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JEWISH LIFE ON CAMPUS — Hillel International launched “Hillel College Guide: The Official Hillel Guide to Jewish Life on Campus” this summer, providing unique insights for students and parents on organized Jewish life, Israel programming, the availability of kosher food and the relative size of the Jewish community on campuses across North America. The magazine also includes rankings of what schools Jewish students are choosing. KU Hillel is ranked 50 out of 60! Topping this year’s lists are Rutgers University on the list of public schools and New York University on the list of private schools. The rankings are based on self-reported enrollment data from the schools on the list.

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Ritchie Kaye (far right) took her great-niece Rose Ellis Wasserman (from left) and great-nephews Samuel Ellis Wasserman and David Ellis Wasserman to the opening of the ‘Palm Petal ARTicipation Workshop’ at the Epsten Gallery in April. Under the direction of artist Casey Whittier, intergenerational participants created a unique family art piece. Image courtesy of Epsten Gallery

Epsten Gallery, which is approaching its 25th anniversary in 2016, has been known by a variety of names over the years, sometimes leading to some confusion. Regardless of its official name — The Kansas City Jewish Museum Foundation, The Museum Without Walls, The Kansas City Jewish Museum of Contemporary Art or the Epsten Gallery — as an entity it has always provided a mixture of museum-quality exhibits and programming that interest the entire community. Today Epsten Gallery Foundation President William Kort said the gallery is widening its net, increasing its programming to appeal to an even broader range of people in the community. 

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The Rev. John Hage, right, embracing the Rev. Sidney Davis outside the historic Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., June 18, 2015.

“The unspeakable murder of nine accomplished, beloved and respected African-American Charlestonians of faith in their own church on Wednesday (June 18) has hit our city like an earthquake.”

—Author Robert N. Rosen

Rabbi Alan Cohen, rabbi emeritus of Congregation Beth Shalom, is currently in Charleston, South Carolina, where he is seeing first-hand how the murders of nine black Charlestonians is affecting the Charleston community, and its Jewish population. Rabbi Cohen is spending the next couple of months in Charleston filling in as the rabbi for Synagogue Emanu-El, while its regular rabbi is on sabbatical.

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Rabbi Mendel Segal was awarded the grand championship at the second annual Chicago Kosher BBQ Competition and Festival earlier this month as well as first prize in the chicken, brisket and beans categories.

Rabbi Q — officially known as Rabbi Mendel Segal — has been very, very busy lately. Earlier this year the executive director and rabbinic coordinator of the Vaad HaKashruth of Kansas City launched his new product line, Mendel’s Foods, LLC, and has hit the kosher barbecue circuit, proving once again he is a champion smoker.

On June 14 at the second annual Chicago Kosher BBQ Competition and Festival, Rabbi Segal’s barbecue won first place in the chicken, brisket and beans categories and took third place with his ribs. The judges also crowned him the competition’s grand champion.

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Rita Cortes

The board of directors of the Jewish Heritage Foundation of Greater Kansas City has announced that Rita Cortes will become the new executive director of the organization. Cortes will be the third executive director in JHF history as she succeeds Ellen Kort who is retiring after more than a decade of leadership.

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Ethan Helfand

Ethan Helfand, a Leawood native and a 2004 graduate of Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy, recently took the reigns as EMTZA Region USY regional youth director. He said he’s really looking forward to this multi-faceted job with the Conservative movement’s youth group.

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Rabbi Scott White (clockwise from bottom left), Larry Myer, Ron Altman, Bruce Wasserstrom and Ron Fredman, part of the illustrious Joe Hotrod and the Sparkplugs that performed last year at Bowling with Barb. The 1950s-style band, famous for their performances at BBYO regional events in the early to mid-1970s, reunited for the first time in 40 years for last year’s event and have agreed to an encore performance on Sunday, July 12.

