The Jewish Student Union of St. Louis (JSU) seeks to combat assimilation at its root by making Judaism “cool and relevant” to the largest, fastest growing, and most difficult to find and reach population of Jewish teenagers – the unaffiliated and under engaged. To achieve this goal, JSU facilitates bi-weekly club meetings in public schools. By bringing JSU to the teens in their own school environments, JSU has access to thousands of teens, over 75% of who are unaffiliated and under-engaged Jewishly. Despite the continued growth of this critical demographic, these teens were virtually invisible to and beyond the reach of the Jewish community prior to the advent of JSU.
JSU of St. Louis began in the Spring of 2003 with a pilot program at Ladue High School, which served an average of 15 students per week. Today JSU boasts clubs in 7 school and a weekly Jewish Book Club servicing 600+. JSU has reinvented the way that unaffiliated Jewish teens can be reached and engaged to interact with other Jews and build their own Jewish identities. JSU has truly become the portal for these teens into the broader Jewish community and is the key to stemming the tide of assimilation and Jewish apathy amongst the greatest resource of our people, our teenagers.
Through fun, creative and informal educational programming JSU develops within these teens a sense of Jewish identity, relationship to the State of Israel and a connection to the broader Jewish community. Upon graduation, JSU assists their smooth transition into Jewishly active college life via our partnerships with Hillel, Maimonides, and other similar Jewish student groups on campus.
By providing Jewish teens attending public schools the opportunity to view and engage their Judaic heritage through a prism of modernity and relevance, they are inspired to become more engaged Jewishly by introducing them to the myriad of Jewish teen organizations and Jewish involvement opportunities available within the St. Louis Jewish community. By bringing in speakers and promoting other community activities, JSU facilitates their initial involvement to teen programming within our community through BBYO, NCSY, JCC, USY, NFTY and others. Furthermore, as a result of JSU involvement, they are much more likely to take an active role in college campus life, the broader Jewish community when they graduate, and ultimately marry Jewish.