[by Sara Klein Wagner]
Senior Vice President and Chief Operations Officer
We use the phrase “l’dor vador” or “from generation to generation” a lot in Jewish life. What will we pass on from this generation, from this moment in time?
Over the years, my daughters have each asked, “What exactly do you do?” Each time I replied, “I help build Jewish community one person at a time” and the commentary has continued ever since.
Eight months ago, I took on a newly created role as COO of the Jewish Community of Louisville, overseeing programs and operations. Every day I am privileged to see firsthand how the JCL’s commitment to caring, compassion and learning is creating community.
Our community reaches every generation, from new parents to the most senior members of our community.
We warmly welcome new parents and new families to Louisville, connecting individuals to programs and to each other. Our successful PJ Library program has brought Jewish books and stories into hundreds of homes. The relationships that have been built through gateway experiences like Shalom Louisville, Shalom Baby and PJ Library, have resulted in numerous playgroups and have created strong family relationships among participants, which can last a lifetime. We are also a home away from home for many seniors who enjoy the company and friendships they have built at the JCC. There is a shared and communal sense of joy in our Senior Adult Department through everyday activities and exercise as seniors face the challenges of aging and loss.
Over the past two years our community has invested heavily in our teens, recognizing they are indeed the future of the Jewish community. The 6-12th grade JCL program is thriving. Over 90 percent of identified 6-8th graders participated in at least one teen connection event this year. The middle school and high school programs are attracting teens for social service social, leadership, sports and Jewish experiences. We are very excited to send a Louisville team to the JCCA North American Maccabi Games for the first time in many years.
Our Health and Wellness department developed Team Trek to Israel this year. Over 190 people joined teams to exercise and learn about Israel along the way. Our Patio Gallery and CenterStage Theatre continue to have outstanding reputations in the Jewish and general community. The Jewish Film Festival was the largest held in Louisville this year. The breadth of who we serve and the impact our programs make – from our infant childcare program to Hilllel to family programming – means we are building community everyday.
On an organizational level the JCL is focusing on the big picture to ensure a strong foundation for the next generation through strategic planning and setting priorities. JCL professionals and volunteers work behind the scene to infuse the strengths of the past into a new streamlined user-friendly agency that delivers services, creates meaningful Jewish experiences and has the secure financial resources necessary for our Jewish community. We have made progress, and we recognize there is more work to be done.
Past generations would be surprised to see us now – we are more open then ever to meeting the needs of our diverse Jewish community. Interfaith families are an integral part of our future and Israel continues to be a transformative experience, as thousands of young adults have participated in Birthright Israel, and our Louisville Jewish community continues to strengthen our connection with the Western Galilee through Partnership 2Gether.
JCL has a responsibility to be ready for the future and anticipate the next paradigm shift.
The future of the JCL includes a strong JCC. A new set of principles for the JCC movement presented last week at the JCCA biennial encourages us “to create a vibrant welcoming Jewish environment that encourages people to lead engaged lives of meaning and purpose” for both members and those who choose to participate in other ways.
In Louisville, we must embrace this call to action with our new integrated model of programs. There is no doubt our community will be stronger if we invest in young families and youth and commit to a meaningful people-to-people relationship with our partners in Israel.
Our future must include a commitment to strong vibrant programs built on Jewish values, a welcoming and caring community, a shared spirit and pride and, most important, a focus on the individuals we serve. This will only happen in large part through the effort and dedication of our current and future JCL staff. They are the key ingredients to our current successes and they make new dreams and ideas come to life every day.
Our JCL staff has the talent and desire to reach new heights, but they need your help. If you are passionate about a service, let us know. You can serve as an ambassador to welcome others or volunteer on a JCL committee. If you are interested in connecting with your Jewish community, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 238-2779. We look forward to your help in creating a legacy we will be proud to pass on to the next generation.