President's Point of View - May 2016

By Vic Vercammentower-1


Don’t forget to join all of us Sunday, June 5th at 10 a.m. at BHT for the Beth Hillel Temple Annual Meeting! This is an exciting time for our community, and I encourage everyone to come hear about our present accomplishments, and more importantly our path to the future. Also soon, a letter will go out to the congregation, informing everyone about Rabbi Feingold’s upcoming Sabbatical. The Sabbatical will take place from October 25, 2016 to January 24, 2017 and from June 1, 2017 to August 31, 2017. As discussed in my letter, the purpose of a Sabbatical is for self-renewal, enabling a rabbi to better serve the congregation when s/he returns. Rabbi Feingold will be taking classes, attending conferences and seminars and engaging in self-directed study during her Sabbatical. In the publication The Guidelines for Rabbinical-Congregational Relationships it is recommended that a rabbi receive a 6-month Sabbatical every seventh year. Rabbi Feingold’s last Sabbatical, which was also taken in two three-month segments, began in November of 2009.

In order to minimize disruption to the congregation, Rabbi has been working with the Sabbatical Planning Committee, and other Temple Committees to cover BHT needs. In addition to scheduling her upcoming Sabbatical in two three-month segments, one half of the Sabbatical will occur during the summer months, when activity at the Temple is less. Rabbi’s careful planning, the activities of the various Committees as well as the strong support of our entire BHT community should help to make her absence more manageable.

Past experience shows that Rabbi Feingold’s Sabbaticals have proven helpful to the congregation in building its lay leadership strength.  I trust that the upcoming Sabbatical will likewise improve Beth Hillel and reinvigorate Rabbi Feingold as she begins her thirty-second year of service to our congregation this August.

For those that were not able to join our community on Sunday, March 20, commemorating our 90th Anniversary, you missed a powerful reminder of how the BHT community is “small but mighty” and truly represents “A House for All People”!   Hearing from Rabbi Benjy Bar-Lev, Rabbi Monica (Meyer) Kleinman, and Rabbi Dan Selsberg as they described the special role BHT played in their unique journeys to become rabbis gave me new perspective on the congregation and its impact. Given that BHT has provided international inspiration (Canada counts!), I may have to rethink describing us as small! 

During the celebration dinner and festivities, it also became clear that the 90 years BHT has enjoyed are due in no small part to the foresight of the founders and the continued support of BHT benefactors. As we enter our next 90 years, it was heartening to learn of the early success the “A House for All People” capital campaign has experienced. While we invest in ourselves, more importantly we invest in others – a true sense of community. I appreciate the energy and commitment the BHT family represents, how we support each other in times of joy and times of hardship. Here’s to the next 90 years, may we all share in the investment into the future and reap the blessings of our “not-so-small, but mighty” community.

As always, members are welcome to attend an LC meeting, dates are on the calendar but generally follow the second Tuesday of each month at 6:45 p.m. Come join us and share your thoughts on how we are doing. Thanks!


Vic Vercammen, President

Important Change Afoot - A New Approach for Annual Member Support for Beth Hillel Temple

For many years Beth Hillel Temple has used a dues program where each member was asked to pay a certain fixed amount.  Members were solicited to add money to that fixed amount if they were able, or if the fixed amount did not fit into their particular budget the members would work out a dues payment plan with the Mensch Committee.

This overall process was last updated some 15 years ago. Many of us in the congregation's leadership felt it was time to take a fresh look at dues and how that process influences perception of our community. In the fall of 2014, a team was formed to review our current approach to annual member support. The team reviewed our dues system, gained a deeper understanding of our membership, and learned about alternative systems from other congregations
that had initiated changes to their process.

Recent studies of synagogue finances have shown that the fixed dues amount model is dated in light of shifting demographics and evolving changes in relationships that Jewish members have with their synagogues. Congregations are finding success with a system based on individuals as stakeholders in support of the community as a whole. We concluded that it is time for Beth Hillel Temple to adopt a more progressive "Member Community Commitment" program. Simply put, Beth Hillel will communicate a member unit's past membership dues level, and how that compares to what an apportioned cost of annual operation is. We believe this increased transparency will allow members to confirm the level of support they are best able to provide to our community. Rather than being unilaterally invoiced for a flat dues amount, members will be asked to affirm their personal "Member Community Commitment". We expect most families will support us at or slightly above their past levels.

We believe this cooperative process better aligns with Beth Hillel Temple's values and reinforces our goals to be inclusive and welcoming to all regardless of financial means. This new approach is intended to enhance the sense of engagement of our members by changing the conversation from dues and money to relationships within the congregation. Importantly, the system will reinforce each member's understanding of their individual role in sustaining our Jewish community and in ensuring Beth Hillel Temple has the funds required to sustain high quality programming, a vibrant religious school, maintain our building, and afford our highly experienced
full time Rabbi.

Early in June, members will be sent a request to make their "Member Community Commitment". All that is required is to simply complete and return to the temple the pledge form indicating the annual pledge amount and payment preferences. The temple will record the pledge and send payment reminders quarterly if needed. There will be several upcoming communications as well as opportunities to learn more about how the new system will work and to provide guidance on determining the amount of annual "Member Community Commitment" that is right for you.

Please consider joining me and members of our leadership on Wed., May 13 at 6:30 pm and/or Sun., May 17 at 10:45am to discuss this new approach as well as answer any questions you may have.

Todah Rabah (Thank you) to the team for their work to develop this new approach.

We look forward to your support of this exciting change formally presented to our congregation at the Annual Meeting on June 12.

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