La Shanah Tovah.
Who and what is Temple B’Nai Chaim?
A year ago, I stood before you and articulated three goals for our congregation:
- To educate our children.
- To preserve the Torah.
- To support our community, both amongst our congregation and in the outside world.
I’m proud to say that we were faithful to those objectives during the past year. From the energy reverberating throughout our religious school, to the large adult bar mitzvah we held, to the social action projects and the innumerable ways in which we supported our own members, it is gratifying to reflect on the success of the past year. But we must always look forward, and at a time of obvious change within TBC these goals provide a foundation for our raison d’etre.
I can tell you personally, that in the last few months, I have keenly come to realize how much we and I had relied upon Rabbi Cohen. So many little things I didn’t have to concern myself with. Now Rabbi Lipper asks me simple questions. “What do we do for such-and-such.” Then he asks, “why do we do it that way?” and I have to pause and realize that I’d never even thought about that subject before. So this year brings us the opportunity to build on all of our strengths and take this opportunity to grow.
Every synagogue experiences this during a rabbinic transition. It’s why the URJ has, in the past decade, greatly enhanced the interim rabbi program. This concept allows a congregation to be reflective and introspective. What do we want for ourselves? Who do we want to be? How do we fit into the larger world of Judaism?
The interim year gives us the opportunity to be intentional about where we want to go. The search for a new permanent rabbi is already under way and it will be an orderly process. We will build on the experience we had in locating Rabbi Lipper. I want to greatly thank the Executive Committee: Dina Gumins, Kiki Cahn, Cindy Baulsir, Brad Marcus, June Mara, Gerry Rakos and Ken Sobel for all their hard work during that intense period. When you see them during the High Holy Days, say of word of appreciation. We could not be where we are today without their efforts.
As the great Jewish philosopher Yogi Berra is reported to have said, “if you don’t know where you’re going, there’s a chance you might end up in the wrong place.” When we set up the Search Committee, chaired ably by Tom Dubin, and organized the search process, we’ve created a structure where all of us have the opportunity to provide input, comments, thoughts so that we spend this year thoughtfully. There will be at least two forums open to all to meet and discuss our vision.
Rabbi Lipper will work with us this year so that we can collectively determine how we move to the next phase of our existence. Last year, I referred to our Kulanu project. Kulanu means all of us, and it was the name we gave some years ago to our long-term project that culminated in the construction of our new building. This year ‘all-of-us’ will have a broader meaning. We all need to be involved and participative. I am gratified to report that the early signs are encouraging. From the overwhelming number of offers to help with the rabbinic search, to the number of people who have volunteered with the logistics and ushering of our High Holy Day services, I have the sense that we are moving in the right direction. Thank you to all of you.
Broadening congregational involvement will be a focal point of 5774. I’ve appointed Micki Averick, a member of our Board of Trustees, to coordinate all volunteers and make sure you get connected with the right committee, the right task force, or the right group within TBC. We have an e-mail address for her specifically for this purpose. We will make sure that anybody who wants to participate in any way will be able to do so.
No matter what you do, large or small, it contributes to all of us. Your efforts will shape our future. This congregation is full of talented, energetic people. We know we have what it takes to do great things for ourselves, our children, our community. Be involved with us. Rabbi Lipper is here to guide us and we are so fortunate to have this great legacy on which to build. I thank you in advance for your time and hard work.
Synagogues everywhere are searching for new structures instead of standing committees, evolving perhaps more to a task-oriented structure. It’s a concept that is indicative of the way we all lead our busy lives today. We’re trying to figure out how to make that work here — and we are wide open to suggestions!
However that new structure evolves, there are ongoing functions that have to be performed. Each of us needs to contribute our time somewhere. Every aspect of synagogue life is going to be considered, visited, reviewed during this year. Frankly, without your involvement, not only will we do a poorer job, but we may not get the job done at all. The dedicated people who are doing this work now are all stretched to their limits and we all need your help. We will take each of these broad functions, break them down into smaller tasks so that we are responsive to the lifestyles that I’ve described. We need your fresh voice, your new energy to do this together.
Here are some examples of the questions we need to visit:
- How do we promote ourselves in the community and attract new members?
- How do we best utilize our social hall?
- What kind of dues structure is best?
- How should the religious school be managed?
- What should we do with social media?
- How do we best care for shut-ins in our community?
- What kinds of adult ed programs do we want?
- How should our ritual practices change with the rabbinic transition?
- What should our fund raising strategy be, and what theme for the annual benefit?
- How ought we revise our by-laws in light of all I’ve discussed here?
This isn’t a comprehensive list. Rather, it is illustrative of a critical question that each of our standing committees are grappling with. I implore you to choose an area of interest and help us figure this all out.
Hillel said : “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”
Thoughtful, existential questions. But I can at least answer the last part — the answer for us is most certainly now.
Please contact me or any Board member you know to tell us where you want to be involved. Send an e-mail to Micki. There are cards in the lobby and at TBC that you can fill out and drop in the office. I can promise you we will be most grateful. Kulanu – all of us together – we will take the next step on our collective journey. So, who and what is TBC? – the answer is all of us.
Some words of thanks – to all of you who helped set up, organize, or take a part in these services. To the choir. To my Board members, and all of our members who already serve on committees, or volunteer your time in countless ways.
I also want to thank Rabbi Lipper and Cantor Sobel for leading us during these High Holy Days, and enriching our practice of Judaism throughout the year.
I look forward to hearing from each of you how you will participate with us.
Happy new year.
David Abraham, President