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Excellence Grants Program Broadens Focus

[by Phyllis Shaikun]

In February 2010, the Jewish Hospital organization launched the JHHS Louisville Jewish Community Excellence Grants initiative as part of its historic support of the hospital’s founding community. The program was created as a funding source to provide assistance to charitable organizations offering programs focused on Jewish culture/identity, health, human services and education. Already this year, almost $350,000 in excellence grants funding has been provided to the local Jewish community.

Over the past three years, Excellence Grants have enabled organizations such as the Jewish Community of Louisville, Jewish Family & Career Services; the High School of Jewish Studies; the Jewish Community Center, Louisville Beit Sefer Yachad (the Louisville Hebrew School) and Congregations Adath Jeshurun, Anshei Sfard and Keneseth Israel, The Temple and Temple Shalom to pursue and sponsor innovative new programs that have enriched our entire community.

The 2012 merger between Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s HealthCare and the Saint Joseph Health System to form KentuckyOne Health has greatly impacted the organization’s ability to improve and enhance health care, fund medical research and promote educational initiatives. Approximately $70 million was retained from the merger to be used for those purposes as well as to support local Jewish community programs and senior services.

Those funds have been incorporated into a new non-profit organization, the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence (JHFE), whose board of governance is chaired by attorney Louis Waterman. The JHFE will vastly expand the scope of the former JHHS Excellence Grants program by including a medical research component in the mix.

Under Waterman’s leadership, the JHFE has hired a new interim executive director, Jeff Polson, a name familiar to many in the community since he previously worked with the Jewish Hospital organization’s communications and marketing efforts for the past 14 years, most recently as vice president.

Polson is excited about having the opportunity to help shape this new fund, and he looks forward to reaching out to leaders in the community in order to better understand their issues. The grant process itself will be overseen by a committee headed by attorney David Kaplan.

Waterman explained that the first order of business was the name change “in order to differentiate the JHFE from the Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s Foundation, which continues to function with its own separate board.” He emphasizes that the two entities are entirely separate, with all JHSM Foundation dollars and restricted endowments remaining with that Foundation. The JHFE has its own organizational structure and is opening an office in the downtown Jewish Hospital Medical Plaza.

According to Waterman, a strategic planning process is underway to help articulate and define the grant-making process and determine specific areas of focus. Although this will be a time-intensive endeavor, he promises that the JHFE will continue to provide essential social services to the Jewish community in the interim.

“No one will have to miss a meal or not be able to see a doctor on my watch,” he declares. “You have my assurance and my promise that we are standing up now and will stand even taller in the future to ensure the continuation of the services we have provided in the past. That is important to our board and to the Jewish community.”

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