An Annual Meeting is always a celebration of an organization’s accomplishments and an opportunity to honor those who provide leadership and serve as role models. The Jewish Community of Louisville’s Annual Meeting on Wednesday, June 15, was no exception; however, the events that happened within the two weeks prior to the evening meant that the gathering began on a more somber note.
In giving the invocation, Rabbi Robert Slosberg, president of the Louisville Board of Rabbis and Cantors reflected on the terrorist attacks in Tel Aviv, where two gunmen came into a café in the Sarona open market and randomly shot people, killing four and wounding even more. The terrorists murdered people just because they were Jews, the Rabbi said.
On Sunday, June 10, Rabbi Slosberg continued, “a terrorist, radicalized by ISIS, opened fire in Orlando, Florida, at Pulse, a gay night club, killing 49 people and injuring 53. We live in a very troubling world. And In times like these we need to stand together. We need more people like Muhammed Ali, to courageously stand and to speak out and to direct us toward the path of peace.”
We need synagogues and temples to teach and guide us “toward the Jewish vision of unity and peace,” he continued, “but we also a central address. A central location, to think, to strategize to plan and to unite us. That is my vision of the JCL and I hope it is yours, too.”
He called on members of the community to unite, and when called upon to serve, to answer “hineini, you can count on me” like Abraham did when God called upon him.
Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence
Ensuring the future of the Jewish community does rely on volunteers to step forward and accept leadership responsibilities, but it also needs financial support. JCL Board Chair Jay Klempner thanked Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence (JHFE) for its support and generosity.
He expressed appreciation for the $200,000 Challenge Match JHFE gave to the 2016 Federation Campaign, and reported that additional JHFE grants helped the JCL improve its outreach and its ability to provide quality services. “JHFE is a critical strategic partner, Klempner said, and we are … so grateful for their support.”
Klempner recognized both JHFE Executive Director Jeff Polson and Chair Sandy Hammond.
Hammond brought greetings from JHFE and commented that the four-year-old funding agency was pleased that the Federation was able to meet the challenge and that JHFE was able to provide the match.
She explained that this year JHFE implemented a capacity building program for grant proposals. “One of the things we know,” she said, “is that if Louisville is to have a strong, vibrant Jewish community for generations to come, we need to make sure we have vibrant organizations this year.”
Through the capacity building program, JHFE sought proposals related to infrastructure support, and the agency was pleased to receive proposals for a communication audit, financial audits, reviews of programs, leadership training for volunteers and staff and succession planning. “JHFE believes that support for the Jewish organizations in those areas will benefit the community for years to come,” she said.
JHFE also continued its Excellence Grants, and, Hammond reported, “in 2015, we invested $1.5 million in Jewish community projects and programs.” The agency plans to start working with its partners to evaluate the success of their investments to inform future decisions on where to invest financial resources.
Hammond indicated that she would be stepping down as JHFE chair in two weeks and David Kaplan would succeed her.
Board Chair’s Report
After a year as Board chair, Klempner had only words of praise for JCL President and CEO Sara Klein Wagner who started in that position at about the same time. It has been a year of learning for both of them, and he said, “We’re doing our job, through hard work, we’ve taken steps to build strong foundation for the future. I could not have picked better partner … than our new CEO, Sara. … she’s one fine executive.
Together with the “passionate and committed” Board members, staff and stakeholders, Klempner said, the JCL is moving forward.
There have been major changes in the Development Department, he pointed out. The Jewish Federation is now a major brand of the JCL, enabling the agency to reclaim its rich history and identity. The Foundation, chaired by Peter Resnik, is working on reengaging existing donors and adding new funds.
In addition, the JHFE Challenge Match enabled the Campaign to leverage the $200,000 grant into $400,000, bringing in 242 new donors and 274 increased gifts.
With the addition of three new professionals, JCC Director of Philanthropy and Outreach Lenae Price, Young Adult Director Benji Berlow and Vice President of Philanthropy Stacy Gordon-Funk, the latter of whom brings 30 years of development experience, the Development Department is implementing many fresh ideas and increasing contact with donors.
Klempner recognized and thanked four people who are completing their service to the agency, Leon Wahba, who served as Campaign Chair; Judge Jennifer Leibson, who served as chair of the Program Cabinet; Glenn Levine, who chaired the Endowment Investment Committee; and Becky Ruby Swansburg, who chaired the Jewish Community Relations Council. Swansburg will continue to serve as an elected Board member.
President and CEO’s Report
Wagner reported that the last year saw changes in the JCL family that included the birth of babies, the retirement of beloved staff members, the marriage of two staff members, and the celebration of The J’s 125th anniversary.
