(See photo gallery below)
The Jewish Community of Louisville’s 2014 Annual Meeting on Sunday, June 1, at the Jewish Community Center, was a celebration of volunteers and their service to the community, an overview of the JCL’s achievements over the past year and the election of Board members and officers for the coming fiscal year.
Julie E. Linker Community Relations Young Leadership Award
Rabbi Joe Rooks Rapport presented the Julie E. Linker Community Relations Young Leadership Award to Becky Ruby Swansburg. Rabbi Rapport, who received the Linker Award 25 years ago, watched Swansburg grow up at The Temple, where, as a member of NFTY (the North American Federation of Temple Youth), she quickly got involved in social justice issues.
At Middlebury College, she was active in Hillel while earning degrees in political science and communications. After working in the offices of two different congressmen in Washington, DC, she returned to Louisville and has fully reengaged with the community serving on the Boards of The Temple and the Rauch Planetarium, chairing the Jewish Community Relations Council and serving on the national Board of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs – all while raising two children.
Elsie P. Judah Memorial Award
JCC Senior Adult Director Diane Sadle presented the Elsie P. Judah Memorial Award to Margaret Mazanec, an active participant in the Senior program and its “official paparazzi.” She earned the title because she documents all the Senior Adult activities with photos, labels them and puts them in albums.
Along with her friend, Mag Davis, she also organized the community gardens, which thanks to Karen Abrams, now have raised beds with a variety of plants. Children in the JCC Summer Camp help tend the garden and the bounty goes to the JFCS Food Pantry and the JCC Senior Nutrition Program.
Mazanec expressed appreciation to the JCC for providing a home for seniors and for the devotion and hard work of the staff, particularly Diane Sadle and Slava Nelson. “Because of your work,” she said, “my life has changed forever.” She considers the Senior Club her family.
Lewis W. Cole Memorial Young Leadership Award
Ben Vaughan, a past Cole Award recipient, presented the Lewis W. Cole Memorial young Leadership Award to Keren Benabou. He pointed out that Benabou came to Louisville seven years ago and has two small children. She is a member of the Ben Gurion Society and has shown exceptional leadership in the Federation Campaign’s Young Adult Division (YAD).
Benabou joined the meeting via Skype as she was in Israel for a wedding. She humbly said she loves her community, is proud to be Jewish and is appreciative of the opportunity to work with the community and help it thrive for her children’s benefit.
Joseph J. Kaplan Young Leadership Award
Beth Salamon, a past Kaplan Award recipient, presented the Joseph J. Kaplan Young Leadership Award to Tracy Geller. Salamon pointed out that Geller has recently taken on a lot of programming responsibility with YAD, including co-chairing the annual YAD Campaign event. At the same time, she is a member of the Adath Jeshurun Preschool Board, works as an attorney and is raising two children and two stepchildren with her husband, Mark.
Geller recalled that when she was growing up, her father was often away volunteering at community agency meetings, and while she didn’t understand what he was doing or why, she knew “he must have been doing something important and special to be away from us.”
Now, as a parent, she understands and is ready to do her part to help the community thrive and to set an example for her children. While it’s a lot of work, she finds it rewarding. She also expressed appreciation from her mentors, including her father-in-law Harry Geller, Frankye Gordon and Bruce Blue.
Arthur S. Kling Award
JCL President and CEO Stu Silberman presented the Arthur S. Kling Award to Assistant Director of Membership and Wellness Tara Stone. Silberman said that throughout her time with the JCL, Stone has continually striven to go the extra mile and make things better, and as she has, her position and responsibilities have changed and grown.
She built staff values, stressing service and efficiency and continually took on more responsibility with a positive attitude and passion. Through her efforts she helped change the culture at the agency.
Stone, visibly moved, said it is a true honor to be chosen to receive this award “among so many amazing peers.” She loves what she does and the organization.
Teen Director Mike Steklof presented the Stuart Pressma Leadership Awards, which include college scholarships to Rachel Bass, Eli Gould, Ben Koby, Deborah Levin and Maggie Rosen. All of them were active in BBYO throughout their high school yeaers and held many leadership positions.
Steklof also presented the Stacy Marks Nisenbaum Award to Jacob Finke, the Ellen Faye Garmon Award to Audrey Nussbam, and the Joseph Fink Award to Natania Lipp.
Finke is currently the godol (president) of Drew Corson AZA and has been an excellent recruiter. He helped the chapter win the Henry Monsky Chapter Excellence Award, earned the Mazkir of the Year Award (secretary) in the region, and more.
