I hope you’ve had a chance to read about the JCL Strategic Plan in the July issue of Community on pages 8-9. Thanks to the input we gathered (listed last month) we’ve put a lot of thought into what our agency, and community can become if we all work together toward a common vision, which we’ve identified as: “Fulfilling the needs of the Jewish community.”
So what, you may ask, does that specifically mean? What kind building will you have? How much staff do you need? What kinds of programs will you run?
Exact answers aren’t easy. Even if we knew the perfect answer today, it would be different a year from now, and likely vastly different in a decade. Think about what it would be like to bring a leader of our JCC from 1955 into the facility today. It’s larger, more complex, with all new staff and all new programming. Still, there are similarities between then and now in our mission and vision.
Consider that our mission is to help community members paint a picture of Jewish life that they can pass down to their children. Why? So when their children look at the picture, they remember fondly their experiences in creating it, and want to paint one for their children. A picture to be proud of is the result of much effort over a long period. Each time the artist adds to the picture, it becomes more beautiful, and more meaningful.
Perhaps a family enrolls their child in our Early Learning Center. On the canvas, we begin by sketching in the rough outline of a mountain range. Then the child participates in PJ Library and begins to read stories with Jewish themes. Now we paint in the mountains.
During the summer, the child attends summer camp, so we add a stream, and when it’s time for middle school, that child participates in Teen Connection, enjoying a scavenger hunt across Louisville in stretch limousines. Add some trees to the picture.
As the child approaches bar/bat mitzvah, there is the opportunity to volunteer at the JFCS Food Pantry to fulfill a personal Pledge 13 commitment and incorporate doing mitzvot into living Jewishly. Now we add some wildlife.
Add in BBYO and overnight Jewish summer camp and we have rocks along the stream and wildflowers. A Birthright Israel trip and dinner at the Sukkah with fellow Hillel students fill the sky with sun and clouds, and, well, pardon the pun, you get the picture.
The more Jewish experiences a community member participates in, the richer their Jewish landscape and the stronger their Jewish identity. It’s not the specific program, location or even staff, it’s the continual opportunities to include Jewish experiences in our otherwise very busy lives – and that’s the vision of the JCL, made available to you through your JCC and Federation.
Through your contributions to the Federation, we work together as partners to build and sustain Jewish life in Louisville, ensuring that we are doing all we can to meet today’s needs and to be prepared for tomorrow.
Sixty years ago Louisville’s YMHA, staff and programs were very different from our JCC, staff and programs today, although I suspect the ‘pictures’ of Jewish life would look pretty similar – family, tradition, friends, worship, education, recreation, responsibility for each other and Jews around the world, love.
As we continue to build our agency around our vision, we ask you to think about your own picture of Jewish life, and think about ways you can help others create theirs. Is it through volunteerism? Contributing financially? Spreading word about a positive experience to encourage others to get engaged with us? Some other way? Paint your painting for you and your children, and encourage them to continue doing so in the years to come. This is l’dor vador in action.
This summer, we rallied together in support of Israel as it responded to continuous rocket fire and an existential threat posed by Hamas tunnels under the Israel/Gaza border. We worried, prayed and provided support through the Stop the Sirens campaign. These experiences also added to our painting.
While we continue to hope for long-term peace in Israel, it’s also time to add some new colors to our painting. Please join us on Sunday, September 14, for a great event that will offer us the opportunity to inject some laughter into our lives, celebrate all we have accomplished together, and set the stage for even more successes. For details visit https://jewishlouisville.org/hofstetter-headlines-federation-comedy-event-youre-invited/.
I hope to see you there.