[Archived from June 5, 2009]
[by Shiela Steinman Wallace]
The Jewish community came together to look to the future and celebrate at the Joint Annual Meeting of the Jewish Community Center and the Jewish Community Federation on Monday, June 29, at the JCC. Many award winners were honored at the meeting, which was also a final celebration of the accomplishments of the two organizations that merged to become the Jewish Community of Louisville (JCL).
The community also heard from Israel’s Consul General from the Philadelphia office, Daniel Kutner.
Reflecting on the Predecessor Organizations
The leaders of the two predecessor organizations, JCC President Marshall Kahn and Federation Vice President Kate Latts on behalf of Federation President Edwin Cohen, led the meeting and made brief presentations.
Kahn devoted most of his remarks to praise of and thanks to the JCC staff and board members “who have helped keep the Center afloat during the difficult times and thanked those who helped make the Center’s ride back onto smoother waters.
“As we move toward a new plan for the Center and the Louisville Jewish Community,” he continued, “let us keep up the momentum to move to a bright future for all of the Jewish agencies of Louisville. I see only great things ahead – and together, we will accomplish those goals.”
Latts read a letter from Cohen, who was unable to attend the meeting. “Change is not always easy;” he wrote, “however, I believe we will all look back with pride at the coming together of our agencies.”
Cohen pointed out with pride that although the merger consumed a great deal of time, the Federation launched several new programs: “The PJ Library, which now includes 359 children, ages 6 and under; Mothers Circle, Shalom Louisville and Shalom Baby.”
He also noted the Federation “sent a mission to Israel, completed a yearlong young leadership program, and our Community Relations Council worked tirelessly to combat anti-Israel propaganda and educate the greater community.”
In light of the economic conditions that are affecting communities and Campaigns across the country, Cohen acknowledged, “We, too, are facing unprecedented decreases and will continue to work every day to share the importance of the Campaign and our gratitude to every donor for his or her commitment.”
Robin K. Stratton, who was JCC executive director and now serves the JCL as vice president and JCC chief operating officer, reported that in the Center’s 119th year, the organization serves “8,000 members and thousands more non-members in significant and meaningful ways,” providing many opportunities for children, adults and seniors from athletics and arts to nutrition and voluntarism, as well as Jewish holiday celebrations and support for Israel.
She highlighted several new JCC programs including a classroom in the preschool for four year olds and year-round early childhood services for children six weeks to five years; and several Jewish family activities.
The center added the Caring and Sharing Jewish curriculum to its year-’round camp programs for children and the Makor program, which offers adults and teens non-traditional ways to experience Jewish learning.
CenterStage, added a Children’s Theatre program to its successful regular production schedule; BBYO experienced a renaissance; and, Stratton reported, “the Senior Adult Department became the sole kosher meal provider for the entire KIPDA region.” (Kentuckiana Regional Planning and Development Agency)
She also pointed out the JCC and Federation worked together on this year’s community-wide Yom HaShoah program at Bellarmine University.
Since the JCC operates on a calendar year budget, Stratton reported, “In 2008, the JCC performed better financially than it has in many years. My professional staff acted in the most financially responsible manner, reducing operating expenses by nearly $300,000 in one year. We fell just $50,000 short of our $4.3 million operation budget” despite the declining economy.
She detailed the JCC’s revenue sources and the help the Center provided to families who have been affected by the economy.
Stratton praised her entire staff and singled out “Eloise Stemmle, who just celebrated 30 years with the JCC.” She also acknowledged Annette Sagerman, 84, who retired “during her 65th year at the JCC.” She also praised Marshall Kahn for his leadership and role as a change agent.
Of the merger, she said the JCC and Federation “share similar missions, programs, clients, donors, outcomes and finances. We’ve merged to assure that our good work continued. We have a renewed focus to become financially sustainable, more Jewishly relevant and more engaging. We’re already on the right track” with much to look forward to.
