St. Paul, Minneapolis Federations Forming Joint Council

The Metropolitan Council has a huge job in the Twin Cities as a regional governmental agency and metro area-wide planning organization, but it also has powers that can supersede local government decisions. The soon to be formed Jewish Metropolitan Council will have no such authority to overrule cities, let alone the Federations of Minneapolis or St. Paul.

But the hope of co-chairs Jon Parritz of St. Paul and Howie Milstein of Minneapolis is to help broaden the conversation that the two cities’ Jewish communities have.

“The council isn’t imbued with authority, but it is imbued with the heavy lifting of connecting the dots to create a vision for what one community acts like,” Milstein said. “Let’s start working more dependently.”

The Jewish Federation of Greater St. Paul and the Minneapolis Jewish Federation are seeking community members to serve on the Jewish Metropolitan Council, a body created by Federations to help achieve greater collaboration and cooperation across the Twin Cities Jewish community. The deadline for the applications is Sept. 13. There are 8 positions available – four from each city.

“We want to see people with a track record of engagement,” said Parritz. “This isn’t an entry level position. We’ll ask that people check their agency ties at the door.”

The Jewish Metropolitan Council’s charter was approved by the St. Paul Federation board in February and the Minneapolis in April. The purpose of the council is to, “promote and provide feedback and high-level strategic vision regarding collaboration and greater integration between the Jewish communities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, to be an ambassador for promoting bi-city collaborative initiatives, and to serve as a vehicle to enhance communication” among the Federation boards and communal agencies.

The idea of the Council emanated from the six-person Twin Cities Jewish Community Cooperation Panel, which itself came from St. Paul Federation’s “5 Priorities” — one of which focused on greater cooperation between the Jewish communities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. This group’s charter is different than the 10-person panel that met last year that investigated the idea of having a single CEO as the two organizations were both in the middle of searches for new chief executives.

“The CEO thing overtook the agenda,” Parritz said.

Both communities have hired their CEOs: Rob Jacobs in St. Paul and Jim Cohen in Minneapolis. Although the council’s existence pre-dates both of them, Cohen said he is eager to work with this new group.

“The fact that it was created before Rob and I started, doesn’t change how we’ll go about working with them,” said Jim Cohen, the CEO of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation. “It provides us both with an opportunity to engage lay leaders to bring us closer and do more collaborative work. If it weren’t in existence, I might suggest we create it.”

St. Paul Federation CEO Rob Jacobs said that the suggestions could go beyond the Federations.

“One of the things we’re looking at not just as federations, but as communities and community organizations as well that span river,” he said. “This is about how to enhance collaboration, be more aware, and take better care of the resources we both have. I look at it as an incubator where new ideas can come forward and get support and guidance, and where we don’t have the historical issues that have sometimes held up working together in the best ways possible.”

The council’s charge includes: Enhance the “community” aspect of Jewish life in the Twin Cities; how to enhance the quality of community programming; and how to achieve greater economic efficiency.

“Their goal is to look at ideas that raise interest and see the efficacy of what can be done,” Cohen said. “It’s up to the staff to execute or boards to approve. But, I think it has a large role to play in bringing ideas to the fore that the Feds should explore.”

Said Parritz, “This is about learning the habit of coordination.”

Milstein said that a big part of the council moving forward will be to build trust.

“Hurt feelings are usually the result of not deeply listening,” he said, which of course doesn’t mean that you’ll agree with what the other person is saying, but, “It’s about really hearing what the other people are saying. We want people who can listen well and be in service to others. It’s about us and you, not me.

“The existence of the council is a message: What can we do to foster deeper connections?”

Nominations will be received until midnight, Sept. 13, 2017. Online nominations accepted.

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About Lonny Goldsmith

Lonny Goldsmith is the editor of TC Jewfolk and Director of Communications for Jewfolk Media. He's an award-winning journalist who is involved in his third Jewish community after growing up in Michigan and spending a three-year stint in Chicago. He likes to write, cook and drink really good beer. He can be reached at [email protected] or on twitter @lonny_goldsmith

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