Good morning everyone,
I would first like to thank you for attending this special meeting today, and for your confidence and support. Thank you Rabbi for your D'var Torah, and thank you Jason, for chairing this meeting, and for your support.
That I am standing here on January 12, 2014 is yet another tangible example of the Yiddish proverb, roughly translated as "We make plans and...what does God do: God laughs!"
At this moment there is no greater honor than to serve this dynamic congregation as your president. As you know, I am receiving the helm from Deb Turner, who did a terrific job leading with strength and professionalism. It's been wonderful to work on the board with Deb over the past several years.
Were any of you at Friday night services on January 3, the service when we sang happy birthday to Rabbi Cohon? It was on the bimah that night that I opened our familiar Shabbat leaflet and for the first time saw my name listed as your President. I had a visceral reaction to the concrete evidence of this change in our community and my life. And seeing this proof that yes, this is all really happening was a catalyst for me to have a very deep positive experience with the words and melodies of our service. But more on that later.
So here we are, as a community, sharing core Jewish values, including treasuring the crucial role synagogue life and Temple Emanu-El play in sustaining and nurturing Judaism. Over the years my husband Norm and I have lived in Tucson (since 1977, by the way) we have had the opportunity to belong to two synagogues prior to Temple. We've been Temple members since approximately 2003. And it is here where Norm, our sons Sam and Jesse and myself were really seen, welcomed immediately, and almost instantaneously felt part of this congregation. We are here to stay.
What I value about Temple is the potential for all of us to be difference makers, to learn something new about ourselves, our Jewish practice and our potential on this earth, to form relationships through thick and thin, to reach out to others, especially those new to the community or those whose names you might not know, to get involved in Tikuun Olam, and above all to sustain Judaism at Temple and beyond our walls.
There may be a few of you squirming in your chairs right now wondering if your new congregational president is a little too spiritual, or nice, or kumbaya, or too yoga or, well, fill in the blanks. I want to assure you that, yes those probably describe me and inform my value system.
At the same time, in this office I can assure you that I am very capable of perceiving through a bird's eye objective view, if I am provided information. And I am direct in my opinions (ask my husband) and savor and invite direct, respectful, constructive communication from others. I also hold to the advice in my head of my grandpa Samuel Kranz of blessed memory, who said, "Listen to what everyone has to say, and then do what you think is right."
Thus my philosophy is like Torah interpretation: you can view an event or challenge from a multiplicity of angles, and seek expertise in areas where you may not have it. That's my definition of leadership strength.
With that in mind, I see the board's charge as, in a nutshell, to further the mission of Temple through sustainable models of financial viability, through dreaming and planning for the future, not only reacting. My plan is to have each board meeting contain a segment of time for discourse and strategic direction development, even as we handle current issues. I am relying on my fellow board members and congregants to participate in various task forces to assess and develop this strategic direction in areas such as education, membership, marketing, financial sustainable and so on. If each group formed owns a piece of current assessment and planning for the future, which you all do, we will have a living blueprint that any member or new congregant can view.
Additionally, this board made a previous commitment when Jason Feld was president to regularly scheduled audits. We will resume that priority and there will be an annual professional audit starting in March of all of the financial statements that are part of our congregation for 2012 and up to June 2013. I also will be getting an appropriate temple president email address to all of you shortly, and would schedule a regular congregational meeting before our May annual meeting, if there is enough interest.
In the face of national and local data about affiliation, and Judaism, and finances, that might discourage some, I am an optimist, and realist. Yet the word "can't" is not typically part of my language. Unless it is a high probability can't, and here is an example: I can't do this alone. Wait, let me rephrase that; I choose not to do this alone. So I ask you to join a conversation with another congregant when you are called, to be part of a task force, or a chevra kadishah, or help welcome new members, to invite someone to services with you. Well, you get the idea. I know it's cliché but I'll say it anyway. There is strength in numbers, and magic happens when we risk a connection of the neshama, the soul, and the mind.
I will be cultivating broader connections and learning nationally, when Temple supports me this April for my URJ Scheidt seminar participation, a dynamic program for incoming Temple presidents. And internationally speaking, Norm and I will be fulfilling a lifelong dream by taking our first trip to Israel on our congregation's pilgrimage. I look forward to all of these experiences, and feel fortunate for these opportunities. I'm sure you'll hear much more about them.
I would like to say how much I am looking forward to working in this new role with my Bat Mitzvah teacher and my Rabbi, Rabbi Cohon. We have a proven track record of collaboration, mutual respect and direct communication. I have every expectation that that will continue, and I am truly honored to work with you, Rabbi.
I also have utmost confidence in and respect for our Executive Director, Donna Beyer. Donna was the president when I came on the Board, and there is no who knows this congregation and community better than Donna, and it is wonderful and just great to work with you.
Rabbi Appel, Marjorie, Lyn, Linda, Chava, Mila, Sarah, Oleg and his staff, April ... you are all appreciated.
I am thrilled about the makeup of the executive committee, Scott Arden, Amy Beyer, Harold Blatter, Jason Feld and Jill Rich, as well as your devoted Temple board: Richard Baim, Jerry Cohen, Mona Gibson, Jim Jacobs, Cary Marmis, Vicki Otto, Steve Shawl, Sallie Tofel, Jerry Shulman, Simon Rosenblatt, and Karen Judin. We all work very hard and want the best for this congregation for at least another 100 plus years. Each board member has unique skills and perspective to offer to help us get there. Thank you all for your work and confidence.
I have connected with many wonderful people and made many dear lifelong friends here. Particularly my spiritual sisters, you know who you are.
I wouldn't be here today without the unconditional love of Norm, my life partner of over 35 years.
I'd like to circle back to my Bimah experience on January 3. The spirituality of that particular night was very acute for me, from hearing Rabbi sing the melodies of music that my son Sam wrote, to the words of Esa Ainai. I did indeed feel uplifted, that help would come from something greater than me as I lifted my eyes up to our mountains, but also that help would come from the exceptional individuals in this community.
Yesterday I received a wonderful phone call from Rabbi Safran: he reminded me that when all is said and done, I answer to God , and to the teachings of Judaism.
Again, I thank you for the honor of serving you.