Nussbaum is the n’siah (president) of Jay Levine BBG and helped her chapter win the Chapter Excellence Award on the international level, chaired several regional events, earned the Mazkira of the Year Award (secretary) and more.
Lipp held offices locally and regionally, including n’siah of Jay Levine BBG and regional sh’licha, vice president of Jewish heritage, community service and social action. As sh’licha, she helped bring in Unified for Uganda as a regional project.
Ronald and Marie Abrams Volunteer of the Year Award
John Leffert presented the Ronald and Marie Abrams Volunteer of the Year Award to Angie Aronoff.
Leffert said that for 27 years, Aronoff has “gone beyond what is asked or expected,” taking on whatever needed to be done to make CenterStage a success and he shared a letter from her children, Michelle and Joel, who were unable to be with her that night. They said she was a role model who was never too busy or important for any volunteer opportunity who taught them how to give of themselves.
For Leffert, it was a bittersweet moment, as soon after the JCL Annual Meeting the Aronoffs moved to Denver to be closer to their children.
Aronoff thanked many people, but especially John Leffert and the “amazing” staff and volunteers of CenterStage who have made the theater program a “cornerstone of the JCC.”
Blanche B. Ottenheimer Award
The presentation of the Blanche B. Ottenheimer Award was the highlight of the evening. The prestigious award recognizes the contributions of a person who has made a significant difference for good in Louisville and beyond. Betty Jones presented the 2014 Ottenheimer Award to her son, David A. Jones, Jr.
Betty Jones said many things helped prepare her son to make the significant contributions he has made to the city and beyond. His love of reading made him an avid scholar, historian, linguist, enthusiastic and effective teacher and advocate for education.
His study of languages gave him opportunities in China, Germany and Hong Kong; and his time in China taught him the loneliness of living in a culture other than his own, which led him to the Americana Community Center, where he works with immigrants.
He learned to swim and the importance of physical exercise at the JCC, and credits his self discipline to years of swimming, football and soccer.
He is also blessed with a wife, Mary Gwen, who shares his commitment to education, being loving parents and positive role models.
For David A. Jones, Jr., receiving the Ottenheimer Award gave him the opportunity to talk about the importance of education. He acknowledged the many blessings he has had and spoke of his parents and grandparents’ influence on his own education.
Another mentor, he said, spent 19 years in a labor camp, during which time he was not allowed to speak and was starved. This mentor told Jones he survived by reading. “I didn’t have access to books,” Jones reported his friend said, “but I had memorized long poems and essays, so I read in my head.”
Education matters to society, he said, and the Jefferson County Public Schools need improvement. About half the students do not leave school ready for the future, he said, and most of them are concentrated in areas of high poverty.
He sees poverty and the social divide as big challenges, but not as insurmountable obstacles. None of those students, Jones said, is as poor as the students he had in China, and those students were able to learn.
Jones believes the building blocks are in place to better serve children in poverty, and he blames the failure on the fact that voters are complacent because the system works pretty well for them.
He said he ran for the School Board to effect change and change is hard. He called on those in attendance to demand better from the schools and to push him to get it done.
Jay Levine BBG presented a short video to honor the man for whom their chapter is named. They remembered that he was a person teens could always count on. They also talked about the Discover CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health) program started by Diane Levine and Shannon Levine Benovitz with the help of the Jay Levine Fund.
The Discover CATCH program engages children and teens in a healthy lifestyle program, the BBGers said, and it is being incorporated into all programming. It helps participants understand “go,” “slow” and “whoa” foods and encourages movement activities.
Natania Lipp, who recently participated in the March of the Living, a trip to the death camps and ghettos of Poland, then to Israel, was so moved by her experience that she feels it is critical that more teens have the opportunity she had. To begin working toward that goal, she established the March of the Living Fund, which will provide scholarships to enable more teens to go on the March.
Louis Waterman, chair of the Jewish Hospital Fund for Excellence spoke briefly about how the histories of the JCL and JHFE are intertwined, from the founding of Jewish Hospital in 1903 to the present.
The JCL, he pointed out, is the largest recipient of JHFE funds. Since JHFE began giving grants, it has invested nearly $4 million in Jewish initiatives for education, senior adults and health and wellness, and the JCL has received $1.5 million of that. JHFE is also investing in health care and medical research.
Waterman also reported that JHFE is working on its strategic plan, which is nearing completion. It is excited about its acquisition of the Standard Club and is working with a committee with representation from every Jewish organization, including the JCL, to determine the best use of the property to benefit the Jewish community.
JHFE’s Board is looking for transformational opportunities, he said, and it is seeking to ensure a thriving Jewish community.
