Five questions for YPD’s Evan Glantz

Evan Glantz

By Eric Berger, Associate Editor

In August, Jewish Federation of St. Louis held a relaunch event for its Young Professionals Division (YPD). Evan Glantz served as co-chair of this event, which was held at the .ZACK event space in Midtown. The organization told invitees that it had spent the past year working to improve the YPD experience. To get a better sense of why Federation leaders felt the need to make a change to its programming for Jewish 20 and 30-somethings, the Jewish Light spoke with Glantz, 29. 

What were the goals of the relaunch?

Back in 2017, Becca Near, [Federation young adult coordinator], and Karen Sher, [Federation senior director of community engagement], approached me and some other people and said that they were putting together a task force. They wanted to take some time to reevaluate YPD, so it was on a hiatus for a little over a year. In that time we were developing a strategic plan on what YPD was going to look like in the future and how we could better serve the young adults in St. Louis.

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There were still some YPD programs taking place — some happy hours — but no real programming and no real initiatives.  And so the relaunch event was sort of the welcome back that was the official relaunch of YPD under this new vision as outlined in the strategic plan.

Why do you think there was a need to revamp YPD?

From my perspective, over time, people sort of get comfortable with the status quo, and it’s just a lot of copy and paste — not to say that that’s what happened in the past — but sometimes,  I think it’s just good for any organization to take a step back and reevaluate how they can better serve their market. I think that was something that was really beneficial in this relaunch. The fact that we took over a year and got input from members of the community, focus groups, interviews and all of that, to really find out what people were looking for in a young professionals’ organization. That sort of helped us better align with the goals and vision for YPD with what people wanted to have in an organization like that. 

What were the main changes that people were looking for?

A couple things that we identified. People wanted more community service opportunities, opportunities to get involved with the community, to serve the community. We heard a lot about people wanting leadership opportunities and networking opportunities and essentially to be able to connect with other people and organizations in St. Louis, and that sort helped us formulate the strategic plan. We formed three pillars of YPD; those are leadership; community service and philanthropy; and outreach and engagement.

On a related note, a lot of what we heard was that in the past, people felt that YPD was very cliquey. People would go to these social events and hang out with their friends from growing up, and it was just hard to branch out and meet new people. So I think based on the conversations and input we had from other people, they wanted a chance to make new connections and break down those cliques and have it be more inclusive.

What are some of the new things that people can expect?

A lot of it revolves around programming. There is going to be a bigger emphasis on community service and philanthropy, on leadership.

We want to implement a leadership speakers series that connects young adults to established leaders in the St. Louis Jewish community and have them hear from their perspective, help form those connections.

We are looking at creating regular days of service. We are making more of a concerted or direct effort to build in a philanthropic component of YPD, so (it) is going to have a focused effort to contribute to the Federation’s Annual Campaign. We want to expand beyond the social component and incorporate some other elements as well.

Anything else you’re excited about going forward with YPD?

I’m excited about YPD and executing this vision. I know it’s a process, and it’s not just a process that’s executed by the board and Federation. It’s something we’re hopefully going to lay a good foundation and put in a framework for and hopefully everyone else within the community — they are the ones that are able execute it. Our hope is that we are able to capitalize from the excitement of the relaunch event.

One of the things that I have mentioned is that I think people’s expectations are that they are going to go to a YPD event — say LollapaJewza — and instantly they are going meet 20 new best friends. Hopefully they do make those connections, but really the goal is that YPD serves as a connector, a facilitator so that when a young Jewish adult moves to St. Louis or someone graduates college and moves back to St. Louis or even is in college and looking to connect with the Jewish community, that their first thought should be to connect with YPD. From there, we are able to work with them and connect them to other people and organizations that align with their interests and passions. That’s the big thing. I want YPD to be top of mind for any Jewish young adult and for them to know that we are going to do to our best to connect them to their interests and passions, and obviously hopefully they will engage regularly with YPD as well.

YPD is holding its 9th Annual LollapaJewza on Tuesday, Dec. 24 from 9 p.m. to midnight at The Last Hotel, 1501 Washington Ave.