Guiding the ‘Light’ to a new tomorrow

Steve Gallant is the new President  of the Jewish Light Board of Trustees.  Contact Steve at [email protected]

By Steve Gallant

Editor’s note: The following is adapted from a speech given at the Jewish Light’s recent Annual Meeting.

I am excited and humbled by this opportunity to be president of the Board of Trustees of the St. Louis Jewish Light.  My parents, Paul and Diane Gallant, have a history of service to the community and I am proud to be able to carry on this tradition.  And, I recognize that I would not be able to take on this role without the support of my family and especially that of my wife Amy, for which I am grateful.  

In the 70-year history of the St. Louis Jewish Light, only 27 people have preceded me and I am honored to have been asked to follow in the shoes of some our community’s greatest leaders.

The Light is the touchstone for many of our lives. Everyone in this room has looked to the Light for life cycle events and to grab a pulse of the Jewish community locally, nationally and internationally. It has long been an important source of news that is simply not available in other places. The Light has received too many national awards to recount here. In Bob Cohn, we literally have a walking encyclopedia of St. Louis Jewish history at our fingertips. 

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Everyone here is a supporter of the Light and its mission to inform, inspire and connect the St. Louis Jewish community and has a strong tie to the paper, regardless of the reason that you are a reader. I can trace my own life story through the life cycle events section of the paper starting with the b’nai mitzvot of my friends up to where I now focus on the weddings of my friends’ children and the births of my friends’ grandchildren — all without ever having aged a bit.  

I stand before you (as many of my predecessors have) to tell you that the Light is in a period of flux. We live in a challenging world for media publications.  No one is immune to the pressures of reacting to a digital world and finding ways to capture and hold the attention of younger readers. This is as true for The New York Times as it is for the Light. 

There have been other periods of uncertainty with the Light, but because of our community, our dedicated staff and our terrific volunteers, we have persevered. Our business and delivery models are uncertain — in many ways no different than many other media publications. But, we are not “many other media publications.” We are the St. Louis Jewish Light.  I — and many others — have spent a great deal of time over the last several months understanding the operations of the paper and its financial condition.  

I think it is fair to say that the Board of the Light has never had a better understanding of the how the paper is operated and of the people who operate the Light.  We do not currently have a Publisher.  We do, however, have a terrific, talented staff that has stepped up to the plate without missing a beat since Publisher/CEO Larry Levin’s departure at the end of last year. This includes, with the help of some Board members, spearheading and launching a complete redesign of the newspaper (unveiled last week). 

However, it requires more than just a staff to produce and sustain the Light. It is going to require reshaping our vision to keep moving the Light along so that it is relevant to a younger generation of readers while at the same time being true to the mission of delivering the most relevant, reliable, and timely Jewish news.  

It will require a re-imagining of what is important not only to our existing readers but those we are so interested in attracting. It takes readers, it takes a dedicated Board of Trustees, it takes advertisers and most importantly it takes a community that is dedicated to the sustainability of the Light. And, it is going to take money as well.  

I am hopeful that the entire Board of Trustees will become members of the Light’s Publishers Society — those who make an annual contribution of at least $500. I am hopeful that many Light readers who are not currently Publishers will become Publishers as well. Last week’s paper has many examples of how the community can participate and I urge each of you to take a look and think about who you can enlist to be a supporter of the Light (visit stljewishlight.com/support for more information). 

We are working diligently to fill the open positions at the paper. We intend to develop a long-term vision and we will be seeking your input for that vision.  Once we have fine-tuned that vision, we will be coming to you for support.  

The Light is not just for the people in this room: It is for the generations that have come before us and the generations that will come after us. It is our history.  

Shortly we will have the archives of the past 70 years, which will allow our children and grandchildren to trace our history and ultimately theirs. We want to further develop our website so that it is more relevant to our children and grandchildren. We are caretakers of this sacred institution and it is our responsibility to make sure it exists for future generations just as past generations made sure it existed for us.  I want to hear from each of you.  I want to know what you think we do well and what we could do better.  

My email address ([email protected]) will be printed in each edition of the Light so that you can reach me easily.  I promise you that I will read all your emails and take your input seriously.

As the new President of the Light I stand before you to ask for your help. I know that there are many ways to get news these days, and some may feel a subscription simply isn’t necessary when much of what’s in the Light can be read for free online.  I know that some of you subscribe out of obligation or as a means of contributing to the Jewish Community.  

My goal and the goal of the Jewish Light Board and staff during my term will be to make you WANT to subscribe to the Light and see its value to our community. I want the Light to contain the news that YOU want to read.  These days, there are a lot of sources for news, maybe even too many, but my goal is to have the Light and its website be your first choice for trusted Jewish news.

Steve Gallant is the new President  of the Jewish Light Board of Trustees.  Contact Steve at [email protected]