Alan Engel, who was the Federation executive director and now serves the JCL as Senior Vice President of Philanthropy, reported that during its 75th year, the Federation’s staff and Board “focused their efforts on strategies to increase Campaign giving and a clearer understanding of what our Jewish community wanted and expected from the Federation and our agencies. An additional goal was to expand our outreach efforts to young Jewish families and intermarried couples.”
To clarify and define the needs and opportunities, the Federation engaged Horizon Research. “After reviewing research results, which included challenging the status quo and strong demands for relevant community services and programs, the Board sought to explore and implement creative ways to meet these demands,” Engel reported.
“Exciting new programs were offered,” he continued, “including The PJ Library, Mothers Circle and opportunities for intermarried families to share ideas and experiences.” He also pointed to the continuing success of the Community Relations Council, leadership programs and Partnership with Israel, noting that four Israeli teens will be arriving July 5 to work at the JCC’s summer camps for three weeks.
“In the Campaign arena,” Engel reported, “despite nearly $2 million in contributions lost when individuals died and families moved or reduced their gifts, our Campaign donations have remained level for several years. During the past 12 months, however, the roller coaster economy impacted our ability to raise more money to meet growing community needs. As a result, the allocations to community and overseas agencies will need to be reduced.
“This reality,” he said, “prompted the Federation Board to reconsider organizational structure in order to provide programs and services more efficiently and effectively, and the Board prioritized efforts to merge the Federation with the JCC. This goal was achieved on May 1, and now the challenge continues. What we do in the months ahead will determine our success in the future.”
Engel also acknowledged the hard work of volunteers and staff, singling out Paula DeWeese, a member of the support staff, who has been with the Federation for 30 years, and the Board, led by Ed Cohen.
A dozen community leaders and volunteers were honored with awards during the Annual meeting. All of them were profiled in earlier editions of Community, and the profiles can now be found online at www.jewishlouisville.org.
David Leibson, a professor at the University of Louisville School of Law, introduced Blanche B. Ottenheimer Award winner Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Lisabeth Hughes Abramson, recalling that even when she was his student, she was “one of the four or five students over the years who stood out, a cut above the rest.”
He observed that Abramson has followed Blanche Ottenheimer’s footsteps as an advocate for women’s rights and a trailblazer. Abramson is the only woman in the history of the commonwealth to have served on the Circuit Court, the Court of Appeals and the State Supreme Court.
Always ready to talk with young people about law careers, Leibson called Abramson a “lawyer’s lawyer, a judge’s judge and a citizen’s citizen.”
In accepting the award, Abramson said, “Having read up on Blanche Ottenheimer, I am sorry I never had the opportunity to meet her. Her commitment to our broader community and belief that all of its citizens, regardless of race, religion or gender, had a role to play, were evident in her life’s work.
“I share her obvious love for our community,” she continued, “and belief in the necessity of each giving of his or her time and talent.”
“To be honored for simply doing the work that you love is both unexpected and humbling,” she said, noting the distinguished group of past recipients.
Volunteer of the Year
Marie Abrams presented the Ron and Marie Abrams Volunteer of the Year Award to Ann Klein. A Holocaust survivor, Klein didn’t talk about her experiences for many years, Abrams said, “in large part because it was too painful.”
Only with a friend’s urging and help in 1996 did she begin sharing her story.
“Born in Hungary,” Abrams recounted, “she spent time in camps and then at Auschwitz, she made it past Dr. Mengele’s selection, surviving when most of her family did not.”
For the last dozen years, she has been “sharing her story, most especially with young people in schools all around the area, as well as leading trips to the Holocaust Museum in Washington.
“Both Ernie Marx and Ilse Meyer, of blessed memory, had led our local Holocaust education effort for many years and were recognized as volunteers of the year,” Abrams continued, “Now it is time to honor Ann for stepping in to make a seamless contribution to continue this most important work.”
Klein explained that after the war, in 1945, she could not imagine speaking about her experiences or that anyone would want to hear her story. Today, she knows people want to hear from her, and she feels obligated to tell her tale. “Hate crimes never stop,” she said, but maybe by speaking out she can make a difference for good.
