After an exhaustive search, the Jewish Federation of St. Louis has named Brian Herstig to be the next president and CEO of the community-wide philanthropic organization. Herstig is a solid choice to lead the Federation in a time of concerns and challenges to the local Jewish community.
Herstig’s impressive background includes 15 years with the Jewish Federations of Pittsburgh and Minneapolis. His most recent position has been serving as director of operations and administration at Twin Cities RISE, which helps individuals in generational poverty to enter the path to long-term, stable employment.
In his new position, Herstig succeeds Andrew Rehfeld, an outstanding scholar who was recently installed as the first non- rabbi to head the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Rehfeld provided impressive professional leadership to the Federation for six years, combining intellect and an open, collegial approach to the demanding position.
Herstig also has impressive academic credentials, including two master’s degrees from Brandeis University — one in non-profit management and the other in Jewish communal service. With such a background, it is not surprising that Greg Yawitz, chair of the Federation, said that “Brian immediately rose to the top of our candidates for his keen attributes, especially with implementation and vision around strategic planning and our community investment model.”
Based on his credentials and reputation for excellence, it appears that Herstig will be able to hit the ground running when he begins his new position in January, as he embraces both the strengths and the challenges of the 60,000-member Jewish community of St. Louis.
Herstig will be able to take advantage of a dynamic and diverse Jewish population, with a strong network of agencies, synagogues and temples from all streams of Judaism, superb Jewish educational and cultural assets and a stable population base.
At the same time, the local Jewish community faces some daunting concerns.
The community is not only aging but also facing hard times financially, putting increasing pressure on programs and institutions that serve the elderly and a larger number of clients who are living below the poverty line. Housing designed for the older population, like Covenant Place and Crown Center, has helped fill some of these needs, as has the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry. These facilities or other programs may have to expand to meet growing needs.
The St. Louis area is blessed with outstanding Jewish day schools, synagogue
religious schools and classes offered by the Center for Jewish Learning, but there will be increased demand for community support for all of our Jewish educational
opportunities. And local institutions need to be constantly vigilant against anti-Semitic incidents, which have increased nationally and worldwide.
The assets of our community are great and the challenges can be daunting, but the Federation has properly identified the qualities its new leader should have and has made a solid choice in naming Brian Herstig as its new president and CEO. We wish him well.