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On Sunday, April 28, Federation held the “Thrive LIVE!” gala, thanking donors and celebrating the community, with entertainment by Jason Alexander (from Seinfeld).

The event also marked the retirement of my predecessor, Barry Rosenberg. Barry devoted 35 years in service to the principles and values of Jewish life, first in Northern New Jersey and, for the last 20 years, as the chief executive of our own Federation. His leadership has been instrumental in building an inspiring, caring and united Jewish community.

The gala was co-chaired by the Newmark family: Barbara and Michael, Kara and Bob, and Jenifer and John. They have been – and will continue to be – stewards of this community.  I am so grateful for their continued engagement and execution of such a meaningful event.

Thrive LIVE! brought me a deep sense of pride in our community – and Federation. For more than 112 years, Federation has met the basic needs of the Jewish community here and abroad. That support has made it possible for our community’s agencies to meet the needs of those in crisis, and to ensure that the institutions upon which our tradition relies remain strong and vibrant for years to come.  We support a range of community services here in St. Louis where most of our funds are allocated, along with food programs for the poor in the former Soviet Union, and immigration assistance to new Ethiopian immigrants in Israel, to name just a few.

Our success is due to the recognition that each of us shares a collective responsibility for the needs of all.  We are a community bound by a distinctive fate, shared history and culture that shapes and inspires us to act when any of our members suffer. It is this recognition of our communal responsibility that has made Federation an essential institution and a successful model of philanthropy.

But our obligations as Jews are not limited to our own, and many of our services extend to anyone in need. When we give to Federation, we thus meet our obligations to our own community and publicly express our Jewish values of service to our neighbors. In this way Federation allows us to give to Jews as Jews, and as Jews to all.

When Federation started in 1901, the world was a different place.  Today, core features of Jewish identity and community can no longer be taken for granted, and we must change the way we approach our work and our role in the region. Federation recognizes that in order to continue to meet our needs we must invest in inspiring our next generation to engage, lead and serve – to find a place for themselves here in St. Louis and in the story of the Jewish people.  For it is through building community that we will continue to thrive together.