TBS President’s Message – Rosh Hashanah 5777

Erev Rosh Hashanah Service 5777
October 2, 2016
Andrea Wasserman, President

President’s Message – Rosh Hashanah 5777

Shanah Tova.

On behalf of our entire Board of Directors I, along with my family, am delighted to welcome you to services this evening.

Today marks my second High Holy Day speech.  When I began to prepare for my remarks I thought it would be a snap—but I had to step back and ask myself what is the most important message I could share with you.  As I was seeking advice about what to say, a friend of mine said, “Don’t worry—the only person listening will be your mother.”  Probably true, but just in case another two or three of you are listening I will keep going.

It is traditional for temple presidents to take a few minutes during a High Holy Day service to recap the year’s events and set the stage for the coming year.  I want to take a moment though to express my deepest appreciation to the Board of Directors of the past and current year, and to the committee chairs working tirelessly behind the scenes on the mundane to make the sacred possible, and to our staff who continue to work so hard to nurture the bonds of our Jewish home. Most especially I want to thank my children and my husband, Jay, who has listened to my frustrations and fears as well as joy and accomplishments during this past year. There truly is a special place in heaven for the spouses of Temple Presidents.

At this time I think it is worthwhile to reiterate the basic principles of TBS.  It remains our mission to be a spiritual, intellectual, and cultural center for our membership, offering worship experiences that appeal to mind, heart, and soul; offering support at all life cycle events; providing meaningful education to members of all ages; offering programs which foster friendship, warmth, and kindness inside this building; and providing connections to the Jewish community at-large as well as to people of other faiths.

The value of TBS lies with the people who are sitting around you. They are the ones who open their arms and put them around you, who deliver food to your door when you are ill, the friends who drive Hebrew school carpool with you. Here, you are always surrounded by family and friends who support you through life’s most difficult challenges, and also celebrate life’s joys with you.

This past year has been full of many accomplishments and I would like to share some highlights with you.  There is no way I can mention all the things that the staff, leadership and individual members have accomplished and contributed this year so I apologize in advance for the people and programs I may have left out.

•    Last year at this time, we enjoyed High Holy Days back in our sanctuary.  Rabbi Cohen delivered inspirational and educational sermons, Cantor Reinwald and the TBS choir lead us in song, and we had the great honor of hearing Elizabeth Mann speak about her holocaust story.

•    In November we had a very successful fundraiser entitled “Thanks for Giving”.  This event was inspired to show thanks to the major donors of the Living Legacy Campaign. Many thanks to Hollis O’Brien and Joyce Mogabgab who co-chaired this event.  They had the vision, along with their committee to make this event TBS’ most successful fundraiser ever.

•    Rabbi Cohen led a Leadership development program called Hineini—Here I am.  Several individuals from the congregation participated in a 3-part program and I am happy to say that some participants have joined the board and others are playing active roles on selected committees.

•    Brotherhood and sisterhood continue to have wonderful events and we thank you for all that you do for TBS.  Your continued support is much appreciated.

•    On May 22 we had our annual gala honoring Jeff and Caron Winston for their continued dedication to TBS.  Nearly 200 guests attended as we dedicated the Winston Living Room and honored the TBS staff for all of their hard work that they do on a daily basis.  Thank you to Pam Honsberger and Addy Lerner and the entire committee for a special evening.

•    The preschool under the leadership of Pam Ranta and religious school under the leadership of Jodi Kaufman each had a very productive year.  Pam continues to grow the preschool by introducing an infant-toddler program and Jodi continues to introduce new technology to the religious school.  Thank you both for your continued vision as TBS is always looking to improve and grow programs.

•    This past year 21 TBS students were tutored by Rabbi Cohen and Cantor Reinwald in preparation for their B’nei Mitzvah.  Thank you both for all that you do to prepare our students, for giving them the confidence to stand up in front of their peers and congregation, and for assuring parents that their child is ready and that their special day will be amazing and memorable.

•    Our youth groups continue to grow under the leadership of Rabbi Cohen and Jodi Kaufman. Engaging our youth is so important to ensure that Judaism continues to thrive.

