[by Stu Silberman]
President and CEO
Jewish Community of Louisville
I am watching a series on Science Channel about the Apollo moon missions. Each one-hour episode explores one aspect of the missions – the rocket engines, the space suits, the navigation software, etc. What a seemingly insurmountable task it was to land a man on the moon and return him safely to the Earth. To succeed, the proper talents were assembled, the budgets were established, each team member knew his/her role and was committed to it, the gargantuan task was divided into manageable pieces, and with each member’s contribution, the seemingly insurmountable was overcome.
On a smaller scale, that’s what we’re doing at the JCL, in our quest to ensure a sustainable, vibrant and inviting Jewish community in Louisville for generations to come. And just like the Apollo missions that took many years of effort to achieve their goal, supporters of our agency should expect that we will take the requisite time to ensure we are successful as well.
When we talk sustainability, there’s nothing more important than long-term planning. To that end, we are re-launching our endowment under its new brand, the Jewish Foundation of Louisville. The Foundation incorporates the Second Century Funds and philanthropic funds together with our unrestricted funds under a common brand, managed efficiently by our finance organization with investments professionally managed by Northern Trust.
With our new spending policy, strict professional and committee oversight and the introduction of new options for donors of all levels, the Foundation will provide stable, predictable income to sustain existing programs, fund new programs and ensure our community benefits from the generosity of those who choose to make contributions, while continuing to support Israel, the Jewish community around the world and others our donors have specified when they established their endowment funds. At the same time, the endowment program will continue to provide a variety of tax benefits.
We are pursuing a number of other sustainability actions, including applying for grants with the help of a professional grant writer with whom we have contracted. We also have a new electronic system that displays program information on TV monitors throughout the building, creating a new revenue stream through sponsorship opportunities.
As we work to ensure the vibrancy of our programming, let’s focus for a moment on our Health and Wellness area. We are listening to our members and responding with new programming, such as Zumba, now included free with membership, and a Trek to Israel fitness program. We will track the time members spent swimming, running, biking, participating in exercise programs and more and convert them to distances to allow each team of five to work its way from Louisville to Israel, with prizes awarded to those who make the trek.
Our Winter Camp is running now, with a large variety of creative activities to keep our younger community members engaged and entertained during the school break. We have reinvigorated our Gold and Silver Memberships, and these highly valued members have been rewarded with a dedicated parking space.
We are finding ways to reach out to more community members and introduce them to JCL programs. Our Light Up CenterStage fundraiser was more than a great social night out. It raised money to continue supporting that program and further our outreach efforts by allowing us to launch Acting Out, a professional performing troop that will take CenterStage to the Jefferson County Public Schools and other schools in the region. Other outreach efforts include our Interfaith Chanukah party, where we invite those from other religions to experience Chanukah.
Our strategic planning work groups are being formed, and charters have been established for each. With this dedicated group of lay leaders, we will chart the course for the next three to five years, and our organization’s progress will be tracked by a Strategic Planning Committee of the JCL Board.
Our Planning and Allocations Committee, led by Chair Jay Klempner, has already planned out the calendar and process for 2012 allocations that will take place in May, following the conclusion of the 2012 Federation Campaign.
Speaking of the Campaign, we’re off to a great start, with the very busy month of November behind us. In just five weeks we hosted our Ben Gurion Society (committed donors up to age 45 who pledge $1,000 or more), our King David Society (donors contributing at our highest levels, $25,000 and above), our Women’s Pomegranate and Lion Divisions (contributions of at least $1,500 and $5,000 respectively), and our wonderful Major Gifts/Community Event on December 1 featuring Mitch Albom.
This combined event honored our donors at levels of $5,000 and above and also welcomed community members with pledges at more modest levels to hear our guest speaker’s comments during dessert. Through this new, more inclusive approach to our Federation Campaign, we will continue to invite more community members to participate because we appreciate contributions of all levels.
More Campaign events are being planned, including our annual Young Adult Division event in January with illusionist Sydney Friedman, Super Sunday in February, and women’s and men’s events. Watch for the announcement of an evening at Horseshoe Casino.
Our building, while not the youngest on the block, is serving us well. If we take care of it, it will continue to serve us well and help us continue to attract new members. The fees provided by those we serve allow us to maintain and upgrade our facilities and equipment and provide a location in which we can offer our other programming that benefits both the Jewish and overall local communities.
We know we have more work to do. The building hasn’t had an effective maintenance program for many years, and we’re not able to accomplish all we want to as quickly as we or our members would like. But we have started, and will continue to do so.
We are about to celebrate Chanukah, the Festival of Lights. Coincidentally, Brian Tabler, our Facilities Director, wrote for and received a grant to replace our old lighting fixtures with new, energy efficient models, and we’re also replacing outdated ventilation systems with high efficiency units. These actions will help us be more environmentally friendly and also reduce our utility bills. System by system, area by area, we are making needed replacements and upgrades, so that we continue to provide a safe and comfortable environment for our members and clients.
We’ve come a long way, thanks to our dedicated volunteers and devoted staff, and just as NASA completed its journey, slowly and steadily, so will we.
Would you like to help us? There’s room. We’re in need of community members who can help staff our committees. What’s your interest? The Foundation? The building? Programming for young, old or in-between? Community Relations? Take a look at the committee list in the ad on this page, which indicates where we need your help. If you’re interested in serving on a committee, please send an email to Paula DeWeese at firstname.lastname@example.org, or click here. Briefly express your interest and explain why you’d like to serve. Be sure to include contact information. We’ll pass names to the appropriate staff members, who will get back with you.
Every little bit helps. Donations are welcome anytime, and if contributed by year-end you may receive tax benefits in 2011. (Please consult your tax adviser.)
A sustainable, vibrant and inviting Jewish Community in Louisville is attainable, and we are well on the way. Thank you for any support you can lend to help us get there faster.