President’s Message

I hope you were able to take time on Monday to see Rav Natan participate in the in-person ordination ceremony that he was denied last year due to COVID. It appears he actually does own a suit. I look forward to having him back with us next Shabbat, if only to help make sure we’re setting up the Zoom interface correctly. We had what might be called some technical difficulties on Saturday morning until we found the sheet with the instructions.

For those of you who were not able to attend our spring membership meeting, the slate of officers and directors was elected, and so far no lawsuits have been filed. We are going to put up the slides for the presentations in the members’ area of our website. Below, I’ll share an adaptation of my opening remarks.

A year ago, as I was preparing to assume the presidency of Etz Hayim, we were facing a forest of unknowns. How bad would the pandemic get? How would it affect our members, both in their physical and financial health? How could we operate with all the restrictions? What would our finances look like? The worst-case scenario was grim indeed. Even the best-case scenario showed a five-figure deficit. And would our Rabbi get his immigration status change approved?

I am happy, and relieved, to tell you that the outcome was even better than our best-case scenario. Part of that was due to some grants and some significant legacy bequests, but a big part of that was the generosity of our members who stepped up and gave us what I believe is the largest Kol Nidre appeal response ever, despite a smaller member base which, I hasten to add, has started to grow even before the end of the pandemic. So please give yourselves a big pat on the back.

We adapted our religious school and services to Zoom, and there’s a good chance that streaming will remain part of our service model in some way even after we’re at full capacity without masks. (By the way, in the interest of transparency, I do own stock in Zoom.)

We have embarked on a process of improving our governance. The board went through a series of training sessions under a program through United Synagogue. We are strengthening our committee system. For those of you who are perhaps not quite ready to commit to serving on the board but wish to become more involved in the running of the shul, there are opportunities among the many committees we have. I would like to thank Jeanne Howard in particular for championing the process and putting it together, and Michael Rafky for being the facilitator for the sessions that were not led by the USCJ representative. I’d also like to thank Dan Rosman for helping out when I was buried in work. Hopefully that will let up in the coming year – I’m easing into retirement, so I’ll be spending more time attending to the shul.

We are welcoming two new members to the staff. Maggie Heidema will be taking over for Alexis as our preschool director, and Alisa Jusino is our new communications person.

And last but not least, our new Rabbi has completed his first year here. Despite the challenges of running classes over Zoom, he conducted a class to teach Torah reading, and our cadre of readers is growing. This is a very exciting thing for me personally. It’s not just that as someone who has handled a significant amount of our reading over the years, I have more freedom to go out of town. I really love the fact that people are making good on our value as a community of learners.

I look forward to working with our returning and new officers and directors to move back towards normality and grow our membership. 

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