Unsung Heroes 2015: Tali Stadler

Tali Stadler

By David Baugher, Special to the Jewish Light

For Unsung Hero Tali Stadler, it wasn’t difficult to become a part of Jewish St. Louis.

 “I was always somebody who was very involved so it was easy for me,” said Stadler. “It was very natural.”

It’s also been very rewarding – both for her and the St. Louis community. Today, Stadler is probably best known for her efforts in heading the annual Israeli Memorial Day observance, Yom HaZikaron.

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“That’s my baby,” she said proudly. 

As a native of Rehovot, Israel, and three-year veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces, it is something she takes very seriously. While Memorial Day in the United States often seems dominated more by barbecues, mattress sales and the opening of pools, the Israeli version of the holiday is quite different. Sirens blow across the small nation and citizens stand at attention, even pulling over to get out of their cars on major roads.

“Doesn’t matter where they are. If they are in a street side café or the middle of the highway,” said the 53-year-old. “They have ceremonies in every town in Israel. They have it everywhere.”

That’s followed by the marking of Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day.

“They do it like that so that we will know when we celebrate the day after, that the country wasn’t given to us on a silver platter,” she said.

Bringing a taste of those observances to St. Louis is a big part of how Stadler contributes to the community. As director of the local Yom HaZikaron, she is in charge of the somber event, which features poems, songs and readings in both English and Hebrew and usually attracts around 400.

Sigalit Vardi, who says that Stadler has become her best friend in the decade-and-a-half since Vardi moved here, notes that the event is a moving one.

“It takes a lot of her time and energy and it is a very nice memorial, very respectful and she is deeply dedicated to it,” Vardi said.

But Stadler does far more than just that. In some ways, she is Israel’s unofficial ambassador to St. Louis. She participates in planning for Yom Ha’atzmaut and the Jewish Film Festival each year as well, the latter being a natural outgrowth of her love for both Israel and movies.

“Anything that has to do with Israel interests me,” she said.

That interest also includes helping individuals who relocate from that nation.

“Anyone who comes new to this community, she is the one to welcome them,” said Galia Movitz, a fellow native of Israel who now resides in St. Louis. “Her home is always open to anyone. When new members come into our community, she is there to accommodate them, help them find housing. She is beyond belief.”

It was more than 20 years ago when Stadler herself was the new arrival, coming here with her husband due to his work at Amdocs, a global telecommunications company.

“In beginning to meet people from the community, we started getting involved in all these committees because we had a lot to offer since we had that connection to Israel,” Stadler said.

Now, she helps others to get acclimated to the area, offering advice and a friendly ear to those who come to town. 

“I have so many people who call me even from Israel to ask me about St. Louis,” she said.

Not only that, Stadler has created a piece of her old home in her new one. She was instrumental in the formation of the Israeli House in St. Louis, a point of contact for those who have come from the Jewish State. It is based off an idea by a former First Lady of Israel Ofira Navon, who hoped to see such facilities established in cities worldwide.

“She thought this was something important for Israelis – to have a place they could go home when they are away from home,” said Stadler.

Now housed at Congregation B’nai Amoona, the Israeli House was originally established at Temple Israel where it began a mini-Israeli film festival that is still hosted there. It is just one of the ways that Stadler has helped transport a bit of the Mideast to the Midwest.

“She is enthused, caring and puts unlimited hours in bringing the culture of Israel into our community,” said Movitz. “She is always there when asked.”

Vardi agrees noting that Stadler’s dedication is just a part of who she is.

“She’s a very friendly person with a very warm personality,” said Vardi. “She loves and accepts everyone as they are.”

She added that her friend is deeply deserving of the Unsung Hero honor.

“She is just a wonderful human being with a very optimistic outlook on life,” Vardi said. “She deserves to be recognized for what she is doing.”