Rosh Hashanah Morning 5778
September 21, 2017
Temple Beth Sholom Presidential Address
Know where you came from, know where you are going, and know in whose presence you will have to make an accounting.
To know where you came from and where you are going requires a sense of self and identity. It is your personal sense of self awareness, as well as an acceptance of your strengths and weaknesses.
Our Jewish journeys may be different, but at our core we are all very similar. Each of us understands the concept of doing what is right, caring for one another, Tikkun Olam and the unifying principal of our belief and faith in Adonai.
The prejudice and hatred of those who are intolerant and cannot accept religious and social differences may change over time, or take different forms, but they never seem to go away.
Currently we are witnessing a resurgence of hatred and intolerance. The events in Charlottesville have especially brought back memories of the abhorrent historical events of the past.
How we react to events of hatred and intolerance further identify who we are as a people, a culture and religion. We can choose to ignore and hide or we can come together as a Jewish community and refuse to let hatred control the dialogue. Our positivity and rejection of divisive acts and words may be the truest form of Tikkun Olam.
We, as members of TBS, are very fortunate that we have this space to come together and celebrate our Judaism. Our welcoming environment allows us to be ourselves, speak our minds, and vigorously debate social and religious values without fear of retribution.
In a word, we, here in this space, are “free”.
Freedom … freedom, a word which resonates with all Jewish people. Today, at this moment, we are very fortunate indeed.
It is an honor to be the president of TBS at this exciting time in our temple’s history. I am deeply proud of all of our volunteers, our former and current board of directors, the amazing staff who teach our children, and the staff members that keep our day to day operations running smoothly and effectively.
I want to personally thank each and every person who has volunteered this past year – whether it is passing out cookies at the Purim carnival, acting as a greeter, stuffing envelopes, serving on a task force or committee or any other opportunity where you have served our TBS family.
“A community is too heavy to carry alone.”
We can’t make TBS work without you. The generosity and support of our membership is what breathes life into TBS.
“May the old be renewed, and the new be holy.”
Currently, TBS is going through a period of change and transition. While change is sometimes difficult, it is inevitable and necessary. We are turning 75 next year and the world has changed around us. With that in mind, our board of directors is looking at new, innovative and creative ideas to plan for the sustainability of our future.
It is sometimes challenging to continue some of our honored traditions and attract the participation of our younger congregants. It is not possible to be “all things to all generations”. We are committed to working toward a balance between tradition and new evolving Jewish traditions.
Discovering that balance starts with you; our members.
One of our efforts is a project that began over 9 months ago. The project was to reimagine and redesign membership.
Instead of one large committee responsible for every aspect of membership, a task force researched and identified the essential components of membership.
Seven (7) sub-committees, each with their own written plans, objectives and (soon) volunteers were developed. Among the new subcommittees are: TBS Ambassadors for new members – Membership Matters for existing members – and Mitzvah Core to name a few.
Our goal is not just increasing membership but improving the membership experience by having smaller groups that are more focused and responsive to membership needs.
I want to thank our new Director of Membership Stacy Nagel and our new Director of Communications Mitch Cohen for their outstanding commitment and leadership in developing, implementing and coordinating the 7 new membership sub-committees.
I also want to thank the committee members who worked diligently over the past 9 months on this project: Hersh Cherson, Mary Gonzalez, Lori Griffin, Esther Herst, Angela Holmes, Ferne Michaelson, Michele Shugarman, Sydell Walencewicz, Andrea Wasserman and Bonnie Wenneberg.
Yes, TBS is going through many changes and improvements. At our last congregational meeting, we elected a new board of directors who are energized, eager and ready to work together for our congregation. Please feel free to introduce yourselves to them and share your thoughts.
We also updated the by-laws to reflect a reduction in the size of the Board for the purpose of efficiency and productivity.
With the help of our amazing interim Executive Director, Esther Herst, we are analyzing our operations to determine best practices and improve day-to-day operations.
