Klein Tapped to Chair JCL Board

[by Shiela Steinman Wallace]

David Klein is no stranger to the pages in Community. Last March, Community reported on the remarkable connection that grew between Klein and Elchonon Reizes as Klein battled leukemia and Reizes, as a bone marrow donor, gave him the gift of life.

Since that time, Klein has regained his strength and is infused with a zest for living and unbounded energy. He has chosen to invest much of that energy in the Jewish Community of Louisville and has been nominated to serve as JCL’s next Board chair.

The election will take place at JCL’s Annual Meeting, at which time the organization will also present a number of awards, including the Ottenheimer Award to Police Chief Robert White. The community is invited to join the festivities on Sunday, September 19, at 6:30 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center. Those in attendance will also have the opportunity to meet the JCL’s new president/CEO, Stu Silberman.

“I’m excited about this opportunity and honored to serve,” Klein said. He enjoys discovering the possibilities any challenge presents and encouraging people to move outside their comfort zones to explore alternatives and come together with an action plan.

He demonstrated this clearly as he, Joe Hertzman and Kelly Wesley led the Planning and Allocations Committee through the difficult task of allocating scarce community resources for the coming year, successfully bringing a very diverse group of community representatives together to work for the common good and leaving them feeling good about their work. (See Campaign/Planning and Allocations story)

“At the Jewish Community of Louisville, ‘community’ is our middle name,” Klein said, “and it is incumbent upon us to reach out to all segments of the community. We need to create better relationships with our agencies and synagogues” and be aware of the different needs of different segments of our constituency.

He plans to encourage Board members to think creatively, participate in meaningful discussions and offer suggestions freely, and he expects them to “explore unique, creative and different opportunities.” For example, land-use options for the JCL’s back property might include a climbing wall, a community garden, a cinder track with benches or a memorial forest to serve as a buffer against the highway.

He plans to use the same kind of approach with the budget. “We have to figure out the finances, whether it be Campaign or endowment,” Klein said. “It’s easy to come up with a wish list and big plans, but we have to figure out a way to bring value to our contributors and look for alternative sources of funding like grant writing. … We have to take charge of our destiny.”

While Klein is eager to guide the Board in exploring the possibilities that will shape the community’s future, he also plans to start with existing resources. He’ll tap the work done by the Program Review Committee chaired by Karen Abrams, Sheila Berman and Jeff Tuvlin and that done by the Strategic Directions Committee chaired by Kate Latts. He’ll look at the wealth of information collected in the community assessment survey collected by Horizon Research as well.

Klein plans to have a Board retreat, “so we will have a clear, unified understanding of who we are and what our objectives are” and to empower officers and board chairs “to move forward in an expeditious manner, making fact-based decisions without getting caught in analysis paralysis.”

He also hopes to engage as many community members as possible in the JCL He wants to initiate a series of town hall style meetings where community members can come together to discuss a wide variety of topics, from the issues the JCL Board is dealing with to where the community needs to be in five years to current news events. These forums will address issues ranging from the Jewish Day School in Louisville to interfaith marriage to attracting Jewish families to the community.

In addition, he views the work of the Community Relations Council, its chair, Leon Wahba, and its director, Matt Goldberg, as very important and wants to raise the CRC’s profile.

Klein is also looking forward to working with the new CEO, Stu Silberman. “Stu is the right choice,” he said. “He has a wonderful business mind and is very, very perceptive. … He’s capable of doing the job and is a team player.”

A Louisville native, Klein was a banker with Bank of Louisville for 25 years. The bank, publicly traded, but managed by the Klein family, provided him with extensive, wide-ranging experience.

“I worked in just about every area,” he explained, from repossessing cars to working with people with delinquent loans, to handling foreclosures on real estate and much more, finishing his career there as the bank’s chief operating officer.

“Working in collections had a lasting impact on me and molded me,” Klein said. “I heard all kinds of stories that gave me some insight into the broad range of issues people face on a daily basis.”

He believes some of the lessons he learned then, especially in management, will continue to serve him well. “There was one area supervisor who dealt with a lot of clerical individuals,” Klein recounted. “She was rather rigid in her management of people. She required people to punch in and out on time for work and lunch, and was having some compliance issues. People were coming in late and she was making a big deal out of it.”

Klein looked into the situation and discovered one of the offenders was a single parent who had to drop her child off at daycare or school, and then depended upon public transportation to get to work. Klein suggested the manager try a flex-time plan, allowing people to adjust their arrival and departure times as long as they put in their time each week.

“So she experimented with that for these low paying positions,” Klein continued, “and the Collections Department became the department people wanted to work for. Given the opportunity, this manager made the most of it.”

“I’ve learned that everybody’s got a story,” he concluded, “and there’s not one answer for everything. That’s how I managed at the bank. … If you were change-averse, you couldn’t work for me. Not change for change’s sake,” he clarified, “but we must always look for how to do some things better.”

That management style served him well at the bank, which was successful. “We competed well because we paid attention to what the customer and market called for,” he said, “and that’s what I hope to do for this community.”

At that time in his life, Klein was also an active runner, and through running, he got to know much of the community. Averaging 60-70 miles a week, and doing most of his running at lunchtime, he got to know all kinds of people from all walks of life, “When you’re a runner,” he said, you stop being anything else but a runner. … You get familiar with all areas of the city and how beautiful they are. ”

“Louisville has been very good to my family,” Klein stated, “and I feel it is important to give back to Louisville, so I’ve been on a variety of Boards over the years,” choosing to serve big and small groups in the arts, social services, business and fundraising. He’s also a graduate of Leadership Louisville.

For many years, Klein volunteered for the Fund for the Arts. He sat on its Board and Executive Committee and co-chaired its Allocations Committee. In the late 90’s, he was also the Fund’s Campaign Chair for its Business Division, helping raise over $3 million, a record at that time.
He has a long association with the Urban League as well, originally joining its Board as a representative of the bank, but continuing after he left the bank. He chaired the organization’s Development Committee. “I have a very good relationship with Ben Richmond,” he said, “and I think the Urban League is a very important organization.”

He’s also been a Board member and Board chair for the Downtown YMCA and the Louisville Visual Arts Association. He’s served on Metro United Way’s Campaign Cabinet, and the Boards of both Jewish Hospital and the Jewish Hospital Foundation.

Since his battle with cancer, more of his volunteer activities have been in that sphere. Klein is a member of the Board at Gilda’s Club of Louisville, served on the National Strategic Planning Committee for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and was a member of the 2006 National Planning Summit for the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

He continues to serve Louisville as well. He chaired the Louisville Metro Parks Advisory Board from 2002-5, and was the executive director and Board chair of the Louisville Metro Parks Foundation from 2005-9.

Klein attended Ohio Wesleyan University and the University of Kentucky, earning a B.A. in marketing. He also completed Stanford University’s Executive Management program.

He rounded out his education with a special mission to Israel, arranged by JCL’s executive director of philanthropy, Alan Engel, who was then executive director of the Jewish Community Federation. Along with friends, Ralph Green, Lior Yaron, Britt Brockman and William Yarmuth, Klein traveled throughout the country, including Louisville’s Partnership area, the Western Galilee. Engel really made the trip special, arranging for the group to get “an insider’s view of what was going on politically, economically and militarily,” he said.

Klein has two daughters; Erin Klein-Hilsenrad and her husband, Adam, have a son, Luke; and Kathryn Klein; and his two ex-wives, Jill and Jody, are both dear friends. He also regards his three huskies, Kody, Portia and Libby, as family.

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