JOE HOTROD AND THE SPARKPLUGS RETURN — They’re baaack!!!! Some of us middle-aged former BBYOers waited 40 years for Joe Hotrod and the Sparkplugs to reunite last year at Bowling for Barb, a fundraiser organized by Barb Mendelsohn, my friend of too many years to count. Barb was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease more than a decade ago and she organizes this event, along with much appreciated help from friends and family, to help fund research to find a cure for the disease. This will be the eighth year we have gathered to schmooze about our lives today and think back to when we were teenagers and had no real cares in the world. The boys in Joe Hotrod had so much fun last year they decided to play at the fundraiser one more time! This year, in addition to their oldies but goodies from the 1950s, the “real musicians” in the group (Ronnie brothers, please don’t be mad!) will throw in a set featuring music from our time, the ‘70s. All the originals (or the original subs) can’t make it back here this year but we’re looking forward to hearing Bart Cohn, Jerry Fehr, Ron Fredman, Ron Altman, Larry Myer, Jim Appelbaum, Eric Morgenstern, Bruce Wasserstrom and Rabbi Scott White (yes, he was a teen in the ‘70s!) and watch them wow the crowd. As an added bonus, Dr. Gerard Vockley, the man who supervises all the research to find a cure for mitochondrial disease, will be there also. So you can bowl, kibbitz, listen to music or do any or all of the above at the event slated to take place Sunday, July 12, at Ward Parkway Lanes from 2 to 4 p.m. This is not an official BBYO function, but if you were a member I guarantee you there will be someone there you can have a lively conversation with about old times. So please join us. You can even visit with me. I’ll be at the registration table happily taking checks and credit cards. See you there! 

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Todd Stettner

In February 2014, Jewish Federation President and CEO Todd Stettner announced his intention to retire in September 2015, giving the leadership approximately 18 months to make plans for a future without him. But sometimes the best laid plans don’t come to fruition, and the person tapped to replace him chose to remain in her current community instead of relocating to the Kansas City area. So an interim plan has been put in place.

Late last week in a joint statement, Jewish Federation Chair Patricia W. Uhlmann and Stettner announced that he had agreed to continue to serve the agency’s chief executive until a successor has been found.

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Good Shabbos KC — Jewish Federation’s Business & Professionals group, in partnership with KU Hillel and Moishe House Kansas City, brought together young adults for a unique, pre-Shabbat experience on First Friday in the Crossroads District. More than 100 young adults gathered on the rooftop terrace of Barkley for a nontraditional, yet familiar take on Jewish food and drink. Working together, the three organizations and the people involved are dedicated to building the future of Jewish Kansas City. Pictured are Brent Wagner (from left), Stephanie Pollack, Shayna Hamburg, Laura Fromm, Erin Schwartz, Hilary Gutovitz and Shira Levine.

STAR SPANGLED SPECTACULAR UP AHEAD — Overland Park Rotary is continuing Overland Park’s July 4th fireworks tradition with its 24th annual Star Spangled Spectacular event in Corporate Woods. Each year, the event raises funds for deserving local charities in the Kansas City area. This year, Sheffield Place, Make-A-Wish Missouri and the Rotary Youth Leadership Institute will be receiving donations from the 2015 event. 

As has been the custom the past several years, several members of the Jewish community are on the planning committee, chair by Congregation Beth Shalom member Chuck Gasser. Craig Novorr serves at the organization’s president.

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Coleen Dieker

“Music is the soul to language.” Thus did Abraham Joshua Heschel define music as the key element to Jewish prayer, which is called “tefillah” in Hebrew. It is in this spirit that The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah announces that Coleen Dieker has been appointed the congregation’s music director.

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Last week at the preview event for “Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage,” the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education honored Dr. Carla L. Klausner for her commitment to preserving Jewish heritage through education. Shown seated with Dr. Klausner (bottom row, from left) are her husband Tiberius and daughter Serena Klausner. Granddaughters Aviva and Anna Clauer are in the middle row. Standing in the back row are granddaughter Haidee Clauer, daughter Mirra Klausner and Mirra’s husband Todd Clauer.

EXHIBITION IS A MUST SEE — Today, Thursday, June 18, is the official opening of “Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage,” the exhibition on display at the National Archives at Kansas City in partnership with the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education. I got a sneak peak at it last week and I have to say I’ll have to go back again later when I can take the time to study the artifacts more closely. The restoration of these artifacts after they were discovered in the ruins of Saddam Hussein’s intelligence headquarters in Baghdad in 2003 is amazing. If you don’t have a chance to visit the exhibition, the restored artifacts were completely digitized and may be found at www.ija.archives.gov. But Kansas City is privileged to be one of four cities to get this traveling exhibition, so you should take advantage of this special opportunity and see what you can up close and in person. It’s much more fun than looking at a computer screen! And don’t forget the special speaker’s series that begins June 24. Learn more about the exhibit and speaker’s series at mchekc.org/exhibit.

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