It also included “a reality check” as, “less than month into my new position, we had bomb threat at JCC during camp. It is a tribute and testament to staff, including our camp counselors, how well everything was handled that day with poise and grace.”
Wagner also recalled that we “lost the biggest fan of the Louisville JCC, Annette Sagerman or “Aunt.” We are thrilled that we had a tribute with Annette the year before and were able to share with her our love and what she meant to us for 65 years here at the JCC.”
Jay Klempner is an incredible partner, she said, as she thanked him for being with her on the first year’s journey. She also thanked Frankye Gordon who made the arrangements for the Annual Meeting as well as the entire JCL staff of approximately 50 full time, over 100 part time and over 100 seasonal workers.
The J is embarking on several new programs, she explained. The agency is welcoming a JOFEE program fellow, Michael Fraade, who joined us on June 20. He will be here for a year, working on environmental programming.
The J is partnering with the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Program to offer a trip to Israel next November to 16 mothers with school age children; and a second group is ready for the trip the following year.
The agency will also participate in the Life and Legacy capacity building program in philanthropy; and, with the support of JHFE, will undertake master planning that will address, among other things, the question of the JCC building.
Wagner said that Rabbi Stanley Miles, who is retiring, was her Hebrew school teacher, and in his class, she and her fellow students answered “ani po,” “I am here,” to roll call. But there is another word, “hineini,” that means, “here I am.” She called on all those present to answer, “hineini,” by volunteering to do something for the community, starting with filling out an interest card at each person’s seat.
Young Leadership Awards
Becky Swansburg presented Julie E. Linker Community Relations Young Leadership Award to Derek Pugh, saying Louisville is fortunate to have Pugh here. He comes from the political realm and is a thinker and doer. At the JCRC, he is helping lead the push to have a Holocaust memorial in Louisville and has helped with the response to the Orlando tragedy.
In accepting, Pugh acknowledged it has been an emotional week that encompassed both the celebration of the life and vision of Muhammad Ali and the horror of the Orlando shooting. He looks to the future with the hope that over the next few years, the Jewish community will work together to achieve a Holocaust Memorial and Education Center to acknowledge Jewish life in Kentucky and passage of state law against the BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction) movement to help stomp out anti-Semitism. Both, he said, are in line with Ali’s vision of promoting tolerance and stamping out bigotry.
Scott Weinberg presented the Joseph J. Kaplan Award to Laurence Nibur and the Lewis W. Cole memorial Young Leadership Award to Becky Ruby Swansburg.
Weinberg said he and Nibur share a long personal history dating back to their b’nai mitzvah at Keneseth Israel and their participation in BBYO under the leadership of Peter Anik. Since then, Nibur has taken on numerous leadership roles in the Jewish community. He called Nibur passionate, creative and respectful of views different than his own. Joe Kaplan had a passion for Jewish education and Nibur is a graduate of Eliahu Academy, so it seems fitting that this award go to Nibur.
Nibur accepted the award and called on all constituencies of the community to work together to build for the future. Our community has an incredible future, he said, if we follow the example set by the leaders who came before us.
In a moment of levity, Weinberg recounted the he and Swansburg came to know each other better when his daughter, Eloise, and her son, Robert, were in the same preschool class, and, at age three, began planning their wedding.
More seriously, Weinberg said Swansburg accomplished much in her two years ad JCRC chair and pointed to the decision to help the AlSaid family of Syrian refugees resettle in Louisville as an example. Now, she is about to begin a three-year term on the JCL Board, while serving on the JCPA Board, The Temple Board and YAD and she still finds time to devote to family.
Swansburg thanked her parents, saying, she grew up doing homework while her father was in JCC Board meetings and her mother was at Hillel meetings. They were role models and mentors for her and now she hopes she is the same kind of role model and mentor for her children. ”We are a Jewish community by choice,” she said, “and all of us need to make the choice that we want a vibrant Jewish community here with our time, donations and passion.”
Judah and Kling Awards
Diane Sadle presented the Elsie P. Judah Award to Joe Rothstein, who, she said, has been a member of The J since age four. Today, he serves on the Senior Adult Committee, represents The J on the Chavurat Shalom Board, serves lunch in the Senior Adult Lounge and volunteers to do whatever is asked of him.
Rothstein expressed appreciation for the award, saying he receives more from The J, Jewish Family & Career Services and the JCL than he gives.
Karen Abrams presented the Kling Award to JCC Facilities Director Brian Tabler, who is responsible for the building and 22-acre campus, including the fields and the pools. He is the one who rushes back to The J when a problem arises and works on the days the building is closed to do projects that can’t be done when the building is in use.
