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Presidents' Blog No. 4: Oct 2017

We wanted to share our words from the High Holidays this year for those of you who may have missed them and for those of you who were there and may want to read them again!

Last year I started my words with: Are you Jewish? Are you Jewish? This was the question my five year old daughter was asking loudly in a pool in Northern Connecticut to a little boy. The little boy turned to another little girl and said,” She must mean Irish.”

I continued with:

But here in Merrick and Bellmore we are lucky enough to look to our left…look to our right and know there is another Jewish person. As we know, the area has become more diverse than it was 20-30 years ago but as Jews we don’t feel like a lone wolf…Jews in the area don’t feel they NEED a temple to connect with other Jews…we do it on the soccer field, the lacrosse field, in the grocery etc. But that is not the case in most of the world or even in most of America.

Not much has changed in this regard since I said that last year…but certainly things in the world have changed…anti-semites of a wide variety have reared their ugly heads…on college campuses and marches in our cities. Chabad has become a stronger entity in the area…making it very easy for families to Bar and Bat Mitzvah their children without any commitment. While I am not by nature an alarmist, all of these factors concern me.

In our area we have luckily not experienced a recent tragedy …the bombings in London and Paris seem distant to us…almost unrelated. Accordingly, we are lulled into a place of safety and comfort in our community…with our surroundings. But we must not put our heads in the sand.

Paul and I have been working with a security company to bring in better security to the building. These days all houses of worship worry about an attack of some sort…we want to be a leader in protecting our members, our children. We are fully aware that tragedy can strike anywhere…we want to be proactive not reactive. As representatives of Temple Beth Am, we do not want to follow in the footsteps of others, we want to lead…we want to take the steps necessary to move forward.

A couple of weeks ago I attended a Bar Mitzvah at Merrick Jewish Center. Rabbi Klein gave a very inspiring sermon regarding what the High Holidays are about…how we all have room to grow, how everyone can change and if you don’t think you need to, you are missing the entire meaning of the holidays. He used the analogy of a ladder. You can either climb up or climb down. If you feel like you are ok where you are, you are moving down. Nobody should be content where they are, by doing that you are simply getting by. We all judge, we all make mistakes…we all have room to become better people. As I listened to this sermon I said, this is what I need to share with our Congregation. We can all do better! We hear constantly that our Congregants are so busy. When you ask people how they are they say, generally, good, JUST BUSY… so far so good (which is my personal favorite). When we speak with people about getting involved in the temple many will say they just don’t have the time. When we discuss the finances with members and non-members for that matter we are consistently told what a burden it is. For that reason we have been trying to think of ways to accommodate our Congregants. How to get new members…How to make you aware of what we have to offer but without you feeling like we are asking you to do more. Well today I am not going to do that. I am going to ask that you climb up the ladder and not down. I am not asking for a lot… I am asking for you to climb up one rung at a time. Maybe this year it is just one rung and next year another rung. Do what you can, give what you can but more than you thought you could. Don’t be content doing what you were doing, giving what you were giving. Find the link with the temple, find the connection with Judaism…make it a priority, both with your time and your money. Let’s not just get by…we are asking you to stay, we are asking others to come join…we have your interests at heart too. We need your help to do that!!! Let’s not continue to live the status quo…let’s make it better!

Again, as I said last year, we are one of the last Reform Congregations on the South Shore in the area. This has not changed either. We are still here but to the best of my knowledge no congregations in the area are growing…most importantly, our Congregation is not growing. The costs to operate this building however, either remain the same or go up. My catch phrase last year was “We get it!” and we do…we know that people are working very hard these days to make ends meet and membership dues and Hebrew school fees can be onerous or these costs are simply not your first choice when deciding where to spend your money. We do get it! But we need your help…climb one rung and do and give more than you thought you could.

As Paul said last week, we have spent many hours looking at the financial makeup of the temple trying to determine the best way to adjust our dues structure and we will spend even more hours doing so. Paul and I our scheduled to end our presidency on June 30 and it is our intention to present a new dues structure to the Board and the Congregation by early Spring.

We know that a new structure is needed…both for our Congregants and for the unaffiliated so that we have a chance to grow. We know what we need to do. We need to climb the ladder… in order to ask you to give both your time and your money, we need to put the effort in ourselves and we are! Rabbi Klein gave an example of a Rabbi trying to get his Congregation to change…it is very difficult to change others…but if everyone did a little changing themselves…over time the community changes…So if you can find it within yourselves to offer some of your time, ideas and money to the temple…we all benefit. If you can give, please give! If each and every one of our members gave $100 as a Kol Nidre pledge we would have approximately an additional $25,000 to work with. Obviously, if Congregants give more, we have more to work with…we know Congregants would like us to do more inside and outside the building…to make it more pleasing to the eye…we would love to! I mentioned the security for the building…that costs money. In order to do what you would like to see done and what needs to be done, we need the money to do it! Please help us!

Once again, share with us what you are looking for from the temple. The suggestion was made last year to do a brick walkway. Due to the efforts of fellow Congregants we have a beautiful new walkway in the back of the building commemorating moments in lives of our fellow members. Sisterhood, Brotherhood and the School Committee always welcome new ideas for events to do together. If you have an idea or something you would like to take charge of, please let us know. It doesn’t take as much time as you think…if you only have a little, we welcome it…if you have a lot, we welcome it. You get out of it what you put into it and if everyone puts in we all get more. Ldor vdor…from generation to generation….yisrael arevim zel la zeh…all Jews are responsible for one another. Help keep us around and a Reform Temple on the South Shore of Long Island for generations to come.