JProStl works to further professional development in community


There is a significant national Jewish personnel crisis, confirmed Jewish Federation of St. Louis Executive Vice President Barry Rosenberg.

“We are not able to attract and retain highly skilled individuals,” Rosenberg said.

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Rosenberg has always understood the connection between the St. Louis Jewish community’s expectations of their Jewish organizations and the life and services they desire and the importance of finding quality people to provide those services. Finding and keeping those professionals is a challenge, acknowledged Rosenberg.

The 65 Jewish organizations with paid staff in St. Louis including the Federation and its agencies, organizations, congregations and day schools also understand that challenge. The goals of the St. Louis Professional Excellence Project (JProStl), envisioned by Rosenberg, are to take professionalism seriously and provide a sense of community to the Jewish and non-Jewish staff of these organizations.

“We know when we employ policies of respect and recognition, we keep people in the field longer,” Rosenberg said. “It’s a tragedy as a community we haven’t given it much attention. Retention is where the action is: if we keep people longer, we have less of a recruitment problem.”

Thanks to the generous support of the Lubin Green Foundation, the programs of JProStl will hopefully play a critical role in the community’s ability to attract and retain quality professionals.

“It’s about impacting the professional culture, energizing and empowering staff and placing value on and encouraging long careers in the Jewish community,” Professional Excellence Project Manager, Marci Mayer Eisen said. “It’s about taking professionalism seriously.”

Mayer Eisen interviewed more than 100 people as JProStl prepared for the coming year. She learned about their priorities, challenges and goals as professionals serving the St. Louis Jewish community.

Lori Goldberg is the current President of JProStl. She works at Jewish Family & Children’s Service as the Coordinator of Senior Integration Services. Goldberg became involved with the organization three and a half years ago when she was asked to be part of the board. She is very enthusiastic about the program and is excited to be part of the new initiative to promote professional excellency in the Jewish community.

“We have assembled a fabulous board with individuals representing the wide range of diversity in our community,” Goldberg said.

Professionals in the community have volunteered their time to chair JProStl programs focusing on: leadership, Jewish education, peer networking, special events, workshops and integrating new workers. There is a monthly newsletter which they hope will reach every paid professional who works in the St. Louis Jewish community.

“It announces news and shares information about upcoming programs,” Mayer Eisen said. “But most importantly it creates community between staff serving the St. Louis Jewish community.”

There are Jewish literacy classes to provide basic knowledge for non-Jews and Jews who just want a refresher course. There is also a monthly class on Torah wisdom and professional life for staff with strong Jewish identities that meets with Rabbi Hyim Shafner.

“The class looks at our personal responsibilities as we conduct ourselves as professionals based on Jewish teachings,” Mayer Eisen said. “The response to this class was overwhelming. We even have a waiting list.”

The organization has allocated $5,000 in scholarships for staff to pursue training opportunities to further their success as professionals in the St. Louis Jewish community. Mayer Eisen said the scholarship recipients represent the many diverse organizations in the community.

They have also scheduled guest speakers and several peer networking opportunities throughout the year to bring professionals together. On Tuesday, Sept. 16, Dr. Robert Archibald, Missouri History Museum President and CEO, is speaking on the importance of collaborations.

“So many natural opportunities have evolved because of JPro,” Goldberg said. “Several partnerships and collaborations have resulted from people who work in the community but never had the opportunity to connect with one another.”

Each layer of JProStl is designed to impact the individual, and in turn, the organization and the community. They have instituted a first for the community: a reception to honor retirees from throughout the community who have worked in Jewish congregations, schools, organizations and agencies. The first event is being held on Monday, Sept. 22 at the Jewish Federation Kopolow Building.

“The whole organization is an example of collaboration that reflects the community and its various interests,” JProStl Vice President and Director of Hadassah Joan Denison said. “We hope it spills out into the community.”

The organization has created those opportunities with programs, professional development and recognition events. They have provided a variety of different access points to the organization for professionals to be able to focus on their specific needs yet feel part of the larger community through their professional identity and involvement.

“We have many challenges as a community of non-profits: tight budgets which impact the ability to provide perks, professional development opportunities and we do not often have an upward trajectory of career paths,” Denison said. “JPro allows us to offer those kinds of perks that individual organizations may not be able to provide. It is a wonderful resource for the community.”

For more information about the Jewish Professional Excellence Project and its programs contact Marci Mayer Eisen at: [email protected] or call 314-442-3810.