Jay Klempner, the new Board chair of the Jewish Community of Louisville, describes himself as a consensus builder who never loses sight of the big picture, and those are skills he plans to tap as he guides the JCL forward.
“My goal and hope,” Klempner said, “is that as an organization, we can be here for the Jewish community … to have a welcoming facility” that is financially sustainable and working on a sound and compassionate business model – a JCL that is “an organization that Jews in Louisville feel good about, talk well about, and support, whether it’s financially or through volunteerism.”
A lot of progress has been made in the last few years, Klempner observed. We are one organization, and “we are here to stay.”
Describing himself as “underemployed, which means I have some time,” he says, “I would not have accepted this position if I didn’t think I could first help or if I didn’t care about the organization. And I care deeply.”
Klempner has already begun to work. He has met individually with JCL department directors and participated in an orientation for new Board members and Committee Chairs. He’s also engaging in continuing extensive discussions with JCL President and CEO Sara Klein Wagner to ensure they are on the same page as they work to move the agency forward.
As a consensus builder, he also places high value on listening. He and Sara have put together a questionnaire for Board members and asked them to complete it before the first Board meeting of the fiscal year. It asks Board members to share their opinions about how the JCL is perceived; the agency’s mission, vision and strategic plan; and the importance they place on a variety of issues and decisions Board members must address in the coming year. The responses to the questionnaire will be the basis for discussion at that meeting, and from that discussion, Klempner expects to identify priorities and work with Sara to develop an action plan. “I want everybody to be heading in the same direction,” he said.
Looking forward, Klempner says, “There are so many opportunities ahead of us for this organization,” and he plans to capitalize on many of them.
“I’m very cognizant of the mission-driven programs and services that we provide,” he observed, “and I’m cognizant that most of those programs and services either generate no revenue or not enough revenue to cover the cost.” He is looking to ensure that other programs and services generate enough revenue or sufficient donated funds to cover those costs in the long run.
With respect to the Jewish Community Center facility, Klempner said, “I believe we are in the right place here on Dutchmans Lane. Whether we’re in the right-sized building, the right-designed building, I’m not so sure.” In fact, he says he’s convinced something different needs to be done. He recognizes that a lot of work has already gone into this planning and he feels that “we have to make a decision and start working toward an end game and a plan,” and it will involve not only the Jewish community, but all members of the JCC.
Klempner is eager to reach out to the Jewish community. He’s working with Wagner to build partnerships with the Jewish congregations and agencies. He’s also developed a plan to engage community members, starting with an outreach to the 100 largest donors to the Campaign. This effort will be coordinated with Wagner as she introduces herself to the community as the new President and CEO. He also wants to hear from members of the Jewish community who are not donors. From both groups, he wants to hear about what they like and don’t like about the JCL.
“I’ll listen to what you have to say,” Klempner said. “I will tell you right up front that I may not be able to accomplish what you want, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t listen and talk about why we can or can’t do it.”
Klempner would also like to see an increase in volunteerism. The JCL staff works hard, but there is more to do than they can accomplish. “We need involvement; we need participation; we need energy; and we need assistance,” he said. “Our volunteer base needs to be expanded on the committee level and we need more advocates out there in the Jewish community” for the annual Federation Campaign and for all the other programs and services the agency offers.
Klempner views himself as a resource for the staff and the community. In his meetings with the department directors, he invited them to call him. “I’m not going to tell you what to do or how to do it,” he said, “but if you need some advice, want to bounce something off me, need help with a contact or networking, that’s what I’m here to do.”
“I look at this as a 24/7 job or responsibility,” Klempner continued, “I’m here for our community and for the staff. My desire is just to try to get everybody pulling in the same direction.”
A Louisville native, Klempner has a B.S. in business from Indiana University. For most of his career, he worked for his family’s scrap metal business, Klempner Bros., Inc., and served as its president and CEO from 1990 until it was sold in 1998. Today, he is co-owner of MOROS North America, a specialized equipment supplier to the recycling industry.
A long-time volunteer, Klempner served on the Jewish Community of Louisville Board, most recently as vice chair. He chaired its Planning and Allocations Committee for three years, and was a member of that committee for a total of five years. Prior to merger, he served on the Jewish Federation Board, and he has been a volunteer on many other committees for the organization.
Klempner is a past president of Jewish Family & Career Services and continues to serve on its Board and Executive Committee. He formed and chaired the agency’s first Marketing and Development Committee and chaired its 100th year Endowment Campaign, raising over $2 million for the agency.
In addition, Klempner has been an active volunteer in the general community. A past chair of The DePaul School Board, he served on the school’s Board and Executive Committee as well as several other committees. The DePaul School serves families with children who learn differently.
He served for 10 years as the first Board Chair of Capital Access Corporation-Kentucky and served on its Board, Loan Committee and Executive Committee. He has also served on the Board and several committees of the Community Foundation of Louisville, and he helped that organization with developing past Strategic Plans. He Chaired the Grants Committee of the Foundation for four years. In addition, he managed a private family foundation.
Klempner and his wife, Karen, have three children, Emily Klempner, Meg K. (Ben) Coomes and Michael Klempner. He is a member of Temple Shalom.