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A vision for the Light's path forward

This commentary is an excerpt of newly-installed Jewish Light Board President Laura K. Silver's remarks at the newspaper's recent Annual Meeting and Board Installation.

I’m not somebody who normally likes to be in the spotlight. I’m more of a behind-the-scenes person, but the vision that I have for the role that this publication can play for our community is so strong, that I am compelled to put my own personal discomfort aside and do whatever it takes to help us get there.

In only three short years, I will be sending my kids away to college. My hope is that at some point they will want to come back here to live, but in order for that to happen, St. Louis has to feel like the best option for them. It will undoubtedly compete with places like New York, Boston, Chicago and the entire west coast, just to name a few. While my family has lived here for four generations on both sides, and I have repeated the mantra that we all know— that this is a great city in which to raise a family—we, as a community, need to emphasize our vibrant, energetic young adults if we want to draw our own kids back to this city and encourage new young people to come live here, so that we can see the St. Louis Jewish community thrive for the long term. 

Look around this room: We are surrounded by a dynamic group of people, even right here, right now. What I want, more than anything, is for our community to know that and for others to see it. St. Louis is a big enough community so that you can look around your synagogue during the High Holy Days and not know the person sitting right next to you, but it is small enough so that you are most likely only a mere one or two degrees of separation apart. With a community this ideal size and with the new ability to reach the entire community in a way that has never been done before, to me, there is no better place to make these connections happen than through the St. Louis Jewish Light

Because what is it that we all want from a community? It is a sense of belonging, a sense that we are connected, a sense that we matter. I want this publication to be the very soul of our community—a resource that focuses on us, highlights our people, and creates events for our community that unite us in a way we have not yet seen.

For more than 70 years, this publication has been the go-to source for Jewish-related news for the St. Louis area, but over the past 10 to 20 years, news delivery has drastically changed. Gone are the days when you had to wait until Thursdays or Fridays to get your Jewish news. We are surrounded by news, all news, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and with the advent of social media, we now get the news of our friends and acquaintances at our fingertips as well. And when there is change of this magnitude, we need to adapt to it or eventually we will cease to exist. We need to recognize that the paradigm has shifted and is not going back, embrace it and shift with it.

If we are going to be relevant to our current and next generation of readers, we need to rebrand and reposition ourselves as the all-encompassing connector for our community, and we have to follow the lead of what other organizations such as Birthright Israel, the Rubin Israel Experience, summer camps and youth groups have figured out when it comes to engaging our young people—that the best results happen when you intentionally blur the lines between cultivating Jewish identity and having fun.

In order to do this, we need you, our community, to help us. Yes, we need your financial contributions, but we also need all of you to serve as ambassadors for the Light, to be our eyes and ears, to lead us to the vibrant and remarkable people we have living within our very midst. We have a small staff at the Light, but they are eager to know what is happening in our community and showcase it for all of us to see. 

While we are at it, we need more of your simchas. Our community, not just your Facebook friends, wants to hear about your births, your bar and bat mitzvahs, your weddings, your special anniversaries, your successes. Let us put them online and in our publication so that we can all celebrate together, along with you. 

How will we measure success? We, as a board, will know that we have set this publication down the right path, when you receive the Lightin your mailbox or inbox and you can’t wait to open it, when you read it on the way back to your house from the mailbox because you want to see whom you know inside. We will know when young adults read this publication, not because they think they should, but because they feel a sense of connection when they open up their email or go to our website. And we, as a board, will not stop until we get there.

Yes, we live in a changing world, but it is a world that in one way remains fundamentally the same—we all want to matter—and at the St. Louis Jewish Light, our new primary focus is to make sure that you do.