The Student to Student program, founded 30 years ago by the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis, is going national. It will be headquartered in St. Louis, under the auspices of a new nonprofit, Student to Student Inc. In 1992, Student to Student was launched with roughly six student presenters and a handful of schools. Today, Student to Student in St. Louis involves roughly 120 Jewish area teens and reaches at least 4,000 non-Jewish teens each year in over 100 classrooms. From 2017 to 2020, Student to Student was able to expand to nine cities, operating through their local federation and/or JCRC.
Rabbi Seth D. Gordon of Traditional Congregation shares his perspective on the latest JCRC Council Meeting and offers thoughts on tolerance, diversity, and divisiveness.
The Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis, along with the Mirowitz Center, are honoring Martin Luther King Day 2022, with a special program featuring Missouri State Senator Brian Williams, who is the Assistant Minority Floor Leader. “The ugly truth is: There is still racism in society,” said Robert Arbuthnot, Sen. Williams’ chief of staff. “There is still discrimination against people based on their race, faith, and orientation. And that means there are still things we must do to help bend our moral arc toward justice.” This program is co-sponsored with the Michael and Barbara Newmark Institute for Human Relations at the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis (JCRC).
Two local Jewish organizations, MaTovu and the St. Louis chapter of J Street, were approved for full membership in the council of the Jewish Community Relations Council, in a meeting via Zoom Monday evening. MaTovu, which tends to attract 20 and 30-something Jews, is an organization based in south St. Louis that sponsors a variety of social, cultural, and educational programs designed to enrich connections to Judaism. J Street St. Louis describes itself as “pro-Israel, pro-peace and supportive of a two-state solution of the Jewish state of Israel and an independent de-militarized Arab state of Palestine.”
If voters approve Proposition (Prop) R in April next year, it will immediately improve ethics at the Board of Aldermen by prohibiting alder persons from taking official action on legislation when they have a personal or financial conflict of interest, according to a Show Me Integrity press release. Over time, Prop R proposes to change the city’s redistricting process by 2031 and to require financial and ethical disclosures. “The outcome will allow the St. Louis community to have a better participation practice in how their government works, specifically talking about the redistricting element of this legislation, and also make sure that the members of the Board of Aldermen with these conflicts of interest policies seek to serve their community first," Jami Cox added. "That's why I think Prop R would make St. Louis a more community-oriented city."
Organizations that have endorsed Prop R include the League of Women Voters of Metro St. Louis, Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice, St. Louis Association of Community Organizations, Missouri Faith Voices, Missouri Health Care for All, Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis, RepresentUs, MaTovu, and Serve America Movement.
“As we approach the end of 2021, the International Institute has settled an enormous number of new arrivals,” wrote Alyssa Banford, JCRC, Director of Civic Engagement and Stan Shanker, Chair of the Jewish Coalition for New Americans in a recent email to supporters. “Unfortunately, they have had to rely on temporary housing in hotels more than they anticipated due to the housing market.”
The Jewish Coalition for New Americans is hosting a meeting Friday, December 17th at noon to share some information, but mostly to answer questions or concerns about how the members of the St. Louis Jewish community and congregations can get involved in supporting our new neighbors.
Maharat Rori Picker Neiss, Executive Director of the JCRC concluded, “The Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis is honored to count ourselves among the organizers of the effort to bring this remarkable exhibit to St. Louis. It is essential that we learn from & honor the history & struggles of all peoples & especially the LGBTQ+ community. As we see from the work of displaying the exhibit, these struggles are far from over & we all have a part to play in building a brighter, more welcoming future for all people.”
“Making History: Kansas City & the Rise of Gay Rights” was the LGBTQ history exhibit that was pulled from Missouri Capitol after just four days following complaints last September.
A menorah lighting on Dec. 2 celebrated both the fourth night of Hanukkah and called attention to the presence of antisemitism. The St. Louis Jewish community brought together faith leaders and state elected officials to speak out against hate during “Shine A Light on Antisemitism” at the Jewish Federation.
The threat of hate and violence is especially significant among Jews, said Maharat Rori Picker Neiss, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis during her opening remarks.
A traveling LGBTQ history exhibit will be available in St. Louis through early 2022 after its controversial removal from the Missouri Capitol in September.