•    Mitzvah Meals, imagined by Monica Engel, and sustained by Hollis O’Brien, Cheryl Escoe and many other volunteers, is in its 7th year and stronger than ever.  The program currently provides sustenance for approximately 1200 underserved men, women and children in our community every month.  And amazingly Mitzvah Meals has never skipped a Sunday, even the day after our fire.  A heartfelt thank you to all who volunteer and contribute to this worthwhile program. The community relies on us and our congregants respond.

•    New committees were formed.  They are Membership, Chaired by Ferne Michaelson; Security, Chaired by Jack Holmes; Building & Grounds, Chaired by Len Goodman; and Design and Décor, Chaired by Linda Weisberg.

•    And the most significant highlight is that the Living Legacy project was executed entirely within the fiscal means of Temple Beth Sholom. Through the generous support of our congregation, a well negotiated settlement with our insurance company, and the very diligent oversight of project scope and expenditures, the Living Legacy project contained its spending to the amount sanctioned by the Board of Directors and approved by the congregation ($10.95M). While the congregation authorized the Living Legacy Committee to encumber the Temple in an amount not to exceed $1.5M, no loans of any kind were ever required or executed. Once again, this was only possible due to the extreme generosity of several key congregants.  Many thanks to the Living Legacy committee for their time and effort to ensure that this project was realized on time and on budget.

Needless to say there is much happening at TBS and these were just a few of the highlights.

We continue to search for an Executive Director. The committee, co-chaired by Jeff Winston and Michele Shugarman, is committed to finding the right person for the role.  And I would like to take this moment to personally thank Michele for the many volunteer hours she has dedicated to TBS as the acting Executive Director.  Her efforts to help maintain the day-to-day operations of TBS are appreciated more than words can describe.

At the beginning of my remarks I joked about the number of you that would be listening to me.  The theme for TBS this year is Shema—listening.  Listening lies at the very heart of relationship. It means that we are open to the other–that we respect him or her–that their perceptions and feelings matter to us. We give them permission to be honest, even if this means making ourselves vulnerable. A good parent listens to their child. A good employer listens to his or her workers. A good company listens to its customers or clients. A good leader listens to those he or she leads. Listening does not mean agreeing but it does mean caring.  The very act of listening is a form of respect. Listening is a profound affirmation of the humanity of the other.

That is why the greatest of all commands–the first Jewish words we learned as children, the last words spoken by Jewish martyrs as they went to their deaths, words engraved on the Jewish soul, are Shema Yisrael, “Listen, O Israel.” As we say those words, we cover our eyes – to shut out, if only for a moment, the world of sight, so that we can more fully enter the world of sound–the world we cannot see but which, if we create an open, attentive silence in the soul, we can hear.

TBS has been listening.  A couple of months ago a survey was sent out to the congregation, and I am happy to report that we received 146 responses.  The purpose of this survey is to hear what is on your mind.  Last Tuesday evening Jack Holmes and I had a meeting with a group of congregants to discuss issues, concerns, wants, and needs so that we can better provide services, programming and communication.

Listening is an art, a skill, a religious discipline, and the deepest reflex of the human spirit. One who truly listens can sometimes hear, beneath the noise of the world, the deep speech of the universe.

Temple Beth Sholom is a k’hila k’dosah, a holy community. As Hillel asked, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me”? We answer that question together: We will be there for each other. We remain committed to welcoming everyone into our community, regardless of their ability to pay, and to serving all of our members regardless of their financial standing. We need all of you and want you in our temple family and community.  The thing that will allow us to continue to accommodate those in need, to ensure the next generation is raised with Jewish values and knowledge; and to maintain a strong Jewish community, is the added generosity of those who can help ensure that Temple Beth Sholom remains a home for all who enter our doors.

I would like to sincerely thank all of the volunteers whose work makes this community so vibrant. The effort, enthusiasm, and care that so many of you bring into this building is remarkable.  Your work, spirit and enthusiasm inspires the clergy, the administrative staff, and me to all do our best.

This is your synagogue.  This is your community.  Temple Beth Sholom can be a dynamic place when energized people want to make things happen.  I encourage all of you to step forward to become more involved, even if it’s only one more thing than you did last year.

On behalf of the Board of Directors I hope we will fulfill all of your dreams for this wonderful community. I promise you that we will certainly try our best.

G’mar Hatïma Tova –”May you be inscribed in the Book of Life” and may your new year be sweet.

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