RH Presidents Remarks 2012

L’Shanah Tovah.

When I began my presidency a few months ago, I thought about what it was that I wanted to accomplish during my term. How can I best serve the congregation as we continue to mature. Any synagogue, even a small congregation such as ours, has so many objectives and reasons for existence.  To say that our overall objective is to nurture our own little corner of Judaism does not really provide any guidance. If you pause for a moment and consider the question, you soon realize the complexity of TBC. I offer the following three goals:

  1. To educate our children.
  2. To preserve the Torah.
  3. To support our community, both amongst our congregation and in the outside world.

A number of years ago, while TBC was in the midst of tremendous growth, we determined that the only way to accommodate our membership was the expansion of our physical space. TBC leadership then — on whose shoulders I stand today — embarked on a campaign to make that dream a reality. Through the hard work of many, the project was completed in spectacular fashion. Some of our services during these High Holy Days will be at our building – I can hardly any longer call it our new space. On a personal note, last year, watching the sun set behind the pulpit as Yom Kippur drew to a close was a beautiful and moving experience.

We called that project Kulanu – meaning all of us. And in fact, it was all of us. The congregational meeting that approved the go-ahead was the largest attendance in our history, and the vote to proceed was unanimous. Over 90% of our members made some contribution, consistent with the words from Leviticus to bring gifts to build the tabernacle in keeping with what one can afford.  But it is not the financial aspect of that project on which I wish to dwell. In fact, the project was completed a few hundreds of dollars below budget. It is worth mentioning in appreciation that the fiscal carefulness and hard work of our members to achieve that goal puts us in a laudable financial position today. It is not that we don’t need money – every synagogue, including ours, always needs money – but notwithstanding the difficult economic times our country has endured these last few years, I’m proud to say TBC is financially sound.

However, the hard fact is that far too many of our members have experienced and continue to experience significant hardships, and their synagogue dues and religious school tuition are a substantial challenge. All of our members contribute to our vibrancy, and it is important for us to be able to provide the support they need to maintain their membership.  During the past two years, TBC was fortunate to receive one-time gifts that provided for scholarships so that some of our member’s children could attend our religious school. But those donations were each singular and will not recur, and this year, if you have the means, we need your help to support our temple community. Please pick up a pledge card from the table in the lobby and consider what you can do to help our own community.

Tonight, though, I want to talk more about the spirit of the undertaking on which we embarked.  In the days, well, years, of Kulanu, we enjoyed a unity in our community and a clear sense of common purpose. It is that which I wish to recall and upon which I hope to build and vitalize. The larger building is really only a physical manifestation of our growth and maturity. It is now our task to strengthen the relationships among our community. We enrich our own lives by this connection to ourselves. And it is the breadth of our community that supports each other.  Let me give you an example. About twenty years ago, my wife Lori and I needed to go to Long Island for the funeral of an elderly aunt. Carolyn, our older daughter, was in kindergarten. There were 4, 4, families in our neighborhood, who came to us and said, look, don’t worry about Carolyn. We’ll take her off the school bus, she’ll have dinner with us and you just pick her up whenever you get home. We didn’t ask any of those families, they came to us and volunteered. That’s the strength in community and a place to which our continued development is a worthy objective.

Of course, we already see examples of our community functioning at b’nai mitzvot and shiva minyans.   But we can be so much more to and for each other in support of the third core objective. It’s a little bit of a circular argument – we strengthen our community by participating in our community. But it’s a virtuous circle, and each action that each of us takes to do something for our fellow members, serves to support our community.  There are so many opportunities here for you to become more connected with TBC and fellow congregants.  It does not necessarily mean joining a committee or study group or coming to services more often, although yes, each of those would be wonderful.  But making connections can be as simple as inviting someone over for Shabbat dinner, meeting for coffee during, or carpooling to, Sunday or Hebrew school, even just talking to someone you don’t know at an oneg.  Each individual action strengthens the virtuous circle.

As you know from reading my notes in e-chailites — and I’m sure you read them all the time — TBC functions through a number of committees, each responsible for some aspect of synagogue life, each contributing towards the fulfillment of one or more of the objectives.  All of our organizational functions are performed by volunteers. I encourage each of you to find some way to actively participate in our congregation. Whether it is just for a short while to help build our sukkah in a couple of weeks, or an ongoing role as a committee member, any and all time you can offer is greatly appreciated.  You can see me or any other Board member to discuss how you can participate. My e-mail address is in every issue of e chai-lites. If you contact me to volunteer, I personally assure you that we will take you up on your offer.  To all of you who helped set up, organize, or take a part in these services, you have my gratitude. To my Board members, and all the members who serve on all of our committees, or volunteer your time in countless ways, thank you.

Thanks especially to Rabbi Cohen and Cantor Sobel for leading us not only during these High Holy Days, but throughout the year. Words cannot express my appreciation for their unbounded energy and devotion to TBC, and their wisdom in our practice of Judaism.  We are a most fortunate organization. All of the attributes of which I have spoken this evening combine to help us fulfill our mission:

  • To educate our children.
  • To preserve the Torah.
  • To support our community, both amongst our congregation and in the outside world.

 On this new year of 5773, I ask all of you for your support and participation to preserve and enhance our vibrancy.

 Happy New year to all of you – and Kulanu, to all of us.

David Abraham

President, Temple Bnai Chaim