2020 Community Service Award Winner Jerry Rothstein

by Margaret Kinney
Diane Gerth becomes passionate when she thinks the character and culture of the West Seventh neighborhood are being threatened. The retired lawyer has been a tireless advocate for our neighborhood since moving here in 1988. It’s one of the many reasons she was recently honored by the Fort Road Federation as a recipient of its 2020 Community Service Award.
Her desire to help maintain West Seventh’s unique urban-pocket livability near downtown St. Paul has manifested itself in numerous community commitments over the years. For instance, after the ethanol plant (now the Schmidt Artist Lofts and Keg and Case Market) opened in 2000, Diane quickly realized, along with many others in the neighborhood, that the surrounding air quality had changed for the worse. She joined the Fort Road Federation board and for the next four years fought for the shutdown of the plant, which finally closed in 2004. “Different members of the board approached the problem in different ways,” she explained. “Because I’m a lawyer, I wasn’t afraid of conflict, sometimes taking a somewhat confrontational role. I was President of the board at that point, so I sometimes utilized my tiny bully pulpit. Being from Chicago may have been useful,” she laughed. “In times of struggling for the betterment of the community, we don’t all have to use the same approach, as long as we share the same ultimate goals, which in that case was breathable air. Since then my style has changed. That ethanol thing was just so bad. It’s easy to say no to an obviously bad thing.”
Diane had more quiet roles during her long service on the Board of Directors of the West Seventh Community Center, from 2007 to 2015, and she now continues serving with its successor, Keystone Community Services, helping to direct essential food and providing services for all, from youth to seniors. Diane has also been a Community Reporter board member since 2017.
From 2008 to 2016, when she served on the City of Saint Paul Capital Improvement Budget Committee, Diane pushed for the rehabilitation of the Palace Community Center. It is now one of the gems on St. Paul’s “Most Livable City” page, offering a fitness center, ice rink, event space and play areas. “I kept pushing for the money to be there,” she said.
While retired from her law practice, Diane remains an advocate for local businesses, pedestrian safety and, “keeping the things we want that make West Seventh desirable.” When she’s not accomplishing committee work, Diane spends her retirement enjoying her neighborhood and home, working in her garden and “raising her girls” in her backyard chicken coop. She says, “One of the things I really love about West Seventh is the number of small businesses, owned by people who know and love this neighborhood. The Riverview Corridor project represents a huge threat to the character of our community. The West End is not just a place to travel through. We live and work and raise our children here. I get excited about West Seventh’s past, and I’m excited about its future.”
by Margaret Kinney
Jerry Rothstein, editor of the Community Reporter for the past 12 years, has been awarded a 2020 Community Service Award by the Fort Road Federation, which honors him for outstanding contributions to the West Seventh Neighborhood.
Looking back at his 12 years at the helm of the Community Reporter, Rothstein sees this achievement as part of a pattern of his life experiences in which he has worked hard, at times endlessly, for various communities, work which has more than once ended with him receiving an award. In the 1990s, Rothstein received a Canadian national medal, when he lived in British Columbia, for his long-time contributions to the development and growth of community hospice. “The Federation prize is valued in my heart as much as the hospice award,” he said.
The Community Reporter celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, a milestone of achievement for this monthly publication, which has never had an endowment or an abundance of funding. “The newspaper still reflects its origins,“ Rothstein proudly says, and he has confidence it will continue to make a difference in the West Seventh neighborhood as long as contributions from writers, advertising and other funders remain.
Rothstein views his editorship as a continuing motif of his life choices, a furthering of “gathering fragments and making a whole,” he says. In his twenties, he was drawn to the Gestalt way of thinking and interacting with his world. He formally studied Gestalt therapy, in which the therapist and client focus on the personal experiences and responsibilities of the client, and explore holistically the client’s mind, body and culture for healing in the present moment. This mindset integrated naturally with his university studies of philosophy, writing, psychology and English. His Gestalt practice remains active, and he applies its principles to all of his work with groups and individuals in his West Seventh community.
Rothstein has tried to make information about our neighborhood compelling and useful, so readers can be informed enough to feel empowered to make a difference. And, in line with Gestalt thinking, we readers have a responsibility to seek out this information and act upon it. “It’s the greatest vehicle for positive social change,” he says.
As for what Rothstein wants to do after he leaves his post as editor in December, he asks himself, “How might I live my life in a way that brings me excitement and growth and brings something to my community?” His answer is to create something, possibly a publication in book form, which will distill everything he has learned about Gestalt and community work. Rothstein has been developing a presence on LinkedIn, inviting other Gestalt people from around the world to create tools for Gestalt living, and requesting perspectives from whomever can contribute. He plans to set a deadline for himself: “At least a year,” he thinks, since, “when I do have a deadline, I always make it, and when I don’t have a deadline, I always miss it.”
Rothstein sees his latest award as a fitting finish to the 12 years he has striven to report to and influence members of the West Seventh neighborhood. He says he’s the same Jerry as always, albeit with a deepened community experience. The social upheavals of the past five months remind him of his days at University of California Berkeley, teaching courses in political philosophy, stressing to his students that they had a responsibility to be involved in their community.
Rothstein has participated in many Community Service award functions, and he is heartened by the numerous congratulatory calls he has received from community members who want to gather with him at the annual Mancini’s award dinner, now rescheduled for September 16. Let’s hope it can safely take place.
The social upheavals of the past five months remind him of his days at University of California Berkeley, teaching courses in political philosophy, stressing to his students that they had a responsibility to be involved in their community.
Rothstein has participated in many Community Service award functions, and he is heartened by the numerous congratulatory calls he has received from community members who want to gather with him at the annual Mancini’s award dinner, now rescheduled for September 16. Let’s hope it can safely take place.
Margaret Kinney is a West 7th visual artist and writer. She serves on the board of the Community Reporter and contributes articles upon occasion.

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