Maharat Rori Picker Neiss serves as the Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of St Louis. Prior to that she was the Director of Programming, Education and Community Engagement at Bais Abraham Congregation, a Modern Orthodox Jewish synagogue in University City, MO. She is one of the first graduates of Yeshivat Maharat, a pioneering institution training Orthodox Jewish women to be spiritual leaders and halakhic (Jewish legal) authorities. She previously served as Acting Executive Director for Religions for Peace-USA, Program Coordinator for the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, Assistant Director of Interreligious Affairs for the American Jewish Committee, and Secretariat for the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations, the formal Jewish representative in international, interreligious dialogue. Rori is the co-chair of the North American Interfaith Youth Network of Religions for Peace, a CLAL Rabbis Without Borders fellow, and co-editor of "InterActive Faith: The Essential Interreligious Community-Building Handbook." She is married to Russel Neiss, a Software Engineer for Sefaria, and they have three wonderful children.
Cheryl Adelstein serves as the Deputy Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council. She has more than 30 years of community relations experience in the St. Louis region, including serving as the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Community Relations and Local Government Affairs at Washington University in St. Louis and as the Executive Director of Central Reform Congregation. In addition, she is the former board Chair of Cultural Leadership, and currently serves as the chair of the Cultural Leadership Advisory Council. Cheryl’s role at the JCRC includes government relations, mobilizing the Jewish community to advocate on issues such as racial equity, immigration and criminal justice reform, and supporting Israel education efforts.
Cheryl received her B.A. from American University in International Studies and her Master of Government Administration from the University of Pennsylvania.
Cheryl is a native St. Louisan and resides in the Benton Park neighborhood of South St. Louis with her husband Daniel Davison. They have two adult daughters.
Alyssa Banford is the Director of Civic Engagement for the JCRC in St. Louis. Among many education and service events she organizes, her largest programs are the Jewish and Muslim Day of Community Service, the Jewish Coalition for New Americans Day Camp at the International Institute, and the Jewish Coalition for Racial Equity’s Virtual Conference.
She graduated from Washington University with a Bachelor of Science in Communications and Public Relations, and is currently pursuing a Masters in International Relations from Harvard University. Before her transition to the non-profit world, she began her career in 2007 working in Fortune 500 advertising and marketing, then co-founded a startup called SYNEK out of CiC's 4240 building.
She is a trained liaison with Faith and For the Sake of All initiative designed to educate the St. Louis community about racial inequity and serves as Welcoming Chair for the St. Louis JPro Board. She also is a 2019 New Israel Fund Global Activism Fellow focused on understanding social and political issues in Israel, a 2019 Bend the Arc Jeremiah Fellow focused on a national immigration reform campaign, a 2020 Marian Bland Langdon Cohort of the LEAP (Leaders in Equity, Antiracism, and Parity) Institute Fellow, and a former Member of the Board at Central Reform Congregation.
In her free time, she loves to backpack with her partner and pup, ski in the Rockies, practice meditation and yoga, and travel to learn about this wonderfully diverse world.
Lauren Abraham is the new Director of the Student to Student program in St. Louis. Lauren looks forward to continuing the legacy of Fawn Chapel and helping this program remain a St. Louis staple for our Jewish community. Lauren sees the Jewish high school students that come together from all three branches of Judaism as the torch lighters to combat anti-semitism and share the Jewish narrative with students everywhere in order to improve so many aspects of our world today.
Lauren is a life long Jewish educator with eight years of experience as a Day School leader in New York City at the Rodeph Sholom School, and most recently Lauren was the Education and Engagement Coordinator at the Jewish Federation of San Antonio for six years. During this time she grew the PJ Library program, the Partnership2gether program with the Western Galilee in Israel, and helped engage the Jewish community with new initiatives and energy and spirit. Lauren is originally from Dallas, Texas and earned her Master's at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles. She was also a passionate camper and staff member at Camp Sabra on the Lake of the Ozarks for many summers!
Lauren moved to St. Louis with her husband, Rabbi Jeffrey Abraham (Associate Rabbi at Congregation Bnai Amoona), and their three children, Benny, Henry and Joey who are students at the Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community Day School, and the Linda Rotskoff ECC at B'nai Amoona. They have all added the St. Louis Blues and Cardinals to their list of favorite sports teams, including Lauren's passions, the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Longhorns.
Jennifer Swanson, the Director of Operations, thrives in organizations when she can utilize her appreciation of data and numbers in conjunction with words and relationships. She is happy to work alongside “the few but fierce” team at JCRC who are working passionately to create a more just, equitable, and pluralistic community.
Jennifer is passionate about public health care, museums, libraries, and education. She is not afraid to ask you to donate to one or more of her favorite non-profit organizations and believes every gift can make an impact.
Connie Flachs is the Marketing Associate at JCRC and will be responsible for communicating all the important work JCRC does to the public. She brings with her an array of experience from non-profit work in the arts, food justice, and her own organization the Better Body Image Conference. Prior to joining JCRC, Connie spent two years in Knoxville, Tennessee as an Americorps member. Connie recently moved to St. Louis to pursue her Master's of Social Work at Washington University. She looks forward to bicycling through new greenways, tasting all the delicious food St. Louis has to offer, and getting to know this city's Jewish community!