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Nelson brings creativity, enthusiasm and a smile to JCC

Nelson brings creativity, enthusiasm and a smile to JCC

After 21 years, she’s still taking on new challenges and ready to try new programs and explore new ideas

by Shiela Steinman Wallace, Editor

On September 15, Slava Nelson marked 21 years working at the Jewish Community Center. Her years of service are marked by energy, enthusiasm, creativity and a ready smile.

After 21 years, Nelson is beginning a new chapter in her career. She has been named the Adult and Cultural Arts Department director, and as she has done throughout her career, she must tap into her personal resources to build a program from scratch.

When she was first hired as the JCC’s acculturation department, it was a brand new department. Nelson said, “I was told by Bernie Rosenblatt, the program director at that time, that this is so new that we don’t know what to do or how to do it. It’s going to be completely up to you.

“If you will be able to build this program,” Nelson was told, “congratulation. You have a job and a department. If you will not be able to, nobody’s going to blame you.”

One of the biggest challenges she faced was figuring out what all these immigrants had in common and how to deal with them. Most of the immigrants, she recalled, were from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, but there were also immigrants from Uzbekistan and Georgia and many other republics.

Nelson’s task was to introduce people to the American lifestyle and integrate them into the community while encouraging them to maintain their heritage. She also tried to bring them to Judaism, because they didn’t have that connection.

“Actually,” she said, “that is what united them all. They knew they were Jews. They knew they were punished their whole lives for something that they didn’t even know what it was.”

Nelson succeeded in building the department and implemented many programs during her first 10 years at the JCC.

Then it was time to reinvent herself as the program director for the Senior Adult Department, where she partnered with Senior Adult Director Diane Sadle for 10 years. “I am grateful to Diane,” Nelson said. “We were able to build an amazing department. And with our new chair, Margot Kling, this department is flourishing and has wonderful programs.”

Now, it’s time for Nelson to reinvent herself again. She’s still planning programming for the Senior Adult Department, including a trip to Atlanta in the spring and, “God willing,” she said, a trip to Israel in the fall.

However, her responsibilities have changed. In addition to planning for the seniors, Nelson has been named the director of the Adult and Cultural Arts Department. “I’m very grateful to our new management for giving me this chance and opportunity to again take over a department we haven’t had for a while.”

Always eager to praise others, she said, “Marsha Bornstein was a wonderful director and we had a wonderful program. Now I hope we can make it bigger and more successful and implement some new and innovative programs.”

Although she was just appointed to her new position, she’s already off and run ning. She has planned four new classes. Ballroom dancing and beginning Hebrew start September 30; silk painting and acting for adults begin on October 1, and a continuing class in drawing starts on October 7. (See story, CenterPiece, page 3 for more information about the classes and instructors.)

Nelson is excited about the new classes and sees them as only the beginning of her work. “My main goal,” she said, “is to provide programs for our members that will catch their interest and, at the same time, give good value for their membership.” With these new programs, she is hoping to engage current members and attract new ones.

The Patio Gallery is also part of Nelson’s new department, and once again, she’s already hard at work. “Our Patio Gallery is growing in quality and looking to expand,” she said. “We already expanded our exhibit into the lobby for members to see and enjoy.”

Next she hopes to create some exhibit space downstairs that will enable the gallery to display some photography. “We’ve been approached by many artists about putting their photography on display,” Nelson explained, “so this is something that is also very exciting.”

Nelson also had words of praise for Patio Gallery Chair Bette Levy. “It’s a pleasure to work with Bette, and I think we have a very good understanding of how we can bring quality to the Patio Gallery.”

Nelson is exciting about the upcoming Mazin show, which she says, “promises to be a big success.”

While she is very creative, Nelson doesn’t want to do the planning for the Adult and Cultural Arts Department alone. “I invite everyone who would like to partner with me or give me ideas or even simple suggestions to contact me,” she said. “I am open for everything and am really looking forward to working in this position with the nice people who might volunteer their time to get it off the ground.

“I have a lot on my plate,” she added, “but I’m happy to be here.”

Nelson can be contacted at 238-2760 or snelson@jewishlousville.org.

Nelson came to Louisville from Kiev, Ukraine in 1991.

Her son, Dmitry Nedelin, who was 8 at the time, is now a captain in the U.S. Air Force. He and his wife, Alisha, have two children, Aleks, 3, and Emma, 19 months.

Her husband, John Nelson, is an IT Director for TARC.

“I consider myself a very happy woman,” she concluded, “and the latest move here at the JCC completes me a lot. I love this community. This community literally provided a roof above my head, and I feel that if I have success in my 21 years here, it is my way of giving back.”

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