Annual Campaign vital in building a thriving Jewish community in St. Louis

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

By Andrew Rehfeld

On Sept. 1, 2016, the Jewish Federation of St. Louis will be kicking off its 2016 Annual Campaign. Since 1901, the Federation has existed to “preserve and enhance Jewish life in St. Louis, Israel and around the globe.”  And each year thousands of donors continue to invest philanthropically. As we begin our “100 days to make an impact” I thought I would explain why.  

Each year the Federation works with a team of community volunteers to plan to meet the needs of our community based on six strategic priorities that help individuals live their lives with dignity, meaning and purpose, connected to each other, Israel and the Jewish People.  This means that your “one gift touches all,” supports our local Jewish ecosystem of agencies, programs and services, as well as Jewish communities in Israel and hotspots throughout the world. 

Your gift to the annual campaign supports Jewish Family and Children’s Services, including its Harvey Kornblum Food Pantry now celebrating its 25th anniversary.  JF&CS is the only general food pantry that provides kosher food along with serving all who are hungry.  JF&CS also provides an outlet for “doing Jewish” by serving our own and recognizing the responsibility we have for all.    

Your gift also supports Covenant Place, our community’s low-income senior housing facility, allowing seniors to live in dignity even when their families are no longer nearby.  And it supports our ability fundraise for them to ensure a successful completion of a three-phase project.  (And hats off to Covenant Place leadership for their transformational work rebuilding such an important institution for our community.)

Federation’s award winning Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC) is sustained by your support.  The NORC mobilizes hundreds of volunteers to help seniors live in their own homes for as long as possible, significantly reducing the rate at which seniors need to move into long term institutionalized care.  

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An investment in the annual campaign also strengthens Jewish engagement and involvement. 

Your gift supports senior day care services and programs for those with disabilities at the Jewish Community Center, as well as important Jewish programming, including the book and film festivals, the New Jewish Theatre and Camp Sabra.  The campaign supports the Holocaust Museum and Learning Center, serving over 30,000 students each year.  It supports the expansion of PJ Library, providing thousands of books every month to any child aged 6 months to 9 years of age.  PJ Library also promotes intimate intergenerational relationships that strengthen Jewish identity.  

Your contribution to the annual campaign supports Federation’s Center for Jewish Learning and our Brodsky Library, providing adult education and the “SHMA!/Listen” Community Speakers Series.  And it supports a network of day schools that provide values based education and secular content comparable to the best independent schools in our region.  

Your gift does even more to connect a next generation to Jewish life. 

Federation provides significant investment for our Hillels in our region and at Mizzou.  It supports the Jewish Student Union, a non-denominational Jewish educational program in our high schools.  It helped support the J’s successful 2016 Maccabi Games, which brought over 1,200 teenagers to St. Louis this past summer.  (And kudos to the hundreds of volunteers and staff at the J for their tremendous success!)

The Federation Annual Campaign is also a good way to support a strong and secure democratic Jewish State of Israel. 

The Federation through our support of the Jewish Community Relations Council continues to combat the Boycott Divestment and Sanction Movement (BDS) that is threatening to undermine a democratic Jewish state of Israel by waging economic warfare against Israel.  Our investment in the Israel Action Network—a program of the Jewish Federations of North America—has successfully defeated numerous boycott campaigns in the last three years.  And your campaign gift supported our efforts to open an Israeli Trade Desk for the State of Missouri.  These efforts are already strengthening economic relationships and helping people engage more meaningfully with Israel. 

Federation continues to connect our community to Israel on a very personal level. Your campaign contribution helps us provide support to Birthright, providing trips to Israel for young adults between the ages of 18 and 26.  Federation provides administrative support for The Rubin Israel Experience which, thanks to the investment of Ron and Pam Rubin and The Rubin Family Foundation, has sent more than 80 individuals between the ages of 27 and 45 to Israel.  And we are mounting our first community-wide mission to Israel in 20 years, in February, 2017 (come join us!).  

Your gift to the annual campaign supports the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), which helps those under threat make a new life in Israel. Our relationships with sister cities Yokne’am and Meggido have facilitated the successful integration of Ethiopian immigrants into the Jewish State.  We are also working closely with programs in the region that support the economic development of women and their relief from domestic abuse.  Our funding helps Crossroads, a social service agency in Jerusalem that supports English speaking young adults who have lost their way on the streets of the city. 

And of course, Federation is here to support the welfare of the Jewish people no matter where their needs may be.  In France, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union we are working closely with JAFI and the Joint Distribution Committee to protect our communities from a new wave of anti-Semitism.  Federation is here to ensure that no one will go to bed hungry or live in fear of persecution no matter where they live. 

Finally, Federation continues to build the infrastructure needed in these times. We work in close partnership with our community organizations to coordinate security, provide back office and marketing support and HR consultation.  We continue to convene our senior community leadership to build relationships that can be used to strengthen us all. 

And of course the Federation supports the paper you are reading this in. 

This is what we mean when we say that your one gift truly touches all.  

I hope you will join us again during these 100 days by going to buildjewishstl.org/heroes to make a pledge.  Take your place along side of the thousands who continue to make this possible. 

And thank you for helping to ensure a vibrant Jewish St. Louis.