J-PRO honors community professionals

BY ROBERT A. COHN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF EMERITUS

More than 200 local Jewish professionals gathered recently for the fourth annual peer recognition event of J-PRO-STL (Jewish Professionals of St. Louis).

Eight people, all of whom had been nominated by their peers, were honored for their service and dedication at the luncheon ceremony. The honorees were: Zelda Sparks, director of the Wilma and Roswell Messing Cultural Arts Department, who was recognized for career achievement; Florence Schacter, director of resident and community services at the Henry & Gladys Crown Center for Senior Living for Chesed/Kindness, Shirley Wise, teacher certification coordinator/Web administrator, Central Agency for Jewish Education, and St. Elmo Lee, maintenance evening supervisor at the JCC, both for their dedication; Daniel Reich, director of education, St. Louis Holocaust Museum and Learning Center in Memory of Gloria M. Goldstein, for education; Jennifer Bersdale, director of advocacy and communications at Central Reform Congregation, for being an emerging leader; Chumi Levitansky, Principal, Torah Prep School for Girls, Bais Yaakov, for mentoring, and Joan Denison, executive director, St. Louis Chapter Hadassah, for her visionary approach.

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“2008 was an absolutely amazing year for J-PRO,” said Lori Goldberg of the Jewish Family & Children’s Service and president of J-PRO, who welcomed the attendees. “Whether you are a very new J-PRO or a very seasoned J-PRO, we hope that you have experienced programming that will help you to grow professionally and inspire you.”

More than 40 Jewish community organizations, congregations and agencies were represented at the event, which was held at the Covenant/CHAI Apartments.

Barry Rosenberg, Executive Vice President of the Jewish Federation, said J-PRO serves a valuable role in the community.

“Whether we came into Jewish professional life by design, or if we fell into a job, whether one is Jewish or not, we are collectively responsible for the Jewish people of St. Louis,” he said. “The ability of J-PRO to create comradeship and collegiality is a tremendous asset. But beyond the value of comradeship is the role that you play in what we will become in the future. Whether we have a vibrant Jewish community, the single largest factor is the work that you do.”

In receiving the visionary award, Denison talked about the importance of inter-agency collaboration. “It’s true that we all represent different agencies, organizations and congregations, that each entity that we work for has perhaps a different mission, and its own fundraising and service objectives,” she said.

“But as important as how we differ is what we share in common with each other: We all work to support the activities of the Jewish community and the greater community that it serves. Talk about collaboration.”