Gab Melendez takes new position as Jewish Outreach Program Manager

By Gab Melendez


Gab Melendez (Photo by Robyn Kaufman)

Having grown up within Louisville’s Jewish community and spending a large portion of my childhood at the old Jewish Community Center, I thought I had a solid understanding of the innerworkings of the facility and community. Turns out, I didn’t realize the full breadth of knowledge, outreach, and community building that went into building and sustaining the center.  

You could say I was fully involved: attending Sunday and Hebrew school, Overnight camp, Birthright, JCC programing, and working within different Jewish synagogues and centers across the city. Growing up amid diverse flavors of Judaism helped to inform the way I experience my own Judaism today. I’m so glad I now have a more informed appreciation of my own cultural and religious connections to Judaism — ones I can use to help others better understand how they participate and affiliate. 

I’ve recently accepted a new position at the Jewish Federation of Louisville as Jewish Outreach Program Manager. It might seem like a mouthful to say, but the job encompasses enough roles that to me, it’s appropriately lengthy. I returned to the Trager Family JCC earlier this year as a member of the preschool staff, and in July began working as a program manager. I was introduced to the innerworkings of Camp J, where I greatly enjoyed being able to assist with daily activities like music, art, tie dye, outdoor games, and much more. Having attended JCC camps for so much of my childhood, it was enlightening being able to see things from the other side. Now that Camp J is over for the summer, the administrative team is back in the main building and has begun the next phase of program planning. I have the pleasure of overseeing and creating Jewish programming for PJ Library and PJ Our Way, Hillel, Club J, and Camp J.  

PJ Library is an engagement and literacy program, created in 2005 by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation. The program provides free Jewish books, lent on a monthly basis, for children ages birth to 8 years old. For children ages 9-12 there is a sister program called PJ Our Way, which offers chapter books and graphic novels. At the Trager Family JCC, PJ Library not only provides books, but also programming to help connect Jewish children, parents, and families with one other and to other events, and to encourage further engagement with the local Jewish community. I’m excited to create programming that will help to foster these connections for years to come.  

 Hillel is an organization on college campuses, throughout the country and internationally, that provides a place for Jewish students to cultivate their relationship to Judaism and connect with others in their area (Our Impact). Throughout my years in college, I participated in various Hillel events — whether that be Shabbat dinners or picking apples around Rosh Hashanah. Hillel gave me the space to feel connected to other Jewish students, while also cultivating a comforting environment that helped ease my transition into college.   

In July I was given the opportunity to attend a Hillel conference in St. Louis to learn more about Hillel’s mission and how to better serve the college-aged Jewish community. The conference focused on educating participants about student engagement and program planning, while also working to connect attendees with each other to create larger support networks. Attending the conference eased the transition into my new position by sharing tools and ideas to help create a program that will help new students feel supported, comforted, and celebrated.  

While PJ Library and Hillel are two of my main focuses, I will also be creating programming for both Camp J and Club J. I’m looking forward to and grateful for the opportunity to help educate the next generation about the values, holidays, and cultural aspects of Judaism. 

Gab Melendez is Jewish Outreach Program Manager at the Jewish Federation of Louisville









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