Tabler said he is honored and grateful for the recognition, but he credits his staff, John Dillon, Billy Chandler and recently retired Larry Bischoff for keeping the building going.
Assistant Director of Youth Services Mike Steklof presented the teen awards.
The Tony Levitan Award for athletic achievement went to Daniel Levine and Hillary Reskin and the Joseph Fink Community Service Scholarship Award went to Jacob Finke. The Ellen Faye Garmon Award went to Abigail Geller and the Stacy Marks Nisenbaum Award went to Laina Meyerowitz. The Stuart pressma Student leadership Development Awards went to Daniel Hemmer, Jessie Hymes, Audrey Nussbaum, Bradley Schwartz and Emily Schulman.
There was a short video presentation in which the award winners talked about their experiences and impact in leadership roles.
Ronald and Marie Abrams Volunteer of the Year Award
Marie Abrams presented the Ronald and Marie Abrams Volunteer to Mickey Heideman for the many hours he and his wife, Carol, put into running a warehouse to provide ostomate supplies to those who can’t afford them and for his volunteerism at The Temple.
Heideman expressed appreciation for the award, and spent a few minutes explaining that ostomates are people who had to have their colon or bladder removed and have to “poop or pee in a pouch.” The ostomate supplies are life changing, because they enable the patients to engage in normal activities that were difficult or impossible before.
Blanche B. Ottenheimer Award
The highlight of the evening came when Rabbi Joe Rooks Rapport presented the Blanche B. Ottenheimer Award to Rabbi Chester Diamond. The admiration the community has for Rabbi Diamond was evident in an outpouring of love and two standing ovations.
Rabbi Rapport, who came in from Goldman Union Camp Institute in Zionsville, IN, to present the award, said those at GUCI share their regard for Rabbi Diamond and extend an invitation for him to return to the camp.
Examples of Rabbi Diamond’s leadership and caring are too numerous to recount, so Rabbi Rapport instead chose to share one story. When the Waller Chapel was being built, a representation of the 10 Commandments was being prepared for the room. Rabbi Diamond saw what was planned and pointed out that the 10 Commandments were written in Aramaic, so the representation should also be in Aramaic. Since the artist didn’t know Aramaic, Rabbi Diamond himself inscribed the letters.
Rabbi Rapport said Rabbi Diamond is always striving to make the world a better place one good deed at a time, one soul at a time, one mitzvah at a time.
Rabbi Diamond said he appreciated Rabbi Rapport’s kind and thoughtful words and for all the support Rabbi Rapport gave him through the years. He also said he was particularly touched to receive an award named for someone so highly regarded in the community and one that was also given to his mentor, Dr. Herbert Waller, 45 years ago.
Rabbi Diamond quoted a song by Joyce Johnson Rouse, “I am standing on the shoulders of the ones who came before me. I am stronger for their courage; I am wiser for their words. I am lifted by their longing for a fair and brighter future. I am grateful for their vision, for their toiling on this earth.”
Our Jewish community is standing on the shoulders of people like Lewis Cole and Fanny Rose Rosenbaum today. We should not only remember, but emulate them, Rabbi Diamond said. Their vision has become our reality and we must see ourselves as the beginning of the future.
Full profiles of all the award winners ran in earlier editions of Community and can be found online at www.jewishlouisville.org.
Election of Board Members and Officers
Lance Gilbert, chair of the Governance Committee, presented the committee’s report. Other members of the Governance Committee are Karen Abrams, Bruce Blue, Bobby Bornstein, Britt Brockman, Cheryl Karp, Rabbi Robert Slosberg and Ben Vaughan.
Gilbert thanked David Kaplan, Jennifer Leibson, Glenn Levine, Rabbi Robert Slosberg and Leon Wahba, who completed their terms of service on the JCL Board.
Mark Behr, Jon Fleischaker, Ralph Green, Robin Miller and Becky Ruby Swansburg were elected to three year terms on the JCL Board by the members of the JCL present at the meeting.
Several Board positions are filled by people who hold specific community positions specified in the JCL’s bylaws. They are Jewish Community Relations Council Chair Bob Sachs, JCC Program Cabinet Chair Amy Ryan and Louisville Board of Rabbis and Cantors President Rabbi David Feder.
The governance committee nominated Jay Klempner as Board Chair, Jon Fleischaker as vice chair, Bruce Blue as treasurer, Jeff Tuvlin as secretary and Karen Abrams as immediate past chair. They were elected by the members of the JCL Board to serve for the next year.