I have been the director of community relations for the Jewish Federation of Louisville for the last 12 years. As I wrap up my tenure here, I am reflecting on some of the highs and lows we have experienced during that time.
The work has changed dramatically over 12 years. We have employed different tactics on different subjects as the Jewish world, and the world in general, have changed.
Still, three incidents stand out as seminal events for our community, changing what we do and how we do it:
The 2014 war in Gaza: Israel’s wars with Hamas have had common themes. Israel has strong advantages militarily, and it uses them effectively. Its advances in military technology (particularly the “Iron Dome” missile defense system) have allowed Israel to press its military objectives.
But Israel always loses the diplomatic battle during these fights. Hamas cynically uses civilians to obfuscate its military infrastructure, causing significant damage to Palestinian areas.
This [subterfuge] leads to us, as Israel advocates, to always play defense during the protests of Israel’s actions.
Things have changed in recent years; Israel has become stronger militarily, economically and diplomatically. Its advocacy used to be an exclusive fight against its delegitimization. Now, it is more holistic, promoting the Israeli people and culture.
The defacing of the River Road Mosque: Jewish Louisville has always enjoyed cordial relations with the Muslim community. Together, we have worked on several social justice programs.
Yet, when the mosque was defaced, our relationship grew even closer. After I first learned of the attack, I immediately got in the car with my family, drove down there and appeared on the local news with a leader from the Muslim community.
The show of solidarity that night and over the next few days was transformative, having a profound effect on us all. It demonstrated the power of relationship building and the tangible effect it can have on the community.
The murder of Breonna Taylor: This seminal event for Louisville focused on issues that we had not addressed and deepened our relationship with the Black community and some of the leading civil rights institutions in the city, including the Urban League. It made us think about, and commit to, reforming criminal justice and creating economic opportunities in the West End. Like much of Louisville, Breonna’s murder and the subsequent demonstrations had a profound effect on us, leading to JCRC programming that significantly departed from what we used to do.
I will miss so many things about Louisville, but at the top of that list are the people. I am so grateful for my committee chairs and members, senior staff and colleagues, and the wonderful people of Jewish Louisville with whom I interacted daily. Thank you for investing in me your confidence to represent our community. Jewish Louisville is a vibrant, special place with a limitless future; I will forever consider myself a Louisvillian, wherever I live.
(Matt Goldberg, his wife, Lisa, and their two daughters, Rachel and Molly, are moving to San Diego, California, where he will become the director of caring and community relations for the Jewish Federation of San Diego County.)