by Susan Rudy
As a relative “newcomer” to this community, I find my perspective on Jewish life in Louisville tends to differ somewhat from many of you who have always claimed Louisville as your home. While I often hear about the negatives and “what doesn’t work right” in this Jewish community, I would rate my personal experience in this Jewish community as a “success story.” I was honored when asked to serve on the JCL Board, and more than happy to “give back” to this community, which has offered me so much.
When I moved to Louisville in October 2000, I did not know anyone. My children were very young; Josh was four, and Adam was barely one-month. As an avid exerciser, I quickly joined the JCC, and soon learned it was much more than just a place to “work out.”
The JCC became our second home in no time at all. We signed up for virtually every children’s program – Preschool Sports and Fitness, stroller aerobics, T-ball, soccer, basketball, Sing Along Sunday, swim team, camp, golf, and Shalom Tots (to name at least the ones I can remember). We spent countless hours in Ganon, the climbing room, the children’s lounge and Family Gym Time. Considering I was almost a “permanent fixture” around the JCC, I was asked to chair the Children’s Committee, which eventually led to my becoming a JCC Board member.
Without a doubt, as newcomers to this community, the JCC was absolutely “there” for us. To this day, Adam and Josh (now ages 9 and 13) still feel very comfortable anywhere at the JCC. Many of the friends we met “along the way” have remained our closest friends today. Of special note, we met Robin Stratton, current JCL executive director of the JCC, and her son, Max, in karate class!
We also enrolled Josh (and eventually Adam) at The Temple preschool, and I volunteered to join the parent board. Again, we knew no one at The Temple, so I hoped this might be a good way to meet other parents. After spending several years helping with concerts, fundraisers, and orientation, I became the treasurer, and ultimately, the president of the preschool board for three consecutive years before my children “graduated.”
Ironically, given that I am now so actively involved in this Jewish community, I did not grow up particularly involved. I have lived in many places – Omaha, NE; Portland, OR; the San Francisco Bay area; Austin, TX; Dallas, TX; and Montreal, Canada – yet I was never particularly engaged in any of these Jewish communities.
Growing up, while my family did belong to a Reform synagogue and I did attend Sunday school and have a bat mitzvah, I was never involved in BBYO, nor did I attend Jewish summer camp or participate in Hillel in college.
Based on my experience, it is never too late to engage someone, and I truly credit this Jewish community, and the JCC in particular, for being there for me. I have made so many friends here, and I can trace most back to my early days at the JCC and The Temple Preschool. As a result, I am passionate and committed to serving on the JCL Board. I am optimistic about the future of Jewish Louisville, and want to participate in the process of ensuring its strength. I hope this community is equally committed to supporting our efforts.
We are making progress. The Program Review Committee has issued its report (details can be found in last month’s Community). Additional board committees are being formed. Searches for a new CEO, CFO and CRC Director are underway. A brand new website will be launched soon.
My older son, Josh, is going to Great Wolf Lodge in Cincinnati on Monday with “Teen Connection” (a program for Jewish 6th- 8th graders). He hopes to attend the Maccabi games in Omaha this summer with a strong “Louisville JCC” basketball team! The JCL Board is definitely moving forward, and would like to engage your help. If you would like to become more involved, here are some suggestions:
Bill Yarmuth has issued a two-part challenge grant, which was also described in detail in last month’s Community. The first challenge is to the Young Adult Division to double the amount of money they have raised so far. If they do that, he will match their total, up to $50,000. The second part of his challenge is to the rest of the community: join the challenge by matching the YAD contributions in any way possible – for example, a penny per dollar ($500) or a nickel per dollar ($2500).
For anyone who might be interested in leadership development, consider joining the new LEADS class, another Young Adult Division program. This class is designed to be “Jewish Louisville 101” and will provide an introduction to the Louisville Jewish community as well as information about volunteer opportunities.
Finally, as I have learned, please step forward and volunteer if you are interested, willing and able. Please do not sit back and wait to be asked. Volunteer to help at Super Sunday on February 21. Consider volunteering for a JCL committee. There are many to choose from: Marketing/Public Relations, Development, Human Resources, Facilities, Governance/Legal, Strategic Planning, Annual Planning, Audit Compliance, Advocacy/Outreach and more. There are so many volunteer opportunities to accommodate many different interests and abilities. Please contact me or any JCL Board member or the JCL office (451-8840). If your experience is anything like mine, you will be very glad you did.