New food pantry director returns to her roots

The Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry at the new Max and Drew Erlich Building on Baur Boulevard. Photo: Yana Hotter

By Patricia Corrigan, Special To The Jewish Light

When Judy Berkowitz retired in January as CEO of Kids in the Middle, she planned to take some time before deciding what to do next. Instead, almost immediately, she accepted a position as director of the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry. 

“When this opportunity came up, I knew it was beshert — meant to be,” Berkowitz said last week. “The last thing I thought was that I would go back to work so soon, much less full time, but I jumped at the chance.”

Berkowitz, who describes her age as that of a “young baby boomer,” started the job at the Jewish Family & Children’s Service on a part-time basis early in March and now is on a full-time schedule. Her responsibilities include oversight of all operations and volunteer activities; development, implementation and expansion of community outreach; and maintaining connections with similar organizations and collaborative partners.

Lou Albert, executive director of JF&CS, said, “When Judy told me she was going to be retiring from her executive position at Kids in the Middle, I immediately thought she would be an excellent choice to head the food pantry because she has proven, extensive, executive experience, she knows the community, she is organized and effective – all qualities we were looking for.” 

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Previously, a manager had overseen operations at the food pantry, which was founded in 1991 and feeds an average of 8,000 people per month. Albert said the position was recently given expanded responsibilities, requiring a director rather than a manager. 

“It’s a pleasure to have somebody of Judy’s experience and level of accomplishment,” Albert said. “The agency couldn’t be happier.” 

Kids in the Middle, Berkowitz’s employer for more than 10 years, is a nonprofit organization that provides counseling for children with parents going through separation, divorce or remarriage. She also has served as executive director of the St. Louis chapter of Hadassah, an international women’s volunteer organization.

Berkowitz moved to St. Louis in 1999 from Milwaukee, where she worked at Jewish Family Services as a licensed clinical social worker and clinic coordinator for more than 20 years. She has a bachelor of arts degree in music education from Hofstra University in New York and a master’s degree in guidance and counseling from Wayne State University in Michigan. Berkowitz lives in Olivette with her husband, Marvin, and their son Danny. 

“I am excited about returning to my roots, as I worked at Jewish Family Services in Milwaukee for 20 years,” Berkowitz said. “This new job will be fulfilling, and for me, that means continuing to connect with nonprofit agencies and helping my community. The time is just right for me.”

Berkowitz added that she is especially passionate about the mission of the food pantry.  

“The Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry is the largest food pantry in the community, and I am thrilled with the responsibility of working with families in our community to help with the most basic of needs – food,” she said. 

“I am also excited about working with volunteers and staff, and I look forward to reaching out to the community to let them know about the need. This work is within the Jewish community, but it benefits the entire community – and that’s important to me.”