Rabbi to address JFed annual meeting

A leading speaker, educator and author on the importance of strong Israel and Diaspora relations Rabbi Andrew S. Davids, executive director of the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA), will deliver the keynote address at Jewish Federation of St. Louis’ 2008 Annual Meeting. His speech is entitled, “Engaging the Next Generation in the Israel Conversation.” The event begins at 7p.m., Thursday, Sept. 4, in the Staenberg Family Atrium of the Jewish Federation Kopolow Building, 12 Millstone Campus Dr.

Rabbi Davids’ challenging talk is in recognition of Israel’s 60th anniversary and St. Louis’ Focus Israel initiative, which links local congregations to Israel. “This is significant because through such programs as Focus Israel, our community is working to overcome barriers that inhibit engagement with Israel, particularly among young Jews, and strengthen Israel’s place in community life,” said Barry Rosenberg, Federation executive vice president. Rosenberg will emcee the event and introduce Rabbi Davids.

Rabbi Davids brings more than 20 years of experience in shaping the Israel education message for young Jews in ways that are both passionate and intellectually honest. He suggests a new approach and compelling, sometimes controversial, strategies to deal with issues critical to engaging the next generation. This past May, the rabbi was in St. Louis at which time he spoke to four local Reform rabbis about the work of ARZA, specifically about the role of progressive movements in Israel, and did sessions for some Focus Israel/Knesset Israel congregations and a group of school educators.

Prior to the annual meeting, Rabbi Davids will meet with a group of St. Louis Jewish young adults in their 20s and 30s to hold an open discussion about their thoughts and relationships with Israel.

Studies continue to show greater distancing between the next generation and core elements of Jewish identity such as affiliation, Jewish peoplehood and the State of Israel. Rabbi Davids believes that communities interested in reversing this trend must be prepared to rethink how to advocate for Israel, must reframe how Israel is presented as a communal focus and, most importantly, must create a safe environment for these age groups to engage in the Israel conversation.

Rabbi Davids was ordained at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, holds a Master of Public Administration degree with a focus in non-profit management and a B.A. degree in film and video. In addition, he’s served as Director of the Union for Reform Judaism’s Youth Division, a resident and day camp director and organizational management consultant.

Cost of Federation’s Annual Meeting is $15 per person. A dairy dessert reception immediately follows, with music by the band HaShemesh. Dietary laws are observed.

To attend, register online at www.jewishinstlouis.org/JFed08 or call 314-442-3814 or email [email protected].