[by Shiela Steinman Wallace]
There are many people who contribute their time and resources to ensure that there is a strong Jewish community in Louisville. Among them is a much smaller group who devote many hours to this cause and invest in the community every year. They are true leaders.
Then there are those who go even further, investing in the community’s future by establishing endowments, ensuring that their gifts will benefit the Jewish community in perpetuity.
Nationally, the Jewish Federations of North America honors a select group of women with the Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award. These women are leaders in their communities, support their communities’ annual campaigns at the Lion of Judah level or more ($5,000), have endowed their Lion gifts and who encourage others to follow in their footsteps.
This year, the Jewish Community of Louisville will honor Karen Abrams with the Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award. Past recipients of the biannual award include Denise Schiller, Jane Goldstein, Carolyn Neustadt and Cheryl Karp.
“I was surprised and very honored” to receive the call from Jane Goldstein, Abrams said. “I love going to the Lion of Judah Conference, and I’m excited that it’s going to be in New York this September.” Attending the conference will enable her to reconnect with a good friend she made when she served on the national Campaign Cabinet.
“I was with Cheryl Karp at the Lion of Judah Conference in New Orleans,” she recounted, “and it was a lot of fun.”
Abrams has been a volunteer and leader with the annual Federation Campaign for many years, serving as leader of several divisions, 1997 YAD (Young Adult Division) co-chair with Ken Richter and 2003 and 2004 Campaign co-chair with Lior Yaron.
She became the sixth woman in the community to endow her Lion of Judah gift in December 2002. “I did it when I was Campaign co-chair,” Abrams said, “to set an example because I wanted to make sure my gift would always be there. If everyone endowed their gifts, we wouldn’t have to struggle so much.
“I did mine through a life insurance policy,” she explained. “It takes a $100,000 policy to endow a $5,000 annual gift. At my age, the payments were around $3,000 for five years, and then I was done.” Since Abrams has children, she didn’t want her commitment to the Campaign to affect her estate. Although making the payments on the policy while maintaining her annual Campaign gift was a stretch, she’s glad she chose to do it that way.
Abrams generosity to the Jewish community extends well beyond her commitment to the Campaign. For a number of years, she also served on the Jewish Community Federation Board, including service as secretary and vice president. After a brief hiatus, during which she served on the Congregation Adath Jeshurun Board, she is back, and now serves on the Jewish Community of Louisville Board and its Executive Committee in her role as secretary.
“I missed the Federation Board,” she stated. “I felt like I could see more of the fruits of my labors at the Federation because you’re helping people. I like to see results.”
Shortly after the Federation and the Jewish Community Center merged, Abrams co-chaired the Program Review Committee with Sheila Berman and Jeff Tuvlin. The committee looked at all the programs the newly created JCL offered at the time and identified gaps in service to the community.
The most pressing need the committee identified was a middle school director, “and a donor stepped up to the plate and made it possible to hire David Siskin,” Abrams said. “Another gap we identified was in adult programming, which we’re still working on. It became clear to us that you can’t just have programming – you need great staff to run the programming.”
Abrams and her husband, Jeff Glazer, also co-chaired the Livnot Leadership program in 2005. Livnot was a networking and community development forum the Federation convened to bring together experienced leaders from Louisville’s Jewish congregations and agencies.
She’s a member of the Jewish Community Center and Congregation Adath Jeshurun and a life member of National Council of Jewish Women. She and her husband have been to Israel several times, most recently with their children, Nicholas, Mallory and Andrea, on an AJ trip with Rabbi Robert Slosberg. “We went to our Partnership region and had home hospitality,” she said. “Our Israeli host family was wonderful. Everyone should go with their families. It made a good impact on my children.”
Abrams also participated in a national Campaign Chairs and Directors Mission, which took her to Moldova as well as Israel, and has attended a number of national conferences.
In 1998, Abrams was the recipient of the Federation’s Joseph J. Kaplan Young Leadership Award, and in 2004, she was chosen by the Federation as a Jewels in Our Crown honoree.
Professionally, Abrams is a pediatrician with the Kaplan Baron Pediatric Group. She earned her M.D. from the University of Louisville School of Medicine.