Yankel’s visit; new PAC; accessible High Holidays

Yankel and the white chicken

The Light recently introduced you to Dave Blum and Autumn Sij, owners of Such and Such Farm. The Jewish couple started out homesteading on their De Soto, Mo. property before converting it to a now-thriving commercial farm. With the High Holy Days approaching, News & Schmooze correspondent Bill Motchan learned that Blum and Sij are expecting a visit from Yankel.

“A few years ago, the owner of the gas station up the road called us and said an Amish guy was looking for our farm,” Sij told Motchan. “It turned out to be a man named Yankel. He was looking for a white chicken. He wasn’t Amish, he was an Orthodox Jew.”

The mysterious solitary Yankel was traveling through Missouri via rural byways, preparing to perform Kapparot, the pre-Yom Kippur practice of passing a chicken over one’s head three times. 

“Yankel was just looking for farms nearby with chickens and it just so happened that he found a Jewish farm,” Blum said. “It was a crazy coincidence.”

Blum and Sij befriended Yankel, provided him with a chicken, and did so again the following year when he passed through town again.

“Now, before Yom Kippur, I make sure I have some white chickens, just in case Yankel shows up,” Sij said.

Leaders of the PAC

Access MO is a new statewide political action committee inspired by Jewish values. It was formed to support Missouri candidates who publicly embrace and advocate for reproduction rights and health care. The group is holding a kickoff reception from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 25, at the home of Christy and Jeff Singer, 5 Fordyce Lane.

“We know how philanthropic and social-justice oriented the Jewish community is, but many are really absent from the political process,” explained Dana Sandweiss, who along with Ellen Alper, Colleen Millstone, Vicki Singer and Wendi Alper-Pressman, are spearheading the PAC. “We saw that there is so much potential in our community that hasn’t been tapped. So we reached out, and about 30 women showed up at my house this summer to start brainstorming ideas. We formed a task force and an advisory board. Everyone involved is very excited by this idea.”

Sandweiss said the PAC is nonpartisan. At the Sept. 25 meeting, attendees will hear from Rabbi Andrea Goldstein and M’Evie Mead, director of policy and organizing at Planned Parenthood Advocates in Missouri. 

“Our goal is to get behind pro-choice candidates who support abortion rights and contraception. That is our only focus,” Sandweiss said. “We know that some people in the Jewish community like to give to Jewish causes, and this is a way of doing just that.”

To RSVP to the kickoff event, email accessmissouri@gmail.com.

High Holidays 101

Earlier this year, the Jewish Light unveiled a video storytelling project called Why Be Jewish? that featured interviews with St. Louis millennial Jews of all stripes. One of the overarching themes that emerged from these videos is that there is no one way to be Jewish. (To view the videos, go to stljewishlight.com/whybejewish.) Given that presumption, it stands to reason that there is no one way to celebrate the Jewish New Year. 

Rabbi Yosef Landa, regional director of Chabad of Greater St. Louis, understands this. He knows that to engage members of the tribe, sometimes that means venturing a bit beyond the usual and customary synagogue formalities.  

To accommodate those who would otherwise not participate in traditional Rosh Hashanah synagogue services, Chabad centers are offering accessible, open to all, 30-minute Rosh Hashanah services, focusing on the primary observances of the holiday, in five locations in the St. Louis area. 

The locations are in University City/Clayton, Chesterfield, Central West End, Washington University and St. Charles County. A list of times and locations is available below.

The services are free and no reservations are required. People are encouraged to “just come.”

These services will include the sounding of the shofar, which is central to the observance of Rosh Hashanah, as well as tashlich, an ancient practice that is customarily performed on the first day of the holiday. A brief prayer is recited near a body of water, preferably containing fish, in which we express our prayerful hope that G-d cast our indiscretions into the depths of the sea and that we be granted a good and sweet new year.

“Our goal is for Judaism to be made accessible to all Jews,” Landa said. “During the High Holidays, accessibility can mean different things to different people. Our goal is to lower the barriers of entry and to encourage every Jewish person to actively participate in the observances of Rosh Hashanah.”

Rosh Hashanah begins this year at sundown Sunday, Sept. 29, and concludes at nightfall Tuesday, Oct. 1. The services listed below take place Monday, Sept. 30. The five locations are:

• Community Tashlich & Shofar Service, adjacent to the Morris & Ann Lazaroff Chabad Center, 8124 Delmar Blvd., University City, 3-3:30 p.m., hosted by Chabad of Greater St. Louis

• Family Tashlich & Shofar Blowing Service, Hilton Garden Inn (at Water Fountain Park), 16631 Chesterfield Grove Rd., Chesterfield, 6:30-7 p.m., hosted by Chabad of Chesterfield

• Shofar + Tashlich in the Park, Forest Park Jewish Tercentenary Monument in Forest Park (Lindell and Kingshighway Blvds.), 5 p.m., hosted by Chabad of the Central West End

• Shofar in the Park (plus: apples & honey and Tashlich service), Frontier Park in St. Charles (gather by Katy’s Depot), 5-5:30 p.m., hosted by Chabad’s “Roving Rabbis” to St. Charles County

• Shofar & Tashlich on Campus, Tashlich - Meet 2:30 pm. at Chabad at Washington University, drop by for Shofar blowing at Washington U. Clock tower 3:30-6 p.m., hosted by Chabad on Campus.

News and Schmooze is a weekly column by Editor Ellen Futterman. Email 

Ellen at: efutterman@thejewishlight.com