Group marks two decades

BY KEREN DOUEK, STAFF WRITER

Francie Broderick, executive director of Places for People, stood before a room of people gathered for a celebration in honor of the Rabbi Robert P. Jacobs Jewish Fund for Human Needs 20th anniversary, and spoke on behalf of recipient agencies that benefit from the fund.

“I don’t know how to reconcile the fact that I was born to parents who can take care of me, and born fairly healthy, and other children are born with fetal alcohol syndrome to people who can’t take care of them,” Broderick said. “I don’t know how to reconcile the affluence and all that I see around me with people who can’t even have basic needs met everyday.”

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Broderick looked out at the group that had come to celebrate the anniversary and said, “but I think I is important that we keep asking those questions, and I think that is what you all are doing. It is not incumbent upon you to have the answers, but it is incumbent upon us to keep asking those questions and keep trying to find the answers.”

Founded in 1985 as a joint project of the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Rabbinical Association with major funding from the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, the fund is a way for the organized Jewish community to allocate grants to St. Louis area organizations which are looking for financial assistance to help address basic human needs, such as hunger, homelessness and unemployment.

There is a long list of recipient agencies assisted by the fund, from Women in Transition to Christmas in April and Project COPE to Habitat for Humanity.

Maury Poscover, a founding JFHN committee chairman, past president of the JCRC and anniversary breakfast chairman, said he had the honor of being the initial chair of the Jewish Fund for Human Needs, and that he could still remember the first year.

“We did not have a lot of money to give out, but whatever it was we hoped to use it wisely, and we actually went out to meet the organizations to which we gave funds and at the same time encouraged those in the Jewish community to get active in those various organizations. It was more than just a donation of money, we hoped it was a donation of commitment,” Poscover said. “Just looking out at this group today says I think all that we ever anticipated at that initial meeting, I don’t think we ever dreamed we would have accomplished what we have at this time.”

Barry Rosenberg, executive vice-president of the Federation thanked the group for all of their work and commented on the idea of giving, that “it is more than just giving to help others, it is about repairing the world,” he said. “It is about ensuring the quality and opportunity and dignity for all the people of our community, and that ultimately and essentially is what the Jewish Fund for Human Needs and the work that all of you as recipients do is all about.”

Rabbi Jeffrey Stiffman, rabbi emeritus of Congregation Shaare Emeth said in tribute to the memory of Rabbi Robert P. Jacobs, “For me, he is still here,” and that the Jewish Fund for Human Needs remains in his memory is a testimony to that fact.

“He said, ‘I’ll be here,'” Stiffman said, “and his good influence still lives on. Rabbi Robert P. Jacobs, my rabbi, my congregant, my inspiration and my friend, you are still here with us. May we be worthy of your memory as we assure that the fund continues to grow from year to year and from strength to strength.”

Batya Abramson-Goldstein, executive director of the JCRC, in her concluding remarks, called the day a tribute — “to the fund … to Rabbi Jacobs, the blessed memory … to all the agencies and the outstanding work that you do each day.”

“What we are hoping is that the collaboration — the partnerships that we have opened through the fund — we can continue to build on and go to the next level in terms of working together as a community, as a powerful community, as a community that will move St. Louis and will bring us to reflect just what community can do.”

Keren Douek is a staff writer and can be reached at [email protected]