Grants Enable JCL to Provide More Vital Services to Community

IMG_0551The Jewish Community of Louisville is the largest Jewish agency in our community. In addition to raising money for all of Louisville’s Jewish agencies, it provides many unique and vital services for community members, from the Early Learning Center and The J Summer Camp to Teen Connection and BBYO to cultural programming and senior adult wellness and nutrition programs.

To ensure that The J and the Jewish Federation, the JCL’s primary components, can offer a wide range of programs and services that enhance Jewish life in Louisville, the agency also pursues grants to enhance and expand its ability to meet community needs. These grants enable the JCL to build on the basic programs and services made possible by the Federation Campaign and ensure that financial assistance is available to all who need it.

Grant Proposal Writer Amy Fouts searches out grant opportunities and works with JCL staff members to prepare the applications. During the last fiscal year, the JCL received notification of grant awards totaling $658,000 for programming in fiscal year 2017. Since July 1, the agency has received notification of additional awards of $26,500 for the same period.

The grants benefit a wide variety of programs across the agency.

The JCL’s largest funding partner is Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence. Created as a nonprofit grant-making organization with a dual mission: to invest in the local healthcare market, foster innovative medical research and support the Louisville Jewish community, JHFE provides a wide range of grants to the JCL and many other Jewish organizations.

In addition to the program grants described below, JHFE makes a significant donation to the Annual Federation Campaign and for the 2016 Campaign, issued a $200,000 Double Your Impact challenge match for new and increased gifts. The community responded generously, enabling the Federation to match the full amount of the JHFE challenge.

A prime example is a grant JHFE made for a behavioral support specialist and scholarship money. The J’s Early Learning Center joined the other Jewish preschools in applying for this grant and the award was made jointly to them all.

The J Summer Camp program gives every child the opportunity to grow, succeed and make new friends. The Yachad program ensures that children with special needs have the same opportunities by providing advocates to assist them throughout the day with just the right amount and kind of help they need.

“The Yachad Program is free to parents who have enrolled in camp and need additional supports for their camper to be successful,” said Senior Director of Camping and Youth Services Betsy Schwartz. “Grant funds enable me to hire the human resources needed to provide the support network necessary for many of our campers to have a successful summer in a camp environment.”

The mother of a Yachad program participant wrote a letter to Schwartz explaining, that her son “struggles to find his way in the world. He battles not only autism but also OCD and behavior issues that sometimes result in unexplained rage. When these issues do not have a grip on [him], he can be a very sweet, gentle, loving boy. When he is battling his demons, he can be a challenge for anyone, including his family.”

The mother had difficulty finding an appropriate summer program for him until the principal at his school recommended The J Camp. “My initial conversation with Betsy Schwartz was lovely. She couldn’t have been kinder or more welcoming of our family. The same can be said for Christina Burkhardt his one-on-one advocate.

“Christina has been truly amazing about helping [my son] navigate his day at camp and has reached out to me when she had any questions or concerns. I was very apprehensive about [him] attending a camp that was not specifically geared toward kids with autism. Christina immediately made me feel more relaxed and at ease about [his] attending camp. She has truly been a blessing in his life and ours this summer.

“Most days [our son] has had a peaceful day at camp. On the days [he] was struggling and at times even acting out, Christina was so compassionate and kind. I cannot say enough good things about Christina and our whole experience with the JCC Summer Camp.”

While the Campaign ensures that scholarship money is available for families that cannot afford camp fees, the Yachad program is funded by grants from JHFE, the National Inclusion Project and the WHAS Crusade for Children. In addition, a grant from Metro United Way supports camp and other children’s activities, without which, Schwartz added, “we wouldn’t be able to provide such a high quality experience to the children in the program.”

“JHFE supports a wide variety of The J’s outreach and engagement programs, including PJ Library, Shalom Baby, Kadima (The J’s fourth and fifth grade youth program), Teen Connection, BBYO, Jewish holiday programming, the Maccabi Games and much more,” said Assistant Director of Youth Services Mike Steklof. For many of these programs, JHFE funds the full cost and The J would be unable to offer them without their support.

A new outreach program that the grant will make possible is the Sabbath Project coming in November. During the specified weekend, the Louisville Jewish community will join Jews around the world to celebrate Shabbat. Watch for details.

Maintaining a connection to the Jewish community is important for college students, too, and the JCL’s Hillel program fills that need at the University of Louisville, Bellarmine University and other Louisville area campuses.

“The Ohio Valley Hillel Consortium (OVHC) allocated $5000 to Louisville Hillel to continue to provide quality programming for Louisville area Jewish college students to find community, create Jewish connections and build leadership skills,” said Hillel Director Benji Berlow. “Founded in 1995, OVHC is a collaboration of several Federations to expand and enhance programs on college campuses across Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.”