Numerous businesses, individuals, and organizations banded together to support its display in the St. Louis community, including the Missouri Historical Society, the St. Louis LGBT History Project, and the St. Louis Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC).
“It is essential that we learn from and honor the history and struggles of all peoples, and especially the LGBTQ+ community,” JCRC Executive Director Maharat Rori Picker Neiss said. “As we see from the work of displaying the exhibit, these struggles are far from over, and we all have a part to play in building a brighter, more welcoming future for all people.”
Nearly three months after being removed from the Missouri Capitol by Gov. Mike Parson’s administration, an exhibit on the history of the LGTBQ movement will now be on display in several St. Louis locations. JCRC is part of a coalition of organizations that made this possible.
Called “Making History: Kansas City and the Rise of Gay Rights,” the exhibit documents the early days of LGBTQ activism in the state. It consists of banners, curated by University of Missouri-Kansas City history students, recounting the activism of the city’s LGBTQ community.
A new traveling exhibit about the struggles of the LGBTQ community in Missouri has opening in St. Louis, after it was controversially removed from the state's Capitol building two months ago.
"What a morning," says Rori Picker Neiss via Twitter. "Business, civic, and faith communities came together with vision from @charliekmox to bring @UMKCLibraries exhibit to St. Louis, starting at @CortexSTL and with interactive St Louis interactive exhibit courtesy of @mohistorymuseum. Check it out and be inspired."
An LGBTQ history exhibit that was removed from the Missouri Capitol this year after drawing complaints has opened in St. Louis. Cheryl Adelstein, deputy director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis, said a copy of the exhibit was opening in St. Louis.
Five local Jewish organizations are joining with a coalition of more than 60 North American Jewish and non-Jewish organizations and corporations to launch Shine A Light, an effort that works to illuminate the dangers of antisemitism through education, community partnerships, workplace engagement and advocacy.
Co-sponsors of the effort locally are:
Jewish Federation of St. Louis | Jewish Community Relations Council |Anti-Defamation League’s Heartland chapter | American Jewish Committee-St. Louis chapter | National Council of Jewish Women-St. Louis
The groups are asking community members to join in the campaign by posting pictures of themselves with a candle or flashlight on their social media during Hanukkah, Nov. 28 to Dec. 6, and using the hashtag #ShineALight.
Jewish Federation of St. Louis, as well as several Jewish and interfaith organizations, reacted with promises to combat hate and antisemitism in the wake of the news that a St. Louis man threatened to blow up Central Reform Congregation. Rori Picker Neiss, executive director of the JCRC, said in an email that her organization had received many phone calls, emails, and texts Thursday from local interfaith and intergroup partners asking what they can do to support the St. Louis Jewish community. “It is heartening to see so much support amidst a scary time,” she said.
Critics of the Board of Aldermen’s ward redistricting process and its most prominent supporter, Aldermanic President Lewis Reed, squared off in separate news conferences at City Hall on Wednesday. JCRC was among the speakers calling for greater transparency in the redistricting process. Other speakers included representatives of the League of Women Voters of Metro St. Louis, Forward through Ferguson, the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, the Missouri Asian American Youth Foundation, the Greater Fairfax Missionary Baptist Church, and the Hispanic Leaders Group of Greater St. Louis.
Maharat Rori Picker Neiss serves on the St. Louis Public Health Department's interfaith advisory board. Initially, the goal of the advisory board was to enlist the help of trusted members of the community to assist in addressing health inequities and to be champions of public health. In 2021, the advisory board turned its focus to encouraging underserved and vaccine-hesitant minority communities to get vaccinated.
JCRC joins with 9 other Jewish organizations in St. Louis to advocate for the Freedom to Vote and Voting Rights Advancement Acts, up for debate on Oct. 20 in the U.S. Senate. Whatever our skin color, ZIP code or religion, in America we share the fundamental right of freedom – the freedom to have a say in decisions that impact our lives, from curbing the pandemic to creating jobs to making health care affordable...Just as we have fought throughout our history for our freedom to vote, we must come together now to ensure all Americans are able to cast our vote and have it counted. For democracy to work for all of us, it must include us all.
The Jewish Community Relations Council, in partnership with the Jewish Federation of St. Louis’ Israel Center, is proud to present the Invest in Peace Series, which will provide monthly virtual programs that highlight organizations or initiatives within Israel working to build peace, cooperation, and shared society. The first program will take place on Tuesday, October 19, 2021, from noon to 1 p.m and will focus on Givat Haviva International School (GHIS) based in Northern Israel.
