[by Shiela Steinman Wallace]
“We are one Jewish community,” said Jewish Community Board Chair David Klein in a recent interview, “and we have come a long way since the JCL was founded two and a half years ago. It has taken the energy, creativity and support of many people to bring us to this point, and it will take the engagement of the entire Jewish community to continue to move us forward, toward our goal of being the best Jewish community we can possibly be.”
In his second year as Board Chair, Klein wants to emphasize the desire and critical need to bring everyone to the table as the new JCL moves forward. Whether it is to donor events, to community forums, to join the leadership team or to just read online discussions, Klein is committed to doing things differently this year. “Even if that means taking risks,” he said.
To encourage this involvement, Klein announced that on Sunday, December 4, 10 a.m. at the Jewish Community Center, the JCL Board will host a community forum. “I challenge you to be part of building this community,” said Klein. “This is an opportunity for those who may have not had as much of a role in the organization in the past to express their dreams and aspirations for JCL’s future.”
“Tell us what you’d like to see,” he continued. “We’ll listen, take notes, and respond, in one way or an other, to every suggestion.” Klein even pledged to post the suggestions and responses on Facebook and the JCL’s website, www.jewishlouisville.org, so the process will be transparent and the community can hold Board members accountable.
Klein also explained that JCL has charted a new, more inclusive course for the 2012 Federation Campaign. He noted that “We are fortunate to be able to bring internationally-recognized author Mitch Albom to our community this year for our Major Gifts event. But this year, we also want to do things a bit differently.”
“We recognize that our community needs the full participation of every member who is able if we are to achieve our full potential,” said Klein. “Looking forward, our major donors will be there as our role models, and I encourage everyone in the community, particularly our emerging leaders, who have been so involved as of recent, to come hear Albom as well.”
Thus, this year’s event is open not just to major donors, but to donors at all levels. Both events will be held on Sunday, December 1, at the Henry Clay, and details can be found in the article on page one and the ad on the back page.
Klein explained, though, that financial support is only one part of the puzzle. Community building also requires people who are willing to think outside the box, look at issues creatively and assume leadership responsibilities.
“I’m kind of new to volunteering within the Jewish community,” Klein said, recounting how when he traveled to Houston for cancer treatment, “the Jewish community there reached out to me through their bikur cholim [visiting the sick] program and they became family. I got connected emotionally and spiritually with my Judaism for the first time. It moved me to realize what Judaism offers and what we’re compelled to do and give.”
That experience gave Klein a passion to serve the Louisville Jewish community and a desire “to provide a fulfilling Jewish experience for all members of the Jewish community. That means listening to what you want and making policies that represent our entire community and providing a broad range of services.”
“We’ve been getting ourselves in shape since the merger,” Klein noted. The JCL has a Governance Committee that has established firm expectations for Board members. The Planning and Allocations process is working well and includes members from all parts of the community. And the Board is ready to embark on a comprehensive strategic planning process that will guide the organization in the future.
Klein continued, “Leadership succession planning is being instituted. Our president and CEO, Stu Silberman, now has a year of leadership under his belt with great success. Staffing has been restructured, the building and grounds have received a facelift and programming is being enhanced and revitalized.”
All this effort is starting to pay off, Klein observed. “Membership and camp enrollment are up,” he said. “Our early childhood programs are full. The number of teens and middle schoolers participating in JCL programs is increasing. Collaboration with synagogues and other agencies is increasing.”
“There is no limit to what we can be,” Klein explained, “so join us, embrace us, support us, work with us. Are you a teen? A college student home for a weekend or a break? A newcomer? Affiliated? Unaffiliated? Observant? A fourth generation Louisvillian? Tell us your dreams and aspirations for the JCL. We can only be what you ask us to be.”
“Together, we can build a vibrant, sustainable Jewish community,” he concluded.