JFed hosts community collaboration discussion

The Jewish Federation of St. Louis is sponsoring a community discussion on organizational collaboration facilitated by a nationally noted rabbi who has spoken and written on the dynamics of Jewish cooperative efforts across the country. Rabbi Hayim Herring will lead the event, set for 5 p.m., March 4 at the Kopolow Building on the Millstone Campus. The Minneapolis-based Herring, who was named one of the 50 most influential rabbis in America for the past three years, heads the Herring Consulting Network and formerly led the Synagogues: Transformation and Renewal (STAR) program.

“This is happening in other communities nationally so we’re putting together a forum and bringing in a speaker to address what collaboration means, what it looks like and how we can use some different models in our community,” said Mindee Fredman, project coordinator with the Federation. “We’ve invited leaders of all the different Jewish institutions, agencies, schools, congregations, both lay and professional. Some have asked if they could bring additional members of their board which we are encouraging.”


Fredman said the Federation has received about 70-75 confirmations from those who will attend the event in response to an email blast issued to promote it. She said responses are still being accepted.

Sanford Neuman, president of the Federation, said he looks forward to meeting Herring and hopes the rabbi can provide a deeper insight into the intricacies of a complex and sometimes contentious issue. Collaboration is increasingly a topic Neuman hears about at national conferences and meetings for federations from around North America.

“It’s an attempt on the part of communities to see if they can collectively advance delivery of services by being more efficient,” he said. “It’s not just about saving money though. It’s about trying to deliver the biggest bang for the buck, giving the highest quality services at the lowest possible cost.”

Herring was reluctant to speak about the exact content of the event saying he didn’t wish to influence the discussion before it begins but said he had talked to 10 or 12 leaders in the local Jewish community in preparation and looked forward to his visit to St. Louis. He said that collaboration and consolidation were complex issues that didn’t lend themselves to one-size-fits-all solutions.

“There are certain general principles that are more or less universal,” he said. “It’s how you apply them and what kinds of creativity you use in customizing them to the specifics of a community. That’s where the real work is.”

Herring said that in his experience communication is vital in laying the foundation for a process of effective, efficient collaboration.

“What I’ve seen in the 25-plus years that I’ve been working in the Jewish community is people with a tremendous amount of passion for what they do and a love for the community but often an inability to reframe discussion around community,” said Herring, who also served as a congregational rabbi for a decade. “As tough as these conversations can sometimes be the wise communities are the ones that are having them now.”

Herring said that nationally he’s found there is still more talk than action on the concept of collaborative efforts however he thinks this will change over the next few years as the issues involved become more urgent and people become more informed on the topic.

He said that it often comes down to leadership that puts the good of the community first, frank discussions and a firm base of confidence built through interdependent community relationships.

“You have to be able to talk honestly,” he said. “You have to trust. If there is no trust it doesn’t matter how good an idea is. Either it won’t come to fruition or it won’t come to fruition well.”

For more information on the March 4 community conversation, contact Mindee Fredman at 314-442-3234.