Light Year: 2013-2014

More than 400 guests attended the Light’s Golden Light Gala in October, 2013, marking the paper’s 50th anniversary as an independent news source. The event honored past presidents of the Light as well as columnist Lois Caplan and Editor-in-Chief Emeritus Robert A. Cohn. Photo: Kristi Foster. 

The Light Year 2013-2014 presents a summary of our activities. Light Year describes how our operations are aligned to impact both our mission and strategic plan; what we have accomplished in that regard; and our plans for the future of the Jewish Light.

The Mission & the Market

The St. Louis Jewish Light informs, connects and inspires the St. Louis Jewish community through objective coverage of topics of interest to Jews.

The current Strategic Plan of the Jewish Light, a Missouri nonprofit corporation, was adopted in August, 2013 by our Board of Trustees. The work took place under the leadership of current President Gary Kodner, Past President Jenny Wolkowitz and Jeff Golden, Business Committee chair, with help from a variety of sources:


• Board Committee Chairs: Content, Gianna Jacobson and Steve Gallant; Marketing, Jenny Wolkowitz and Gary Kodner; Resources, Jeff Golden and Diana Iskiwitch.

• Planning Advisor: Carol Weisman.

• Survey and Demographic Assistance: Maritz.

• Focus Group Assistance: Allison Collinger.

• Executive and Managerial Staff: Larry Levin, Ellen Futterman, Kelly Richter, Tom Wombacher, Julie Schack. Administrative Staff: Helen Neuman and Debbie Gershenson.

This ambitious project was the first new Strategic Plan for the organization since 2008.  It is the current intention of the Board that this plan will serve the organization effectively through 2015 and very possibly beyond. 

The Strategic Plan recognizes that the environment in which we operate has been transforming in significant fashion:  News media are changing, as digital media pervade the landscape, putting more pressures on historically print publications than ever before.  Advertising placements and revenues are spread across a much larger universe of media resources, making it a challenge for any one media company to find its niche.

On the other hand, the Light occupies a position in its market that is representative of many organizations that have demonstrated success in this new media world.  Specialized publications with a distinct niche audience, and with little or no direct competition, have been able to provide content in targeted ways unavailable to larger companies that try to serve many different constituent audiences.

Moreover, the Light is a nonprofit organization and able to realize not only conventional sales and marketing revenue common to most media outlets, but also to benefit from the extremely generous charitable support of the community in many ways.  For instance:

• We are a beneficiary agency of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis.

• We have received the support of several major foundations in our community, including the Kranzberg Family Foundation, Staenberg Family Foundation, Simon Foundation, Harvey Kornblum Foundation, Silk Foundation, Fox Family Foundation, and more. 

• We receive ongoing support from endowed funds established to support the Light, which are managed by the Jewish Community Foundation. 

• We derive significant funding from our Publisher’s Society, a group of our most generous individual donors who support many of our major endeavors, including our coverage of Jewish arts and cultural festivals and much, much more. 

This does not mean the Light is immune from the challenges of today’s media world.  It simply means that we have a core audience, constituency and business model that present opportunities for success.  Our task is to identify which of those opportunities present us with the most viable business model that lets us fulfill our nonprofit mission and provide meaningful content to you, our readers.

The Plan & its Priorities

The Strategic Plan of the Light lets us organize our work in three main areas:

• Content: Provide to our audiences content and service that maximize our relevance and quality.

• Marketing: Use channels and methods that most effectively distribute our content and maximize our revenue.

• Revenue: Increase our business and philanthropic revenue in a manner consistent with our Mission Statement and with meeting our Content and Marketing objectives.

For each of these three areas, we identified Catalyst Strategies:

• Protect the Core: Ensure that our current essential mission-drive services are retained with the highest quality possible.

• Expand the Core: Add services and strengthen our current ones to adapt to a dynamic media market.

• Strengthen the Brand: Ensure that our audiences relate our services to our mission, and improve brand recognition and differentiation.

Within each of these areas, we have created Action Plan steps to organize and manage our work in furtherance of the Strategic Plan.  There are approximately 75 items, with each assigned a primary staff manager, and where applicable, a secondary manager and a Board committee with which to partner on the work. 

The Work: Past and Future

Rather than report to the community based on the intricacies of our Strategic Plan, we provide summaries below on our work to date and anticipated work in the following areas:

• Content (News and Editorial) 

• Technology and Production

• Business (Sales, Events and 


• Philanthropy and Community

Content (News & Editorial) 

The Light received five more Simon Rockower Awards in 2013-2014 from the American Jewish Press Association ( for its work in 2013 and 2012, across a wide range of areas, including features, opinion, editorial and website. Editor Ellen Futterman’s News and Schmooze column and Bob Cohn’s ongoing analysis pieces have been among the winners. The Light is also well represented in AJPA leadership, as Publisher/CEO Larry Levin, Futterman and Cohn are on the Executive Committee and Levin served as the Membership Committee chair and is currently its Treasurer. 

