Newsmakers: August 2021

Cantor Jay O’Brien has been recognized as one of Chicago’s Jewish 36 Under 36: Double Chai in the Chi, by Oy! Chicago. O’Brien is the cantor and composer-in-residence at Makom Solel Lakeside in Highland Park, Ill. He is the son of Rhonda and Steve O’Brien of St. Louis, who belong to Congregation B’nai Amoona.

Frances Levine, president and CEO of the Missouri Historical Society (MHS), plans to retire in mid-2022. Since joining the institution in 2014, Levine has overseen a period of major growth for MHS, which operates the Missouri History Museum, the Library & Research Center and the Soldiers Memorial Military Museum. The MHS Board of Trustees is forming a committee to undertake a national search for Levine’s successor. Levine will continue as president and CEO through the selection process to ensure a smooth transition. Levine belongs to Temple Emanuel. 

Betsy Schmidt has been named CEO of the St. Louis Jewish Light after serving as its chief business and engagement officer since being hired in October. In other Light news, Amy Worth has joined the staff as its office manager. Both Schmidt and Worth belong to Congregation Shaare Emeth.

Local author Alan Spector took full advantage of the COVID lockdown to write his recently published ninth and 10th books. “Retired-Agers: Thriving and Finding Meaning as We Age Through Retirement” is the third in his series of books that help readers plan for the nonfinancial aspects of their retirement. His latest novel, “Justice for Walter,” is the sequel to Spector’s “Body Not Recovered: A Vietnam War/Protest Movement Novel.” The new book takes place amid the racial tensions of the mid-1970s in St. Louis and University City.

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Brian Braunstein will serve as board president for the 2021-2023 term at Jewish Family Services (JFS). Braunstein has served on the JFS board since 2017. He ensured the successful implementation of the 2018-2021 strategic plan and oversaw a full governance review last year. He is assistant vice president and risk management counsel for Enterprise Holdings Inc. and its multiple brands.

Wendy Bell has been promoted to chief financial officer at Network for Strong Communities (NSC). She also leads the bookkeeping department, which provides monthly bookkeeping services to nonprofits at below market rates. Bell belongs to Central Reform Congregation.

Emily Stuart is celebrating her first six months as executive director of Gateway Pet Guardians, the first and only nonprofit animal welfare organization in East St. Louis and surrounding communities. Stuart oversees staff and volunteers who coordinate veterinary, animal shelter and community programming. She also is the co-founder of the St. Louis Immigrant Family Emergency Response Fund, providing direct financial assistance to immigrants and refugees in our region.

“Memory’s Shadow,” a novel by Gail Benick, has just been published. The story of three sisters who are the daughters of Holocaust survivors, it is set in University City, where Benick grew up and attended school in the 1970s. “Memory’s Shadow” is available on Amazon. Benick lives in Toronto.

Three new staffers have joined Jewish Federation of St. Louis this summer:

• Helen Turner is director of education and interpretation at the St. Louis Kaplan Feldman Holocaust Museum. For the past nine years, Turner has worked in numerous positions at the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center in Glen Cove, N.Y. In St. Louis, Turner will develop programming for students and adults, provide leadership to volunteers and docents, and work closely with schools and universities to create an impactful museum experience. She replaces Dan Reich, who is retiring at the end of the month after working at the Holocaust museum since August 1999.

• Brandon Rosen is resource assistant for Federations’ community impact team. He will partner with the team in a variety of ways to support its work and ensure quality and efficiency. 

• Michael “Mike” Rubin also has joined Federation’s community impact team as part-time resource assistant/foundations. Rubin will provide support and assistance to the community impact team and Federations’ four supporting foundations: Lubin-Green Foundation, Women’s Auxiliary Foundation for Jewish Aged, Kranzberg Family Foundation and Staenberg Family Foundation.

Newsmakers is a compilation of the Jewish community’s newsworthy professional and academic accomplishments. Submit your news to [email protected] Call 314-743-3669 for more information. Published the first edition of each month.