Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Living Jews: Jake Zimmerman Part 2

So when we last left Representative Zimmerman, ahem, Jake, he was just returning to St. Louis following a stint at Harvard Law and some time in DC. So what was it that brought him back to St. Louis? And what was it that brought him to politics?

Well, in his own words, "I think Tikun Olam plays in heavily, and a healthy sense of outrage at injustice."

More than that though, it "comes from having an outspoken Jewish mother who didn't listen to the radio idly!"

So how has being a Jew in St. Louis affected Jake's political life?

"The STL Jewish community was part of what made me a strong candidate initially. There are a lot of parental feelings there. People want young Jews like us to succeed."

When we asked how he has been received in Jefferson City, Jake responded, davka, that "being Jewish helps connect across the aisle too, as there is a lot of respect in the evangelical community towards Jews and Israel."

He went further to explain that, "you can either be uncomfortable with people who don't look like you, or you can use that as a lantern post to start dialogue."

Since there are not many Jews in Jeff City, Jake does feel that he represents 'Jews' to some degree, which leads to the need to be careful in some situations.

What does it mean to be a Jew in St. Louis that it might not mean somewhere else?

Jake believes that the Jewish community in St. Louis is a microcosm of the larger St. Louis community, sometimes too inward looking, with a big emphasis on who you know. It is about either accepting the way things have always been or figuring out how to bust those boundaries. -We agree.

What does STL need as a community?

The town needs more than anything, a broader and more regional focus on economic development, city, county, exurbs, St. Charles County and IL. Far suburbs can't thrive without thriving core.

The turn of the century Jewish community was in North St. Louis, what are now theprojects, then they moved to U City, then moved to Olivette, Creve Coeur, then all the way to Chesterfield in 70s 80s and 90s. Now younger Jews are moving back to University city, want to be closer to the action. Also more moving into CWE, South City (Fo Chouteau, what what!) and Soulard.

The migratory patterns in the Jewish community represents the greater St. Louis patterns as people are starting to recognize that we are all in this together.

MO runs a real risk of turning into a place that the rest of the country sees as a backwater. With every year that we don't put the stem cell research thing to bed, or make people believe that they might go to jail for scientific research, the more that immigration passes us by. As Jews, historically immigrants, who value education, we have a moral obligation to speak up for this.

The question is can we attract the best and the brightest, can we hold onto graduating Wash U talent?

So it's clear that Jake has a lot of ideas as to what St. Louis needs by way of revitalization. But what about what's already here? For the dish on bars, food, and Jeff Smith (!?!) check back for Part 3!

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