Greenbaum charts JFed’s new course


Community leader and attorney Sheila Greenbaum wasted no time in charting a new course for the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, as she was installed as the 37th president of the communitywide organization last week.

Greenbaum, who is the second woman to serve as JFed president in the 106-year history of the organization spoke of many challenges facing the Jewish community, including the “yawning financial problem — a widening gap between our existing financial resources we need, both to maintain our existing operations and to respond to the growing needs of tomorrow.”

More than 200 people packed the newly-renovated and newly-named Staenberg Family Atrium of the Jewish Federation Kopolow Building for the organization’s annual meeting Sept. 5.

Greenbaum, who previously had chaired the Federation’s Strategic Planning Committee, was the first JFed president to be installed under the Federation’s revised governance model that resulted from that process. She succeeded Heschel Raskas, Ph.D., who completed his two-year presidential term.


In her acceptance speech, Greenbaum, said, “Why did I take this job?….despite all our challenges, I have abundant hope fo the Jewish community.” She stressed the importance of greater collaboration instead of competition among agencies and programs, of “building bridges” to make us a “more united and attractive community — the kind our children will want to participate in….”

Greenbaum, an attorney, is a director and shareholder at the Clayton law firm of Capes, Sokol, Goodman and Sarachan P.C. In addition to her recent chairing of the Strategic Planning Committee, Greenbaum has held other major posts, including vice president of Campaign and Plannning & Allocations. She received the Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award at the International Lion of Judah Conference in Washington, D.C., recognizing her philanthropic and volunteer leadership. She was also recently elected to the national board of United Jewish Communities (UJC), the parent umbrella organization of North American Jewish federations. She has also held numerous civic posts, including service on the Board of Elections of the City of St. Louis. She and her husband, Gary Wasserman, M.D., are active members of Central Reform Congregation.

Barry Rosenberg, executive vice president of the Jewish Federation, served as master of ceremonies for the evening. In his remarks, Rosenberg took note of the completion of the extensive renovations at the Jewish Federation Kopolow Building, including the Staenberg Family Atrium and the expansion of the St. Louis Holocaust Museum and Learning Center.

“Back in December, when we announced a total renovation of the building in six months, a few of you snickered. But we did it, on time and on budget. And it’s due to our staff: Jack Neyens, who recently left us for new opportunities, Steve Lopez, our building manager and all of our staff who handled the disruptions with good humor and great dedication.”

Just before the meeting, Rabbi Jeffrey B. Stiffman, rabbi emeritus of Congregation Shaare Emeth, affixed a mezuzah to mark the renovations, and a reception was held for the donors. Rosenberg added, “We are sitting in the newly redesigned Staenberg Family Atrium, dedicated in memory of Michael’s mother, Marlene. This is just one example of the incredible Staenberg generosity. We’re also thankful to Michael for his active guidance and help in the planning and implementation of this project.” Rosenberg also thanked Mark, Karen and Jeanne Zorensky for their contributions which led to a variety of technology improvements in the Zorensky Family Conference Center, and to Marc Seldin, the Seldin Famly and Miss Elaine for re-investing in the Seldin Lounge, which is used to welcome visitors to the community.

Before he handed over the gavel to Greenbaum, Heschel Raskas reflected on his two years as president, expressing the hope that his term left a legacy of strong commitment in two major areas: mobilizing the St. Louis community and providing essential resources for Israel.

“These past two-and-a-half years have flown by like the shadow of an eagle that swoops overhead,” Raskas said. “It seems only a brief moment ago when I learned of this opportunity to serve our Jewish commuity as your president.

“I hope that an enduring accomplishment of our term in office is a renewed and greater understanding of the value of the Jewish Federation and a commitment to its critical role in two fundamental areas: responding to the needs of world Jewry and strengthening Jewish life in St. Louis,” he continued. “A year ago, much to our shock, we and Jews from around the world found ourselves the targets of an enemy that attacked Israel and threatened Jewish existence. We responded quickly and significantly by mobilizing our community here in St. Louis and providing resources for Israel. That experience reminded all of us that we need a Federation system that can unite the entire community for effective action.”

Locally, Raskas took note of the implementation of the Federation’s strategic plan.

“Our dramatically revised planning and allocations model fosters more in-depth dialogue with agencies while providing longer-term funding commitments. This new model sets the stage for funding our three principal initiatives, Jewish Identity and Engagement, Senior Adult Services and Global Jewish Peoplehood.”

Rabbi Susan A. Talve of Central Reform Congregation offered the invocation. Harvey A. Harris, chair of the Nominating Committee and a Federation past president, announced the new slate of officers and board members under Federation’s new three-tiered governance structure. The board of directors has been reduced to 32 people with decision-making and all legal and fiduciary responsibilities. There are 16 committees and a new Board of Trustees of about 135 members who will serve as the community’s “think tank.” The re-structuring is the most far-reaching in the history of the century-plus history of the Federation.

Greenbaum expressed the hope that the re-structuring and other innovations will make the Jewish Federation more diverse, more unified and more effective in fulfilling its multiple roles in the Jewish community.

“Our Jewish community urgently needs greater unity,” Greenbaum said. “Our balkanization is hurting us in every possible way — economically, socially and even spiritually….Think what we could achieve by increasing collaboration on programming and service delivery. Think what we could achieve by sharing event planning, database maintenance, pension planning, purchasing.” She concluded, “If we do those things, I think we will build a more united and attractive Jewish community in St. Louis — for a long time to come. I have every hope that we will succeed. Thank you, all.”

Following the meeting, a dessert reception featured klezmer music by Kol Sasson.