Jewish retirees come together with JPro


It was a time to renew old acquaintances, to get updated on the activities of former colleagues and their families, and to bring together retired Jewish professionals from Federation-affiliated agencies, organizations, synagogues and temples and day schools.

About 38 retired Jewish professionals from all of the aforementioned areas gathered at the Jewish Federation Kopolow Building for a special breakfast and a brief program which included remarks by Rabbi Jeffrey B. Stiffman, rabbi emeritus of Congregation Shaare Emeth on “Sharing Our Gifts–You Never Know.”


The event, chaired by Marsha Koski, former director of the pre-school at the Jewish Community Center, was sponsored by the Jewish Federation’s Professional Excellence Project, staffed by Marci Mayer Eisen, and made possible by the Lubin-Green Foundation, a supporting foundation of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis.

Koski, who retired as pre-school director at the JCC three and a half years ago, welcomed the guests, and thanked Marci Mayer Eisen “for this wonderful idea of bringing together the Jewish professionals who have retired from their work at agencies, synagogues, organizations and day schools. This has been a month of reunions for me, having had my 50th reunion of my high school class at U. City just a few weeks ago. At that reunion, I was with some friends who were in my Brownie group, and we sang our song, ‘Make new friends, but keep the old; one’s like silver and the other’s like gold.’ Today, we are here both to make new friends as well as to renew our friendships with people we have worked with for so many years.'”

Barry Rosenberg, executive vice president of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, extended warm greetings to the retired Jewish professionals and said that at some future point he looked forward to joining the group. “Jewish professional work has changed a lot since I began working in the field 33 years ago. We face a real crisis in our efforts to both attract and retain compassionate, qualified people to our field. More and more people are coming into Jewish work without the Jewish background and training that you had coming into the field.”

Younger people now entering the workforce are approaching work decisions much differently than in previous years, Rosenberg said. “How many of you, when you interviewed asked about ‘work/lifestyle balance’? Maybe we should have asked such questions. We have created the Professional Excellence Project to help us address these concerns.”

“The two big contributions which you as retired Jewish professionals can make is to serve as mentors and guides to those starting out in the field,” Rosenberg continued. “All of us have our own stories of people who mentored and guided us, and you can play a vital role in these areas.”

Laurie Goldberg, coordinator of senior services at the Jewish Family and Children’s Service and president of JPro, said, “JPro’s goal is to foster a sense of community among Jewish professionals in St. Louis. We are focused on networking, professional development and creating opportunities for collaboration. Your contributions in your many years of service to the community have not been forgotten. You have provided and continue to provide the leadership and examples of the importance of our work. We want to honor your legacy by creating a strong, compassionate and caring community.”

Marci Mayer Eisen, the staff coordinator for the Jewish Professional Excellence program, said JPro plans to provide ongoing programs for retirees.

“I feel very strongly that it is important for us to acknowledge those upon whose shoulders we are standing. We hope to bring together this group of Jewish professional retirees at least once a year,” she said.

In his remarks, Rabbi Stiffman said, “So many of us toiled in the vineyards — if you can call them that — of the Jewish community for varying amounts of time. It seems that the older I get, the more memories I have of the past years and past people with whom I have worked.”

“For many of us, retirement is good,” Rabbi Stiffman continued. “Some of us are still upset because we had to retire. Others are happy that we made the decision. One thing is for sure, we have the time to remember, to reflect, to think about what we have done — and are doing — with our lives.”

Rabbi Stiffman pointed out that in the course of a career in Jewish service, some actions have unexpected results that can be very rewarding.

“One of my favorite examples was as a Confirmation Class teacher. One of the students was so rebellious that she made a sarcastic sign with her hands in the confirmation picture. Some years later, she called me on the phone to ask me to officiate at her wedding. ‘You’re the only person who I could visualize officiating at my wedding.’ A few years ago, in the meeting of the bar and bat mitzvah families, she was the only parent who knew many of the answers. You never know.'”

“We had the privilege of working within a dynamic community, and we had the joy of affecting many lives,” Rabbi Stiffman said.

Koski said that Marci Mayer Eisen had calculated that the combined years of service of the 38 attendees was “over 1,000 years.”

“What an amazing record of accomplishment and service,” Koski said.