From the start of Festival of Trees & Lights in 1989, the late Jerry Berman understood why Lights needed to be part of the event.
Berman realized this venue was the best way to showcase to the entire city the Jewish traditions, how Christmas was not a Jewish Christmas, and especially how the Jewish community was part of Louisville.
Today, that mission has become even more crucial. With no citywide events like the defunct Heritage Festival Week on the Belvedere, Festival of Trees & Lights is now the sole event that showcases Jewish heritage and reach non-affiliated Jews.
However, Lights could end because of the lack of an organized Jewish community involvement.
For the last five years, the Festival has been supporting Lights, both financially and with volunteers. Lights needs a permanent committee, one that can provide a continual chair with a committee and Jewish volunteers.
Currently, one Jewish person has been the chair for the past four years and one person volunteers to pass out the doughnut holes on Sunday. The rest of the volunteers are from St. Xavier and various non-Jewish volunteers who try to explain the Chanukah exhibit to the thousands of visitors.
Besides the thousands of dreidels, gelt, handouts on Chanukah and the various signage, Festival has used money that could have gone to the hospital to enhance the Lights area. From a dreidel mascot to the klezmer band to story reading by PJ Library to the Chanukah items in their gift shop, Festival has worked hard to make Jewish Heritage Day an event
Since 1990, Festival of Trees and Lights has raised more than $7 million, and this year’s proceeds will help Norton Children’s Hospital build the Jennifer Lawrence Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, a dedicated, state-of-the-art unit with advanced cardiovascular technology and equipment, as well as hire specialists to care for children with heart issues.
Many a Jewish family in Louisville has a story to tell about Children’s Hospital saving their child’s or relative’s life.
Now it is time for the Jewish community to save Lights.
Honi Marleen Goldman
(The author is the Lights chair for the Festival of Trees and Lights.)