President’s Monthly Message: First Congregational Speech

For those of you with a plane to catch, I’ve timed this speech & will be done in < 15 minutes.

I’d like to start by thanking Rabbi Cohen & our newest Immediate Past President, Jack Holmes. They gave me a 2-year runaway in which to prepare for the position of President and I appreciate their help and support. I’m also grateful for all of Ruth’s continued assistance.

As I quickly learned, the Executive Vice President sits on virtually every committee & is in charge of some. I’ll never forget when I asked past President Linda Weissberg that I’d like to speak with the head of the Design & Decor Committee, she laughed and told me that it was me!

No matter what role I serve in at the Temple, I will always appreciate the continuing role that the Weissbergs, the Winstons and many other congregants play in maintaining this beautiful facility which serves as one of many foundations of our community.

As with most things in my life, when I have a big decision to make, I check with Kathy, my wife of nearly 25 years.
With her agreement, I’ve moved her & our kids from Southern California to Hickory, NC, and back again. So when faced with the opportunity to become the next president of TBS, it wasn’t a big ask & of course, she said, “Sure…”
Thank you, Kathy.

I also want to thank the 2017-2019 board & countless volunteers. If I hadn’t enjoyed my experience working with you & serving on a variety of committees, it wouldn’t have been such an easy “Yes” to serve as EVP. Thank you outgoing members Lew Siegler, Michele Shugarman, Gary Holloway & Andrea Wasserman

And thank you, incoming 2019-2021 board. The work that Michele Shugarman & the nominating committee did was wonderful.
We have 3 positions, VP of Membership, Director for Membership, & Director for Communications, that haven’t been occupied in 2 years. Not only are these positions filled, but Mary Gonzalez (with her partner-in-crime, Lori Griffin), David Feldberg & Ruth Aptaker are amazing people & have already met numerous times, brainstorming & planning many wonderful ways to engage with potential new members & retain long-standing ones. Did you know that a recent Tot Shabbat on Saturday morning at 8:30am was a big hit with our young families? Rabbi loved it too.

Of course, we have Arnie Shugarman serving as new brotherhood president & Brenda Beck for another year as Sisterhood president before Nancy Fidel joins our board.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t express my appreciation to board members that have made the commitment to serve a 2nd term. Melanie Pollak (Director of Fundraising) Matthew Griffin (VP of Education) Harvey Grossberg (Treasurer) & Bonnie Wenneberg (Secretary).

Scott Singer is replacing Michele Shugarman as VP of Worship, & she will be leading our efforts in Financial Development in a non-Board capacity until we can find someone.
The other vacancy we have is that of Executive Vice President. I’m optimistic that if I make this job look easy, I’ll find someone with previous board experience or a current board member willing to utilize all 2 years of the runway I had to serve as our next president.

Finally, I want to thank all of you at TBS. As Scott Singer sang during one of our Friday night Shabbat services, TBS has truly become my home away from home. I appreciate the growing relationship with new friends that I have met over the past couple of years.

Many of you are now asking, “But Mitch, you’ve been a member of TBS for what, 10, 15 years; why only the past couple of years?”
Yes, that’s true. Kathy & I came to TBS for a number of reasons, many years ago, but not since I joined the board & became active did I develop a wonderful relationship with my Jewish community.

Let me share why…

As some of you know, I’m a fan of Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle. He has a great video on YouTube & wrote “Start with Why” in 2009. His concept is simple. Instead of focusing on what we do & how we do it, start with why.

In very basic terms,
WHAT are we: Reform (not reformed) Jews.
HOW are we Reform Jews? Through prayer, Tikkun Olam, learning, etc.
But WHY are we Jews? This answer is different for all of us, but it’s critical that each of us knows their WHY in order to get to HOW & WHAT.

“Why am I a Jew?” Because my parents, Eileen & Henry raised me to be a Jew. Not a good enough reason. Most of the kids in my Temple Beth Tikvah confirmation class were raised by similar parents. Yes, my parents are amazing, but are they the WHY behind my need to be an active member of this synagogue?

There are many synagogues that Kathy & I could belong to…“Why am I a member of the TBS Jewish community?”
● It’s the many relationships I’ve developed HERE.
● It’s the rebirth this synagogue has undergone since the fire.
● It’s the spirit of Tikun Olam that I feel when I deliver Mitzvah Meals or attend a Social Justice Meeting
● It’s the spiritual leadership of Rabbi Cohen,
● It’s the beautiful music & B’nei Mitzvah preparation provided by Cantor Reinwald

● This is a place, a community, where I can make a difference. Making a difference feeds my soul. I think YOU want to make a difference as well, and I’d like to make that journey with YOU here at TBS.

