[by Stu Silberman, President and CEO, Jewish Community of Louisville]

“What are you calling yourselves these days – JCL? Federation? JCC?” a rabbi asked me at lunch this week.

Funny? Yes, it is funny, as humor is generally based in truth, just presented a different way. But embedded in the laughter there is truth. The reality is that Louisville’s Jewish community should be very proud that we have an agency complex enough to wear many different names.

Each name represents a different way the JCL serves the community; and it takes the programs and services we deliver through all of them to serve our community today and ensure that there will be a Jewish community in Louisville in the future. And the future of the Jewish community is once again in the national spotlight.

Have you read the recent Pew Research Center survey? If not it is available online at www.pewresearch.org/topics/jews-and-judaism, and an analysis of the findings can also be found in this paper Community.

I won’t go into the details because you can read it for yourself and if you are reading Community online just click the link and it will work. Fundamentally it says that America’s Jewish community is continuing on the same path it has been on for some time. While remaining proud of being Jewish, many American Jews don’t feel the need to be affiliated with a congregation.

It’s very fortunate that Louisville has the JCL that, through its Jewish Community Center and Federation, provides alternative ways to attract and engage those Jews in our community who haven’t affiliated or maybe who have drifted off and now realize that they want to explore their Judaism again.

Perhaps it’s through the JCL – through the open doors of our social, philanthropic, educational, recreational and other programming – that they find their way back to our community, and eventually to a congregation.

At the JCL, we firmly believe our community needs strong congregations. The relationships Jews form with fellow congregants, and with their rabbis, cantors and educators, in houses of worship, help strengthen pride in being Jewish.

At another recent lunch with members of one of our congregations, one person told me how the congregation she belongs to here is unlike any other that she has belonged to, and she has lived in many places. She said that if there is a problem everyone comes together to help resolve it.

That’s what we need in Louisville’s Jewish community. We need it congregation by congregation. We need it at the JCL. We need it at all of our Jewish agencies and organizations. And we need it working together in partnership for the community as a whole.

The Pew study says that most American Jews don’t belong to congregations. By having strong congregations, strong agencies and a strong JCL, Louisville is best positioned to meet the needs of our community on terms our constituents want and feel comfortable with.
What exactly does that mean?

You, collectively, have a lot of the answers we’re looking for.

Please help us by participating in our strategic planning survey, through the benchmarking survey that’s hitting inboxes as you read this and through dialog with the staff of the JCL and with the leadership of our organizations.

This important community dialogue will help us set the course for the JCL in the coming years. Please ensure your voice is heard. With your help, we can collectively ensure a sustainable, vibrant and welcoming Jewish community in Louisville for generations to come.

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