Caryl Hemmer, Stacy Marks Nisenbaum’s sister, presented the award that bears her sister’s name to Sarah Ensign. Like Nisenbaum, Ensign is passionate about BBYO and has been a leader in her chapter, helping it earn the regional Most Improved Chapter Award.
The Stacy Marks Nisenbaum Award was created after her death by three close friends, Stacy Gordon-Funk, Wendy Snow and Sally Weinberg, who felt that the scholarship program that enables the recipient to participate in CLTC (Chapter Leadership Training Conference) was the best way to honor her.
Justin Sadle, the JCC’s Teen and BBYO Director, presented the 2009 Stuart Pressma Leaderships Awards to Rachel Ford, Alyssa Lapin and Alyssa Wolff, and read a letter from Diane Pressma Gordon, who was unable to attend.
“This award has special significance to me as it is in memory of my brother, Stuart,” Gordon wrote, “who had been a leader in the Jewish and secular community since he himself was a teen.”
In reading about this year’s winners, Gordon noted, “I was struck by the contributions that they have already made to our community. These three really special young women are all away this summer, working as CITs at camps and could not be here to accept their awards. All will be attending Indiana University this fall.”
She also presented a few of each winner’s achievements.
Jeff Goldberg presented the Lewis W. Cole Memorial Young Leadership Award to Jennifer Tuvlin. A Louisville native who grew up immersed in the Jewish community, active at the JCC and in BBYO, Goldberg explained, she went to Georgia for her education and to Michigan to work, experiencing climates that were both too hot and too cold before returning to Louisville. She picked up a spouse along the way, he added.
Goldberg praised both Jennifer and Jeff Tuvlin as leaders who are generous with their time and resources. “Thank you for all you’ve done and will do” for the community, he said.
Tuvlin expressed her gratitude for being honored with this award, which is named for a pillar in the community and has been awarded to so many wonderful leaders in the past.
She stated that she participated in everything the Louisville Jewish community had to offer while she was growing up and had many “amazing opportunities.” Now she feels it is her obligation to create the same kind of opportunities for her children.
She sees the formation of the new Jewish Community of Louisville as exciting. Accomplishing its promise will be a great task, she believes, but it will be rewarding.
Last year, Linda Schuster explained, 2007 Kaplan Award winner Kate Latts introduced her as the winner of the 2008 Joseph J. Kaplan Young Leadership Award, and this year, Schuster introduced Allan Latts as the 2009 Kaplan Award winner.
From the moment the Latts came to Louisville to work at her family’s business, Heaven Hill Distilleries, they have both been leaders in the Federation. He is the Ben Gurion Society Chair, a member of the Planning and Allocations Committee and has been a YAD co-chair. He’s also been active in the general community.
“I know you will be a driving force in our community” in the years to come, Schuster added.
“I am humbled and inspired by the recognition,” Latts said, “and I am proud to share this honor with the previous award winners, not the least of whom is my wife, Kate. They set a great example for me to follow, and I pledge to the community that I will continue to work hard to help our community thrive.”
Latts stated “The community embraced us when we first moved to town and provided us with opportunities to learn, lead and meet many of our current friends. It also was instrumental in helping build the strong Jewish identity felt by my two children. I give back to our community because of all that it has given me and my family, and I want to help our community to continue to thrive for my family and yours.
“The recent merger of the Federation and the JCC is just the first step in creating our Louisville Jewish community of the future. We have a lot of work to do and a lot of challenges to overcome.
“While each of our individual pasts shape our perspective on how to proceed, I believe we are unanimous in our shared vision of a strong, dynamic Louisville Jewish community. One that nurtures our children, giving them strong Jewish identities; one that brings Louisville Jews of all ages together, one that cares for our aged and infirm; and finally, one that cares not just for the Jews in Louisville, but also Jews everywhere around the world.
“We need to come together as a community, and everyone needs to put the past behind them and devote ourselves to help make this future come true.”
Justin Sadle presented the Ellen Faye Garmon Award to Nathan Spielberg, an active BBYOer who just completed his sophomore year at Kentucky Country Day. In addition to being an active, enthusiastic leader of Drew Corson AZA, Spielberg is active in several extracurricular activities and recently returned from a community service trip to Ghana.
