For the past four years, I have been the only person at Temple Beth Sholom – other than Rabbi Scolnic – with a reserved seat in the sanctuary. To put my tenure, first as Ritual Vice President and then as President, into perspective, my three year old son, Benjamin, does not realize that his father is permitted to sit with him during services. Zachary, who is eight, has only a fleeting recollection of the time when I sat with the rest of the family.
My time as President of Temple Beth Sholom has been very rewarding. In particular, I have enjoyed getting to know many congregants and working with different officers and board members. I would be incredibly remiss if I did not publicly express my gratitude to Bobbie Krauss, Barbara Varga and Charlie Turner for all that they do on a daily basis to keep the Temple functioning.
I consider myself privileged to have learned as much as I have about leadership from Rabbi Scolnic, and I am immeasurably enriched by our relationship. He is an extraordinary spiritual leader and teacher. Please plan to join in the celebration on Saturday, November 22nd, as we honor Rabbi Scolnic on the occasion of his 25th anniversary at Temple Beth Sholom.
When I became President, I delivered a message about building community and ensuring continuity at Temple Beth Sholom. I remain firmly convinced that these must be our priorities. I have on more than one occasion suggested that Jewish people in areas of the country with substantial Jewish populations face different and more subtle challenges than Jews who live in areas with very few Jews, who daily confront their religious and cultural isolation. Because of where we live and because of the many resources available to Jewish people here in Connecticut, however, it may be too easy to become complacent and complacency might lead to apathy.
But given what I see happening at Temple Beth Sholom, I cautiously am somewhat less concerned. I say this because I believe that our community at Temple Beth Sholom is thriving. Over the past couple of years, for example, we have enjoyed the establishment and instant success of our Israel Affairs Committee, bolstered by the tremendous popularity of the trips to Israel led by Rabbi Scolnic. Our outstanding Social Action efforts continue to set the standard in our area. Our Family Education programming remains innovative and envied by other synagogues. Our Hebrew School curriculum reflects the passion and professionalism of educators who are leaders among their peers. Our K’Tanim preschool boasts a creative and dynamic program that serves as an educational foundation for the littlest members of our community. Our Adult Education program has seen revitalization and reaches a broader audience than ever. And our Sisterhood and Men’s Club demonstrate their value in numerous ways, from fun-raisers to fundraisers.
Challenges remain, of course. Efforts to maintain dues at an appropriate level confront undeniable obstacles. We can all take great pride in our beautifully renovated building, and we all bear the responsibility for maintaining it. While our membership remains strong, we have nonetheless experienced some shrinkage, though still at a less significant rate than other area shuls. Even with over 420 member units, we are sometimes hard-pressed to recruit enough people present for a minyan during the week or on Sunday. And a few more people at Shabbat services wouldn’t hurt either. On the flip side, though, the number of congregants showing what Rabbi Scolnic calls “Ritual Courage” – leading services, reading Torah and chanting Haftorahs – grows from week to week, one of many good signs of our health as a congregation and a community.
It is difficult to put into words my feelings about completing my service as President. I think that much has been accomplished over the past two years, and there is much work to be done. It has been a great honor to serve as President of Temple Beth Sholom and I have been especially proud to represent Temple Beth Sholom in the Greater New Haven community. I leave this position with tremendous gratitude for all of those who have helped me along the way. The biggest “thank you” goes to Marni, Zachary and Benjamin, who have showed unyielding love for me, even when it seemed that I was seeing more of the Temple than of them. This job cannot be done even remotely successfully without a supportive family, and mine is the best.
I leave this office with a great deal of comfort, knowing that Hinda Piscitelle will be an outstanding President. Hinda’s commitment to the Temple and her tremendous experience working for the shul in a variety of capacities uniquely qualify her to succeed. She will benefit from the support of a diverse and skilled group of officers and directors, all of whom will work hard to ensure the continuity of Temple Beth Sholom.
And so, I leave this office as I entered it, full of hope, aware of challenges and confident in our ability to continue in our long-standing tradition of being a caring community. Thank you for giving me this once in a lifetime opportunity.