My Visit to Louisville

Earlier this week, I was in Louisville, Kentucky, to share the results of our recent outreach scan with leaders in the Jewish community. Our research scan focused on what the community and its institutions are doing to welcome in interfaith and unaffiliated families. While the results of the community’s own demographic study are not complete, the anecdotal evidence is clear: Louisville’s affiliation rate is not as high as it once was (or, at least believed to be), and the community has a high interfaith marriage rate, perhaps even higher if the city’s merger with neighboring Jefferson County is taken into account.

So it wasn’t surprising when an issue that presents a challenge to most communal institutions emerged in Louisville, as well: what should be the policy for non-Jews (who are married to Jews) sitting on boards of Jewish institutions? Aren’t an institution’s boards supposed to reflect its constituency? The Louisville JCC is an interesting example. While about 40% of the members at the JCC are Jewish, it is unclear how many of its non-Jewish members are married to Jews or part of an extended Jewish family. So what should its policy be?

And a related question: should potential leaders of Jewish institutions be limited in their opportunities because they are married to non-Jews? Perhaps we need to shift our assumption about what type of role models our community is in need of, and affirm these individuals who want to express their commitment to the Jewish community.

1 Comment

  1. Just last week, I learned that one of the most active members of my synagogue is not Jewish. Without this person’s contributions, we’d be barely functioning. But it’s not just committees and events – he often attends services, even without his spouse. And this is not an isolated case. I think many communities would be surprised if they were to do a survey like Louisville’s. The energies and the talents of these great people are keeping a lot of our institutions going. I agree: No one’s contribution should be shunned.

    Comment by Ron M. — June 19, 2006 @ 12:42 pm

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