Rosh Hashanah: A Time to Look Back; A Time to Look Ahead

Sara Klein WagnerIn just a few weeks we will celebrate 5776; we will gather together for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. I look forward to Rosh Hashanah as a time of both self-reflection and to reflect on the world around us.

On a communal level there is a great deal to reflect on from this past year and even from this summer – from celebrations to meeting the needs of the community to global issues. As we approach 5776, I would like to share three examples from the plethora of activities, engagement and communal leadership issues currently being addressed by the JCL, our Jewish Federation and JCC.

First, milestones deserve a major celebration. In 1890, the first big event planned by the newly incorporated YMHA was a family picnic. How appropriate that 125 years later the YMHA – later re-named the JCC – celebrated with an incredible 125 Festival on our campus on Sunday, August 23. (See story and photos)

Although the picnic baskets of 1890 were replaced by food trucks and today memories are instantly shared on social media with family and friends, there is one obvious similarity between then and now: the love for the JCC of Louisville remains as strong and powerful as ever.

Led by incredible co-chairs Abby and Michelle Tasman, JCC professionals Lenae Price and John Leffert with assistance from many other volunteers and staff, put their time and talent together to create a festival that brought our community together to celebrate 125 years of service to the community and the promise our agency holds for the future. Nearly 100 volunteers and our generous sponsors made it possible for over 650 people to enjoy the day.

Secondly, our role is to understand what the needs of the community are, articulate those needs and help people participate at their own pace and level of commitment. We believe the best way to do that is to listen to the perspectives of our diverse constituency and reaching out to and engaging more people.

Our leadership has identified a need to increase activities and outreach to young adults. In order to fulfill that need appropriately, we recently held a focus group with young adults, in their early 20’s to early 40’s, to listen to their ideas and perceptions. Sixteen young adults participated in the focus group last week at El Camino, and it was obvious the group enjoyed seeing old friends and making new connections.

It was also evident that many people are interested in being involved but are not aware of what is available. Those in attendance definitely shared some enthusiasm and energy for a wide variety opportunities and an interest in connecting with the Jewish community and/or other Jews in Louisville. We will use their feedback, as well as that of others, to continue to improve our role in engaging and developing leaders for the future.

Lastly, the JCL is responsible for taking the leadership role in the community as we convene communal conversations and provide education on issues of the day. Clearly the Iran nuclear agreement is an issue that deserves the attention of the organized Jewish community. It is a complex and serious issue which is being addressed by our JCRC and will be reviewed by our JCL Board. In order to provide our community with as much education and opportunity for questions and dialogue, we are convening three meetings.
Senator Mitch McConnell, and Representative John Yarmuth will address members of the community in separate sessions to share their perspective on the Iran resolution. In addition, Morningstar Senior Fellow and Director of Research at the Washington Institute Dr. Patrick Clawson, will speak at an open public forum to share his understanding of the agreement and its implications, based on the research of the Institute’s Iran Security Initiative that he directs.

We are grateful to JCRC Chair Becky Ruby Swansburg and Director Matt Goldberg for organizing and leading this complex and meaningful community dialogue for our community. (See JCRC Update)

As we reflect on the efforts and achievements this past year and the work to be accomplished in the coming new year, I am confident we have a strong foundation upon which to build. On this Rosh Hashanah, my prayer for our community as we enter the new year is to celebrate our roots and strengths, work together to fulfill our needs today, plan for the future, and respect each other’s opinions and thoughts, even if we disagree.

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