by Ayala Golding
Having been away from Louisville for the past year, from June 2008 through June 2009, my perspective on the changes that occurred to Louisville’s organized Jewish community are unique.
Until my departure in June 2008 I was and had been an active Board member of the Louisville Jewish Federation for several years. Then, while in Israel for the year enjoying my husband’s sabbatical from teaching at Bellarmine University, Alan Engel contacted me to notify me that I had been nominated to serve as a Board member of the newly formed Jewish Community of Louisville, Inc., and asked if I would be interested in participating in the new entity.
After serious deliberation I agreed to serve. I was not here during the initial transition, as upon my return to Louisville, the JCL was already formed. However, I have had the opportunity to attend several Board meetings and informational meetings regarding the JCL and I am thrilled with what we can all expect in the future from this new entity.
The current JCL Board appears to be acutely aware of the criticism that faced its predecessors, the Federation and the Jewish Community Center, including among other things claims of lack of financial transparency, exclusivity and an inability or unwillingness to change. In response the new JCL is making every effort to be as open and flexible as possible.
The Board has a good proportion of members with fresh ideas and with a willingness to change from the way things were done in the past if the old ways are no longer working for our community. The new Board is enthusiastic and I hope that we can maintain our enthusiasm and that we do not become jaded and frustrated with the process of developing the JCL to its full potential.
In addition to serving as a member of the JCL Board, I am currently participating in two JCL subcommittees: the standing CRC (Community Relations Council) committee, of which I am a member of the executive committee and co-chair of the Interfaith and Community Coalition subcommittee.
I have served with the CRC for over 10 years, well before I became a Board member of the Federation. I was heartened to find that the JCL had decided to maintain this committee and make sure that it is adequately funded, including the funding of a staff person dedicated to the CRC.
The CRC is the public face of the JCL, handling many interactions with the Louisville community as a whole. As you have heard from several other Board members who also serve on the CRC, including its current chair, Leon Wahba, and its immediate past chair, Helene Kramer Longton, the CRC is made up of members of every organized Jewish institution in Louisville. The CRC seeks, through consensus, to speak for the Jewish community on all matters relevant to it.
As the co-chair of the Interfaith and Community Coalition subcommittee I am looking forward to our future interactions with Louisville’s growing moderate Islamic community, its various Christian denominations, its GLBT community, and all other represented members of the greater Louisville community. I recently attended a dinner presented by the Council of Islamic Organizations of Kentucky, and I look forward to inviting them and our other coalition partners to attend a CRC Chanukah party this year.
I am also currently participating in one of the JCL’s ad hoc programming committees dealing with the types and kinds of programming that should be offered by the JCL for our Jewish youth. My committee, led by Marsha Roth, is reviewing every aspect of programming by, among other things, contacting former participants in past programs both to see what worked for these participants and to hear what is wanted, so that the programming can be tailored to best serve our community’s needs.
I am happy to state that everyone with whom I have spoken is glad to know that their perspective is not only going to be included in our programming decisions, but that their thoughts and beliefs are important to the process and that these decisions are not being made in a vacuum.
I believe that the JCL is more inclusive of all its members than its predecessors were at any time since I have been involved in the organized Jewish community in Louisville. Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend the YAD Campaign event at 21C. The event was at capacity and everyone had a great time. Lior Yaron, the keynote speaker commented on how excited he was to see several Kipot in the crowd. I point this out because as an Orthodox Jew I have not always felt welcome at Jewish events where a Kosher option was not readily available, and I believe that other Orthodox Jews who keep strictly kosher may have also felt unwelcome and chose in the past to avoid such events. However, the JCL is more responsive to concerns that have been raised on this front, and I hope that in the future there will be an even greater participation of the Orthodox Jewish members of this community in future JCL sponsored events.
I look forward to serving this Community and being responsive to its needs in the future, and I look forward to receiving your feedback as to how we are doing.