Maharat Rori Picker Neiss joins other St. Louis community and faith leaders to offer words of condolence and healing at a special public memorial concert and lantern lighting ceremony to honor the nearly three thousand St. Louisans lost to COVID-19 in Great St. Louis. Forest Park, Saturday, October 2 at 7-9:30 pm. Open to all.
Arts & Faith St. Louis is preparing to stream their 10thanniversary Interfaith Concert on Sunday, Sept. 12, at 4 p.m., on HEC-TV and the Arts & Faith YouTube channel and website, among other channels.
The Michael and Barbara Newmark Institute for Human Relations at Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis is a proud partner of Arts & Faith St. Louis.
Visit https://interfaithstl.org/calendar/2021-arts-and-faith-concert/ for more information.
“The goal is to build a harmonious St. Louis, to use the arts to bring the faith community and the wider community together, to bridge divides,” said Paul Reuter, Executive Director of Arts & Faith St. Louis.
Democratic St. Louis County Executive Sam Page and several Jewish leaders on Monday criticized comments at recent County Council meetings that compared mask mandates to the Holocaust... "There is rhetoric that is minimizing the atrocities against the Jewish community to make a political point," said Picker Niess.
Staffers for Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) met for the first time on Tuesday with leaders from St. Louis’s Jewish federation and Jewish Community Relations Council and the local chapters of the National Council of Jewish Women and American Jewish Committee.
“I don't qualify under the health exemption by Missouri's definition, and yet at the same time, I still believe that for me to go into a crowded polling place would be to put myself or to put others at risk unnecessarily,” said Rori Picker Niess, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of St Louis. Instead this year, Jewish voters can instead cite "religious beliefs or practice" as an absentee excuse.
The big difference at two presentations earlier this month, as with most things these days, was that the students were socially distanced. Some Catholic school students were in the classroom. Others were at home on Zoom. And the Jewish students were all answering questions from home or empty classrooms at their schools.
“Of course the Jewish world has internal fissures, but we feel that there is more that unites us than divides us, and so we thought that it would be good for us to... model collegiality, to model the ability to hear differences,” said Rabbi Carnie Rose of B’nai Amoona. The four leaders had been working to convene such a panel for a long time, they said, but were finally able to make it happen in a virtual setting. Hundreds of people tuned in to the first two sessions on Tuesdays
At the Jewish Community Relations Council, we believe that providing access to affordable, high-quality healthcare is critically important for the well-being of all Missourians. To that end, we are committed to supporting full implementation of Medicaid expansion in Missouri.
...I’ll be able to fill out my ballot... and not have to bother with the hassle of a notary, or stand in line among the masked and unmasked on election day. It provides me a bit of comfort amid the coronavirus pandemic. That comfort comes as the result of months of lobbying and public awareness by groups like the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis...
Another election is just around the corner but the coronavirus has some looking for alternative ways to vote. Over the next week and a half, notaries will be volunteering at 11 different St. Louis City and St. Louis County libraries to help folks with absentee voting.
Recent state law expanded absentee and mail in voting options for this year, however some absentee and all mail-in ballots must be notarized. The JCRC, NCJWSTL, and other local organizations have partnered with the Missouri Voter Protection Coalition to actively recruit notaries public and station them at public libraries around the region leading up to the August 4th ballot submission deadline.
It has now been over a week of protests, propelled by the unconscionable death of George Floyd but motivated by the deeply entrenched and systemic racism that permeates our society at every level. Our hearts break at the stories that underlie the suffering, at the history and the present experienced by our ancestors, family members, friends, neighbors and even ourselves personally.
We are eager to respond. We want to fix the brokenness.
As protests continue across the United States, we are witnessing at the forefront, a conversation about what the Jewish community relations field has long understood to exist under the surface: systemic racism underlies and permeates our societal structures.
To practice our faith, and live as Americans, we need to observe both the religious command to protect lives and the civic command to vote.
Religious belief has long impacted who Americans choose to support on Election Day, but if a growing group of Missouri Jewish leaders and other clergy have their way, religion may change how millions in the state cast their ballots this November — ideally in ways that limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.
After Gov. Mike Parson says the issue is a partisan one, Jewish leaders across the spectrum of observance say that voting in person during a pandemic violates Torah law.
