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I believe that it is vitally important to support our local Jewish community in the Twin Cities and the St. Paul Jewish Federation generally. Having spent most of my life in the Los Angeles area, with a population of about 600,000 Jews, I've been astonished by the vitality, diversity, and sheer energy of the comparatively smaller Jewish community here. To use a boxing metaphor, the Jews of the Twin Cities definitely "punch above their weight class!"
My wife Judith and I, along with our children Elior (11) and Na'amah (7) moved to Mendota Heights about a year and a half ago when I accepted the position of senior rabbi at Beth Jacob Congregation. Since arriving, I've become aware of how deeply connected our shul is to Jewish life in the Twin Cities, especially St. Paul. Our congregants are involved in countless charitable, social, cultural, and political organizations in the area, and often see that involvement as inextricably tied to their Jewish identities.
My Dear Friends,
It is with mixed emotions that I write this letter. For those who don’t already know, I have decided to retire from the St. Paul Jewish Federation effective Dec. 31, 2021.
Almost 24 years ago, Sam Asher hired me to be the volunteer coordinator for the St. Paul JCC, Jewish Family Service of St. Paul and the Federation. Six months later, I became the women’s division director, maintaining that position for 21 years.
Times changed and many Federations around the country including ours went to one campaign, one gift, one household. At that time, I became the associate development director, and I have maintained that position to date.
I don’t mean why are we all here together tonight on yet another Zoom call. But why are we here as participants in a Jewish community?
I suggest it’s because our project, the essence of what we do, starts with seeing each person as created in the divine image. Because we believe this, it shapes everything we do. It sparks our commitment to chai, to life itself.
Sara Rice remembers nervously walking into her first Harry Kay Leadership Institute (HKLI) meeting. Just 30 minutes later, she said to herself, “I just found 39 new friends.” Sara quickly recognized that she and her peers shared similar values and wanted to work for the community’s betterment. “The program gave me a good sense of what the Jewish ecosystem in the Twin Cities looks like and how vibrant our Jewish community really is,” she said.
Sara is part of Cohort 10 of HKLI, the two-year program for developing and training Jewish leaders. Sponsored by the St. Paul and Minneapolis Jewish Federations and the Harry Kay Foundation, HKLI has trained 350 participants, many of whom now serve in leadership positions across the Jewish community.
Tishri 5782/September 2021
Dear Fellow St. Paulites,
I want to take this opportunity to wish you all a Shana Tova, a good and healthy and fully vaccinated year. I hope the beginning of this new year has been filled with blessings. God-willing, we will be sealed in the Book of Life for yet another year.
In September 1986, shortly after Phyllis and I came to St. Paul to lead Beth Jacob Congregation forward, I received a call from Rabbi Leigh Lerner, then the senior rabbi at Mount Zion. He asked if he could visit with me. Thinking it was about providing hizuk (strength) to a young colleague about to lead his first High Holiday services in a new congregation, I readily said yes. He did provide hizuk, but he also let me know what it meant to be a part of the St. Paul Jewish community.