LightFest offers hope for annual campaign


The Jewish Community Center’s Staenberg Family Complex will be transformed into a menorah early next month at the culmination of LightFest, a philanthropic-themed series of activities sponsored by the Jewish Federation to promote community involvement.

The event is strongly geared towards tzedakah and giving. Participants can donate new or unused clothing, toys or canned goods for Hanukkah. A blood drive will be held and children can hop, skip and jump to benefit the Lifeline Fund. LightFest goers can also learn about volunteer opportunities and make phone calls to benefit the Federation campaign effort. Merely showing up is a charitable act. The Staenberg Family Foundation has pledged a $5 donation for each attendee. Carol and Michael Staenberg and their family serve as honorary chairs for the event.


“From what we can see around the country, we haven’t seen something done like this before, definitely not in St. Louis,” said Keith Alper, co-chair of the event. “Schools and synagogues have done mitzvah days and things of that nature but the entire community has never come together like this around a single cause where the Jewish community as a whole participates.”

Barry Rosenberg, executive vice president of the Jewish Federation agrees.

“I don’t know that we’ve ever done anything like this,” he said. “We’ve done some programs in the past but we think this goes significantly beyond those in creating a point for all community members to come together to express their commitment to the community and help people in need.”

Co-chair Susan K. Goldberg said she’s especially looking forward to the hands-on mitzvah projects and the donations.

“To me that’s the heart of the day,” she said. “People will be bringing all sorts of items for the food pantry. Already, a lot of the congregations and synagogues have disseminated information to their congregants about what they are collecting. Each organization has been assigned an item.”

According to Goldberg, those items include dried pasta from Temple Israel and rice from United Hebrew Congregation. Those two synagogues are attempting to collect a literal ton of each foodstuff. Canned goods, toiletries, household items, cleaning items, toys, hats and gloves will also be collected during LightFest.

Meanwhile, hands-on mitzvah projects will include everything from making blankets for seniors at the Cedars at the JCA to assembling “birthday bags” for the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry to making emergency preparedness kits for seniors. Those who wish to are welcome to work on projects but easy “drive through” drop off sites will be convenient for those who simply want to deposit donations. In fact, the event is designed to accommodate those who have a limited time to partake in the festivities.

“We will have things going on all day long,” Goldberg said. “We know that people’s schedules are busy and we want them to be able to come whenever they can. So we are being very conscious of having entertainment and activities going on throughout the day.”

Goldberg said that the afternoon activities will feature a PJ story time for children as well as art projects for both kids and young adults. The children’s project will involve creating individual tiles for a chair rail to decorate a hallway in Covenant Chai Apartments. Other children’s activities will include face painting, a magic show and skipping, hopping and jumping a lap at the JCC’s new track to raise money from sponsors arranged ahead of time.

People can also purchase Hanukkah tributes at a “one stop mitzvah shop.”

The rabbinic presence hasn’t been neglected either. The St. Louis Rabbinical Association will perform a musical presentation.

“My understanding is that it’s the first time all the rabbis from Reform to Orthodox will come together to do a program,” Goldberg said. “I have heard from people of all branches of Judaism in the community that they are really excited about this. It’s a great cause and they really want to show support for it.”

Festivities will be capped off by an attempt to transform the front of the Staenberg Family Complex into a giant menorah using large canvas “candles” that LightFest participants can sign their names to.

“Many people have helped throughout the year but this will be the one day that everyone can focus on,” Alper said. “Everything will be about helping other people and giving back.”

For more information on LightFest, visit


WHAT: Jewish Federation’s major campaign event, featuring a variety of family-friendly opportunities for service and tzedakah, and the lighting of a giant menorah. For each person attending, the Staenberg Family Foundation will donate $5 to the JFed campaign.

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6

WHERE: JCC and Jewish Federation Kopolow Building, I.E. Millstone Jewish Community Campus

MORE INFO: Visit the Web site