[Archived from November 6, 2009]
by Shiela Steinman Wallace
With a serious message to convey and a goal of at least $3 million dollars, 2010 Annual Campaign Chairs Todd Blue and Lior Yaron began this year’s community effort with a Campaign warm-up event that drew 60 people to the home of Karen and Todd Blue.
Todd Blue spoke with passion about the needs of the Jewish Community of Louisville and appealed to those present to be leaders in the Campaign with both their time and their resources.
The research done in the recent Horizon study identifies what the Louisville Jewish community wants and needs, Blue explained. It paints a picture of one Jewish community. “We don’t have the luxury to draw lines and be separate institutions,” he said.
Our community has come together in the past when there was urgent need, he continued. With Operation Exodus, we rescued Jews from the former Soviet Union, and with Operation Solomon, we brought Jews to safety and freedom from Ethiopia. Now, he said, “we have to save Jewish Louisville.” We can’t split people up, Orthodox vs. Reform, old vs. young, lifelong Louisvillians vs. newcomers.
By coming together as one caring Jewish community, Blue believes our goals for the 2010 Annual Campaign and our dreams for the Jewish Community of Louisville (JCL) are attainable. The merger of the Jewish Community Federation and the Jewish Community Center into the JCL and its new Board can change the community, he stated, and there are many opportunities for leadership today. “We’re all in this together,” he said, drawn together by “Faith in Our Future,” the theme of the 2010 Campaign.
There Is Need in Our Community
To bring things into focus, Judy Freundlich Tiell, the executive director of Jewish Family & Career Services painted a picture of our diverse community.
“We are judged by how we care for the weakest members of our community,” she said – the aged, the unemployed and others who need our help. As individuals, we also don’t know who really needs help. You don’t know if the child sitting next to yours in Hebrew School is receiving help from the Hanukkah helpers program, she explained.
This year is particularly challenging, Freundlich Tiell pointed out. Our synagogues need more resources to cover their expenses, yet fewer dollars are available from memberships as families dealing with unemployment issues are forced to cut back. Membership in the Jewish Community Center is also down, and requests for scholarship help are up.
“Unemployment,” she stated, “is the biggest issue.” The young are having difficulties getting a foot in the door and middle-aged people who never expected to be unemployed are finding themselves without a job. “JFCS has had 32 percent more calls this year” from people needing career services. Ancillary problems with stress, depression and abuse are also evident.
In addition, our community must be concerned with the needs of the senior population. The need for Meals on Wheels is growing and JFCS is called upon increasingly for case management. There are seniors in our Louisville Jewish community who can’t afford their medications and other care they need. Some are also dealing with isolation.
There is a single mother who had received help from Hanukah Helpers for years. Last year, she finally got a job and eagerly started giving back to the community. Now she lost her job and needs help again.
A boomer in our community just lost his job. At the same time, he is dealing with aging parents and young children.
There is an aging couple, and the man, caring for his wife, who has Alzheimer’s, is finding it more difficult every day.
A woman came to JFCS recently with her LG&E bill. Her power is about to be turned off, and she could not pay the bill.
The number of vulnerable people is growing, Freundlich Tiell said, and we must be there to help them.
At the same time, she reported, JFCS has a corps of over 300 volunteers who help out in many ways, from working in the food pantry to organizing groups and handling an addictions hot line.
“We will always have families in need of help,” she concluded, and “we must strengthen all our institutions” so we can provide the spiritual support and social services needed. She thanked those present, “You truly make a difference and help us to make a difference.”
Get on Board
Long-time community volunteer Steve Linker also shared his thoughts. After touching on the strengths of the Jewish community in the past and its tremendous visibility in the general community, he noted, “Things are changing in Jewish Louisville.”
“The new JCL Board,” he said, “is committed to being all inclusive,” to providing the variety of programs and services the community wants and needs. “Programming is being diagnosed,” he continued. What we have is being analyzed, and new ideas are being sought. “We’re contacting other communities in the country for new and innovative ideas.”
Once programming needs have been determined, a Facilities Committee will address what actual and/or virtual facilities we need, examining all options. We need time to do it right, Linker stated.
He encouraged everyone “to get on board the Jewish Community of Louisville train. There are lots of seats” we need to fill so our community will have the resources we need to move forward with “faith in our future.” He urged community members to “volunteer our time and energy to the Campaign and the community” without waiting for a call; and to become Jewish community ambassadors for the JCL. “The past is past, and we’re moving forward,” he said.
Building for the Future
Although Lior Yaron was in Switzerland, he is so committed to the Campaign that he spoke to the group via telephone. He noted how much he missed his connection to Jewish Louisville during the past 3-1/2 years he spent in Europe and his hopes for the future, echoing many of the comments he made in the interview printed in the September 23 edition of Community.
With the changing European population, which he says will be 20-25 percent Muslim by the year 2020, he sees attitudes toward Jews changing. He’s also been in areas where there is no Jewish community. “It made me aware for the first time, what it means not to have a Jewish community,” he said. “In Louisville, I took it for granted.”
With the merger, Jewish life in Louisville has changed and our new Jewish Community of Louisville has not yet taken its final form. “We don’t have a clear vision of what we will look like five years from now,” Yaron pointed out. “We need strong committed leadership. … We are one community” with a goal of enhancing Jewish life in Louisville.
“Our support should demonstrate our unshakable commitment to the generations to come,” he said.
A Unique Opportunity
JCL President Ed Weinberg added his support. He accepted the responsibility of being JCL’s first Board President, “because I believe in what we’re doing.” Today’s leaders are taking the legacy conceived and built by the generations that preceded us, and preparing us to serve the Jewish community today and in the future.
“It would be easy for us to sit back” and let others take the lead, he said, but we can’t afford to do that. Things are changing, but it takes support and leadership from the community.
Weinberg spent some time going over highlights of what programs and services Campaign dollars support in the Louisville Jewish community and encouraged those present to examine a brochure about the allocations. The information from that brochure can be found on the back page of this issue of Community.
“These are the institutions our forefathers built,” he said. “We have an opportunity” to redefine our community this year, “and if we don’t, the next 100 years will be very different.” He called on those present to “to make an extra effort to bring people in,” and to contribute both their time and resources to ensure the community’s success.
Doing Our Part
Todd Blue reiterated his commitment to the community and the Campaign and his “faith in the future” as he called on those present to share the names of three people who may not have connected yet with the Jewish community; to attend the Major Gifts event with UK Coach John Calipari on Sunday, December 13; and to be part of the Campaign team as division chairs, ambassadors to the community and volunteers to reach out to Campaign donors.