One of our primary areas of focus is our youth. We are researching new and innovative ways to develop a continuous transition from pre-school to religious school to B’nai Mitzvah, confirmation and continuing active temple involvement after graduation.
Our new Vice President of Education, Matthew Griffin, is working closely with Jodi Kauffman and Pam Ranta to unify our progression of youth education and make continued youth involvement interesting and fun.
We also want our youth involved in the decision-making process. The board of directors has added a position to the Board of Honorary Youth Representative. This term that position will be represented by our OCTY President Madeline Salvatierra.
The direct input of our youth will provide much needed insight into what we need to do to build connectedness and understanding for our younger members of the importance of TBS and Judaism for their spiritual, cultural and social lives.
After our 75th birthday celebration year we will begin in earnest the process of rebuilding our school. This will be a multi-year project that we actually started many years ago but was interrupted by the fire.
We are at the point that current and future maintenance costs will exceed the value and usefulness of the existing buildings. Simply put, we need a new school for our children. We hope we can count on your support – and be assured we will keep the congregation posted as developments occur.
At our last congregational meeting in June, the board presented a deficit budget for the upcoming year. It was
not a large deficit but a deficit nonetheless. The board is certain, and I agree, that we can overcome this deficit.
Our Treasurer Harvey Grossberg and our finance chair Bill Kontur are working collaboratively to develop strategies to erase the deficit and solidify our finances. For example, one of the projects we are exploring is going green and switching to solar power.
Another bit of good news is, last year’s budget closed with a positive balance. The amount was not significant but the concept is.
Our positive balance was the result of many things but I want to mention several that were significant.
- We did not have an executive director for most of last year and we were able to use that money to offset maintenance and capital expenditures.
- Our dedicated staff found new and innovative ways to do more with less and still provide exceptional services to our congregation.
- We had a profitable gala honoring Rabbi Cohen in June thanks to the inspired and tireless dedication of Caron Winston, Jerry Rothblum and all of the volunteers and members who supported the event.
To each of you well done! Yasher koach and mazel tov.
Also thank you to our generous members and volunteers that make it possible to provide the needs of Jewish life to our congregants and community.
Next year, our 75th anniversary will bring a year-long celebration of monthly activities that are in development. We look forward to sharing an exciting year together honoring TBS.
Of course, the North star for our temple, our conscious and inspiration, is our clergy.
To Cantor Reinwald, music touches the soul in a way words cannot. When I watch you play your guitar, the piano, or sing, I can see and feel the spirit within you. It brings comfort, joy and calm to me and it makes me want to sing along and share the experience. You are a very important part of the spiritual lives of all of us. Thank you.
Thank you to our wonderful choir. Your inspirational voices add grace and soulfulness to our spiritual experience.
To Rabbi Cohen: words are easy – but imparting them with feeling, value and truth are no easy task. But you have a way of doing it and making it look easy. It looks easy because of the depth of your commitment to our congregation and each of us individually.
Whether we have a personal issue, a religious issue, or just want to talk to someone who is warm, caring and understanding, we know you are here for us.
Your counsel, wisdom, boundless energy and caring soul is the cornerstone of our congregation. Thank you.
I want to offer my deepest gratitude to my wife Angela. She has supported me throughout our lives together, the ups and downs and now, at perhaps the busiest time in my life, she is there for me offering her wisdom, counsel and loving support. Thank you.
As I bring my remarks to a conclusion I want to leave you with a few words from Elie Wiesel.
“The opposite of love is not hate, its indifference.
The opposite of faith is not heresy, its indifference.
The opposite of life is not death, its indifference.”
So – I ask, how can each and every one of us join together and make a difference in our TBS community that inspires love, faith and life?
G’mar Hatima Tova – “May you be inscribed in the Book of Life and may you be healthy, happy and a positive force for the world in this upcoming year.
With deep sincerity, a humble heart and the pride of Jewish identity, I wish you