaic Heritage, Social Action and Community Service.

In addition, Demi Fine, a junior at Eureka High School and member of Congregation B’nai Amoona, was elected in December to serve on United Synagogue Youth’s (USY) International General Board on the Alumni Outreach and Engagements Committee.

When I caught up with Goldwasser over the weekend, she explained her new position and how BBYO has made a difference in her life.

“I started going to Camp Sabra when I was in sixth grade,” she said. “Every single shirt one of my counselors brought that summer was a BBYO shirt. I thought that was so cool. I wanted to love something like that and be involved.”

When she joined the organization in eighth grade, she says,  “I pretty much fell in love that first meeting and stayed involved, seeking out leadership roles.”

BBYO has more than 200,000 members from all streams of Judaism in 600 chapters across North America and 45 countries. The Conservative movement’s USY operates in the United States and Canada, with 350 chapters across 16 regions.

While Goldwasser is aware her new position with BBYO means a lot of additional work — she was told roughly 15 hours a week — she is excited to “not only help others make an impact in their communities but also to serve as a role model and inspire people to work harder and follow their passion.”

As one of the leaders for BBYO’s social action initiatives, Goldwasser and her team are hoping to increase awareness about sustainability, noting, “it’s our responsibility to make sure that our kids and grandkids and everyone else still has an earth to be on.”

More than anything, she says, it’s the people involved in BBYO that make it so special. “No matter what any situation is like, at school or anywhere else, I have this outside group of friends I can go to who are so accepting. It’s also a place for me to explore my Jewish identity and how I want to be as a Jew that maybe a synagogue or other places wouldn’t allow.”

Play time

Neil Simon’s crowd-pleasing, semi-autobiographical “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” the first of his “Eugene trilogy,” will open the 2019-2020 season of the New Jewish Theatre, artistic director Edward Coffield told the Jewish Light earlier this week. The five-play season also includes two St. Louis premieres: “We Are the Levinsons” by Wendy Kout and the musical revue “Putting it Together” by Stephen Sondheim, which will serve as the season’s closing production. 

“I think the plays and musical that comprise the 2019-20 season at NJT will engage and excite the community,” said Coffield, who started as artistic director of NJT at the beginning of its current season. “In my brief time leading (NJT), I have come to learn that our audience loves to come to the theater so we can share stories. I know their lives are changed by that experience.” 

“Brighton Beach Memoirs,” which will run from Oct. 10-27, follows Eugene Jerome as a young teen in 1937 living with his family in a crowded, lower-middle-class Brooklyn, N.Y. walk-up. The play captures the life of a struggling Jewish household where, as Eugene’s father notes, “If you didn’t have a problem, you wouldn’t be living here.”

The next play, “Fully Committed” by Becky Mode, runs from Dec. 5-22. The comedy follows a day in the life of an out-of-work actor who mans the red-hot reservation line at Manhattan’s No. 1 restaurant. While juggling scheming socialites, name-dropping wannabes and fickle celebrities all looking for a reservation or prime table, he must figure out how to maintain his own sanity. “Fully Committed” has 40 wildly diverse characters played by one actor, NJT favorite Will Bonfiglio.

The third play of the season, “My Name is Asher Lev,” chronicles the journey of a young Jewish painter torn between his Hasidic upbringing and his desperate need to fulfill his artistic promise. When his artistic genius threatens to destroy his relationship with his parents and community, Asher must make a difficult choice between art and faith. Adapted by Aaron Posner from the novel by Chaim Potok, the play runs from Jan. 23-Feb. 9.

“We Are the Levinsons” is a dramedy about parents and children as well as people who come into our lives and change all of us. NJT’s staging, from March 26-April 12, 2020, will be only the second production of the play as well as a St. Louis premiere. 

Finally, “Putting it Together,” from May 7-24, 2020, will be performed by a cast of five people who are thrown together at a party in a Manhattan penthouse. The show celebrates Sondheim’s many Broadway hits and features nearly 30 of his tunes.

Subscription tickets will go on sale May 13. For more information, as well as prices and single ticket sales, go to www.newjewishtheatre.org.

A milestone to sing about

The 10th annual Sing for Siteman concert will take place at 6:30 p.m. Friday, March 29 at the Performing Arts Center at John Burroughs School, 755 S. Price Road. Proceeds benefit the Siteman Cancer Center’s Discover Fund in support of cancer research projects.

The event will feature Grammy Award-winning soprano Christine Brewer and, as a special guest, Kennedy Holmes, who was a recent finalist on NBC’s “The Voice.” She also attends Burroughs. In addition, four artists from Opera Theatre of St. Louis’ 2019 Opera Tasting Series will perform.

Tickets, which range from $50-$100 for adults and $25 for students, include a cocktail reception, concert and opportunity to meet the artists. For tickets and more information, call 314-961-0644 or go to www.singforsiteman.org.  

News and Schmooze is a weekly column by Editor Ellen Futterman. Email Ellen at: efutterman@thejewishlight.com.