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B’ruchim Habaim, Welcome (or Welcome Back) to Our JCC

Sara Klein Wagner

I always love the Hebrew phrase when we greet people with b’ruchim habaim. It expresses genuine warmth and happiness as we welcome people into our home.

As a community we welcome people at many entry points including our programs and services. The JCL (Jewish Community of Louisville – JCC and Federation) is open and welcome to everyone. Sometimes we get it just right but there are certainly examples we can improve upon.

In fact, we know the consequences of being uninviting might be to keep people away for a long time. Our staff, leadership and volunteers aspire to make the perfect first impression, recognizing it is most important to keep the door open for every individual, whether he or she is wandering around or rushing to join in.

In the 2013 Pew survey, “A Portrait of Jewish Americans,” we read that overwhelmingly, American Jews feel a strong sense of belonging to the Jewish people while also highlighting that Jewish identity is changing, with one in five Jews describing themselves as having no religion. The survey also showed the majority of American Jews has a strong emotional attachment to Israel.

The demographics show 25 percent of the community has a high household income, while 20 percent of the Jewish community’s household income is considered low. Our role is to ensure we meet the needs of the most vulnerable in our community.

Understanding this study and the evolving community allows us to plan for a more diverse community with varying needs. Our JCL does not ask how you identify your Jewishness, rather we encourage and promote respect for each person’s journey while embracing shared values and shared history. Along the way, we hope people will explore, engage and become more curious.

Our JCC is proud to have been part of the fabric of Louisville for over 125 years, and we look forward to many more years. We estimate that our doors literally opened to over 22,000 people last year. Clearly, we welcome the entire community and recognize that one does not need to be Jewish to be a part of the JCC family.
“A Portrait of Jewish Americans” noted that one third of American Jews identify with the Reform Movement of Judaism, the largest denomination on North America. Therefore, we have watched with concern the recent news from Israel where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the disparaging remarks of an Ultra Orthodox member of the Knesset regarding Reform Jews.

Netanyahu declared, “Israel is home for all Jews.” Just as we strive to be welcoming and inclusive as the JCL, we believe all branches of Judaism should be respected here and in Israel. Our Jewish Community Relations Council will continue to educate and advocate on issues of justice and religious freedom.
The following statement was emailed to the community and posted on our website on July 14, 2015.

“As you may know, last week Israeli Minister of Religious Services, David Azoulay (a member of the Sephardic Ultra-Orthodox Shas Party) made disparaging remarks about Reform Jews, saying they are not really Jews.

“The Jewish Community of Louisville condemns without reservation the false and hurtful comments of Mr. Azoulay. Statements like this only serve to divide the Jewish people both in Israel and the Diaspora and we commend Prime Minister Netanyahu for his swift repudiation of these remarks, confirming that they do not represent the position of the government of Israel.

“The bonds of brotherhood that unite the Jewish people are undone by remarks and actions of extremists in Israel who contribute to the growing religious divide among Jews.

“We call on the government of Israel to respect the religious beliefs of all Israelis, and to treat all streams of Judaism in Israel with equality and the reverence they deserve.”

Our staff, board members and 21 committee chairs are eager to help you connect or reconnect with the JCC and Federation arms of our agency. B’ruchim habaim. We look forward to providing a warm welcome and a genuine respect for all of our members, donors, participants, guests and those whom we have yet to meet.

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