[by Stu Silberman]
Summer is transitioning into my favorite season, when the air cools, the leaves change, football returns, and a new Jewish year brings us the opportunity to reflect on what we’ve accomplished this past year; personally, professionally, Jewishly. Our traditions also guide us to think about what we’d like to do in the coming year, and remind us how our interactions are the most important indicator of who we are. Remember Hillel: “That which is hateful to you, do not unto another: This is the whole Torah.”
JCL Annual Meeting time is upon us, and is also a time to reflect on the agency’s accomplishments of the past year. Here are some of the highlights:
The JCL Board of Directors, chaired by David Klein, has enacted significant changes in the governance processes of our agency. We conducted our first two off-site retreats. We have a new Governance Committee, chaired by Karen Abrams and populated by JCL board members and representatives from each congregation, who have developed a new set of bylaws with a new list of commitments all directors have agreed to abide by.
Internally, we are conducting regular financial reviews. We have made great progress in improving our financial performance, and the operating deficit in the year before last is projected to be reduced by about 90 percent for this coming year.
The JCL is fulfilling its obligation as the agency that leads Louisville’s Jewish community. Through a series of community conversations hosted at each congregation and elsewhere, we have invited you to tell us your needs, concerns and desires. We have convened numerous planning sessions with representatives of each congregation and Jewish agency. We are working collaboratively with the congregations on joint programming. We are inviting participation by all who benefit from our agency’s existence to share your views on how we can best meet the needs of Louisville’s Jewish community.
And we are responding. We have initiated a strategic planning process facilitated by the Jewish Federations of North America that will build on the data and studies completed to-date, update assumptions with our new information, and over the next several months, focus on creating a series of recommendations in each of our most important areas: program and services, philanthropy, organizational impact and facilities.
Israel needs our help more now than ever, and our Jewish Community Relations Council is educating our community on world events and responding to the vast anti-Israel machine prevalent on the University of Louisville campus and campuses around the country. They are doing a wonderful job of serving as ambassadors of the Jewish community to the greater Louisville Metro population by encouraging participation in a variety of charitable activities.
Programs and Services
Thanks to the dedication of our incredible JCL staff, we have many successes to celebrate. Summer memberships were nearly double last year’s number, Early Childhood Education rooms are full, Camp saw a 30 percent increase in camper weeks and our Teen Connection program is engaging over 100 Jewish 6th to 8th graders from all congregations. Hillel is thriving, and we brought many of our students to the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly.
Our Women’s division held wonderful events last year to reenergize this critical leadership group. We introduced the Lenny Krayzelburg Swim Academy to teach water safety to kids and adults in Louisville, for which we received tremendous publicity. We are starting a new Mothers Circle group to provide education, resources and support for women of other faiths who are choosing to raise their children as Jews, and on and on…
Ralph Green has offered to continue his leadership, chairing the 2012 Federation Campaign this year. We already have many top positions filled and are looking to build on last year’s successful reengagement of several key donors. The congregations, Hebrew schools and other Jewish social service agencies in town are relying on a successful Campaign, which this year will feature more opportunities than ever before to attract and engage donors at all levels.
The JCL staff is being encouraged to continue to build their professional expertise. We have sent a number of our department heads to participate in training sessions, conferences and community visits to gain some new perspectives on managing their aspects of our operations. We have invited consultants and trainers from the Jewish Community Centers Association, the Jewish Federations of North America, the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs to share their expertise with our staff members. We are also incorporating professional development in our new personnel review process.
We now have one e-mail domain, one set of employee policies, one financial system, one marketing organization, one integrated programming staff and one integrated development staff. We have moved some personnel from Shalom Tower to available space in the JCC building, and are working with a professional space planner to transform other space into a comfortable work environment, so that we can welcome those remaining across the parking lot into our single home as soon as this winter.
Wow, it’s been a hot summer… and the second in a row. As a result, some of our cooling systems that were already operating in excess of 10 years beyond their expected lifetimes, are being replaced as needed. As we bring high efficiency units on line, we reduce our energy and water needs, greening our building as we save operating costs. Thanks to donors who supported both our coffee shop and GE Volunteers projects, we have a fresh, new interior, a comfortable meeting space and improved storage, utilization and appearance throughout our campus.
We’ve worked over the past year to increase our revenue generating operations. Sustainable organizations do not, as we have done in the past, try to cut the way to success. We must invest – in our people, in our programs, and (prudently) in our facilities. We must continue to seek additional sources of revenue, including corporate sponsorships, grants, advertising, new membership programs, and other ways to derive value from our strong heritage and operations. And we are doing so.
Your Jewish Community of Louisville agency is building upon our strengths, and with your continued help, we’ll fulfill our mission, passing along our heritage, traditions and values from generation to generation, and helping those in need locally, nationally, in Israel and around the world. Thank you for your support.
Note: The 2011 Annual Report is available online by clicking here.