In the last three years, David Klein served as president of the Board of the Jewish Community of Louisville. He was passionate about his work and strove tirelessly to bring the community together in support of the agency and the Annual Federation Campaign. Prior to his death, he wrote this message, and to honor his memory, we print it in this issue of Community.
It has been a privilege and an honor to serve as your Board chair for almost three years. Now, as I reflect on my service, I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned about leadership in a Jewish nonprofit, and to encourage our leaders to take some time to explore what Jewish leadership means today.
As our society changes, so must our approach to leadership. When the Jewish community first organized, Jews in Louisville had very limited options. If they wanted to play basketball, they joined the JCC. If Jewish teens wanted to attend a dance or engage in other social activities, they joined BBYO. If Jewish physicians wanted to practice medicine, they became affiliated with Jewish hospital. If a group of Jews wanted to enjoy a round of golf, Standard Country Club was the only place they could play. Our differentness isolated and united us. Our institutions were a critical part of the community, and they thrived.
Today, the barriers to mainstream society have fallen. A myriad of activities compete for our ever-more-limited free time and our children’s lives include so many classes, sports and special interest programs that we have to carve out time for them just to be kids. Without the burden of discrimination, we no longer have a shared overarching domestic agenda.
Yet we want to maintain our Jewish community, ensure our children develop strong Jewish identities and that our agencies and institutions are vibrant and able to serve our 21st Century needs. To accomplish this, we need true Jewish leaders – leaders with vision and commitment, who can bring together our fractious community. We also need stalwart supporters, who do their part to lead the community and, when they step aside, continue to support subsequent leaders, even when the Board decisions take a different course than the one they would have chosen.
The true leadership we need involves creativity, ingenuity and a willingness to challenge the status quo in the interest of progress toward community goals. It will inspire Jewish interest, commitment and a renaissance of American Jewish life in our community.
With Karen Abrams at the helm today, the JCL is currently engaged in an intense strategic planning process that involved talking with constituents and stakeholders, including our beneficiary agencies. Board members and interested community leaders have stepped up and are engaged in clarifying our mission and vision and ensuring our entire agency is on track to fulfill that mission, to continue to be faithful stewards of our resources and on target to serve the Jewish community of today and tomorrow.
I am pleased to say that your board is fundamentally rock solid. Through the dedicated leadership and contributions of time and energy by volunteers, most if not all of the standing committees are fully functioning.
And it goes without being said that our staff is world class. It has been a delight to work with Stu Silberman and the staff that he inherited as well as the new members that were added to the team during the past 3 years.
In parting, I would like to thank all those in our community who put their trust and support in our leadership. As I turn the responsibilities of leadership over to Karen Abrams, I give my word that I will never turn my back on the JCL leadership and their efforts to fulfill its’ mission.
I ask all in the community to join me in honoring, respecting, and supporting for Karen and her Board while they provide the leadership to Stu Silberman and his staff as they all take on the task and challenges of achieving tikkun olam – making the world a better place.
Thank You. David Klein