Service is the hallmark of St. Louis Jewish Federation

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

By Andrew Rehfeld

“The Jewish Federation of St. Louis is not a fundraising organization.”

When I first made this statement, it struck a lot of people as a strange thing to say.  

Yes, the Jewish Federation of St. Louis raises as much as $20 million each year, including nearly $10 million in our current annual campaign, “100 Days to Make an Impact.”

But, we are not a fundraising organization.  

Let me explain. 

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Washington University is completing its $2.5 billion “Leading Together” campaign. The St. Louis Art Museum recently raised more than $145 million in a capital campaign. And when you hear the St. Louis Symphony perform, do you even think of the millions of dollars raised each year that allow it to make such beautiful music?

Despite these impressive fundraising results, these institutions are not “fundraising organizations.” Each is raising money to serve its core mission that advances education, culture and the arts.  

That is why the Jewish Federation of St. Louis should not be thought of as a fundraising organization. We raise money only to secure our mission. 

So what is the mission of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, and how do we achieve it? 

The mission of Federation is “to preserve and enhance Jewish life in St. Louis, Israel and around the globe.” We help ensure that every individual in our community can live their life with dignity, meaning and purpose.

Dignity: We help ensure that the most vulnerable have a place to live, food to eat and services to protect them. 

Meaning: We help provide points of access to anyone who wishes to make the Jewish community, learning and our tradition part of a life well lived. 

Purpose: Guided by Jewish values, we inspire and mobilize our community to serve those in need. 

The Jewish Federation of St. Louis achieves this mission in two ways. 

First, since 1901, Federation has operated as a Foundation for Jewish Philanthropy. We invest in agencies, programs and services that support Jewish life. Like any other nonprofit foundation, the Federation’s Foundation for Jewish Philanthropy follows five key steps:

• We assess the needs of our community;

• We plan with community leadership to meet those needs;

• We raise and manage the resources to execute those plans;

• We invest resources in the community to implement our plans; and

• We evaluate the impact of those investments. 

To promote these efforts, we work with individuals to establish donor advised funds and endowments.  We also manage the Kranzberg, Lubin-Green and Staenberg Family foundations, along with the Women’s Auxiliary Foundation.  

Through our Foundation for Jewish Philanthropy, we make careful investments in our local beneficiary agencies such as the Jewish Community Center, Jewish Family & Children’s Service, the Jewish Light and Covenant Place housing for low-income seniors. We also invest in the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and the Jewish Agency for Israel, which ensure the safety and security of Jewish communities in Israel and around the world. With these investments, we also review our impact on all agencies, programs and services in which we invest.  

In addition to serving as a Foundation for Jewish Philanthropy, the St. Louis Jewish Federation has been providing direct services to individuals in our community for more than 30 years. These include operating the following organizations and programs: 

• Holocaust Museum and Learning Center, which has served more than 30,000 visitors each year since 1995.

• The Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC), which since 2004 has provided volunteers to help hundreds of older members of our community age in place with dignity.

• Center for Jewish Learning, home to adult education classes, the Sh’ma! Community Speaker’s Series and the Brodsky Library.

• St. Louis Community Archives, which preserves more than 150 years of St. Louis Jewish community history. 

• Millstone Institute for Jewish Leadership: a training, coaching, cultivation and advisory program started in 2011 to strengthen our diverse nonprofit institutions and leadership. 

• Israel Center, which provides inspiration, support and coordination to individuals and groups seeking meaningful short- and long-term experiences in Israel. 

• The Rubin Israel Experience and the Wexner Heritage Program (sponsored by Pam and Ron Rubin and the Rubin Family Foundation), which is overseen and administered by the Jewish Federation of St. Louis. These transformational programs have educated and inspired scores of individuals over the years. 

• Community Security, in which Federation coordinates security training with national Homeland Security, the FBI and local law enforcement. We have established and maintain the RAVE emergency communications network that provides situational awareness in times of crisis. 

• Community Concierge, which reaches out to new families in St. Louis to connect them with synagogues, schools and other institutions in the Jewish Community.

• PJ Library, a family engagement program that provides free books to everyone 6 months to 9 years old, fostering relationships and discussion on themes and values from our tradition.  

• Jew314, part of our NextGEN initiative to engage millennials, supported by a grant from the Staenberg Family Foundation. Jew314 is the source for information about young adult Jewish happenings in St. Louis.

• Operational support, including marketing and accounting services for our community organizations.  

Believe it or not, this is only a partial list of the direct services the Jewish Federation of St. Louis provides. 

So, I stand by the statement that Federation is not a fundraising organization.   

We are here to “preserve and enhance the Jewish community” by operating a Foundation for Jewish Philanthropy and by providing direct services. Together, we help tens of thousands in St. Louis, Israel and around the globe to live their lives with dignity, meaning and purpose.  

I remain grateful to the thousands of you in our community who are inspired by this work. I hope you will support this mission by joining in our “100 Days to Make an Impact” campaign.  

For more information, go to buildjewishstl.org and watch the videos each week that show our work and hear from our lay leaders and others who can show you what an impact your donation can make to those around you.