Like most people, Jennifer Salim Holt has gone through changes in her life, but few people have made such radical ones.

She represented South Dakota in the 1978 Miss America pageant. Shortly after parading across the stage in high heels and a swimsuit, she traded her tiara for a NOW bumper sticker and helped launch the Minneapolis-based feminist punk rock band Tetes Noires.

When she tired of the punk rock scene, she made another 180-degree turn, this time becoming a member of buttoned-down academia. After earning a doctorate in educational psychology at the University of Minnesota, she taught at the U, St. Cloud State and the University of St. Thomas.

These days she's living in California, where she picked up a master's degree in ministry studies and works as a counselor in women's prisons. Her specialty is dealing with prisoners' grief and loss issues.

"The women I work with are open to spiritual concepts and want to heal," said Holt, 52. "I enjoy being able to help them heal."

She has written a book, "Sacred Gateway of Grief and Loss: Freeing the Imprisoned Soul," based on her work in prisons. But it's applicable far beyond that, she said.

"The book uses the metaphor of being in prison to deal with people who are depressed or feel useless," she said. "When we feel stuck, that's a form of imprisonment."

Using her music background, she introduced her prison groups to sacred chanting, drawing from a wide variety of theologies, including Gregorian, Tibetan Buddhist and Native American. She recorded some of the chants, intending to include a sample CD with her book. But the music took on a life of its own and was released separately as "Ecstatic Groove: Sacred World Chant Infusions."

"Both therapy and music are close to my heart, and this was a way to bring them together," she said.

They will be together again this weekend when Holt comes to town to present a concert of sacred chanting and a therapy workshop. First up is the concert, "Songs and Stories of Light, Love and Liberation," at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Cedar Cultural Center, 416 Cedar Av. S., Minneapolis. Tickets are $15 at the door. On Sunday she's leading a four-hour workshop on creative healing starting at 1 p.m. at Pathways, 3115 Hennepin Av. S., Minneapolis. Suggested price is $50, but there's a sliding-scale fee.

Make jokes, not war

A Jew and Muslim walk into synagogue. ... No, it's not the start of a joke, but it involves jokes. A rabbi and a Palestinian Muslim have teamed up for a stand-up comedy tour, "Laugh in Peace," that is stopping in St. Paul on Sunday.

"When you laugh together, you can't hate each other," said Rabbi Bob Alper, a Vermont resident who bills himself as the "only practicing clergy doing comedy intentionally." He'll be joined by Mohammed Amer, one of the comics featured in last year's documentary "Allah Made Me Funny."

Their show is a benefit for Talmud Torah of St. Paul. Showtime is 7 p.m. at Temple of Aaron, 616 S. Mississippi Blvd., St. Paul. Tickets are $54 and include a dessert reception. Call 651-698-8807 or go to

An open book

Krista Tippett, host of American Public Radio's "Speaking of Faith," is celebrating the publication of her new book with a discussion at 7 p.m. Monday at Micawber's Books, 2238 Carter Av., St. Paul.

"Einstein's God: Conversations About Science and the Human Spirit" is a compilation of some of her interviews on the issue of science vs. religion. The interview subjects range from Charles Darwin biographer James Moore to Cambridge University professor Jon Polkinghorne to "Oprah" talk-show protégé Dr. Mehmet Oz.

Jeff Strickler • 612-673-7392