Leadership‎ > ‎Presidents' Blog‎ > ‎

Presidents' Blog No. 12: Fall 2018

It has been a while since we blogged, but we thought it would be a good idea to share our Kol Nidre Appeal with you which addresses some of the things we successfully accomplished and where we are heading. As always, please reach out with thoughts and ideas you have and how you can assist in accomplishing them.

As you know, Paul and I are now in our third year here as Co-Presidents of Temple Beth Am. The congregation OVERWHELMINGLY decided to adopt the Voluntary Pledge Model, “Give from the Heart,” this past year. In light of that vote, Paul and I were asked to stay on another year so that we could assist with bringing this model to fruition. As Paul stated in his remarks on Rosh Hashanah, there was a lot of work to be done and with a few of our devoted members we have done exactly that…of course we still have some kinks to work out but Give from the Heart is moving forward.

As I have said in years past, here in Merrick, there are Jews to our left and to our right, we can easily forget how great it is to be Jewish and how important it is to be part of a Jewish community, to be part of a temple. Meeting our Jewish friends on the football, baseball, lacrosse, or soccer field or in a local restaurant or store will not assist us in continuing our traditions or teaching our children about our Jewish history. That is what a temple does for us. It is a community! And boy oh boy have we made it even easier for the Jews in our community to be part of a temple. To have a place to go on the High Holidays, to teach our children and grandchildren, or when we need clergy who has a CONNECTION to our family for a life cycle event. Having a CONNECTION with a temple for events like this sometimes doesn’t seem relevant until we actually need it. Having someone who knows US and our family means something.

We would like everyone to feel that CONNECTION. OUR Rabbi wants everyone to feel that CONNECTION. Rabbi Baum aka Rabbi Mickey wants to know YOU and your family. This congregation has taken the first step to include anyone and everyone who wants to join a temple by adopting this pledge model. We are a welcoming environment and we have congregants who want to see us succeed…who want to see the Jewish community thrive.

Why do I say that? At the end of my Kol Nidre Appeal last year I mentioned some tasks we were looking to complete…one being a security system. I also asked any congregants who had anything to offer the temple that perhaps could be donated or a portion donated or even just a service which we could rely on a congregant to carry out, to please reach out. At the end of that service a congregant, Steve Spinner, approached me. He and his son, Brian Spinner, also a congregant, install and maintain alarmsystems. He gave me his card and said he would be happy to help out with developing a security system for the temple and would do it as cost effectively as possible. As a result, we have recently completed and installed a sophisticated security system in the building that further protect our building and most importantly, ensure the safety of our children.

This is just one example of a response to our pleas that made certain we accomplished a goal we had set. We are beyond grateful!! I am confident moving forward that there are more of you out there with services to offer to help keep our costs down while still growing our congregation and keeping the building safe and sound. This is OUR community and will demonstrate further evidence of the CONNECTION that you, our congregants feel to our temple and the Jewish community at large.

The CONNECTION to Judaism begins here. I feel confident that without temples to teach our children, our history and our traditions, the Jewish religion, at least in these communities, will be lost. We take for granted that there are Jews here in Merrick and Bellmore. Many communities are not like this. Even here in Merrick I was speaking with a mom on the sidelines of a soccer game last week. She asked what I was doing for the holiday…then she asked…is this a happy holiday…I’m sorry…I’m unfamiliar. I was glad to explain Rosh Hashanah to her but again, here in Merrick we are not the same community we were 20 years ago.

My oldest daughter is not present today. She started college and since the holiday is midweek and she has classes today, she could not come home. Let me just reiterate…she has classes today. The world does not stop for Yom Kippur as it does for some holidays of other religions. Prior to leaving she met some people she would be going to school with. One boy she met who lives a little further east on Long Island had NEVER met a Jewish person (at least to his knowledge). It was clear that she would be out of our bubble here in Merrick. She is at a small school where there are Jewish students but many more non-Jewish students. That means she has to find her place and her people. They are not to her left and to her right. She has to make the effort to find a service. Not like Merrick. To me it cemented what I have been saying. The temple needs to be here to make a difference. My daughter HAS found Jewish students to attend a Hillel service with for the holidays. She IS making the effort to observe as she determines will work for her, but only because MY family, and OUR Temple Beth Am family provided her with the traditions and knowledge that enable her to FEEL Jewish and want to engage, to want to continue her Jewish self. She feels the CONNECTION!

As I said earlier, the congregation adopted the Voluntary Pledge Model. Although many were apprehensive that people would not step up to meet the challenge, we have, as you heard on Rosh Hashanah, happy to report that this is not the case. The Congregation, inclusive of our new and old members, has responded exuberantly to this Model. We tried to develop the Give from the Heart structure so that YOU could make it work for YOU…you decide what to pledge and decide how to pay it, all upfront, monthly, quarterly, online, by check. Do what works for YOU. Well you showed us that by giving you options, it can work for all of us. Despite the fact that we see so many temples in our area closing WE are moving forward. The congregation has no intention of going anywhere and although we know the task of making this model work will be ongoing, OUR members are here for the long haul. YOU feel a CONNECTION!!

Demonstrating further YOUR CONNECTION to Temple Beth Am, you have answered the Kol Nidre appeal the last two years like a congregation who wants to be here. Again, we know that everyone has obligations, both financially and socially, but when you thought of the temple, especially at this time of year, your heart and wallet were in the right place. The last two years have brought more money into the Kol Nidre appeal than ever before. I believe this is because our congregation recognizes that although, as I have pointed out, there are Jewish people in and around Merrick and Bellmore, this alone will not secure the ongoing success of any temple in this area. We need to show our CONNECTION…this time in a financial way. Although some Jews do not feel they need to be part of a temple to be Jewish and the traditions of the temple are no longer desired by some, our congregants have still shown their CONNECTION!!! The thought that temples in the area could disappear is inconceivable to most, even those who have left the temple. Many who have left Temple Beth Am for whatever their reason, are surprised when they learn of the financial distress we had found ourselves in. They are shocked to see temple closings. You see, when they left, they lost their contact, they lost the CONNECTION. How do I know this? Because many are back. The possibility that temples could close, and there could be no Reform temple in this area, along with the introduction of a Voluntary Pledge Model, has made it desirable and feasible for them to come back. We welcome them, as well as those never affiliated or previously affiliated elsewhere.

What does this mean? Our Voluntary Dues Model, “Give from the Heart”, only attempts to replace dues previously collected.. It cannot and does not replace other fundraisers, such as our most important Kol Nidre appeal. In fact, I sincerely hope that the model will assist in making this year’s Kol Nidre appeal even better than before.

How, you ask? Well here is how I see it. We answered the issues that prevented people from joining, we addressed those of you who were concerned that dues made belonging to a temple too expensive. We now give Congregants flexibility in how and when to pay. Hopefully that gave people the chance to breathe and not be concerned about having to pay 2/3 of their dues before the High Holidays or enabled some to possibly reduce what they were paying in dues before. We hope that this will increase both your ABILITY and DESIRE to show your CONNECTION… to give more to the temple who heard and addressed your concerns. Without the success of both, “Give from the Heart” AND Kol Nidre, we are no better off than we were before. We need it all to continue to grow and flourish. We hope you will hear our pleas, and continue to assist us to the best of your ability, as we have done for you. Let’s all show our CONNECTION to Temple Beth Am and make this a year we can all be proud of. Let’s open our hearts, our doors and yes, our wallets and checkbooks!!!

From the Weissbach family and the Ross family we wish you an easy fast.