5774 Annual Meeting, President's Remarks

Written by Bonnie Golden, Temple President on Sunday, 18 May 2014.

When we look at synagogue life, Board work naturally falls in the realm of governance. But it is governance, as our bylaws state, with the purposes of sustaining and nurturing Judaism, Jewish practice and Jewish values, as well as stimulating fellowship in our congregation. More on this later.

Over 104 years, many wonderful members, clergy and officers have been affiliated with Temple, and we've experienced simchas and connections, as well as serious challenges. Even during our existence, threats to Jewish survival have occurred; pogroms, the holocaust, anti-Semitism, threats to the state of Israel. Just this week, the Anti-Defamation League released a study that said that 26% of the world is "deeply infected" with anti-Semitism, although in the US it is only 9%, as Rabbi mentioned in Friday's sermon.

Yet, the eternal light, the Ner Tamid of this congregation, shines on. To me it signifies the practice, the values, and the ethics of Judaism. And Temple and the Jewish people are surviving, and thriving. As individuals, our time on this earth is relatively short, but Judaism and its sustenance at Temple, although always evolving, is indeed, steady.

My overall hope is that in the time I hold this office, and for those of you who succeed me and my board member colleagues, that we will continue to partner in practice and action and community to sustain our Jewish values and respect for one another.

Jewish governance is Jewish practice.

  • Over the past 4.5 months, the Board and many congregants have participated in SWOT analysis Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats. 1-2 attainable goals for the next year or so in the areas of infrastructure, programs, and financial have arisen from those analysis. Areas examined have been the Kurn Religious School, Adult Education Academy, and Membership. We are working on updating the ECE analysis as well as the building repair and replacement priorities for this coming year. Thank you to Amy Beyer, Mona Gibson, Vicki Otto , Micki Schulman, Steve Shawl, the clergy, staff and all members who participated in this analysis and planning effort. It has been labor intensive, yet worthwhile. Very soon I will compile the results for the congregation to see.
  • Our "Conversations with Congregants" is preceding beautifully. In a meeting I had with our URJ support person, she called our initiative a "listening campaign". I reported in a recent Temple Times article about a few of the patterns emerging from these conversations. Sharon Geiger, Louise Greenfield, and Sallie Tofel have coordinated CWC with over 50 congregants so far.
  • With our personnel chair, Mona Gibson, I have continued work that began under Deb Turner, of refining and reaffirming employee evaluation procedures modeled on other congregations for their employees, and also refining evaluation standards and procedures for clergy modeled upon the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) guidelines. We are developing meaningful, constructive, and consistent evaluation processes for all employees that are intended to be replicable and for the purpose of improving as well as strengthening the work of all of our employees. Some of these processes are about to be finalized and procedures followed, with all appropriate levels of confidentiality that human resources and personnel standards in any organization demand.
  • Scott Arden, with the support of Donna Beyer and Linda Crisler and the Budget Committee (Art Geiger, Michael Kaye and Steve Weintraub) have worked tirelessly to manage our finances. We appreciate their hard work and their care.To ensure that standard accounting and financial practices are followed, this year we will once again be having a professional audit.

So although with different purposes, the SWOT analysis, Conversations with Congregants, strengthened HR procedures, and financial management have common themes. We are a responsible board and community, we want to connect with our community, and we want to move from strength to strength.

Jewish governance is Jewish practice. 

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the President of the URJ, who I had the privilege of studying with in April at the Scheidt seminar for new and incoming Temple presidents, has urged our synagogues to practice "audacious hospitality" . By that, Rabbi Jacobs means being courageous, fearless and bold in welcoming each other to everything, by running to greet guests such as our ancestor Abraham did. Yet, audacious hospitality isn't only greeting guests, which we at Temple do very nicely; it is an ongoing sustainable invitation to participate Jewishly.

So I would like to audaciously take Rabbi Jacobs' worthy imperative to a different level. I'm going to call it Audacious Chesed, or AC for short, since acronoyms help me remember.

My Mussar group here at Temple studied the quality of chesed,which in Mussar means sustainable kindness. Of course chesed is a key value in our Torah. Chesed is kindness, in the sense of being gracious and kind-hearted to others, but also in the sense that we stretch beyond our comfort zones. Sustainable in the sense that we support, include, respect, or honor another someone or something: physically, emotionally, and financially. We practice audacious chesed toward people beyond what we perceive they have "earned" from us or what we think we will or won't get back from them, even if they have missed the mark. Chesed is a way we emulate G-d. And when we miss the mark, however, if we take a breath and turn on the AC (Audacious Chesed), in every single interaction, that's how we take care of each other at Temple, how we actually sustain Judaism, and as our bylaws say, stimulate fellowship. Really, if we don't take care of and want the best for each other, who will?

When I see the Men's Club make hamantaschen and latkes for this community and to benefit our children and our bellies, when Jill and Jim Rich tirelessly set up sandwich making opportunities to feed the hungry in our community, when the parents and grandparents of the Kurn Religious School support and shlep their children for their Jewish education, when my former membership committee baked kugels for visitors, when Joe Steiner and his mailing group make sure our communications go out, when volunteers conduct Jewish meditation practices for members and non-members at Preparing to Pray, when I see an 8 year old smoothly chanting the v'ahavata with tutoring from a teen madrich, when the WRJ pledges to support this same madrichim program across the generations, when the whole community participates in our Freedom Seder,when the Kiddish Club parents roll endless pieces of lox, and our rebbetzin Wendy Weise Cohon makes endless dozens of cookies,when we speak one-on-one to each other respectfully in board meetings and in the hallways, that's audacious chesed. Snapshots of chesed in our temple, and, not the whole picture. The most difficult audacious chesed is the type that "makes you want to run", to quote our prayerbook. The chesed that asks us to stretch beyond our egos, scripts, presumptions and comfort zones.
So here at Temple we do a pretty good job of audacious chesed; after all, we are here, but it is ongoing action in this sense that will sustain us for another century, and draw others to join us. I'm going to try my best to practice audacious chesed this year. I hope you'll consider joining me in this mussar, this Jewish practice.

Jewish governance is Jewish practice.

To close, I want to say how much I appreciate the mutual respect and direct communication that Rabbi Cohon and I have. I know we will continue to work together on behalf of this congregation. I want to thank Donna Beyer for her confidence and respect and her tireless hard work for Temple, now and over the years.

Rabbi Appel has just been a terrific Rabbi, role model for so many, and inspiration to our children as she takes on the additional responsibilities of directing our Kurn religious school.

We cherish and appreciate, Marjorie, Lyn, Linda, Mila, Sarah, Becky, Grant, April, Oleg and the building staff.
I want to thank Norm, my first mate. I truly couldn't, and wouldn't be here without him.

Last but not least I want to recognize those who work for the governance of this congregation, and I'd like to ask them to stand and be recognized: Scott Arden, Amy Beyer, Harold Blatter, Jason Feld and Jill Rich from the Executive Committee, and Temple directors: Mike Ablin, Richard Baim, Jerry Cohen, Norma Cohen, Mona Gibson, Jim Jacobs, Cary Marmis, Vicki Otto, Steve Shawl, Sallie Tofel, Jerry Shulman, and Simon Rosenblatt. Soon we will welcome a new slate of board members joining us.

I'll close the way I began. To thank each one of you for being here, your presence is important, and valued.
Thank you.

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