We continue our movement toward news on every relevant platform and in every relevant way. We cover stories in our newspaper, OY! magazines, website, social media, e newsletters and mobile platforms in ways that provide a comprehensive picture of St. Louis Jewish news in the most up-to-date and modern methods, to keep you informed on whichever platforms you find us.

We successfully continued our Can We Talk? news and speaker series, a partnership with the Jewish Community Center and Jewish Community Relations Council and with funding from the Harvey Kornblum Foundation. We delved in depth into such issues as poverty and hunger among Jews, synagogue affiliation, Jewish issues in the environment and more. A particularly innovative session related to the summer conflict in Gaza, with a live Skype session at the JCC with Times of Israel analyst Haviv Rettig Gur.

We also continued our innovative Israel Alive! series, which focuses on topics of interest relating to Israel beyond the political news that predominates around the world. Recent features have focused on food and wine, the Bedouin community, a community in the Lower Galilee for developmentally disabled adults, a unique Israeli spa, and an interview with the Jerusalem bureau chief of the Christian Science Monitor. The section is funded by the Milford and Lee Bohm fund of the Jewish Light

We continued our ongoing effort to provide diverse voices to the Light to appeal to a wide range of audiences, including parents of young families and those of wide-ranging political and cultural perspectives. 

We have continued our commitment to expanded cultural and arts coverage of Jewish arts festivals, artists and performers in the broader community, through our comprehensive, award-winning Fall Arts Guide, our Summer Arts Guide, and weekly substantial coverage. Our partnership with the Jewish Book Festival of the JCC has expanded to include joint events and shared speakers, and we are very grateful to the JCC for its generous collaborations.  

We had major coverage of breaking events that unfolded in the community, most recently involving Ferguson and the summer’s Gaza conflict. 

We have expanded and strengthened our Teen Page, Ohr Chadash, with its largest staff yet in 2013-2014. More than 20 teens write, edit, design and produce the monthly section and the accompanying website and social media. The teens have introduced new and exciting features and have continued to grow our readership and presence both in print and online.

Teen Page oversight is a partnership between lay leaders Peggy Kaplan, Caroline Goldenberg and Lauren Sagel, and the Light’s professional editorial staff.

We also continued Jewish journalism workshops at local Jewish day schools. 

We continued our focus as the lifecycle event voice of the community, with coverage of births, bar and bat mitzvot, engagements, weddings, anniversaries and obituaries.

We introduced our Jews in the News feature, providing monthly updates on the great jobs and volunteerism of our Jewish community and beyond. 

We’ve continued to take a strong leadership position in our community through editorials on matters pertaining to Israel, Jewish and social issues.

We continually add more graphics and video, with our online Photo of the Day feature, and our ongoing Kop Talk series as Levin and Cohn debate Jewish and Israeli issues of the day. 

What’s Coming in 2015 and Beyond:New Can We Talk? installments on the Israeli Elections, the upcoming demographic survey of the community, and more; new blogging and reporting on senior issues in the community; on our changing Jewish community; on new coverage of families and children; and more! 

Technology & Production

Our website continues to grow! We now average more than 61,000 pageviews per month, a figure that has grown by more than 30 percent since 2012!

Our mobile readership continues to grow! We introduced a new mobile platform and now more than 30 percent of our digital traffic reaches the Light through their phones and tablets. 

Our Partypalooza Event now is accompanied by a major, expanded program. 

We continue to improve our integration of the newspaper and website, with more online-only features, new bloggers and breaking news on our digital platforms. 

Our social media presence has soared, by providing more and better posts to our Facebook site, resulting in a substantially increased number of “likes” on our Facebook page. Our Twitter presence has continued to grow as well. 

We now manage our own mailing services, a major in-house enhancement 

that enables us to provide our paper products to you in a more cost-efficient manner. 

We have kept our technology up to date, to ensure that our ability to produce both print and digital products remains current with industry standards and best practices.

We have industry best software to manage our resources, including Town News which allows digital and print integration of our news and editorial services; Donor Perfect for subscriptions and donations, Pre-1 for our advertising management, Constant Contact for our e newsletters, and Quickbooks for our financial and accounting services. 

What’s Coming in 2015 and Beyond: Continued technology improvements to keep abreast of changes in the industry; more social media outlets and platforms; more and better information provided through our mobile platform. We expect our digital audience to grow and we will have the ability to realize better news and business practices to support that growing and evolving audience. 

