The Jewish Federation has announced that Jean Trager is Louisville’s recipient of the 2014 Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award, the Jewish Federations of North America’s preeminent national Women’s Philanthropy award. The award will be presented at the national Lion of Judah conference in the fall.
The Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award recognizes leadership in Women’s Philanthropy, particularly in the area of endowment. A long-time supporter of the annual Federation Campaign as a Lion of Judah, Trager is committed to the Louisville Jewish community. In the mid-1990’s, she decided it was time to ensure that the next generation followed her example, so she made her “girls” – daughter Shelley Trager Kusman and daughter-in-law Amy Trager – Lions as well, and in 2004, endowed all three gifts to ensure her support in perpetuity.
Trager and her late husband, Bernard, z”l, always worked as a team when it came to charitable giving. “The community has been good to us,” she said, “and we always felt like we have to give back to the community.”
When they first got married, Trager shared, they, like many young families, had limited resources. Their budget did not include a lot of extras.
Recognizing importance of the help they received when they were young, the Tragers have been generous to the Jewish Federation and the Jewish Community Center for many years. Today, Jean Trager continues her support so help will always be available to those who need it. “There are plenty of Jewish families that need help,” she noted.
Trager is a native Louisvillian, and during her early teen years, the YMHA (Young Men’s Hebrew Association (now the Jewish Community Center) was the focus of her life.
She attended Ohio State University and the University of Missouri, where she graduated with a degree in elementary education. When she returned to Louisville, she taught first and second grade at the old Ballard Elementary School until her children were born.
She helped organize an evening group of Hadassah for younger women who could not attend meetings during the day. She was also active in the Adath Jeshurun Sisterhood. For a short time, she volunteered at the Jewish Hospital Information Desk, and she often took classes at the JCC. She’s also a life member of National Council of Jewish Women.
In 1955, she and Bernard were married, and they enjoyed more than 50 years together.
The Tragers were partners in business, too, and in 1977, they bought a small bank in Shelbyville, KY, that became the cornerstone of the corporation that today is Republic Bancorp, Inc., the largest Kentucky-owned financial institution in the area. Today, their son, Steve Trager, serves as Republic’s chairman and CEO.
In 1999, both received the Weisberg Brotherhood Award from NCCJ (the National Conference of Community and Justice); and they also were named the 2003 Caritas Foundation Community Leaders of the Year. In 2004, they were honored with the University of Louisville Hickman-Camp Award recognizing their support of the Athletic Department.
In 2004, the Tragers brought the movie, “Gloomy Sunday,” to the community as a successful fund-raiser for the Jewish Community Federation’s March of the Living program, and for many years, Republic Bank has been the title sponsor of the Jewish Family and Vocational Service/Jewish Community Center Players Challenge (golf, tennis, bridge, canasta and maj jongg event).
The Jewish values of tzedakah and tikkun olam are the Tragers’ legacy. Over the years, they donated generously to community causes in their names. In 1999, for example, they gave generous gifts to U of L for the Trager field hockey stadium. Since then, the family has given sizable donations to Jewish Hospital for the Trager Pavilion at the Rudd Heart and Lung Center, to Frazier Rehabilitation Center for the Trager Pavilion, to Baptist East for the Trager Pediatric Emergency Care Center, to U of L Athletics to build the Trager Center indoor football practice facility and to The Temple for the Trager Pre-School Education Center, as well as many other sizable donations.
They also established endowments for a number of Jewish and non-Jewish agencies throughout the community. Most recently, the Tragers made the lead gift of $1 million to The Temple’s “Secure our Future” Campaign.
In 2006, Jean and Bernard Trager received the Jewish Community Center’s prestigious Blanche B. Ottenheimer Award in recognition of their leadership in Louisville and the difference for good their efforts have made.
Trager has a daughter, Shelley T. Kusman, who has three boys, Michael, Andrew and Brett; and a son, Steve, and his wife, Amy, who have two children, Kevin and Emily.
She is proud that her children and grandchildren carry on the family tradition of tzedakah.