Message From Our President
It has been an amazing year. We have accomplished many things and look forward to accomplishing many more. I’ve always chuckled when I heard one of our presidents express his gratitude to his wife for all of their help. Well – now I understand and I do have to publically and sincerely thank my husband for all of his support. I could not do what I do without him. Secondly, over the past year, I have worked with an amazing group of congregants, people who are dedicated to helping our congregation thrive. We owe them a debt of gratitude. Amongst our new Board members and those who continue to serve as trustees there is a wealth of expertise and desire to make a difference. I look forward to working with them on your behalf.
As I thought about what to say to you tonight, I looked to this week’s Parsha, Shlah, which is about the scouts that Moses sent to investigate Israel and how, when they returned, they came back with conflicting reports – one full of potential and the other fearful and ready to retreat. Perhaps we are at a similar point in our journey of the Jewish People in this land of promise called America. There are those who see a future that is untenable and wish to return to the past. Others see the reality that confronts us and choose to embrace it fully.
What is the new reality? Young people are choosing not to affiliate. Young people do not necessarily need the synagogue as their parents did. Religious schooling seems to be less of a priority And, in order to thrive, synagogue and synagogue life needs to find ways to change and adapt .
We as reform Jews and as members of Temple Emanu El, let us choose to embrace the new reality and move ever forward to a brighter future. However, we can only do this together.
So – what do we do?
Our concept of membership needs to be reframed; we need to consider why people come, why they stay and why they go. We need to meet folks where they are spiritually, socially, economically and intellectually. It may be On line, on You Tube, at their businesses. But one answer to why people come and stay is that it is all about relationships – relationships with each other, with the clergy, with the staff and with their Judaism. People want to know that they are listened to and heard. They want to know that they have a voice and that they are valued. They want to know that they are cared for.
If membership needs to be reframed in terms of relationship building, how are we doing? Are we greeted when we come to services by someone other than a greeter at the door? Do we greet others whom we do not necessarily know well? What about a prospective member? After their first introduction to TEE, are they invited for dinner? Are they invited to sit with someone at services? Do we feel listened to and valued? Is it our job or is it someone else’s job? Our future in this house will only be brighter if we do it together and make it a task for us all.
A second reality is that in order to maintain membership, people want to know what we stand for as Reform Jews and as a synagogue. Do we stand for Israel? How about such issues as the women at the wall or civil marriage in Israel? What about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and the push to disenfranchise companies that do business with Israel? What is our role as American Jews? What about social Justice? Do we stand for Judaism? It is a question that needs to answered.
When I attended the URJ Biennial in December , we were repeatedly reminded about how, as Jews, Tikkun O’lam is a tie that binds us and of the need to reclaim our pride in Israel and to openly discuss what part Israel should play in our Jewish identity. We heard reported by Ambassadors of the World Zionist Organization about the anti-Israel sentiment prevalent throughout Europe, Africa and Australia. Is Anti-Israel sentiment equal to anti-semitism? Could be. Rabbi Denker has said and I heard it repeated that the route to destroying the Jewish people is a road that goes directly through the state of Israel. Destroy Israel first, the rest is not so difficult.
Obviously, each of us needs to decide how important any of this is for us and for our families. But – what will be important for TEE and will it be something for which we stand?
It is not what we say; it is not even just what we do. It is who we are. People will come if they feel that we value them and that we stand for something. Families do not all look for the same thing but they all do want one thing – a feeling of a relationship with their synagogue. That’s why they come and why they stay. It is why you are here. It is why we have so many 3 generational families.
But, how do we do this? Complacency is certainly not the answer. There are moments in our lives when we have to step up and be counted. Now is such a time for us at TEE.
There is a place in this house for all of us. Get involved. Call a friend. Come to a class. Ask a question. Be generous with your support. The officers and trustees installed tonight need your participation and your help! We are the owners of this house and together we will make the future of Jewish Cleveland and of Temple Emanu El ever brighter.
There are two ways of spreading the light – to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it! Let’s be both!