If you’re in Missouri, now you can claim a religious requirement to vote absentee. A letter organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council and signed by 32 rabbis, three cantors, and Maharat Rori Picker Neiss, the council’s executive director, says that during times of danger, “it is a deeply-held religious belief” to stay at home, even on Election Day.
The afternoon in Vienna, Va., marked the 25th time this school year that Jewish students walked into Washington-area classrooms, gymnasiums or auditoriums — during or after class — to spend an hour explaining their faith to non-Jewish peers. The visits take place through Student to Student, an adaptation of a decades-old Missouri program that the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Washington brought to the District last school year in a bid to combat a massive spike in anti-Semitic bullying.
The Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis recently received a national award for its summer day camp for refugee children at the International Institute of St. Louis. The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) recognized JCRC with its Program Excellence Award at JCPA’s recent national conference.
It is easy to stand on the outside and find fault. It is far more difficult to sit down at the table, roll up one’s sleeves, and work together for change. Organizations like the JCRC are grounded in a consensus decision-making process. Our policy and positions are determined by those who show up.
Started by a small group of Jewish and Muslim friends who came together informally to help relieve Christian volunteers on Christmas Eve, the Day of Service has grown to include more than 1,000 people of all faiths each year working on projects benefiting at least a dozen charities throughout the St. Louis area. It’s now one of the largest Christmas interfaith events in the country, co-chair Sophie Malik said.
Congregation B’nai Amoona, Interfaith Partnership and the Jewish Community Relations Council are partnering to hold “An Interfaith Torah For Today Series,” facilitated by Rabbi Neal Rose and held at B’nai Amoona.
"[Rori] Picker Neiss is the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis. She and two other members of the council traveled to the Arizona-Mexico border last week. They were accompanied by 22 other Jewish leaders and volunteers from across the nation on a trip organized by the Jewish Council of Public Affairs."
KMOV 4 News - “Whenever event like this take place in the world … whenever there's a person who wants to declare for a group of people there's no place for them in the world and they don't accept them in any way, there's so many of us that want to stand together with a louder voice and say 'that's not true,” said Rori Picker Neiss with the Jewish Community Relations Council.
Fox 2 News - “Hundreds of people came out today on a Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. to say to you that you are not alone we are with you and we love you,” said Rori Picker Neiss, the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council.
Anti-Semitism kills. Racism kills. Islamophobia kills. Homophobia kills. Bigotry kills.
Each of these forms of bias uproots lives, devastates families, and destroys dreams. They kill violently and they kill painfully. Most shockingly of all, they kill indiscriminately.
As a Jewish community, we fight anti-Semitism not only to protect ourselves, and not only to protect the very soul of our democratic society, but to protect the lives of every person who lives among us and alongside us, Jew and non-Jew.
About 1,500 people gathered in the gym of the Staenberg Family Center in Creve Coeur to denounce violent acts of hate on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018, at an interfaith vigil at the Jewish Community Center. The event followed Saturday's deadly shooting that killed 11 people at a Pennsylvania synagogue. Speakers from area Muslim, and Christian congregations joined Jewish leaders to liken the acts committed against Jews at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh to other recent attacks on groups singled out for their faith, race, ethnicity, country of origin or political ideology.
Rabbi Josh Bregman, vice president of development at the Missouri Torah Institute, an Orthodox boys high school in Chesterfield, said that he thought the vigil “was an incredible show of solidarity across political lines. There were people from different parties involved, different religions, different sects of the Jewish religion, and I think the solid message was to provide comfort for each other and the resource of a community.”
Ben Sales from JTA covers the Jewish Coalition for New Americans Day Camp at the International Institute.
The Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis and other local faith groups organized a vigil on June 6, 2018, the 79-year-anniversary of when the M.S. St. Louis, a ship carrying refugees fleeing Nazi Germany, was forced to return to Europe after being turned away by the United States and Canada.
Maharat Rori Picker Neiss, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis, discusses the challenges of interreligious community building, as part of Council on Foreign Relations’ Religion and Foreign Policy Conference Call series.
"Gavriela Geller, the Jewish Community Relations Council's senior policy associate, said the young people's futures are being used as bargaining chips in legislative battles on immigration reform. She called for the preservation of immigration laws that make family reunification possible."