After election, what’s next for Jewish Federation?

Andrew Rehfeld, PhD., is President and CEO of Jewish Federation of St. Louis.

By Andrew Rehfeld

Every election has consequences; few elections produce results as unexpected as those of last Tuesday. Whether you celebrated the outcome or were disappointed by the result, it will take some time to understand what the consequences for our community will be. 

The Jewish Federation of St. Louis is not a policy-making organization.  We provide direct services and we invest millions of dollars each year to help build a vibrant community.  We work in close collaborative partnerships with donors, foundations and elected officials, along with our agencies, synagogues, and other regional non-profits, to meet the most pressing needs of our community and the St. Louis area.  

We are now in the process of assessing the challenges and opportunities of this election for our community. The Federation values its close bipartisan relationships with elected officials who have supported our work over the years. This support includes grants to Federation’s NORC, to its beneficiary agencies—including Jewish Family & Children’s Service and Covenant Place—along with Homeland Security grants to help organizations throughout our community.   

As important to us, the Federation remains steadfast in our commitment to supporting the Jewish People around the world.   In December, for example, we will travel to Israel with a third bipartisan group of state legislators to share with them the economic and policy opportunities that a close relationship can provide for our entire region. 

With a change in administrations we can expect a change in priorities and approach. Over the next few weeks Federation will be convening its leadership to assess what this means for our work.  And to help us understand the implications of a new administration for Israel and the Middle East, the Jewish Community Relations Council and Federation will be jointly hosting American diplomat Dennis Ross at the Jewish Community Center on Jan. 24.  (More details to follow.)

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 As we assess our community’s material needs, we remain equally sensitive to other social dynamics and economic challenges.  

Federation’s mission is rooted in the collective responsibility we have for one another, based on the value of our tradition as part of a life well lived.  That tradition motivates us to build a fundamentally decent and just society for all.   This election has demonstrated to everyone that there is a good deal of work left to do that transcends ordinary politics and policy.  

Federation will continue to support those who stand in solidarity with religious and racial groups who feel vulnerable given the tenor of the campaign.  And we must also recognize the millions of individuals who have been left out of the development of a new economy and feel alienated by the economic shifts of the last 20 years.   

The frequency of hate-speech and action that has risen over the last week is particularly concerning.  Federation will continue to work in close partnership with law enforcement and other agencies, including the Anti-Defamation League, to help us respond to threats as they may arise, and partner with other communities at risk. Our Holocaust Museum and Learning Center’s exhibit “Change Begins With Me,” remains a valuable resource to counter any message of hate. And we should never forget our own historical experience as a marginalized, immigrant minority, subject to the worst abuses of power. 

I have been gratified to see how our schools and our synagogues have responded to our community in the last few days.  This is true whether you are celebrating a new direction for our country that may economically benefit all,  or have been unsettled by the unprecedented nature of this campaign and what it may mean for the future of our democracy. 

Whether you support or oppose the new direction in Washington and Jefferson City, the Federation encourages you to get involved to make a positive difference in this world.     

For over 75 years, the independent JCRC has been a representative voice of the Jewish community.  Join a policy committee or participate in a program, like their widely recognized Muslim-Jewish day of service on Dec. 25.  

Use our religious tradition to enrich, inspire and mobilize your work through conversations with your clergy, attending services at your synagogue or joining its social-action committees.  Use the J to be inspired by our cultural tradition, using theatre, film and ideas to deepen your understanding of politics. 

Engage in advocacy work by organizations like the ADL, the AJC and the National Council of Jewish Women, that, together with the JCRC provide a network to advance the common good based on Jewish values.  

And finally, find the best way to support the long-term viability of a democratic and Jewish State of Israel through education and advocacy:  Join AIPAC or J Street, or take a class at any of our synagogues or through Federation’s Center for Jewish Learning.  

The Jewish Federation of St. Louis was formed in 1901 mobilizing our community to help those fleeing persecution in other lands.  We have been here ever since, rising to the multiple challenges of our people, uniting the community and inspiring hope. Thanks to thousands of supporters in the St. Louis area, we will continue that work building our community, helping individuals live lives of dignity, meaning and purpose.  

I invite you to join with us as we collectively seek to make a positive difference in our world.