Good morning, and welcome to all of you, both here in the sanctuary and online. It’s a pleasure to see so many of you, especially in light of the year we’ve just completed. When Rabba Kaya accepted this pulpit over a year and a half ago, I feel pretty certain that she was not anticipating anything like what she has experienced. I certainly know that when I agreed to become the President-Elect I was not expecting anything like the past year and a half. I suspect that none of us anticipated either the extended length or the wide-ranging effects of the pandemic. But we have all persevered and are looking forward to better times in the New Year.
We have had many successes over the past year in spite of the extraordinary circumstances. Our Early Learning Center led by Tammy Roberge had a very successful year and the faculty and staff are eagerly looking forward to greeting their students to start a new school year in a few days. Our Religious School was able to adapt to the need for remote learning and now led by Tzipporah Horowitz, our new Head of School, the faculty and staff are eagerly anticipating a new paradigm with Shabbat School starting after the holidays. Since education should be a life-long endeavor, we have also successfully conducted both remote and in-person classes for adults on a wide range of topics, which have covered both Jewish and secular topics. Perhaps most significantly, we have progressed from strictly online services to having services that we can access in multiple ways — that is both online and in person, with services in our building as well as at Strawbery Banke and Wagon Hill Farm.
All of these successes have only been possible through the efforts and generosity of numerous congregants. For this, you all have our thanks and appreciation. We could not do it without you.
You may be aware that the Jewish people have a long history of asking for money to support their congregations. In fact, it goes all the way back to the Torah where in the book of Exodus God told Moses to speak to the children of Israel to raise contributions of gold, silver, and bronze to support the tabernacle. Since then, traditions have grown in different ways in different communities. In many communities it is the custom to make an appeal for funds during the Kol Nidre service. I’ve often heard it said that it became a tradition to do it at that time because it was the one service of the year when almost every member of the congregation would be in attendance. In the congregation where I grew up, they used to have assigned seating for the High Holidays and before a member could get their tickets they would have to make a commitment to the Annual Appeal. If the committee didn’t think you had made a large enough commitment, they would attempt to convince you to give more before giving you your tickets. But the Torah says to take it from every man whose heart makes him willing, not from those you need to browbeat into giving. Here at Temple Israel we have a different philosophy, which I believe is more in keeping with the teaching of the Torah. We have two major fundraising efforts: our Annual Appeal and our Endowment Funds. We also have numerous other funds to which members may choose to give throughout the year.
Our Annual Appeal, which is now in its third year, has been extremely important to Temple Israel. All the money raised by the Annual Appeal is spent on specific targeted projects as well as supporting our annual budget. This year the Development Committee, led by Joanne Samuels, has recommended and your Board of Directors has approved splitting the money raised between the annual operating expenses and two very important projects. The first project is engaging consultants to assist us with the planning needed to update our Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning systems and the roof that supports them. As some of you are probably aware, our current systems, particularly in our Sanctuary, do not provide as much air exchange as health experts recommend. As our current components are reaching the end of their useful life, it makes sense to replace them with new components that significantly improve the performance, efficiency, and sustainability over the current components.
The second important project is to have a professional Reserve Study performed. The Reserve Study will be designed to help Temple Israel identify items that will require capital expenditures when they reach the end of their useful life and need to be replaced, such as the roof and the heating, ventilation, and air condition system. Using this study, we will be able to plan for setting aside funds on an annual basis so that when the time comes, as it certainly will, we will have the funds needed to complete the project.
Some of us are, obviously, in a much better position to contribute significant sums than others and I hope that they continue to contribute from the heart. But my aspiration is that this year the heart of each of our members will be willing to contribute to the Annual Appeal, even if it is only $18, which is less than a nickel a day, so that we may all help to ensure the future health of our Temple.
Most of you know Ira Schwartz who heads the Temple Israel Endowment Fund Committee and in previous years you have frequently seen him standing here during the High Holiday season asking you to contribute to the Endowment Funds, which are a wonderful place to make contributions. Endowment Fund contributions are different. Endowment Fund contributions are not spent, but are invested in perpetuity and only the earnings are spent to support our Temple.
Because our Annual Appeal has been extremely successful the last few years, we have decided to move the Endowment Funds’s major appeal to the spring and the pre-Passover season when the community will receive a formal, mailed solicitation. If this type of contribution is appealing to you, please contribute by way of our Temple Israel website, or mail a contribution to the Temple office, and keep your eyes open for the pre-Passover solicitation.
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the contributions of so many of our members. I’ve already mentioned a few names and I’m reluctant to start naming additional people for fear than I might forget and leave out someone whose contributions may or may not be known to me. However, there is one additional person who I must thank and that is Heather Tomlinson, our Administrative Director. Without her our Temple would certainly not function anywhere near as well as it does and I personally know that my job as your President would be much more difficult. So thanks to everyone who makes it possible for me to do my job.
My wife Marilyn and I wish each and every one of you a happy and healthy New Year and one that is better than the year we’ve all just been through.
L’shanah tovah tikiteivu.