Program Cabinet Chair’s Report
Jennifer Leibson, who co-chairs the Program Cabinet with Amy Ryan, expressed pride in “the way we connect with the Jewish community in this building.” She praised the staff as talented and dedicated and said the JCC is a unique gathering place and the center for Jewish life.
She listed many of the programs from Shalom Baby and PJ Library for the youngest constituents and Teen Connection and BBYO, to arts and education events and programs, to programs for seniors. She asked all JCC staff members to stand and be recognized.
Federation Campaign Report
2014 Federation Campaign Chair Doug Gordon described the Campaign as the central collection system that raises the money that the whole Jewish community comes together to allocate to meet the needs of the Jewish agencies.
This year, he reported, the Campaign raised just under $2.1 million to-date. He thanked the donors for their support and the community for allowing him to chair the Campaign.
He also announced he will chair the Campaign again next year.
Board Chair’s Report
JCL Board Chair Karen Abrams focused on the JCL’s Strategic Plan in her remarks. It starts with the JCL’s vision: fulfilling the needs of the Jewish community; and its mission: to build and sustain a vibrant, caring, inclusive community rooted in Jewish values.
“We do this,” she explained, “through maintaining health and wellness, advocating for justice and compassion, fostering interfaith relations, fundraising for Jewish needs, promoting and celebrating Jewish culture and heritage, educating the young, supporting Israel, caring for the elderly, and by being welcoming and diverse.”
The plan also includes six strategic goals in the areas of communication, philanthropy, leadership, the JCC building, programs and addressing financial anchors.
She appealed for community support to achieve these goals.
For the coming year, Abrams said her goals are to determine the agency’s ideal footprint and analyze where potential program and service users live; to re-energize Women’s philanthropy and to have a successful young leadership program up and running.
President and CEO’s Report
JCL President and CEO Stu Silberman expressed pride in the Strategic Plan and appreciation for the leadership that created it. He singled out Abrams for her community leadership through the years and the partnership they have built.
He also shared words of praise for the staff members who made the Annual Meeting happen.
Silberman expressed pride in the JCL staff and introduced new staff members and those who were recently promoted: Senior Director of Camping and Youth Services Betsy Schwartz; Director of the Early Learning Center Melissa Youngblood; Membership Director Alicia Springer and Aquatics Director Johnny Kimberlin.
Also, Jen Tuvlin in PJ Library and outreach; Brian Hardesty and Linda Amarant in accounting; and Raven Dunn, Niki King and Jennifer Hardage in marketing. “I am very proud of this team. In just a few years we have attracted so many talented, passionate, and committed professionals. It is our truly wonderful staff that has enabled the great advances we have achieved,” Silberman commented.
Silberman also thanked the Board of directors, committee members and volunteers for their help.
He commented that five year ago, on May 1, 2009, the JCL was created from the merger of the JCC and the Federation. He listed a few key accomplishments as they align with the strategy goals Abrams outlined earlier including communications with increased emphasis on the major brands of JCC and Federation; the Uniquely Jewish Event Series that “puts the fun back in fundraising;” increased leadership opportunities through committees; prudent investment in the current building; and programming that scores higher in Jewish impact in the Jewish Community Centers Association Benchmarking than the average of comparable JCCs.
On the financial side, Silberman reported that income generating programming increased net contribution from $800,000 to $1,200,000 and contributions to endowment funds increased by over $1,000,000.
Also, the JCL’s dependence on use of unrestricted endowment earnings to support operations has been reduced from $492,000 in fiscal year 2010 to $126,000 this year.
Silberman summarized that the cumulative improvement to JCL operations since the agency was formed, excluding the revenue from Campaign and other philanthropic activities, is over $1,500,000.
David Kaplan, chair of the JCL Governance Committee conducted Board elections.
Those elected or re-elected for three-year terms on the Board were Bruce Blue, Lance Gilbert, Seth Gladstein, Doug Gordon and Jacob Wishnia.
Those elected or re-elected as officers were chair, Karen Abrams; vice chairs, Jay Klempner and Leon Wahba; treasurer, Laurence Nibur; and secretary, Jeff Tuvlin.
Directors who completed their terms, Shannon Benovitz, Myrle Davis, Harry Geller, Nathan Goldman, Rabbi Laura Metzger and Michael Shaikun, were recognized and thanked.
In addition to Kaplan, members of the Governance Committee are Bruce Blue, Bob Bornstein, Lance Gilbert, Dennis Hummel, Steve Linker, Susan Rudy and Mark Weiss.