Ben Tobin

Louisville Courier Journal

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Jewish leaders and elected officials repeated one message about the new Trager Family Jewish Community Center (JCC): The space will welcome the entire Louisville community.

More than 100 people gathered Thursday to celebrate the dedication of the $43 million facility at 3600 Dutchmans Lane, which is on property formerly owned by Congregation Anshei Sfard right behind the old Jewish Community Center.

Before the ribbon-cutting, speakers took turns reminiscing on their memories of the old JCC, which was built in 1955, and what Thursday’s ceremony meant for Jewish people in the Derby City and all Louisvillians.

“I think of three things when I think of the Jewish Community Center: family, faith and community,” said Steve Trager, the CEO of Republic Bancorp Inc. and whose family is the namesake of the new building.

The new 107,000-square-foot facility’s amenities include an indoor family aquatics center, a fitness center, an early learning center with a courtyard, and a multipurpose auditorium space for theater and arts.

The governor also criticized recent antisemitic comments by legislators in Frankfort, with Rep. Walker Thomas, R-Hopkinsville, and Sen. Rick Girdler, R-Somerset, each saying “Jew them down” during a committee meeting in February and  Rep. Danny Bentley, R-Russell, making comments about his perception of the sexual habits of Jewish women and the Holocaust during a debate over anti-abortion legislation.”Over the past three weeks, we have seen troubling numbers of antisemitic incidents in the commonwealth,” Beshear said. “Let me be clear: There is no place for that in Kentucky.”

The celebration Thursday featured several Jewish traditions. Before speakers took to the podium, cantors David Lipp and Sharon Hordes from Congregation Adath Jeshurun and Keneseth Israel Congregation, respectively, sang Ma Tovu, a Hebrew prayer meant to express gratitude to places of worship and community gathering.

Rabbi Ben Freed of Keneseth Israel Congregation affixed a mezuzah to the entrance of the JCC – as is customary over the entrances to Jewish homes – before leading the group in the Shehecheyanu, a prayer recited to celebrate first time something happens, such as a grand opening of a new building.

Among those in attendance at Thursday’s celebration were former Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson and Democratic mayoral hopeful Craig Greenberg — both of whom are Jewish.

Greenberg told The Courier Journal after the ceremony that the JCC “plays such an incredibly important role in this community … not just for the Jewish community, but really for anybody who wants a welcoming place to have culture and to work out.”

When asked if Louisville is a welcoming place for Jewish people, Greenberg said “by and large, yes.”

“That is something that I want to work to continue, not just for the Jewish community, but for people of all faiths,” Greenberg said. “Louisville is and should be seen as a welcoming city for people of all faiths, of all nationalities. ethnicities and races — different people make for a vibrant, strong city.”

“Individuals in the Jewish community are very proud of who they are — their heritage, their traditions and their legacy,” Wagner told The Courier Journal in an interview.

“But they’re also really proud to be part of Louisville and be part of the state and take seriously that we’re part of the entire fabric within our own community.”

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Contact Ben Tobin at and 502-377-5675 or follow on Twitter @Ben__Tobin.