Over 450 Celebrate JCC’s First 125 Years at Gala

Leaders Share Vision for Next 125 Years of Successful Service to Community

The community came together in a big way on Saturday, February 20, to celebrate 125 years of the Jewish Community Center in Louisville. With over 450 in attendance, the energy in the grand ballroom of the Hyatt Regency was palpable. Multiple generations came together to make this the biggest JCC party in recent memory.

In his invocation, Rabbi Robert Slosberg, president of the Louisville Board of Rabbis and Cantors, captured the essence of the evening. It was filled with a sense of joy, pride and achievement for what has been accomplished in the JCC’s first 125 years, and an understanding that it will need help, support, vision, love and perseverance as the agency embarks on its next 125 years.

Jeff Tuvlin, the evening’s emcee, pointed out that Louisville’s JCC is one of the first to have reached the 125 year milestone, and it has thrived so long because it operates under the national Jewish Community Centers Association’s guiding principle that we are responsible for one another.

Later in the evening, he put the JCC’s history into perspective. When the JCC was founded, Cy Young was a pitcher and Ellis Island was the gateway for immigrants into the United States. From day one, it has been keeping Jews involved and engaged. Jewish Community of Louisville Board Chair Jay Klempner thanked volunteers, members, supporters and staff for making the JCC what it is today. He also shared that the agency is now preparing “to meet the needs of the community for years to come.” He promised to seek input from the community as plans are made and noted that the agency will call on the community for support as the plan come together.

125 Gala Chair Robin Miller welcomed everyone and shared a proclamation from Mayor Greg Fischer that made February 20 JCC Day in Louisville. She said the tremendous attendance at the Gala and the recent success of the 2016 Jewish Film Festival, which drew 320 people to its opening event, are a tribute to the successful programming from the JCC.

Miller drew a round of applause when she thanked the Jewish Heritage Foundation for Excellence for its lead sponsorship of the evening.

Many people contribute to the success of an organization that has been operating for 125 years. Miller recognized all past JCC, Federation and JCL presidents, noting that David Kling was the most senior JCC past president in attendance.

JCL President and CEO Sara Klein Wagner reminisced about growing up at the JCC; she also recalled the many ways in which the JCC impacted her family and noted that the beauty and uniqueness of the JCC is its ability to welcome and serve as an open tent to a diverse population.

Wagner shared an overview of her vision of the agency and invited those present on the journey to ensure that the JCC is a hub for the community, that it is welcoming to all and offers a multitude of ways for people to connect and join in. (See story.)

Rep. John Yarmuth made a similar point. He recalled the JCC as a place where young Jewish boys and girls believed they were good athletes. The Center was the center of our lives, athletically, culturally and socially, he said.

The JCC also provides vital public service, he added, pointing to the public interfaith ceremony during which the entire community stood in solidarity with France in the wake of the terror attacks at Charlie Hebdo and the kosher supermarket.

Some of the talented members of the CenterStage Theatre Company took stations in the lobby at the start of the event to represent some of the activities at the JCC. They also performed during the program. The highlight of the night was a video featuring past presidents sharing their memories and experiences at the JCC and their hopes for the future.

JCL Board member Becky Swansburg announced that the JCC is one of ten to partner with JCCA and Hazon to bring a JOFEE fellow this year to lead programs in Jewish Outdoor, Food and Environmental Education. John Leffert shared a new direction at the JCC, developing a department of Arts and Ideas that will expand the arts and learning opportunities available to the community.

Tracy Geller noted the significance of the JCC’s ongoing commitment to youth and families.

Wagner expanded on the idea of changing programs, creating partnerships and ensuring that as we address the building itself, we will ensure that it is the right size and the right space to enable us to move into the future.

When the Sly Band took the stage, people flooded the dance floor and the festivities continued.

Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence was the lead sponsor of the 125 Gala. Other major sponsors were KentuckyOne Health/Jewish Hospital, Susan and William Yarmuth and Almost Family, Heaven Hill Brands and Eventualities.

Robin Miller chaired the 125 Gala. Gala Committee members included Dr. Karen Abrams, Dr. Shellie Branson, Logan Buren, Mark Eichengreen, Julie Ensign, Tracy Geller, Abby Green, Meredith Gregory, Kim Hales, Dr. Laura Klein, Dr. Lisa R. Klein, Marjorie Kohn, Tina List, Joanie and Craig Lustig, Marcy Rosengarten, Stephanie Rosenthal, Maxine Rouben, Susan Rudy, Jill E. Simon, Julie Strull, Michelle Cohen Tasman, Dr. Jeffrey Tuvlin, Hunter Weinberg and Frank Weisberg.

Special thanks to JCC Development and Special Events Director Lenae McKee Price, JCC Arts and Ideas Director John R. Leffert and the CenterStage company.

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