by Karen Abrams, Sheila Berman and Jeff Tuvlin
With the formation of the Jewish Community of Louisville, came the promise that every part of the two predecessor agencies, the Jewish Community Federation and the Jewish Community Center, would be carefully examined in light of real community wants and needs.
To undertake this task, a Program Review Committee was constituted, and the three of us agreed to chair it. The task we were charged with was huge, but we had a lot of help from all parts of the community.
We established five subcommittees and recruited a cadre of capable chairs – Marsha Roth, who chaired the Newborn-5th Grade group; Eric Bass, Middle and High School; Heather Gladstein, Young Adults (ages 19-45); Alex Rosenberg, Adults (ages 45-65); and Angeline Golden, Seniors (ages 65+). JCL staff members Robin Stratton and Sara Wagner worked closely with us.
Over 40 people participated on the review subcommittees. This very diverse group included members of all the synagogues, JCC members and non-members, donors and non-donors, and people from both interfaith and same faith families to ensure the review was as complete, thorough and fair as possible.
We were diligent in our research, speaking to community members and staff, those who used existing programs and those who didn’t. We also made full use of other resources available to us, including the recent Demographic Study, the Horizon Study and the Louisville Jewish Teen Initiative Report.
Today, after six months of intense effort, we are excited to present a summary of the JCL Program Review Committee report, which was presented to the JCL Board at its meeting earlier this month.
The formation of the JCL is truly an opportunity to reinvent and refocus ourselves on what is most important. The committee had many specific recommendations that give us direction as we move forward. Highlights include:
- We need to create more opportunities to bring Jewish people together to connect with one another through events like picnics, children and family experiences with other Jews, community-wide programs for middle and high school students, segmented programming for young Jews in their 20’s and 30’s and more social events for young adults, adults and active seniors.
- Rather than planning one-size-fits-all programs, our community needs concierge style structure for programming. We envision a dedicated staff point person for each “age and stage” of life. That staff member will be the go to person for all programming needs for that “age and stage” and will work with a separate lay committee to tailor programming for that specific group.
- There is a pressing need for a middle school director who can reach out to and involve the preteens and recognizes that the needs of middle schoolers are different from those of high school students.
- While the subcommittees found there were many people who do not see a place for themselves in current programming, they also found that adults of every age want to spend time with other Jews. They want high quality, appealing programs that meet a standard of excellence.
- Many people expressed interest in spending more time at the JCC if they know other Jews will be there and the programs speak to their needs.
- Not everything needs to be changed. There are many programs that are extremely well attended by satisfied participants.
- Community members understand that with the difficult economy, we cannot be all things to all people.
- JCL can build ownership by recruiting more volunteers for the “age and stage” lay program committees.
- We must update our communication and marketing methods and deliver messages and registration options through internet portals like Facebook, Twitter and the soon to be unveiled new JCL website. Additionally, people want to receive information about the specific programs designed for them, rather than having to go through blanket communications that cover everything. For example, young mothers don’t need information about the upcoming trip for seniors.
- People want the best quality services they do not care who offers the programs, be it the JCL, a synagogue or one of the other Jewish agencies.
We believe this review process has been thorough and offers many ideas for moving forward. It is the first step toward building the community we want and need. As we move toward implementation, we will need to consider issues like staffing levels and how staff members are used, the appropriateness and adequacy of facilities, off-site programming opportunities and more.
The next step is building a strong lay committee structure that will involve many members of the community.
We’d like to thank all the members of the Program Review Committee and its subcommittees for their hard work and for helping us give direction and vision as we move forward. We hope that many of them will continue to be involved as we reimagine, reshape, and reinvigorate our community.