Meet five of this year’s Unsung Heroes

Clockwise from top left: Stan Shanker, Jerri Livingston, Cindy Wallach and Lois and Dave Zuckerman

After Stan Shanker, 72, heard Rabbi James Bennett deliver a sermon about the plight of Syrian refugees, the Shaare Emeth congregant knew he wanted to get involved in helping them. He eventually contacted the International Institute of St. Louis, where for the past two years he has volunteered as a home visitor, spending an hour or two with refugee families once a week during the first month they arrive in St. Louis. On these visits he checks to make sure the places these families are renting are habitable, but he’s also there to be a friendly face, answering any questions they have and getting them acclimated to their new country. In addition to home visits, Shanker has enlisted more than 60 volunteers at Shaare Emeth to help in this effort as well as help sponsor various events for them, such as potluck lunches, Christmas carnivals and a free day at the Magic House. 


There are volunteers and there are volunteers, and then there is Jerri Livingston, 65. She has served on a wide array of committees at Congregation Shaare Emeth, including its Board of Directors. She has co-chaired the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival as well as events with Nishmah and Hadassah, the latter of which honored her with its national leadership award in 2011.Her most consistent involvement has been with children; she has taught religious school at her temple for nearly a quarter century and still teaches Hebrew school. She also teaches knitting classes at Covenant Place and sometimes leads services there. A 16-year survivor of breast cancer, Livingston works with Susan G. Komen and its Race for the Cure, and has previously been named the organization’s volunteer of the year.


Cindy Wallach, 55, likes celebrating birthdays — so much so that five years ago Wallach launched Birthday Joy, a not-for-profit organization that to date has provided birthday gifts to about 3,000 children. Wallach and about 75 volunteers working with Birthday Joy have given presents to children affiliated with more than a dozen agencies, including Gateway 180, Homeless Reversed, Edgewood Children’s Center, Shriners Hospital for Children, Ronald McDonald House and Lydia’s House. Working through two umbrella agencies that represent the targeted organizations, Wallach gets a list each month with names and ages of children about to celebrate a birthday. Volunteers shop for gifts for about 100 kids each month. In addition to running her marketing firm and Birthday Joy, Wallach also sits on the boards of the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Community Center, A World of Difference Institute, Crown Center for Seniors, Central Reform Congregation, the Century Foundation and the Washington University Neighbors Council.


Lois and Dave Zuckerman, 60 and 61 respectively, are the founders of Mentors4College, a volunteer, not-for-profit organization that helps students and their parents settle on and finalize details for a post-secondary education path. That path may be a four-year college, two-year college, a trade or technical school, the military or a course leading to certification in a chosen field.  The couple launched the program in 2011 at Parkway North High School, which all three of their children had attended. Since then, the Zuckermans and about 30 trained volunteer mentors have worked for free with almost 400 students at Parkway North, Parkway Central and Parkway West. Now the program is expanding to the Bayless School District and to a school in Washington, Mo. They are members of Shir Hadash Reconstructionist Community where, in July, Dave Zuckerman will assume the duties of president.


Read the Heroes’ full stories in our May Oy! Magazine and join the Light in saluting the 2017 Unsung Heroes during a special event at 7 p.m. Monday, May 22 at the Jewish Community Center Arts & Education Building in Creve Coeur. The cost is $25 and includes a kosher dessert and coffee reception. RSVP at or call 314-743-3660 no later than Friday, May 19.