Editorial: Shining Stars of David


As our 2013 Unsung Heroes event and accompanying OY! Magazine showed last week, it is not remotely necessary to be a financial juggernaut to help the community. Simple acts of loving kindness, in the Jewish tradition, ought be appreciated, and so we have honored those who give so selflessly for four years running.

We admire all who give back of their time, energy, skills and resources of whatever kind, to make life better for our Jewish and broader community. So when two pillars of humanity and philanthropy like Sunny Glassberg and Lucy Lopata leave us within the span of a week or so, we not only reflect upon their incredible accomplishments, but contemplate what giving means, both now and as our community evolves.

New Mt. Sinai Cemetery advertisement

Each woman used their families’ successes to make life better for all, through their work for and support of so many charities and causes. Glassberg and Lopata imprinted their passions upon the world around them —  in the Jewish community, in culture, the arts, parks, the environment, scientific research, and on and on —  in ways both meaningful and lasting. 

This has been the way of things through the last several generations, especially from the Industrial Revolution and the First Wave of European immigration onward. Success in business has often resulted in giving back, giving back results in community improvements and the cycle sets an example for the next generation to do more of the same.

But it’s getting harder, and for many reasons. Wealth is becoming more concentrated in fewer urban areas — witness St. Louis’ loss of corporate headquarters over the last decade or more. Family wealth is fragmenting among heirs, who may or may not remain here and will have different perspectives on philanthropy.

In the Jewish community, there are challenges that overlap with the more general trends — especially those related to keeping businesses and professionals here and committed to St. Louis — but particular ones as well. Even as Jews have contributed mightily to innumerable St. Louis charities, there’s dialogue about the responsibility of our community members to support Jewish causes. This discussion is wrapped into broader, evolving trends — not unique at all to Judaism — about intermarriage and the decline of affiliation with places of worship.

Moreover, nonprofits — at least those which are paying attention — recognize that newer generations of adults are not necessarily giving or supporting in the same ways as their predecessors. While it was sufficient in years past for a Jewish charity to not only ask for a gift, but indeed to expect it, simply because it was given previously, a more exacting donor community looks for a closely defined nexus between giving and beneficial, sustainable results.

We’re not suggesting there are easy answers, but we are grateful for myriad Jewish groups and individuals who seek to encourage new and relevant practices that appeal to a new generation of funders. Among the most important of these — building professional excellence in Jewish organizations; learning to state the case for the most critical Jewish needs; creating better ways to build Jewish identity and connections; and ensuring both time and dollars are well spent.

All in our community should give of what we have, whether financial, professional, experiential or otherwise. But beyond that, lending a critical perspective to how we best perpetuate the Jewish community’s giving footprint is what we owe those who have poured their hearts and lives into our sustenance. 

To the Glassbergs and Lopatas of the world, we give not only our perpetual thanks, but a promise to use our minds, our souls and our personal resources, whatever they may be, to carry our Jewish and St. Louis communal lives forward with all the vibrancy that they so utterly deserve.