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Fashionable keynote for Jewish Book Fest, and more

Isaac Mizrahi

Isaac Mizrahi, author of ‘I.M.: A Memoir,’ will be the keynote speaker opening this year’s St. Louis Jewish Book Festival.   

Mizrahi brings his memoir to Jewish Book Festival

Isaac Mizrahi will be the keynote speaker on opening night, Sunday, Nov. 3, at the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival. He will discuss his new book, “I.M.: A Memoir,” when he takes the stage at 7 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center’s Staenberg Family Complex.

Mizrahi, 57, is best known as chief fashion designer of his namesake brand, which not only spans the globe — and Target! — but caters to seemingly everyone — men, women and children of all ages, sizes and backgrounds. He also has made a name for himself in film and on television, from the documentary “Unzipped,” which chronicles the launch of his 1994 fall collection, to more recent regular gigs as host of “Isaac Mizrahi Live!” on QVC and celebrity judge on “Project Runway: All Stars.” 

St. Louisans may remember that in 2010, Mizrahi made his directorial debut here with Opera Theatre’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music.” He also had a major retrospective of the first 30 years of his work at the Jewish Museum in New York in 2016.

How Mizrahi had time to write a memoir is anyone’s guess; nevertheless, early reviews say it is a candid exploration of growing up gay in a sheltered Syrian Orthodox Jewish family in Brooklyn, N.Y., to his teenage years at the LaGuardia High School for Performing Arts to becoming a global fashion designer and icon, entrepreneur, cabaret singer, director, producer and household name.

 “Mizrahi negotiates his repressive, lonely childhood — punctuated with insults and mockery from rabbis and schoolmates alike — by hiding in a self-made bedazzled world,” writes the Washington Post in a March review of his memoir, in which Mizrahi says he “stuck out like a chubby gay thumb.”

“In Yeshivah of Flatbush, he disco-dances to the beat of daily prayers and defaces religious books with sketches of shoes and hairstyles in the margins,” the review continues. “Once home, he sneaks dollars from his father’s wallet and spends the money on treasures he unearths from the discount bin at the local trimmings store. Mizrahi then uses the scraps to construct his own puppets, decking them in glittery finery. He even builds them a stage in the family’s garage.”

Look forward to hearing much more about his exceptional life at the 41st annual Jewish Book Festival, where more than 30 additional authors will present their latest titles. 

Tickets to Opening Night with Isaac Mizrahi are $45. For more information, including tickets and festival passes, call 314-442-3299 or go to www.stljewishbookfestival.org. Student tickets to any author even are free with a valid student ID at the door.


Kosher catering company exiting St. Louis

Taste of Jerusalem is closing at the end of the month and is no longer taking orders. In a brief note, the kosher catering company, owned by Elhanan and Lizzy Batat, said all orders prior to May 31 would be delivered accordingly.

Taste of Jerusalem offered myriad Middle Eastern and Israeli specialties as well as more traditional entrees, appetizers, salads and desserts. No reason was given for the closing and efforts to reach the Batats were unsuccessful shortly before press time.  


Wearing your view

A St. Louis-based T-shirt company, www.stlouistshirt.com, has launched a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood in the wake of the Missouri lawmakers passing a bill that would ban abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy. A Jewish family in Olivette owns the company.

“We got together over the weekend and decided to do this because we are angry,” said Amy Spetner Doughty, 46, a hospice nurse, entrepreneur, mother of three and Temple Israel congregant. “As my mom (Helene Spetner) said, it’s not about making money but giving money.”

The T-shirts come in two designs and each cost $20. Doughty said 50 percent of the proceeds from the sale of the shirts will go to Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri. Shirts can be ordered on the website through June 3.


Making a difference

Carol Staenberg is among five honorees at this year’s 74th Brotherhood Sisterhood Awards Celebration, which takes place from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 4 at the Coronado Ballroom in Midtown. The awards pay tribute to individuals and organizations whose work demonstrates and exemplifies positive change for diversity, inclusion and equity.

Staenberg is being honored for serving as past board chair at College Bound, which helps students from financially disadvantaged backgrounds earn their bachelor’s degree. 

In addition, We Stories, co-founded by Laura Horwitz, will be recognized for its efforts to engage white families to view anti-racism as a parenting priority.

The awards celebration is being chaired by Susan and Jerry Schlichter. For tickets and more information, go to www.nccjstl.org.