Friday, September 25, 2009

Barry Rosenberg Gets It

Barry Rosenberg, the Executive Vice President of Jewish Federation of St. Louis, has a lot on his plate. As the United Way of the Jewish community (which actually predates the UW), Federation has an immense number of organizations to which it allocates funds. particularly now, in a time of economic hardship, Rosenberg's job is not an easy one. That's why it was particularly refreshing to see his his piece in the Toward Thriving blog.

In the piece, published Tuesday, Rosenberg asks the following questions:

What is our destination? What is our vision for the future of St. Louis and American Jewish life? What type of Jewish community will our children and grandchildren inherit?

The questions themselves aren't new, but in his answers, we find evidence of a frame of thought that we find ourselves nodding along to.

Take for example, the following:
A St. Louis region that offers high quality education, economic and recreational opportunities, and poses no barriers to our full participation in society. We cannot thrive unless St. Louis thrives. (emphasis mine)

We need to walk the fine line between a focus on the needs of our community and full participation in community and civic life outside of the Jewish community. If St. Louis, as a city, is not a place where people want to be, then god luck attracting and retaining future generations of Jewish community. As Rosenberg notes, "Our region, experiencing sluggish growth and economic vitality, offers limited attraction to young, single Jews – native or those who arrive for University."

Rosenberg goes even further this with point saying we need:
A critical population mass, sufficient to support a broad array of core institutions and services that meet Jewish needs, enrich Jewish life and offer extensive social opportunities.

As much as I support the vision of regionalism, I still believe that there is a need to see a certain population density to start to see things like walkable/bikeable corridors, viable entertainment and cultural areas, and innovative programs.

In the example of Next Dor, while the location in the Central West End is a pretty great one, will people from Chesterfield make the drive? Will there be a time in which the Jewish community is not based around deep suburbs and instead puts its collective resources toward a more efficient and dense city neighborhood?

Thus, as one of the four areas that require priority attention, Rosenberg names, "Creating a vibrant local Jewish community that will retain and attract young Jewish population to St. Louis."

To address this, Rosenberg suggests:
New strategies, institutions and programs are required to develop a more vibrant and inviting community for young people. Professional internships and mentorships, early career support and professional networking, enhanced social and recreational opportunities, reduced membership fees, expanded social action and cultural programs, increased opportunities to take leadership roles and specialized concierge services should be employed to make St. Louis a preferred community for young Jews. The community must support new styles of informal, grass-roots engagement that many young people prefer.

It is interesting to note that Next Dor has already started moving forward (as have groups like YPD and JGrads) on many of these ideas.

In all, Barry Rosenberg's remarks indicate a cognizance of many of our gripes, and some strong statements in support of the type of cultural shift necessary to ensure a thriving Jewish community.

See the full piece here.

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