Outreach extends to adults, too. A grant from the Jewish Foundation of Louisville will enable 16 young Jewish mothers to experience Israel for the first time on a subsidized trip from the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project. (See story at

The J’s Senior Adult program is dedicated to keeping seniors healthy, fit, involved and independent for as long as possible. The program benefits from grants from several sources.

As the only kosher nutrition program in the state, the Senior Adult Department offers both congregate meals and meals on wheels, asking seniors to pay just $3 or whatever they can afford for a hot, kosher meal.

The meal itself, however, costs more than $3, so the program relies on grants to cover the difference. Grants from Metro United Way and KIPDA (Kentuckiana Regional Planning & Development Agency), Louisville Metro Senior Nutrition Services, along with a grant from Meals on Wheels America made possible by a donation from the Kellogg 25-Year Employees Fund ensure that the program can continue.

In addition, senior fitness programming is supported by the Louisville Metro External Agency Funds, Metro United Way and KIPDA.

Cultural arts enhance life for everyone and the arts program is a vital part of programming at The J and out in the community.

CenterStage’s Acting Out program sends a professional children’s theater company out into schools and other public venues with a goal of providing a live theater experience for children throughout the region and connecting them with the arts. Grants that enable the company to perform at schools that don’t have the resources to pay for the program come from Ronald McDonald House of Kentuckiana Charities, the Cralle Foundation and Louisville Metro External Agency Funds.

This year, Acting Out will perform I Never Saw Another Butterfly, based on Celeste Raspanti and Hana Volavkova’s book, that encourages children in any sort of situation to dream and to reach for their goals.

During the Holocaust, over 15,000 children were sent to the Nazi concentration camp, Terezin, but only about 100 survived. Yet within the camp, they still found inspiration, hope, laughter, flowers and butterflies. The book is a record of their drawings and poems, their dreams and hopes.

For them, the butterflies became a symbol of defiance, making it possible for children to survive and even to dream of a better future. Along with the play, the company will engage the community in the Butterfly Project throughout the year.

When Muhammad Ali died earlier this year, Acting Out launched the Butterfly Project, encouraging those at the “I Am Ali” tribute event to create beautiful butterfly art projects that are now on display in The J lobby.

Grants from the Jewish Foundation of Louisville and JHFE are making the Butterfly Project possible.

With support from a grant from the Kentucky Arts Council’s Young Artists with ASD Pilot Project, CenterStage Academy is developing an eight-week theater education pilot project for 20 teens, ages 12 -18, who are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The project’s goal is to utilize theater arts to inspire imagination and enhance social, emotional and communication development.

Led by a combination of professional theater artists and trained ASD specialists, young artists will participate in “play” therapy. The project will also involve the families of those with ASD. Each week, parents and siblings will be engaged alongside their child as well as participate in a family breakout session where different topics will be discussed, led by a trained professional.

CenterStage’s mainstage performances offer high quality musical theater at affordable prices, but sometimes even $20 a ticket is more than a person can afford. A grant from the Louisville Metro External Agency Funds enables CenterStage to offer discounted tickets to give more people access to their performances.

CenterStage is only one part of the J Arts and Ideas Department. A generous grant from JHFE also provides support for the annual Jewish Film Festival, J Arts and Ideas speakers and the Patio Gallery. The next J Arts and Ideas speaker, Liel Leibovitz, with some help from Cantor David Lipp, will present A Broken Hallelujah focusing on the life and work of Leonare Cohen on Sunday, September 18, at 3 p.m. at The Pointe.

Making programs like camp and theater performances accessible to those with special needs and those with limited means and embracing diversity are all part of the Jewish community’s commitment to addressing social justice issues, but social justice includes much more.

At the JCL, the Jewish Community Relations Council frequently takes the lead on social justice issues, and this year, with the help of a grant from MAZON: the Jewish Response to Hunger will enable the group to engage in hunger advocacy. This dovetails with the work of the J’s JOFEE (Jewish Outdoor Food and Environmental Education) Fellow Michael Fraade with the community garden and establishing The J as a Fresh Stop market. Grants from JHFE and Hazon fund the JOFEE program.

Looking to the future, JHFE is encouraging Jewish agencies across the community to apply for capacity building grants to help them assess their current capabilities and develop the skills and programs they will need to thrive in the future. This year, JHFE made grants to the JCL for communications, human resources design, philanthropy and constituent relations management.

In addition, JHFE recognizes that the JCL is planning for the community’s future needs with respect to physical facilities. To facilitate this process, they have given the agency a grant for master planning.

The JCL is grateful to the many funders for all their help in ensuring the agency can deliver high-quality critical services and life enhancing programs as well as enabling it to undertake the necessary planning and preparation for the years to come.

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