GesherCity.org helps build community

BY MIKE SHERWIN, STAFF WRITER

Organizers hope a new Web site will help connect young adults in the Jewish community.

The St. Louis component of the site, www.GesherCity.org, launched in mid-February. St. Louis is the ninth city (currently out of ten) represented on the site.

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David Gerber, the young adult coordinator for the Jewish Community Center and Hillel St. Louis, said the site is an online community targeted to Jews in their 20s and 30s, which allows visitors to find community resources and network with other Jews with similar interests.

The site features listings of community organizations and congregations, a calendar of events geared toward young adults, and a bulletin board system of online forums. In addition, people can register with the site and find others with similar interests or create “clusters,” or organizations or social groups based on common interests.

“One of the main parts of Gesher City is that it allows people to foster their own organic organizations,” Gerber said. “It uses a virtual community to create actual community.”

For example, there is a “cluster” right now called “Bark Mitzvah” for dog-owners, who set up times to meet up and socialize with other young adults — and their pets.

Other clusters are for young adults from specific congregations, people interested in social action, people interested in poker, an Israel connection group, and a group for gay and lesbian Jews, among many others.

One of the clusters that has taken off is the “Torah and Turf” cluster, which meets every week for an hour of Torah study, and then an hour of flag football.

Visitors who register with the site can specify their interests, and they will receive a newsletter each week with events and clusters tailored to their interests.

Gerber said Rabbi Brad Horwitz from the JCC and Rabbi Avi Orlow of Hillel St. Louis, collaborated to create a full-time staff position to specifically work with Jewish young adults in their 20s and 30s. They hired Gerber, who is the coordinator of the St. Louis branch of GesherCity.org, which is a project of the JCC nationally, and is available to local communities at no cost.

Gerber said he sees a need to reach out to Jews in their 20s and 30s.

“There’s sort of a disconnect in the Jewish community where the last chance we have to really engage young adults is in the college years, when they’re engaged in Hillel and from there a lot of Jews don’t re-affiliate with a Jewish organization until they’re ready for life cycle events, when they have kids and join a congregation,” he said.

“The marriage age for Jews is getting older and older. In St. Louis, for men in the upper-20s and for women in the mid- to upper-20s, there’s a longer time between Hillel-age and the time they affiliate with a congregation.”

Gerber said his hope was to pool the community’s resources to make it easy for Jewish young adults to remain engaged in the Jewish community.

“There’s a lot the St. Louis community has to offer young adults, but it’s very much like St. Louis in general: it’s very spread out and getting it all together in one place really helps foster the feeling of community,” he said.

Gerber said that in the first few weeks that the site has been online, over 70 people have registered with GesherCity’s St. Louis branch, and over 15 clusters have been created.

“It’s been a success so far, and we’ve had really positive feedback,” Gerber said.

On Mar. 22 at 7 p.m., there will be a launch party for the Web site at Bar Louie, located at 12 Maryland Plaza in the Central West End. Gerber said there will be representatives from most of the 35 community resources represented on the site.

“It should be a very diverse group of Jewish young adults, so it should be a good opportunity for them to see what’s available and to introduce the Web site as a means to find resources in the community, Gerber said.

For more information about the Web site or the kick-off event, visit GesherCity.org or email David Gerber at [email protected]

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