St. Louis Federation cuts Center for Jewish Learning

Jewish Federation of St. Louis eliminated the positions of Rabbi Tracy Nathan (left) and Cyndee Levy as part of its decision to cut the Center for Jewish Learning. File photo: Bill Motchan

Jewish Federation of St. Louis has eliminated the Center for Jewish Learning (CJL), including all adult education classes. It will reassign other programs associated with the center to Federation’s community engagement department.

Leaders of the nonprofit organization, which funds Jewish agencies throughout the St. Louis area and in Israel, made the move because they determined that the classes were “often duplicating or competing with other institutions and synagogues. That is something our own criteria call for us not to do,” a spokesman for Federation stated in an email.

Cyndee Levy, the director of the center, and Rabbi Tracy Nathan, an educator in the program, were both let go as part of the move.

While the organization will no longer offer adult education programs, it will maintain its Sh’ma: Listen! Speaker Series, the Shinshinim Israeli emissary program and the professional councils connected to religious school and early childhood educators, wrote Karen Sher, Federation vice president of community engagement, in a letter to adult education class participants.

Federation formed the center as part of a 2015 merger with the Central Agency for Jewish Education and Engagement (CAJE), which facilitated adult and youth education programs.

While no jobs were cut during the merger, in 2016, Federation eliminated the Jewish Opportunities and Learning for Teens (JOLT) program due to declining enrollment.

The organization said the latest cuts were not due to the financial crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“This was the right thing to do so that we can allow our community partners in this space to continue to grow,” the spokesman wrote. “We look forward to supporting them in those efforts.”

Levy had been with CAJE and then Federation for 18 years. She said the center had typically offered between 60 and 75 classes each year and that it served about 500 people in 2019.

Levy’s last day with the organization is May 31. She declined to make a statement on the cut.

Nathan, who had been with the organization since 2017, could not immediately be reached for comment.

“These have been difficult decisions,” Sher wrote. “We recognize that many of you have been participating in adult learning programs for decades, first through CAJE and then through the CJL. Please know that, while Federation will no longer be offering these learning experiences, we deeply value adult learning and will continue to work with community partners to support a robust infrastructure of Jewish learning opportunities.”

The Light reached out to Federation for an interview but was only provided with the email statement from the spokesman.