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JCRC Update | SEPTEMBER 27, 2013

JCRC Update | SEPTEMBER 27, 2013

by Matt Goldberg, Director, Jewish Community Relations Council

Out and about in the Community

This past month our Jewish community increased our visibility in Louisville through two very different, but satisfying events. First, we participated in WorldFest, a celebration of different cultures here in Louisville on the Belvedere, and second, the annual Community Hunger Walk.

WorldFest

There are two highlights of WorldFest that are always inspiring, generating civic pride. This festival kicks off with a swearing-in ceremony for new citizens. Becoming a citizen of the United States can be a lengthy and arduous process and to see the joy in the faces of these people after having endured whatever hardships brought them to this point is a meaningful thing to ponder.

The other inspirational moment is the parade of nations, where many people come dressed in their traditional national outfits and wave the flags of their native countries. I was surprised at some of the countries represented, such as Croatia and Mongolia. The traditional Chinese dragon entrance is always the highlight of this parade.

The Jewish Community Relations council had a booth that represented both the State of Israel and activities at the Jewish Community Center. We had travel brochures and information booklets relating to different cities in Israel, common misconceptions about Israel and how to respond to tough questions people may ask about Israel.

We also had brochures for our Center Stage theatre company, JCC camp and JCC membership. Having tended our booth for most of the Labor Day Weekend, I can honestly say I met hundreds of people who were strong supporters of Israel and supporters of our activities. Many people in Louisville have either been to Israel or are planning to go soon. Many told me that it was their lifelong dream to go. Israel really is a country that sells itself; its diversity, its natural beauty, its thriving culture all contribute to a hugely successful tourism industry. It was nice to see that Louisvillians are a part of that.

I would like to thank our volunteers, Jacob Efman, Pam Levine, Kylene Lloyd, Kat O’Connell, Adele Singer, Jeff Slyn, Evie Topcik, Ben Vaughan, Jake Wishnia and especially Ayala Golding for their help in staffing our WorldFest booth.

Combating hunger

Our other “out and about” event is the Hunger Walk, now in its 43rd year. The Jewish community is involved in the planning committee for the Walk, and we always make a huge effort to recruit walkers, runners and donors. This year’s Hunger Walk on Sunday, September 15, was a huge success for Louisville, for the Louisville Jewish community and for the JCRC.

As usual, we had a strong team walking (and running) the 5k event that started and ended on the Great Lawn at Riverfront Plaza. All congregations were represented, including a particularly strong contingent from The Temple, which included a large group of flag-carrying Boy Scouts from Troop 30. Students from the High School of Jewish Studies participated, too.

The idea is to raise money for Dare to Care, whose mission is to lead our community to feed the hungry and conquer the cycle of need. They work in partnership with many other anti-hunger groups in the community, including Jewish Family and Career Services’ Food Pantry. As a community, we raised enough money to serve hundreds of thousands of meals to children and adults among us who cannot afford to feed themselves.

Thanks go to Jessica Goldstein and Leon Wahba for their Hunger Walk organizational efforts.

As Harry Chapin once challenged us: “What are those people gonna eat next week?” Hunger in America in the 21st century is a major problem. Dare to Care and the Hunger Walk are making a difference, and we can be justly proud of the role our Jewish community has played. Supporting the JFCS Food Pantry and its Emergency Services is another way of attacking the disgrace of hunger in our community.

By far the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net is the government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”) that provides food stamps to those in need. A needless shutdown of the government, which is being talked about now in Washington, would severely curtail this program and force millions of children and adults to go hungry.

On top of that, just this past week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill would eliminate $40 billion from the food stamp program over the next 10 years. This cut will have the effect of kicking 14 million people out of the program over this timespan.

I am aware that I have urged this before, but time has run out. Tell our elected officials we do not want to see cuts in this program. Food stamps are a modest benefit and should not be used for political maneuvering. Over 46 million people depend in some way on this program. Cutting this program should not be an option.

Floods in Colorado; Jewish Community to help

As you may be aware, floods have ravaged parts of Colorado, with the city of Boulder particularly hit hard. Jewish institutions in the city have been affected, including two synagogues and the Chabad House that suffered moderate to heavy flooding damage.

NECHAMA, the Jewish Response to Disaster, is already on site assessing the damage. Jewish Federations of North America have started an emergency relief campaign. If you are interested in contributing to this fund, please visit www.jewishfederations.org.

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