I can go on & on, but at TBS, I enjoy meeting new people, experiencing new things, & connecting with each of our versions of Judaism.
For example:
○ Iftar dinners for a broader understanding of the “others” in our lives
○ attending sports events with my “brothers and sisters”
○ heartfelt support from friends during life’s challenges
○ spiritual & educational events, like Alisa & Jodi’s classes that explored Brene Brown’s research & conclusions regarding courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy.
● I want to lead this TBS community for the next 2 years & make it as impactful on each of you as it has been on me & my family.

Now that we know my why’s, I’d like to share my two areas of interest for my tenure as President.
● Engagement and Philanthropy


Kathy & I joined TBS because we wanted our kids to be in the very best pre-school. TBS had a new Rabbi that also had a young daughter, Dahvi, the same age as our daughter Claire. They became immediate friends. She is also close friends with Megan Griffin the daughter of Matthew Griffin, my motorcycle buddy. You get the idea. One connection leads to many others.

Our new Membership team is comprised of people that have similar connection stories. It is our goal that TBS becomes your home away from home. But it takes action, not just ideas. So, I welcome all of you to consider your role as a TBS Ambassador. How can you be more welcoming? Who can you call & invite to Shabbat dinner at your house? Who can you save a seat for at services? Who would you enjoy going to the beach with? How about an Angels game with Steve Friedman?


I learned during the URJ Scheidt Seminar that we should avoid the term Fundraising & instead use the word Philanthropy.

The definition of this word is “the desire to promote the welfare of others,

expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes.”

A Catholic mentor of mine told me that everyone needs a Ministry. I couldn’t agree more. Our souls are fed when we feed others, both literally & figuratively.
With regard to planned giving, Kathy & I have a will, trust, & healthcare directive, thanks to Todd Littman. We will make sure 10% of our estate be left to TBS. Will our kids be upset that they’re only getting 90%? Of course not. They know how important TBS has been to our Jewish lives!

All of us have financial constraints. As you’ve seen from the countless hours spent by the budget committee, our TBS community often lacks the funds to do everything on our wish list.
Please do all that you can to ensure the financial stability of TBS, in the present & future.

I’d like to conclude with a call to action. A request that I have for each & every one of you.
What are you willing to do, not say, to help make TBS the community YOU want it to be?

What recommendations AND actions can you make to Membership, Social Justice, Life-Long Learning/Education, Worship, Treasurer, or any of our committees & help them engage our existing & potential members? Even better, what committee are we missing that you would like to be a part of? Maybe co-lead with a friend?

And since Engagement & Philanthropy are the focus areas for my tenure, what are yours for the next 2, 5, 10 years & beyond?

If you’d like to share them with me, I have 100 pre-stamped postcards, which we’ll hand-out shortly. You can include your name, or share anonymously. I want to know your Why, your ideas, your ACTIONS.

And speaking of friends, please write down the name of 1,2, maybe more, friends &/or family that YOU will invite to a TBSOC event in the next 60 days.
How will you invite them? E-mail? Text? Phone call? Letter? Why not double down & use at least 2 communication methods so they know that YOU’RE as serious about the future of the TBS community as THEY should be.

The clock is ticking & WE have a lot of work to do.

Thank you for your attendance. Thank you for your good wishes. And thank you for entrusting me with this Presidency for the next 2 years.

7 Responses to President’s Monthly Message: First Congregational Speech

  1. eileen cohen June 13, 2019 at 10:30 am #

    It was another outstanding milestone for dad and I to witness. We know your hopes are high to make a difference in our community and beyond.

    • Mitchell Cohen June 13, 2019 at 5:55 pm #

      Thanks Mom!

  2. Susan Simon June 13, 2019 at 11:10 am #

    May your enthusiasm and dedication spread to make The synagogue a place of community and support.
    Do well while you do good. Mazal Tov! – Susie and Joel

  3. Noah Cohen June 13, 2019 at 1:27 pm #

    Well done! Mazel Tov on your presidency. L’Shalom, —–Noah

    • Eric Biribuze June 15, 2019 at 11:25 am #

      You are always a difference maker my friend. What a blessing to your community and all of us who count you as a friend. Congrats and good luck!

  4. Mitchell Cohen June 13, 2019 at 5:55 pm #

    Thanks Susie & Joel!

  5. Cheryl Escoe June 17, 2019 at 3:18 pm #

    We wish you the best in this big endeavor. We have been members for 55 years and continue to feel the need to ensure a future for other generations. Cheryl and Barry Escoe