[by Shiela Steinman Wallace]
The Jewish Community of Louisville (JCL) belongs to both the Jewish Community Centers Association (JCCA) and the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA). These parent organizations offer a wide variety of services, programs and support that help the JCL employ best practices, keep abreast of what is happening in the field, train lay and professional leaders and supply the tools the JCL needs to be the best it can be.
In May, seven members of Louisville’s Jewish community took advantage of one of these opportunities by attending the JCCA Biennial in New Orleans.
Jeff Tuvlin attended as the JCL’s Esther Leah Ritz Award winner, and as such, he attended a special leadership track of programming.
“I felt both humbled and proud to be at the JCC Biennial,” he said. “On one hand, I was surrounded by individuals and groups displaying amazing examples of leadership, yet on the other hand I was proud to note that in Louisville we are out in front in terms of the programming and services we offer.
“With our recent benchmarking study results,” he said, “the challenge is to take our infrastructure and continue to work towards a JCC and a JCL that help each member of the Louisville Jewish community create and follow their own Jewish journey.”
The Esther Leah Ritz Leadership Program began at the Biennial, but will continue to provide Tuvlin with webinars and mini-meetings throughout the year. Each participant was also asked to commit to pursuing one project when they returned to their communities.
For Tuvlin, the choice was easy. He is already chairing the benchmarking program in Louisville. Now he will have additional support as he moves the project forward. Benchmarking began last year with a survey of members that explored what Louisville’s JCC is doing right and identified areas that need improvement compared with other participating JCC’s. When the community received the results, Tuvlin led the committee and staff in determining which areas the JCC would work to improve and helped develop a plan to implement changes.
Now Tuvlin is working to implement those changes and the next time a benchmarking survey is offered, the JCC will participate. By comparing the results of the two surveys, the organization will be able to measure its progress.
Tuvlin said 62 individuals from 40-45 JCC’s across North America participated in the Esther Leah Ritz program. All have been identified as emerging leaders in their communities. The program included a variety of programs from lectures on leadership to art projects that incourages participants to express their leadership.
“It’s really great that we have a JCC that has such a good relationship with JCCA,” he said. “One thing we’ve done really well is seeing what our parent organizations can do for us” and taking advantage of those opportunities.
Ed and Barbara Goldberg also attended. “I was on the Biennial Committee for JCCA nationally,” Ed Goldberg said, “so I helped formulate everything that went on.” That meant planning different tracks and ensuring that there was something of interest for each of the approximately 650 attendees.
One of the best speakers, according to Goldberg was Tulane University President Scott S. Cowen. Located in New Orleans, Tulane was heavily impacted by Hurricane Katrina in 2006. At a plenary session, Dr. Cowen said his whole philosophy changed following the storm. It became “Do the right thing.” Now, Goldberg said, “community service is part of Tulane’s yearly program,” and students are required to perform community service in order to graduate.
Goldberg also chaired a taskforce at the Biennial that addressed how to do fundraising and ensure the success of fundraising events.
Another of JCCA’s programs is the Jewish Welfare Board Chaplains Council, which works to support the religious, educational and morale needs of Jewish military personnel, their families and patients in Veterans Affairs hospitals. One of their ongoing projects is a commitment to write six small Torah scrolls for use in the military. Four have been completed and are in the field. The group was collecting donations for words and pages in the next scroll at the Biennial.
“It was a wonderful four days,” Goldberg concluded, “and it went by very, very quickly. I hope everybody had as good a time as I did.”
Karen Abrams said the Biennial was great. “I had never been to a JCCA Biennial before. What I liked is they had really specific sessions for incoming and current presidents that were very focused on leadership and governance.”
Abrams found the sessions informative and was impressed with both what JCCA has to offer and with the resources JCL President and CEO Stu Silberman and Board Chair David Klein have already accessed.
In the breakout sessions, Abrams heard about some of the “really cool programs different centers are putting on. A lot of centers are doing a lot to be more green. Some are doing more with gardens;” others are doing things to include more disabled adults and children. I came away with some really good ideas.”
The JCCA has also begun an initiative to fight childhood obesity, and has teamed up with Jared Fogel, the spokesperson for SUBWAY® sandwich shops in the effort.
Klein also came back excited about all the resources and opportunities available through JCCA. He was impressed with the effort that went into creating a new mission and values statement for the organization, which he believes really focuses on the JCCA’s core mission.
Two years from now, he would like to see a much larger delegation of both staff and lay leaders attending the Biennial together.
Silberman and JCL Vice President and COO Sara Wagner also attended the meeting.