Million Dollar Dinner Lives Up to its Name

(see full photo gallery below)

million dollar dinner-2015-1-210The Jewish Federation of Louisville’s Million Dollar Dinner on Saturday, December 13, at the Standard Club lived up to its name and attracted a festive crowd of more than 200 to celebrate the community successfully raising over that sum during the Week of Giving effort held December 7-13. The gala was a thank you to donors and to volunteers who worked tirelessly, along with 2015 Campaign Chair Doug Gordon and Co-chair Ariel Kronenberg, to ensure the million-dollar mark would be reached by the night of the dinner.

Gordon emceed the proceedings and began the evening’s formal program by thanking the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence for the use of the Standard Club and to Heaven Hill Distilleries for contributing the alcohol for the evening.

Gordon then recognized past presidents and chairs from the Jewish Community Center, Jewish Community Federation and Jewish Community of Louisville who provided inspiration and leadership that set the path and brought us to this point. He shared highlights of their collective accomplishments, which included the inception of Kesher Kentucky, resurgence of community wide trips to Israel and the merger of the JCC and the Federation.

Jewish Community of Louisville Board Chair Karen Abrams turned the tables on Gordon and presented him with a tee shirt that read “Campaign Chairman for Life” on one side and “Million-Dollar Mensch” on the other. She went on to recount some of the many things Louisville’s Jewish community can take pride in such as an outstanding 125-year-old Jewish Community Center; BBYO and teen programs that are the envy of those in other cities; a PJ Library program that regularly attracts 50 families to various activities and senior adult classes and lunch programs that ensure Jewish identity. “Together,” she said, “we can do extraordinary things.”

Several articulate teens followed with moving stories about how the community’s support for the Federation Campaign enhances resources for teen programs that have enriched their lives. Tovah Frockt discussed all the positive things she gained from attending Camp Livingston and how much the JCC’s Teen Connection has added to her life. Jacob Finke noted BBYO continues to provide him with the leadership skills he needs. His AZA chapter has become the strongest in this region and Jay Levine BBG is an internationally recognized role model for other chapters.

Ariana Goldstein was thrilled with the “priceless opportunity” she had to go to Israel through the Cantor Scholarship to Israel. She called her presence there, in the midst of last summer’s war a “life-changing event.”

Nicole Keenan was grateful for the generous donation she received to attend CLTC (Chapter Leadership Training Conference) where she shared her Jewish heritage with other 89 teens she considers “future world Leaders.” And Hillel President Josh Goodman offered thanks to the Jewish community for the opportunities he has had to attend a number of conferences and share cultural exchanges with Russian Jews in his chapter. “I am a different person today,” he says, “as a result.”

He introduced Louisville native and his former neighbor, noted composer Jonathan Wolff, who spoke fondly about growing up in the city. “This is such a wonderful place,” he said.  “When my wife, Steffi, and I returned here in 2005, it was this community’s mandate to welcome us and it was easy for us to become involved.” Their three children are in BBYO and they have taken active roles at the JCC, Jewish Family & Career Services, Melton and the Chevrah Kadisha.

JCL President and CEO Stu Silberman then spoke about how far the JCL has matured since its creation five years ago. He described the JCL as moving from a period of uncertainty to a period of stable growth; praised the increased collaboration among the various agencies and religious institutions and described the increased Jewish impact the JCL is having, as independently measured, all of which portend well for the future.

The evening’s keynote speaker was David N. Weiss, an Emmy Award nominee, who has written or co-written some of Hollywood’s most endearing and successful family films, from Shrek 2 and Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius to the Rugrats movies and The Smurfs and The Smurfs 2. With great humor and insight, Weiss told the fascinating story of his personal religious journey from Judaism to Christianity and back to believing in God and becoming an observant Jew.

“I believe that God is the God of one-step,” he said. “Over the years, you need to take one small step as a Jew. You can take advantage of something, a class perhaps, or something else that will bring you closer to Judaism.”

“One small step” has been Gordon’s theme for the entire Campaign year as he urged donors to take that step with their generous participation in the Annual Campaign – and they listened. “This same time last year,” he noted, “the Campaign had raised just $200,000. The total this evening, including pledges from the Week of Giving, is $1.385 million.” The community has that step toward the future together,” but if you have not yet made your pledge, please call 502-238-2739. Our community’s Jewish future depends on it.

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