It’s been a year since I became president of TBC. During the High Holidays last year, I articulated three objectives to work towards. It had been my intention this evening to discuss how we were doing along those lines, but the news of earlier this week obviously overwhelms anything that I had planned to say.
I do want to take a few minutes to discuss the business of TBC, and we do have some governance obligations that we will conduct. But I think it’s fair to say that we will spend much of this evening discussing the rabbinical transition and I want to leave adequate time for all of us.
I want to highlight what I consider to be our key accomplishments during the past year.
- Continued financial stability. Given the challenges in the economy during the past four to five years, and the fact that we built a new building, I believe this is an important accomplishment. I want to thank our Treasurer Brad Marcus, the Finance Committee, and the rest of the Board for their hard work to achieve this goal. Two years ago, when I first joined the Executive Committee, our financial condition was a huge issue for us – we were then facing what looked like a large annual deficit and our reserves had been depleted. We entered this year with a significant reserve, and we will be close to breakeven for the year, even having purchased a new computer system for our employees. Brad will make his report shortly.
- Revitalized a number of key committees. The work here is not yet complete — it’s actually never complete in this regard — but I am happy to report that we have had a good number of new volunteers playing important roles in our operations. One notable example is in Communications. We actually now have 6 people on the committee, replacing what had been essentially 2. This additional man- and woman-power is helping TBC to thoughtfully utilize some of the new media methods to reach our members, and also to engage with new prospective members. We launched a new web site this year, we’ve begun to use social media, and we have already seen a very substantial number of new prospective members who have found us because of those activities.
- We’ve made some important strides in donor recognition. Our culture here has been historically low-key, but the fact is that we need to express our appreciation to our donors. Their generosity allows us to fulfill our objectives, and to support our own community. We are in the process of planning the move of the Tree of Life from the old sanctuary to the new building and part of this project will include recognition of certain Kulanu donors. We’ll have more announcements on this over the next few months.
- We’ve made some important changes to the administration of the religious school. As I think many of you know, we have promoted Jennifer Haynos to the position of Education Manager. She has been performing much of the administrative functions of the school for the past couple of years, and it was appropriate to recognize her contributions in this way. The Education Committee will be considering some of the specifics of this as a consequence of Rabbi Cohen’s news, but the strategic plan here is not changing. Cindy Baulsir will speak about this in more detail a little later in the evening.
I know the reason we have such a large attendance here this evening is not because you were all so eager to hear my remarks.
Last week, Rabbi Cohen told me that she had been offered an extraordinary opportunity. Hers and my messages to our members Tuesday evening pretty well fully describe those circumstances. If you’ve had the chance to take a look at the Slifka Center on-line, then you know what an incredible opportunity it truly is. So let me say, officially, congratulations to Leah. Our loss is truly the Slifka Center’s gain.
This presents us with very obvious challenges as a congregation and I want you to know that the Executive Committee and Board have been working hard in the last very few days to prepare for the rabbinic transition. We are in the process of completing an application for an interim rabbi who will be with us for a year. The CCAR has a process that specifically addresses these needs. It is our goal to have an interim in rabbi in place as soon as possible. If we rapidly find a candidate that we want to hire, then possibly there will be some brief period of time when Rabbi Cohen and the new interim rabbi are both here. We won’t short-cut the process to make this happen though. We will find a rabbi who makes a good fit with us, we will do it expeditiously, and within proper budgetary controls.
Then, beginning after the High Holy Days, we will begin our search process for a new permanent rabbi. This is an orderly process, again conducted through CCAR. Our congregation will be attractive to many candidates, so we expect to find a good match.
I want this process to be as inclusive as possible, with all of the various groups that make up our membership represented. We need volunteers to work with the Board on the Search Committee. I have already received several e-mails from members who would like to be involved, for which I am appreciative. There are sign-up sheets in the back. I encourage you to actively participate with us either in the rabbinic searches, or in some committee.
I intend for both search processes to be as open and transparent as possible. We will keep everyone informed via chai lites and special e-mails as appropriate. If you have a comment anywhere along the way, please let me know.
This period of change is an opportunity for the congregation to come together in a common cause. Under Leah’s rabbinic leadership, TBC grew its membership and vibrancy, and we came together to build our new building in a spectacularly successful undertaking. She will always be a vital part of the fabric of TBC. Now, we have the opportunity to build on her legacy here as we enter the next phase of our congregational life. Leah has suggested to me that we consider conducting a preservation and cleaning process for our Torahs and the ultimate retirement of our Holocaust Scroll as a fitting tribute to her time here, an idea I wholeheartedly endorse. She will speak more about that later and in the weeks ahead.
I am not trying to minimize the challenges we will face in the next year. But I have confidence in my colleagues on the leadership team, our Cantor Sobel, and in our members that we will navigate this process successfully.
President, Temple B’nai Chaim