A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

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St. Louis Jewish Light CEO plans to step down at year’s end

Betsy Schmidt

I believe in the value of the St. Louis Jewish Light now more than ever. Jewish news is something that unites and connects Jewish people in our community. When we all know the same news, events and stories of the amazing people and organizations, and are all talking about them, we gain more commonality than distance. 

These days, 60 to 70% of the Jewish population consider themselves secular or non-religious according to a recent Pew Research Center study. We mostly practice our faith in unique and individual ways. Where do we find the community? How do we feel connected? 

Those of us here at the Jewish Light are extremely proud to serve as witnesses and storytellers among us. We help create and maintain connections where there otherwise wouldn’t be any. 

In the recent survey conducted by the Light, we heard from more than 900 of you. Overwhelmingly, we heard that the Light gave people a way to feel a part of our community. Respondents told us that they feel more Jewish and more in touch with the Jewish community by reading the paper and/or our Morning Light email newsletter. 

And so, it is with great consideration and much sadness that I tendered my resignation this week and will move to my next chapter after the end of the year. Some of this decision was due to personal reasons like health, and some because it was time to pass the baton to someone else. 

We are so lucky to have Michael Staenberg as the President of our Board of Directors — he’s the right person at the right time for our organization. The first time I met him, three years ago, he emphasized that having a strong Jewish news organization was one of the pillars of a strong Jewish community. I have been proud to be part of that strong news organization in St. Louis, as CEO of the Light.

But I have taken the organization as far as I can for now. We have created an amazing team with Editor-in-Chief Ellen Futterman, Chief Digital Content Officer Jordan Palmer and Chief of Revenue Growth and Community Engagement Stacy Wolff Smart leading the way. I’m extremely proud of the collaborative team we’ve built and the tremendous success we’ve had in a relatively short time.

Currently, our digital newsletter has 7,200 subscribers and our printed paper holds steady at more than 9,200 subscribers. Our advertising and donation revenue is almost to the same level it was before the pandemic when we published a paper weekly, instead of bi-monthly, as we do now. Our newspaper is better than ever, winning awards and receiving national recognition for its excellence. 

But now the Light needs someone skilled in finance in order to secure its longevity. We need to build an endowment and legacy giving. We need to shore up our cash reserves. I’m convinced someone with a different skill sets and experience can accomplish those feats. 

I strongly believe Michael Staenberg is the leader we need to guide the Light through this process, so that it can thrive and flourish well into the future. If anyone ever questioned the value of Jewish media, and its importance to the community it serves, they need only to look at last week when the war in Israel broke out. 

But Michael can’t do it alone. It will require a real commitment from you – our community – to step forward and raise your hands. As we build an endowment, legacy giving programs and other financial routes to solvency, please know that these are to ensure a strong and healthy Jewish news organization, and in turn a strong, healthy Jewish community in St. Louis for years to come. 

Thanks to all I got to meet and work with, and all of you who have supported the Light. It has been an honor. 

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