Jewish Family Service of St. Paul welcomed new board president Stephen Levin during the June 22 meeting of the JFS Board of Directors. Before becoming president, he served JFS as vice president, treasurer and served on or chaired the IT, programming, finance, and executive committees. Steve succeeds Tom Frishberg who served as president from June 2018 to June 2020.
Steve was born in New York City and raised in Farmingdale, NY, a suburb much like Bloomington or Eden Prairie. During his junior year of high school, he was an exchange student in Sweden, where he learned to speak Swedish. His college career was uninterrupted by the military draft, which used a lottery to pick those called to serve in the Vietnam War. “I drew a very high number,” said Steve. “I still carry that lucky draft card in my wallet.”
Steve earned an MBA in information technology and finance from NYU Stern School of Business, but computers were actually a second career. He started in journalism as an editor for a magazine at McGraw-Hill. Three weeks after returning from his honeymoon with his wife Rita in Spain in 1981, he was laid off and decided to search for a career in the rapidly developing technology industry.
Steve leveraged his degree to build a 27-year career leading IT at banks, investment firms and finally as the Chief Information Officer for University Services at the University of Minnesota. He held this role from 2004 — soon after he and his family moved to Minnesota–until his retirement in 2013.
In retirement, Steve found his way back to his first career choice. After taking writing courses at the Loft in Minneapolis, he started writing a memoir. After 10 years, he says, it’s still a “work in progress.”
Steve’s been an integral part of Mount Zion Temple for many years, serving as secretary, treasurer, vice president and chair of the membership, adult education, Synaplex Congregational Renewal and Engagement Initiative and financial oversight committees. Steve served on the board of directors from 2005 to 2014, and on the executive committee for eight years. He also sang bass in the adult choir for many years.
Steve and Rita enjoy all the Twin Cities have to offer, including classical music, fine art, dance and theater. “The arts are much more affordable here than in New York City,” said Steve. “And the commutes are so much quicker!” When their daughter Elena, 24, was a child, Rita and Steve frequently visited the Minnesota Children’s Museum, the Science Museum of Minnesota and the Minnesota History Center. Steve also attended every soccer and basketball game Elena played in during middle school for Talmud Torah of Saint Paul.
As president, Steve looks forward to furthering JFS’ mission of helping individuals and families build on their strengths to gain the skills and confidence they need to meet life’s challenges with dignity. He also wants to help JFS adapt and thrive in whatever “new normal” emerges from the many health, safety and economic challenges of recent months.
Steve’s conversion from New Yorker to Minnesotan is extensive but may never be 100 percent complete. “While I’m proud to root for the Twins, I will live and die a New York Yankees fan,” said Steve. “Sorry, it’s in the blood.”
Five new directors joined the board including Zoey Alch who also serves on the program committee; Linda Alter who also serves on the development committee; Robin Lackner who chairs the program committee; Stuart Sanders who also serves on the development committee; and Sarah Levine who also serves on the marketing committee.