Herzlian Events series concludes first season; organizers eying next year

Kate Latts (left) was one of the guests at the Herzlian event that featured University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto. (Community photo by Tara Cocco)

The Major Gifts Herzlian Events, a new approach to fundraising in Jewish Louisville, just wrapped up its inaugural season, and the organizers are pleased with the results.
“These events are about creating community,” said Julie Hollander, director of women’s philanthropy and outreach at the Louisville Jewish Federation, the professional organizer for the event. “The goal was to provide an intimate setting for major donors to come together to discuss a topic of interest and socialize with others that they might not see or speak with on a regular basis.”
The home-hosted dinners and lunches were designed to provide a more intimate setting for such conversations.
JOFEE Director Michael Fraade kicked off the season, speaking about the “Roots of Jewish Cuisine” and University of Louisville Professor Ranen Omer-Sherman’s concluded it with “Graven Images: The Provocations of Jewish Cartoonists and Graphic Novelists.”
The other speakers were Cantors David Lipp and Sharon Hordes; Rabbi Gary Zola, executive director of the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives; Abigail Glogower, curator of Jewish collections and the Jewish Community Archive at the Filson Historical Society; Charles Glick, a national council member of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Sheri Ross, a national board member of Stand With Us; and University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto.
While this is the first year Louisville has hosted Herzlian events, the tradition dates back to Theodor Herzl himself.
In the late 19th century, the journalist, playwright and father of modern Zionism held similar events to promote discussion among Jewish leaders from many backgrounds and fields. The discussions were said to affect the Zionist vision for the future State of Israel.
Shellie Branson, who served as a Major Gifts Herzlian Event co-chair with Karen Abrams, said they adapted the Herzlian events idea, deciding it would also work well in Louisville.
“These events are about connecting to others in the community,” Branson said, “We wanted to give people the chance to meet new people and get to know others better. We want to connect them through meaningful conversation about their Jewish community and the strong desire they have to give back to the community.”
Survey responses showed Branson, Hollander and others the success and positive impact of the events.
“Through the surveys, we learned that everyone really enjoyed the event they attended,” Branson said. “The food was amazing. The hosts were welcoming, and the guests were appreciative. Everyone also enjoyed the speaker they heard.”
One attendee said, “I appreciated the intimate setting and opportunity for every person around the table to participate.”
For Branson, participation played a big part in the event she attended, which was hosted by the Campaign Co-Chairs Jerry and Madeline Abramson and Ariel and Faina Kronenberg.
“The best part was when people from our community that I have known for years shared stories about their favorite author,” Branson said.
At the event, she learned that one attendee’s parents were Holocaust survivors. Another shared that her son is a writer, while a third discussed her favorite painter.
“Everyone had a chance to share a story,” she said.
The Federation plans to host the Herzlian Events again next year.
Potentially, the Federation will hold fewer dinners with a slightly larger number of participants at each event, maintaining the vibrant and intimate settings of the 2017-18 season.
Branson thanked all the hosts and hostesses who stepped up, making the series happen.
“The major givers are hard at work trying to make the Louisville Jewish Community the best it can be,” she said.

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