New Partnership Chairs Laura and Jon Klein Are Ready for Action

[by Shiela Steinman Wallace]

There has always been a special relationship between the Jews of the Diaspora and the State of Israel, but Israel is so far away that it has sometimes been difficult to connect. All that changed in 1997 when the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) established the Partnership with Israel (then Partnership 2000) program.

This program opened the door for individuals in both Israel and the United States to build one-on-one relationships, working on hands-on projects that benefited communities on both sides of the ocean.

Louisville’s Federation, one of the first to join the program, was a founding member of the Midwest Consortium, a group of communities from Texas to Ohio that work together with the Western Galilee region of Israel.

The Jewish Community of Louisville remains an active participant today, and Jon and Laura Klein have just been named co-chairs of the Partnership with Israel Committee. They are committed to building on past success in the areas of medicine, education, arts and business, and expanding the program to include other people and their interests.


The Kleins are excited about leading this committee. “We’ve been on two previous Partnership missions,” Jon said, “and we’ve seen the Partnership committees and projects that have been developed between Louisville and its partners and the Western Galilee (located along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and extending to Israel’s northern border with Lebanon). It’s built an even closer bond between us and Israel.”

Personal experience really hooked them. “We hosted Arab and Jewish Israelis from Acco,” Laura explained. “They stayed with us, met our girls, who were teens, and interacted with our family. A year later when we went on our family mission, the Jewish girl invited us and the Arab girl to dinner. It was a very personal connection.”

The Kleins are already planning the next exchange. On March 27 and 28, a group of kindergarten and preschool teachers will visit Louisville. “They’ll be visiting all four Jewish preschools here,” Laura said. “They will be teaching not only the students, but also our teachers. There will opportunities for them to see our teachers teach and for them to learn from each other.”

There are other plans on the drawing board for next year, the Kleins said. They’re putting together a plan to bring Louisvillians in their 20’s to the Partnership region in the fall.

In the last few years, our community’s partnership with the Western Galilee has expanded to include the Jewish community in Budapest, Hungary. This trip, to be led by Ben Vaughan and Tzivia Levin Kalmes, will be the first in which Louisvillians will connect with our Hungarian partners.

The Kleins are eager to involve more people in Louisville’s Partnership Task Force. “We’re looking forward to the continued leadership of Kathy Karr in the arts and Phil Rosenbloom in the medical field. Judy Sharp is coming on board in education. We’re going to try to add additional members to those committees, with a special emphasis on young adults, ages 21-35,” Jon said.

“We’re also creating a new task force,” he continued, “a Visit Israel Task Force, focused on increasing the number of Louisvillians who are tourists in Israel and the Partnership Region.” The Kleins will co-chair this group.

“We’ll be looking for exciting new ways to visit Israel,” Laura added.

“Partnership has brought so many exciting programs to Louisville,” she continued, “like Kefiada, that brings Israeli counselors to work at the JCC summer camp for three weeks. We’re talking about exchanges, not one-way programs. We’re sending musicians to the Partnership region now, and musicians from the Partnership will come here. Our community benefits from being part of this program.”

Originally from St. Louis, Laura went to the University of Kansas for her undergraduate studies and is a graduate the University of Louisville School of Medicine. She moved to Louisville in 1982 and today is a dermatologist in private practice. She went on her first Israel mission in 1996.

Jon was born in New Orleans. He received his M.D. and Ph.D. from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, and has been a professor of medicine at the University of Louisville since 1985.

“I feel like a Louisvillian,” Laura said. “We raised two children here.”

The Kleins’ daughter, Rachel, 24, now lives in Chicago and works for the Jewish National Fund (JNF); and their daughter, Sarah, 20, is a student at Indiana University.

In addition to co-chairing Partnership, the Kleins are co-chairs of Louisville’s Florence Melton Adult Mini-School program and are members of Congregation Adath Jeshurun, where Jon serves on the board and co-chairs the Vision Committee. Laura serves on the board of Jewish Family and Career Services and is a member of the National Council of Jewish Women.

The Midwestern Consortium includes Akron, Canton, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown, OH; Indianapolis, Northwest Indiana, and South Bend, IN; Louisville; Des Moines, IA; Omaha, NE; and Austin, Dallas, Ft. Worth and Tarrant County, San Antonio and Waco, TX. The Western Galilee includes Akko, the Western Galilee Hospital and the Matte Asher region.

Partnership with Israel receives support from the Jewish Community of Louisville’s Federation Campaign.

If you are interested in learning more, please contact Louisville’s Partnership Co-Chairs Jon and Laura Klein, or Jewish Community of Louisville Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Sara Klein Wagner, 238-2779 or

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