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Honor for Mirowitz's Maayan; Bible contest winners; instrument sale; art of demolition

Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

From left, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Dean Joshua Holo, Provost Rabbi Andrea Weiss, President Andrew Rehfeld, Cheryl Maayan and Dr. Michael Zeldin.


What’s up doc?

Congrats to Cheryl Maayan, head of school at Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School, who received her Doctorate of Jewish Religious Education (honoris causa) from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion at its graduation ceremonies in Los Angeles Monday. 

And guess who presented the honor to her? 

None other than Andrew Rehfeld, the new president of HUC-JIR (and former CEO and president of Jewish Federation of St. Louis).  

The award honors Maayan for 25 years of distinguished professional service.

On the subject of amazing honors . . .

Yechiel Shulman, a freshman at Yeshivat Kadimah and son of Rabbi Moshe Shulman of Young Israel, placed fifth at the International Chidon Ha’Tanach, known as the “Bible Contest,” which took place live on Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Israel Independence Day; May 8 this year) at the Jerusalem Theater in Israel.

To get to compete in Israel was a tremendous feat, as Yechiel was one of only four high school students nationwide who qualified last year to represent the United States in this year’s international contest.

For those unfamiliar — as I was prior to last year before Yechiel qualified — the International Chidon Ha’Tanach is an annual competition among dozens of Jewish students between the ages of 14 and 18. This year, 72 students from 41 countries competed in Israel at the international contest. 

After qualifying last year, when he was an eighth-grader at H.F. Epstein Academy, Yechiel spent this year studying three to four hours a day to prepare for the international competition, which is sponsored by the Jewish Agency.

Tanach is an acronym composed of Torah (“Teaching,” also known as the Five Books of Moses), Nevi’im (“Prophets”) and Ketuvim (“Writings”). Yechiel and the other contestants were asked about the smallest details of the many events that take place in the Hebrew Bible, and were quizzed on the 24 books it contains.

The contest was won by 12th-grader Yonatan Weissman from Yeshivat Yerushalayim in Nehalim, beating out 15 other finalists from Israel and around the globe. In second place was Benjamin Colchamiro from Kushner Yeshiva in Livingston, N.J., while third place was taken by Yarin Bar from Revivim in the Negev, and in fourth place was Adar Geller from Jerusalem.

In addition to the competition, Yechiel and the other contestants spent two weeks at a “Bible camp,” in which they traveled throughout Israel, learned about its history and met with several government officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Stay tuned to hear more about Yechiel’s experience at the international contest in an upcoming issue of the Light.

CRC musician withdraws, instruments remain

As a result of an acoustic neuroma, which is a rare, non-cancerous tumor on the eighth cranial nerve that controls hearing and balance, Robert Fishbone is now functionally deaf in his right ear. 

Fishbone, a talented mural artist, musician and member of Central Reform Congregation, explained that in addition to hearing loss, he has balance issues, facial twitching and contractions.

“Because all sound comes through my one, semi-good left ear (I already wore hearing aids), I am easily overwhelmed by even mildly noisy situations, can’t distinguish or understand much of what is said, and have thus withdrawn from most activities,” he said, including playing percussion in CRC’s band.

As a result, Fishbone is selling his remaining collection of mostly percussion instruments as well as some wind instruments, some electronics, and “some flotsam and jetsam from a lifetime of exploring sound.” A portion of the proceeds from the instrument sale will benefit the Acoustic Neuroma Association. 

If interested, a sale and silent auction takes place from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, May 17 and the sale continues from 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday, May 18 at Stone Spiral Coffee House, 2506 Sutton Avenue in Maplewood. 

The art of demolition

Starting this year, the Ladue Horton Watkins High School Gallery will feature a summer exhibit that highlights stories and artists from the St. Louis community. The inaugural exhibit of this series will be the art of Eric J. Spirtas entitled “TOP DOWN: A painted journey through demolition in St. Louis.” It tells the story of his family business, Spirtas Wrecking Company in St. Louis, through his newfound love of painting and the arts.

Spirtas, who is a member of Temple Israel, graduated from Ladue in 1984. He and his wife, Janie Handelman Spirtas (Class of ’85) have three children who attended Ladue schools.

Eric Spirtas - Painting

One of the works by Eric Spirtas that will be on display at Ladue Horton Watkins High School starting May 17.


An opening reception will take place from 6 to 8 p.m.  Friday, May 17, and include an announcement that thanks to a generous donation by the Spirtas family, the Ladue Horton Watkins High School Gallery will be known as “Spirtas Gallery.” The Spirtas exhibit will be on display until July 17.