Imagine if we could … “see ourselves in a world in ways we have never seen before?” Lisa Eisen, vice president Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.
Why did this one specific slide from one presentation at the three day JCCA Biennial pop out capturing my attention? There were countless sessions, informal dialogues, roundtable discussions and presenters at the JCCA Biennial in Baltimore but this one slide caught my eye in a JTALKS Plenary entitled, “What needs to be done to create a thriving Jewish Community Center for the next 100 years?”
Perhaps the quote helped to sharpen the other thought provoking, fun and inspiring conversations all around me, including understanding the changes in Jewish identity, needs and influences affecting everyone from boomers to gen-alpha (born after 2011). Perhaps, I just felt connected or proud that Louisvillian, Lisa Bergman Eisen’s quote was used to inspire an entire JCC entire movement to stretch their thinking. Or perhaps this is my final answer after I listened to our Louisville delegation of seven and others over three days.
It boiled down to this. The reality is, the future is here and we need to be active participants in shaping it to serve our community and especially in ways we have not before.
In a keynote, Amy Webb, author and futurist, Jewish 2.0 Rebooting the Future of Judaism, previewed how technology, artificial intelligence, bots replacing parts of the workforce and science will change how we engage.
We also know individuals connect to being Jewish or what it means to belong in different ways. This was a key take away from our delegation, including Esther Leah Ritz award winners Jen Leibson and Ariel Kronenberg and JCCA Board member and ELR Chair Jeff Tuvlin.
All three were energized by a session with speaker Avram Infield, noting it changed their thinking and inspired a desire to broaden our perspective as a JCC. For Jen that meant that, “we can’t sit back and expect others to lead us to the future. We must truly lead by example to positively be the change we want to see in our Jewish communities.”
For Ariel, it was Avram Infield’s message that “the mission of the JCC and any other Jewish organization including, the State of Israel, is the advancement of a significant and continued renaissance of the Jewish people.”
Jeff agreed there were many thought-provoking and inspiring sessions this year. “The biennial, through the ELR, Esther Leah Ritz Emerging Leaders Institute, provided me the opportunity several years ago to be better prepared to lead in Louisville. I am honored to have chaired the ELR Institute this year as the JCCA continues to demonstrate our serious commitment to train future leaders.”
How is our JCC embracing the future? We engage thousands of people each year, strengthening, building and sustaining Jewish life in Louisville. Fulfilling our community’s long-term needs is at our core. We welcome and plan for all generations, recognizing the needs and interests of each are very different.
We know the millennials are the largest generation today and they approach the world differently than other generations. Millennials choose their own options, listen only to their own playlists, crave human-to-human contact and like to keep all options open. They are tech savvy, smart, crave human values and want to make the world better.
We do not need to think of them as the next generation; they are this generation.
We also know that by 2017; 50 percent of the population will be over the age of 50. They will continue to be physically active and their children will have fitness instilled in their lifestyle. A growing population of retirees will grow our volunteer base, including those with incredible skills. We must tap into this resource to keep people engaged and channeling their energy and creativity to benefit the entire community.
JCCs have a responsibility to think forward. Whether we are creating a pathway for babies born this year to have strong Jewish identities, or we are focusing on the issues of the day, learning and growing together, or we are focusing on a holistic approach to wellness with an integration of medical, fitness, mindfulness and healthy living, this is an exciting opportunity for the JCC with the added benefit of including the social element people are seeking.
There are other forces and factors that influence who we are and how we plan for the future. While looking at trends to engage people in Jewish life, community and positive experiences, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the larger outside influences on the global Jewish stage beyond the walls of our institutions.
As we gathered together for the final plenary on anti-Semitism and the BDS movement, we were informed that a swastika had been drawn on the side of our hotel during the Biennial. Unfortunately, we cannot eradicate this behavior. We understand the role of our JCC, JCRC (Jewish Community Relations Council) and Federation is to be proactive in both education and speaking out against all forms of anti-Semitism and discrimination.
This too, is our responsibility and obligation as we strive to make our community and world a better place. Our JCC is open and welcoming to the entire Louisville community.
The biennial reminded us of the role The J plays in a vibrant community partnership with our congregations, JFCS (Jewish Family & Career Services), donors, JHFE (Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence) and, of course, the possibilities open to us as a combined agency with our Federation. We were also inspired to think of a new way to see ourselves and how community will be defined and built in the future.
In 1978, the Jewish Federation of Louisville had the good fortune of hiring Paula DeWeese as an executive secretary. If you ever dialed 451-8840, you would recognize Paula’s melodic greeting with her unique draw “Shaloooom, Jewish Federation.” Over 38 years, Paula has supported the community, our professionals, our Board of Directors and our volunteers.
Paula retired in April. We are happy for her as she starts this new phase of her life and so very grateful for her devotion and dedication. Paula really is more than part of our institution, she is part of the family – thirty eight Annual Federation Campaigns, several emergency campaigns, strategic plans, the creation of the Foundation, investment committees, Board retreats, the community calendar, software changes, etc.
Paula’s career with the Federation and the Jewish Community of Louisville has been a blessing for us all. On behalf of the generations of people Paula has helped with exactly what they needed, we know we would have been a mess without you. We all say thank you and we wish you the best.