JCL Update 08/28/09

[Archived from August 28, 2009]

Editor’s Note: Through this column, elected members of the Jewish Community of Louisville Board provide updates on progress made since JCL’s formation and share their thoughts with readers.

by Kate Latts
Vice Board Chair

When Ed Weinberg asked me to serve as a Vice Chair of the, at the time, unnamed newly merging Federation and JCC organization, I was both flattered and daunted by the challenge that lay ahead both for me personally and the community at large. As a businesswoman, I know that mergers and acquisitions of any kind are never as easy and seamless as one would think they should be, and I knew that we would all have our work cut out for us. In writing this article for Community, I would like to share my thoughts and perspectives on how the early days of this union have been – the good, the bad and the ugly and, most importantly, the progress at hand.

So the good: In my opinion, the actual realization of the merger and creation of the Jewish Community of Louisville (JCL) in and of itself was a tremendous good. A year and a half ago, if you had asked most people in our community to consider the possibility of a Federation/JCC merger, most would have laughed and asked how would that be possible.

The fact that leaders in our community came together from across all sub-segments, including social service organizations, educational organizations and synagogues, to weigh the merits and potential of such a merger, and then within a six-month period turn it into a reality for Louisville, is truly beyond good.

Likewise the Board of Directors that was deliberately created to lead this newly founded organization was developed to be representative of segments of Jewish Louisville, balancing new energetic faces with those who have years of important experience and perspective, also was beyond good.

So the not so good and the ugly: Without trying to sound like George Bush, the work involved with merging the Federation and JCC is hard work. Getting a new Board of people who have different perspectives, backgrounds and biases to come together to trust each other in order to be able to work towards consensus on a mission, vision and operating protocol, to name a few of the tasks at hand could not happen overnight, is a major achievement.

To merge the financial systems of two organizations with different computer systems, different fiscal years and disparate operating procedures would not be an easy task for even the smartest outside consultants we could hire. And merging the staff of two organizations with different personnel policies and lots of uncertainty would be a human resource challenge for the best organizational behavior professor. In the spirit of transparency, anyone would have to admit there have been a lot of challenges to work through in these early months of this new organization.

So the progress: While focusing on these issues that I listed above in the “not so good and ugly” section may not be the most sexy or exciting part of what this new organization is setting out to do, they are critical. The importance of taking our time to get much of this right is a necessary step in building the strong foundation that will enable us to achieve real progress and the better tomorrow we are all looking for. Today, there are signs progress is starting to take shape.

A new executive search process is underway; a new logo and tagline are about to be rolled out; a committee structure is starting to take shape; and a programming analysis effort that has been incredibly well thought through is moving forward. I was also able to see real optimism and hope last Sunday at the Jewish Community of Louisville’s Young Adult and Family picnic in Cherokee Park.

While so much of the hard work in creating the new JCL has been taking place behind the scenes, in our small Jewish community of 8,500 people, we had more than 220 young people and families enjoying themselves on a beautiful late Sunday afternoon – playing on the swings, listening to the great music of John Gage, taking part in the crafts and other planned activities, and just catching up and enjoying one another. Thanks especially to Kim Norton and Hilary Catapano, who chaired this event.

The most inspiring part was that we were ONE community, including newcomers to Louisville, people who have lived here all of their lives, families from the Orthodox community as well as intermarried and unaffiliated families.

No one cared if they were a “JCC person” or a “Federation person.” Instead, all they cared about on that beautiful Sunday afternoon was being part of a young, vibrant Jewish community that would welcome them and be a fun, memorable part of their lives and their children’s.

That is really what all of this is hard work, challenge and dedication is all about.

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