[by Shiela Steinman Wallace]
Over the years, the leaders of the Annual Federation Campaign have created a series of events with dynamic speakers designed to engage members of the Jewish community and help them understand the importance of supporting the Campaign. Even with a variety of speakers, however, the events fall into a pattern and it’s easy to feel that there is something routine about them.
Why not try something really different this year, Ben Vaughan, a young adult who is active in the community, posited earlier this year – a new series of events that are very different and uniquely Jewish.
“Instead of waiting for someone else to do it,” Vaughan said, “I wrote a lecture series proposal and submitted it to Stew Bromberg,” the Jewish Community of Louisville’s vice president and chief development officer and Campaign director.
Last year, a good start was made with an event featuring a card expert at Horseshoe Casino, and Vaughan felt the community needs to continue to expand in that direction.
“Something out of the box was needed to draw in people who don’t usually attend our events,” he observed, “especially the young people who don’t feel there’s anything in the community for them. We want to be sure we reach out to them.”
Thus, the Uniquely Jewish Events Series was born. From Vaughan’s original list of six ideas, four were chosen and they started picking dates for the events. Campaign Director Matt Goldberg was drawn into the process and plans were made around the themes guns and Jews; an adult Purim party that explores the history of Jews and alcohol; planes, trains and automobiles – the effects of mobility and transportation on the Jewish community; and advocacy and social action in the Jewish community.
While no formal announcement had yet been made about the first Uniquely Jewish event, word that a “shooting event” had been planned for January got out in the community, and there was a buzz surrounding it. People were excited about the prospect of doing something really different and not usually associated with the Jewish community.
However, sometimes circumstances mandate that plans must be changed. On Friday, December 14, a gunman shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, and when his gun was finally silenced, 26 people were dead including 20 children.
Out of respect for those who lost their lives and the pain of those left behind, the 2013 Federation Campaign has suspended the January event and will revisit its plans in the future.
The Purim event is being planned for February 21. “It will be a big party,” Vaughan said. The Jewish aspect of the celebration will explore the history of Jews and alcohol, its use in Jewish life and the how the Torah talks about it.
The April 23 Uniquely Jewish event will focus on mobility. The speaker that night will be Dr. Gary Zola, director of the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives and professor of the American Jewish experience at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati.
For Vaughan, a 10-year veteran of the Jewish Community Relations Council, advocacy is an integral part of Jewish life and an important reason to be involved. Nationally, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) serves as the parent organization for JCRC’s across the country, and Ethan Felson, JCPA’s vice president and general council is one of the most eloquent and effective advocates for causes important to the Jewish community.
On May 22, Felson will be in Louisville to discuss advocacy and lobbying, explaining how it’s done.
“You can’t participate if you don’t show up,” Vaughan said. “The whole point of these events is to give people who don’t feel like they have a reason to participate a reason to participate and engage in open dialogue.”
Vaughan is originally from Louisville, although he grew up in Nashville, TN. He attended the University of Louisville’s Speed School and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering. While at U of L, he was active in Hillel, was Hillel’s representative on the JCRC and volunteered with the Annual Campaign.
Professionally, Vaughan describes himself as “a new generation locksmith,” who designs kaba mas electronic locks.
Watch future issues of Community for more information about the Uniquely Jewish event series.