Business (Sales, Events and Subscriptions) 

Our Sales team has included myriad products for our advertisers and sponsors to be visible and noticed in the community. Packages that include newspaper, magazine, digital and event opportunities are providing us with the ability to remain relevant and productive in the sales market.

Our Events that cater to our business partners have been enormously successful for the Light in ways that appeal to different constituencies and targeted markets. Our PartyPalooza event, now in its third year, reaches audiences planning for b’nai mitzvah, weddings, birthdays and other special events. Our Women in Business reaches professional women who come together for networking and to hear special speakers’ takes on key issues relating to their careers. Our PrimeTime Expo at the JCC reaches boomers and seniors as they consider all aspects of midlife, health, financial planning and retirement.  The events are an essential component of the first-person relationship between the Light, its business partners and the community. 

Our digital sales products are state of the art, with specialized web ads, e promotions, mobile platform placements and all the other kinds of features that businesses and organizations look for to promote their activities in all kinds of effective ways.

Our subscriptions continue to both support the Light and provide thousands of readers with home delivery of our weekly paper, our OY! magazine, special inserts and promotions from our business partners, and more. We have a structured and regular mailing calendar for renewals, trial subscriptions and new subscribers, and the response from the community continues to be outstanding. 

Our new Keepsake program allows readers and those featured in stories to preserve the memory of special events and moments in their lives with special copies of news and features. See our ads in the Jewish Light

Our Rack program allows us to recognize special sponsors and supporters of the Light in highly visible ways in the community. Look for our newspaper racks in more than 80 locations in 2015, with additional locations to come!  

What’s Coming in 2015 and Beyond:  New and more digital benefits for our subscribers; more and easier ways to renew and pay for your subscriptions online; more options for our advertisers in tailoring packages to reach our audiences across different and multiple platforms; new and innovative approaches to our business events; and more! 

Philanthropy and Community 

Our Golden Light Gala in 2013, celebrating 50 years of independent Jewish news in the Light, was a smashing success. Almost 450 members of the community attended, including current and past Light presidents and trustees, and we honored Bob Cohn and Lois Caplan for their decades-long service to the community. Channel 5’s Mike Bush was a great emcee, and the event sparked a tremendous interest in both the Jewish and greater communities. Myrna Meyer led the amazing committee for the event. 

Once again, we’ve had great growth in both total funds and numbers of members in our Publisher’s Society, those generous donors who contribute $500 or more to the Light each year to help us provide special sections and who receive recognition, invitations and special seating to a variety of private and public Light events.  Many who belong to Publisher’s have grown your commitment from lower donation levels to the Publisher’s level, and we are exceedingly grateful. This year we had two special events – one in June, at the History Museum, to meet Frances Levine, new President and CEO of the museum, and one in November, with special guest Cindy Chupack, author and TV writer who appeared at the Jewish Book Festival. These events have become gems in the community and we thank our Publishers for your stewardship and support of the programs, speakers and events! 

Interaction with our readership and the general community has grown through special programs such as our annual Unsung Heroes recognition event, our Can We Talk? Series, and participation by our Board and our professional leadership in a number of local events and programs conducted by other organizations. Many of these events are supported by local foundations (listed on opposite page), which provide essential funding for these special kinds of outreach and interaction with our readers and supporters. 

Unsung Heroes is a great example of our lay-professional partnerships. Community leaders Jan Baron, Faith Berger, Milton Movitz and Sheri Sherman chaired the event in partnership with Light event coordinator Beth Feldman, while our amazing editorial team produced the companion Oy! Magazine Unsung Heroes edition.

We’ve built collaboration and strategic alliances with other organizations, such as the JCC and Jewish Community Relations Council on Can We Talk? and the JCC’s Jewish Book Festival. The Light also sponsors other organizations’ events on a select basis in a manner that fulfills the goals of the collaborative agencies. 

And finally, to single them out for exceptional appreciation — our Board of Trustees. Through tireless partnership, ongoing meetings and events, planning and thoughtful insight and contribution, the trustees provide the community leadership and support that helps the Light continue to shine in so many ways and fulfill our mission to inform, inspire and connect the Jewish community! 

As with all nonprofits, none of what we do is easy, but all of it is immensely rewarding. We fulfill an essential service to our friends in the Jewish community, one that provides connection across all movements, all organizations, institutions and synagogues. We do it week in and week out – day in and day out in this 24/7 news world – and we do it because we believe that a community connected is a strong one, fortified by sharing our separate and our mutual experiences.

We’ve already entered the Hebrew year 5775, and now as we enter 2015, we do so facing our certain challenges, and doing so with optimism. You provide us with the readership and support that keeps us inspired to provide the news for all of us. We thank you and wish you all the best.


Larry Levin, Publisher/CEO