by Allan Latts
“Jewish Community of Louisville (JCL) serves as the collective body to preserve and enrich Jewish life and values in Louisville, Kentucky, and to identify a connection to the State of Israel, by providing the services and resources that meet the educational, recreational, social and cultural needs of the individual and affected organizations.”
If you have not read this before, this is the mission of the JCL – the new agency created through the merger of Louisville’s Jewish Community Center and the Jewish Federation. Creating a new agency that can accomplish this mission is not easy; it has required hard work and leadership from dozens in the community and we still have a lot of work to do.
One thing is certain. If you live in Louisville, are Jewish, and you want your children and your children’s children to benefit from a strong and vibrant Jewish Louisville, you need the JCL to succeed. The JCL is the only organization in Louisville whose mission is to preserve and enrich Jewish life and values for all Jewish Louisville.
As treasurer of the JCL, I am keenly aware of another fact about the JCL’s mission – it costs money. As a non-profit organization, our objective is to efficiently and cost-effectively provide services to meet our mission. Our challenge is to raise and generate enough money so we can pay for everything we want and need to do to accomplish that mission. If we are unsuccessful, we will need to make difficult choices that will likely compromise our mission and the overall quality of Jewish life in Louisville.
The JCL’s revenue comes primarily from four principle sources: 1) Annual Campaign, 2) grants from the JCL endowment 3) JCC Memberships and program fees, and 4) grants from third parties such as the United Way. Each of these sources are critical to the financial health of the JCL, and it is been a tough year for all of them.
Our needs are high because the recession means that more people need our services and fewer people can afford to pay from them. Many people have had to drop their JCC memberships and not participate in programming due do to their own cost cutting needs.
This has had a significant impact on the JCC’s revenue. Last year’s campaign, which is used to fund this year’s operating budget, raised $500,000 less than the year before resulting in lower allocations to our local agencies and less for this year’s JCL’s operating budget.
Other granting organizations have had similar difficulties raising money, which impacts grants received by the JCL. Finally, while there has been improvement this year, the stock market declines meant that our endowment has fallen in value, reducing the amount of money available for the organization and other purposes.
To combat this situation, the JCL administration and board have worked hard to cut expenses. They have frozen wages, cut budgets and staff where possible and conducted operations with the knowledge that times are tough and only money that needs to be spent should be spent. While these actions have been taken, there were also significant one-time costs that were incurred to ensure a successful integration of the JCC and Jewish Federation.
Even with the cost cutting actions, the JCL board was still faced with an operating deficit for the new JCL. The choice facing the JCL board was to make deep cuts in our programs and services – challenging our mission in this critical first year of the JCL’s life or approve a deficit operating budget with the expectation that next year will be better. In the end, it was decided to both approve a deficit operating budget and also increase the grant from the endowment to minimize the deficit.
The decisions to increase the endowment grant and approve a deficit operating budget were made after much thought and discussion, and I support the decision. However, we must also understand that these decisions can create a dangerous precedent, and I do not believe we can or should repeat them next year. In the coming year we need to be prepared to establish firm guidelines dictating how much money can be granted from the endowment and we need to do what is required to create a balanced operating budget.
We cannot act like the Congress and spend money we do not have. The JCL must be as lean as possible in its operations and we cannot afford to do everything we want to do. However, we can all work together to change this. If you want the JCL to be successful, you can help make it so by providing financial support and getting involved. If you have not already done so, please make your pledge to this year’s annual campaign. Your gift is an investment in the future of our Jewish Community. Without it, the board will be forced to make difficult decisions that will have long-term ramifications for our Jewish community.
If you have any questions about the JCL or would like to make a pledge to do your part to ensure our future, please click here to donate, call 451-8840 or send your check or inquiry to JCL, 3630 Dutchmans Ln., Louisville, KY 40205.