Jane Goldstein came to the Jewish Federation of Louisville’s 2017 Campaign Kickoff bearing a folder full of newspaper clippings.
The stories, from old issues of Community, reported on how she had served as campaign chair or co-chair in 2005 and 2006. Before reading them, she had not recalled both stints.
“I knew I had chaired this campaign before. I did not remember I had chaired it twice before.” Goldstein told the gathering. “Now, it’s years later, and I’m back.”
She is co-chairing the 2017 campaign with Jon Fleischaker charged for the third time in her adult life to raise the funds to sustain Jewish Louisville.
Soon, though, she knows that younger Jews must step up and take a turn.
“There really should be someone much younger than I chairing this,” Goldstein said, “but I look forward to preparing the next generation of leaders.
Empowering younger people is a challenge facing Jewish communities across the country – on the giving end as well as in leadership.
In Louisville, for instance, more than 75 percent of donors of $5,000 or more are 60 and older, Goldstein said, though some of those gifts are through endowments.
Fresh from a highly successful 2016 campaign, which brought in $2.1 million, the September 21 kickoff took on a l’dor v’dor (generation to generation) theme as speakers, including the guest of honor, spoke of energizing young adults to get them involved and ultimately assume local and national leadership roles.
“Jon and I are committed, not only to raising funds, but involving a younger group of people to take us forward,” Goldstein said.
It’s an issue that guest speaker Wayne Kimmel understands well.
A venture capitalist, author and Jewish community leader from Philadelphia, Kimmel, 46, is one of those young Jewish leaders that Louisville and many other cities are looking for.
In his 30-minute address, he motivated the 50-plus people in attendance, advising them on how to draw his age group into service.
First and foremost, “it’s cool to be Jewish,” he said, making that the mantra that must be sold to the next generation.
It’s not an impossible sale, Kimmel assured them.
“It sounds liked this community is at a very interesting place, and you can change the way things are done in the next five years, 10 years, 30 years,” he said. “You can touch young people, middle age people. This is your time.”
He urged those in leadership to be bold in reaching out to their community, to take some chances.
“Don’t ask other people if it’s OK,” he said, “just go do it.”
Kimmel understands the art of doing.
The managing partner of SeventySix Capital, the venture capital firm he founded in 1999, he has invested in over 40 startup technology and healthcare companies. Among his best-known picks are NutriSystem, GrubHub and Take Care Health Systems.
He is on the boards of Jewish Federations of North America, Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, Einstein Healthcare Network, and the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.
“I do wear my Jewishness on my sleeve,” he said. “I’m proud of it, and I think it’s something we can teach others.”
With that, he pulled up a slide on his PowerPoint presentation, a collage of well-known Jews in positions of power throughout America – veterans of Facebook, Google, Microsoft, the NFL and other enterprises.
This kind of success, he said, is a powerful marketing tool for Jewish communities. “This is what fires up these young people because this is what they want to be,” he said
“We have to think big,” he added. “We can do anything we want.”
It’s not all about money, though. Kimmel said Israel, even rituals, could still attract young, successful – though unaffiliated – Jews into Jewish activism.
Missions are indispensable, he said. They shouldn’t be just for the biggest donors or most influential people. Reach out to new people including young entrepreneurs. Send smaller missions to Israel consisting of people who don’t know each other. Let them bond and catch the fever.
Those people, he said, will return to Louisville energized and ready to be active in the community.
Then there is ritual. In Kimmel’s house, he, his wife and two children light Shabbat candles. He doesn’t pretend that they never miss a week or always strike the match at the moment of sundown, but they do it. Everyone in the Kimmel household knows it’s important.
Kimmel lauded the leadership of President and CEO Sara Wagner, Vice President of Philanthropy Stacy Gordon-Funk, saying they can pilot this kind of outreach – a point with which Jay Klempner, chairman of the Board of the Jewish Community of Louisville, agreed.
To build on this year’s success, Klempner said, will require a more personal approach to fundraising.
“It’s touching them throughout the year instead of making a phone call and saying, ‘would you make a donation again this year?’ It’s important to stay in touch and stay informed,” he said. “I think our campaign and allocations process does just that.”
Still, during the Q&A with Kimmel, Klempner said it isn’t easy coming up with ways to motivate all sectors of Jewish Louisville, but the Campaign team is ready to undertake the task.
Kimmel urged him and everyone in the room to just tell Jewish Louisville’s story, saying the JCL already has the “building blocks of people.”
“Now it’s time to go out and tell your story,” he said. “Invite people in to the party.”