The Garmon Award was established in 1968 by Estelle and Selwyn Garmon and Gamma Kappa BBG in memory of their daughter, Ellen Faye, who was an active, passionate member of the JCC and the Gamma Kappa Chapter of B’nai B’rith Girls. The award goes to a teen who shares that passion.
Dennis Hummel presented the Arthur S. Kling Award to JCC Program Director Andrea Melendez. Each year, the Kling Award goes to a JCC staff member who has demonstrated professionalism and exemplary skills over time.
Melendez, a native Louisvillian, lifelong JCC member and mother of two, is a skilled multitasker who has reshaped the JCC’s programming, he said. Coming from the ranks of the Center’s volunteers, she learned the needed skills on the job.
Hummel described her as creative, energized, dedicated, efficient and effective.
Melendez expressed her gratitude, adding that she is humbled and honored to work at the JCC.
JCC Senior Adult Director Diane Sadle presented the Elsie P. Judah Award for a devoted senior volunteer to Emily Podgursky. Since her retirement six years ago, Podgursky has been delivering Meals-on-Wheels lunches three days a week to Shalom Tower residents who can’t get out to the JCC; and recently, she added a fourth day.
Rain, sleet, snow and windstorms can’t keep Podgursky from her tasks, Sadle said.
The Joseph Fink Award is a four-year college scholarship given to a high school senior who is committed to community service. Justin Sadle presented the 2009 Fink Award to Daniel Ensign.
Ensign, a DuPont Manual High School graduate who will be attending the University of Maryland in the fall has been a leader and officer in BBYO locally and regionally throughout his high school career. He also coordinated two regional conventions and was an assistant coordinator for BBYO’s 2009 International Convention.
His efforts have not gone unnoticed in the past. He has also received the Stacy Marks Nisenbaum Award the Stuart Pressma Award, the Cantor Israel Scholarship and many international and regional BBYO awards.
“Daniel has had a lasting impact on Louisville BBYO, and many more teens will get to experience BBYO thanks to him,” Sadle said.
This award was created in memory of Joe Fink, a devoted worker for the Jewish community who died in 1995. A leader in B’nai B’rith, past president of Hillel, a JCC Board member and active with the Federation, Fink worked hard for the youth of the community and was committed to BBYO.
Looking to the Future
Jewish Community of Louisville Board Chair Edward B. Weinberg closed out the evening with a look to the future and acknowledgements of those involved with the merger of the Federation and the JCC.
He thanked all staff, volunteers and new officers and Board members for their work on the merger and the new agency. He specifically thanked “two attorneys with Greenebaum Doll and McDonald who donated substantial amounts of time – Mary Eaves for her substantial employment benefit work, actually over the years, and Ross Cohen for his skillful drafting and tax advice.”
“While we are on the subject of donated time,” Weinberg continued, “I also want to especially thank Ron Greenberg, who, since our merger, has been working as our Transition Director” for no pay
“I have found that some in our community think that we may be doing something risky in merging our Federation and Center,” he observed. “First, let me assure you that we are not pioneers in this idea. Others communities, to name a few: Tampa, Austin, Tulsa, Omaha, Knoxville, New Haven, Southern Maine and others, have already done this with very good results.
“Each has done it in a slightly different way – but I am convinced that we are doing it with the best and clearest vision of what is important and will be important to our Louisville Jewish community,” Weinberg said. “As each of you follows our progress (and many of you are an integral part of our work), you will see that we will deliver on our promise that “programming” will be the heart of what we are all about.”
He closed by reminding everyone that only one month remains before the close of the 2009 Annual Campaign. “Everything tonight’s award winners have worked for,” he said, “everything our agencies work for, depends on our raising funds. So if you have not yet made your pledge – please not that, for allocation purposes, we need them by July 31st.”
A dessert buffet was available after the meeting.
Shelley Kahn, Dafna Schurr and Elaine Weinberg were co-chairs of the Annual Meeting.