A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

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How these young Jewish ambassadors transform peers’ views in St. Louis schools

Student to Student presentation for Nerinx Hall at Congregation Shaare Emeth

Changing the community and spreading knowledge one presentation at a time, St. Louis Jewish teens with Student to Student light up classrooms by sharing what it’s like to be a Jewish teen growing up in today’s world.

Student to Student is a program of the Newmark Institute at the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis (JCRC), which is an umbrella organization of 35 Jewish organizations and institutions. Initially funded in 1992, Student to Student has reached thousands of students at St. Louis area schools that lack a Jewish presence, bringing first-hand experience and interactions to them.

Lauren Abraham is the director of Student to Student and has been working with the program since 2020.

“I love the ability to be out in the community making an impact — seeing the instant impression that students can make,” Abraham said. “Learning from students is amazing and not as threatening as when an adult comes in. The impact is endless.”

Working with over 38 schools this past year, Student to Student has built relationships with some of these institutions over the years, including St. Louis University High School, which has welcomed the program for 19 years; Chaminade for 17 years and both Mehlville and Affton high schools for 15 years. Student to Student also has presented at various regional institutions such as the Missouri Botanical Gardens and St. Louis Art Museum, where Jewish students in the program provided employees an opportunity to learn more about Judaism and antisemitism.

Students of Christan Brothers College during Student to Student presentation


“As coordinator, my job is to execute at least 100 presentations each year,” said Abraham. “These presentations are typically at private, faith schools, but also at larger public schools, nonprofits and other organizations.”

Now, schools even bring their students to synagogues and have presentations there to get the added experience of being in a Jewish congregation.

“As important as these long-lasting relationships are, it’s so exciting to get to work with new schools because it’s a whole new opportunity, audience and teacher,” said Abraham. “With so many partners, the goal is not to go in one time and be done. The goal is that school leaders talk to their students before we come, and after we leave to really unpack our presentation, to soak everything up.”

Each presentation consists of five components. At the beginning, group members introduce themselves, sharing their first name, school and branch of Judaism. Typically, the groups will aim to have a member of each branch of Judaism — Reform, Conservative and Orthodox — in order to give a diverse and well-rounded presentation.

The first section covers typical Jewish lifecycle events such as a bris or baby naming, bar/bat mitzvah, etc. Next is a section on Shabbat, followed by one on Israel. Then they have a conversation about antisemitism and the Holocaust. A session on kashrut (keeping kosher) usually ends the presentation.

Although it’s hard to truly dive deep in just 60 or 90 minutes, these presentations highlight some of the most important parts of Judaism. Students interact with the audience using fun anecdotes and a variety of items, such as bringing out a chuppah for students to stand under and pretend to get married, or handing out Oreos during the kashrut section to show how many people may not even realize foods they eat every day are kosher.

Additionally, Abraham said, “While they are not officially part of the Student to Student, the shinshinim (Israeli teenage emissaries) are often the most valuable piece of our presentation. They add the real experience of what it’s like growing up in Israel and compare that experience to living as a Jew in America.”

Shinshinim are Israeli high school graduates who volunteer for a year to teach and serve in various U.S. communities before they return to Israel and enter the military.

In April, Nerinx Hall took their sophomore class to the St. Louis Kaplan Feldman Holocaust Museum as well as to Congregation Shaare Emeth for presentations with Student to Student. Nerinx Hall sophomores Alice Smallwood and Ellie Hoffman attended a presentation with Shinshinim Naama Herz, who has been working with Shaare Emeth this year.

Nerinx Hall sophomores Alice Smallwood and Ellie Hoffman at Shaare Emeth

“I used to go to Clayton, but now at Nerinx almost all of my friends are also Catholic, so I don’t get to hear much about other religions,” said Smallwood. “It was amazing to hear from someone who lived in Israel.”

After the presentation, Hoffman said she used to live in University City, and often would “see people walking to synagogue on Saturdays,” but never knew much about their faith.

“I have gone to Catholic school all my life but have never gotten to learn about another religion like I did today,” she said. “It was truly an incredible experience, and I hope all students get the chance to learn from the program.”

Abraham said the most important part of these presentations is the impact it leaves on the students.

“It’s truly an instant gratification program, watching students’ faces and seeing their emotions — they’re attentive and asking questions,” she said. “It’s why we do what we do, and why we continue to come back every year.”

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