President’s Message Fall 2018
Shanah Tovah.This past February, I had the opportunity to travel to San Diego to attend the URJ’s(Union for Reform Judaism) Scheidt Seminar, named for Rudi & Honey Scheidt, who created and underwrote a seminar for temple presidents. I spoke about this experience both in an Achshav article and also at our annual meeting. I refer quite often to the many things I learned, even at my day job. As I met other temple presidents from around the country, we shared all the different and sometimes difficult tasks we face as temple presidents-balancing budgets, member engagement, physical plant issues, and so on, but we all agreed that the most challenging task is what I am about to do right now, deliver my High Holy Day address. I’ll let all of you in on a little secret, I don’t mind doing this one bit.
Our leadership council continues to work tirelessly to plan and make decisions that affect our future. We are always reminded, many times by me, to think about the Why, why we exist as a congregation.
This has been an incredible year for us. Last year, I stood before you, although this sanctuary looked slightly different and was much warmer, and quite frankly I was shvitzing, a lot, and told you that our accessibility project will happen. Well, we started AND completed it. Due to the dedication and devotion of our Building Accessibility Committee, our Capital Campaign Committee, and every donor to this project, our dreams definitely became a reality. On September 7th, we gathered to dedicate the elevator and celebrate the project’s completion. I cannot say enough how grateful and appreciative we are of everyone who was involved.
Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we have an elevator, are sitting in a newly carpeted and AIR CONDITIONED sanctuary, have fully functional rest rooms on all three floors, have an accessible entrance, and soon will have a new roof. Thank you to Rabbi Feingold, whose generosity through her discretionary fund, made it possible for our new sound system and thank you to Rich Zees, who, I believe since July, has been working almost non-stop on obtaining and installing all the equipment so that you are able to hear everyone on the bimah tonight. As you can see, this truly is a community effort. At my last Rosh Hashanah address, I told you that we collected in cash and pledges $1,253,247. As of September 7th, we have raised in cash and pledges $1,485,000 and are only $15,000 away from our goal of $1,500,000.
We also rely on our MCC-Member Community Commitment as our main source of revenue. You have all received your MCC form for this year. For those of you who have returned them, thank you so much. If you have not yet done so, please return your form, after Rosh Hashanah of course, as your support is vital to our congregation.
Now that this project is complete, what’s next? We have an accessible building that must now be filled with people, not only tonight, but throughout the year as well. At the Annual Meeting, I said that when the building project was completed, we needed to work on our strategic plan. When I was in San Diego, I spent time talking with and learning from our colleagues at Six Thirty-Three Third Avenue in New York (the headquarters for the URJ). I learned about a project that they are offering to Reform Congregations throughout North America. It is called the URJ Congregational Benchmarking & Assessment Project. Over 70 congregations nationwide, including Congregation Shalom in Milwaukee and Congregation Emanu-El of Waukesha have participated in this project and gained quite a bit of knowledge.
From the URJ website I quote, “The URJ Congregational Benchmarking and Assessment Project gives congregations the opportunity to take an inward look in a way that is consistent with other congregations, provides a basis for comparison with congregations of similar demographics, and empowers them to act upon the data with the URJ as their partner.” The Benchmarking and Assessment Project is divided in 3 sections:
- First-A board self-assessment tool, to those of you on the LC, we will be discussing this at future meetings and will be completing it as well.
- Second-A financial and operating data benchmarking tool, again completed by our LC.
- Third-And this is where I am asking for your participation, a Congregant Survey that was designed by the URJ.
In late January, you will receive an email directly from the URJ. Don’t worry, we aren’t selling our email list, we provide them with a list of email addresses for our members and they will send you the survey. They assure us that your email address will only be used for this purpose. When you receive the email, please spend some time and thought as you fill it out. The URJ collects this data and turns it into information. They will assign us a cohort who will help us analyze this information. We will also have meetings with you, so that we can chart our next course. Again, I am asking for your participation as we truly value your input.
In San Diego, one of the presentations was “How to Think Like a President: What I Should Care About?” We spent quite a bit of time talking about mundane vs. holy. The work that we do, whether it is on the LC, in our committees, in our school, or our community at large, is holy work. While some of the tasks may seem mundane, it is, in fact holy. We are building a temple and a Jewish community. We must always keep this in mind and never lose sight of our purpose.
Recently, I was going through some papers, and found our membership certificate that my family received when we joined Beth Hillel 9 years ago. As I read it, these words particularly struck me and I want to share them with you, “May we find meaning and purpose, challenge and spiritual fulfillment, joy and support within this congregation. May our membership be of a blessing to this community and to K’lal Yisrael (the community of Israel). Chazak, Chazak, V’neetchazayk. May we grow together as we strengthen one another in carrying forward our Jewish heritage.
My wife Susie and our daughters Marisa and Ari join me in wishing all of you very happy and healthy New Year.
L’shanah Tovah Tikateivu.