Picker Neiss – a nationally-recognized leader in building bridges across communities – joins JCPA at a crucial moment for community relations and coalition building
For Immediate Release:
November 2, 2023
NEW YORK – Today the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), the national convener of Jewish coalitions working to build a just and inclusive American democracy, announced that Maharat Rori Picker Neiss will serve as its new Senior Vice President for Community Relations. For the last eight years, Picker Neiss has served as the Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of St. Louis. In this new role, she will work closely with the 125 JCRCs across the United States, building on her strong track record of building bridges across diverse communities.
During her tenure leading the JCRC of St. Louis, Picker Neiss strengthened relationships with elected officials of both parties, faith leaders, and other community groups in support of the safety and prosperity of the Jewish community and all communities. In her new role, Picker Neiss will lead JCPA’s engagement with JCRCs and key partners across the country, offering support, guidance, and opportunities for advocacy and engagement on JCPA’s priority issues of protecting and advancing democracy and combating hate, discrimination, and extremism.
“I am absolutely thrilled to join the Jewish Council for Public Affairs as the next Senior Vice President for Community Relations, especially at this critical juncture when our work is more essential than ever before,” said Maharat Rori Picker Neiss, incoming Senior Vice President for Community Relations of JCPA. “The challenges and opportunities facing our community demand concerted efforts, and I am eager to collaborate with the dedicated individuals at JCPA and with my unwavering colleagues at JCRCs across the country to address these issues head-on. Together, we will build stronger connections, advocate for important causes, and foster unity within and across our diverse community.”
Picker Neiss joins the senior leadership team at JCPA at a key moment for the organization, which brought on new CEO Amy Spitalnick and new Senior Vice President Karen Elam earlier this year. In particular, JCPA is building out new coalition efforts focused on protecting and advancing democracy and combating hate, discrimination, and extremism.
“Developing and strengthening community relations has never been more urgent,” said Amy Spitalnick, JCPA CEO. “Rori has unparalleled experience building bridges across communities in pursuit of the inclusive democracy we know is critical to the safety of our community and so many others. I’m thrilled for her to join our team and support the incredible community relations field at such a crucial moment.”
While leading the JCRC in St. Louis, Picker Neiss served in a number of leadership roles in community and religious organizations, including the Chair of the Cabinet of Interfaith Partnership of Greater St. Louis, a member of the Board of Arts & Faith STL, a David Hartman Center Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute, a Mandel Fellow for Executive Leadership, Rabbi in Residence at The Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion, and a frequent teacher and lecturer at Greenville University.
Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, CEO of Interfaith Alliance, shared, “Maharat Rori Picker Neiss doesn’t shy away from challenges. She is a proven leader who brings deep personal faith to her work creating diverse coalitions that build community and find common ground. Rori has been a critical partner in our work advocating for LGBTQ+ equality, fighting religious extremism, and supporting democracy. Leveraging her deep local and national interfaith relationships, she gets results by mobilizing local communities and legislative officials.”
Dr. Yehuda Kurtzer, President & Rachel Jacoby Rosenfeld, CEO, Shalom Hartman Institute, added: “We are thrilled for Rori and for the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. We know Rori well as a graduate of the Shalom Hartman Institute’s Rabbinic Leadership Initiative, and admire her unwavering commitment to leading with courage and integrity. She is the kind of visionary leader that we need to meet this moment, who can bridge divides and inspire understanding, within and across communities.”Idit Klein, CEO, Keshet, shared, “Rori possesses an exceptional blend of passion, strategic thinking, and deep understanding of community dynamics. Her unwavering commitment to justice, coupled with her extraordinary ability to build bridges across difference, make her the ideal candidate to navigate the complex landscape of community relations. In a time of unprecedented assaults on LGBTQ+ rights, Rori’s leadership for equality as an expression of Jewish values is an inspiration to Jewish leaders nationwide. I could not be more confident that she will make a profound impact in her new role.” The Rev. Mike Angell, Episcopal Priest and Rector, added, “I have seen Rori build interfaith leadership for justice at both the statewide and national level. She will be a powerful advocate and coalition builder in this new role.”
Dr. Ari Gordon, Director of Muslim-Jewish Relations at the American Jewish Committee, shared, “Maharat Rori is a proven leader in building effective intergroup partnerships across lines of faith and race. AJC looks forward to working together with her in her national role at JCPA as we have done for years through our field office in St. Louis.”
The mission of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) is to strengthen and leverage the Jewish community relations network across the nation to champion a just, democratic, and pluralistic society and advance the right of full inclusion of all members of our society, including Jews, free of discrimination, hate, and prejudice.
Inspired by Jewish values of human dignity and equal justice under the law and an abiding commitment to vibrant and secure Jewish communities here, in Israel, and throughout the world, JCPA convenes and catalyzes its network to work with public officials, build deep relations, and engage in advocacy coalitions based on shared goals.