Rabbi, Officers, Members of the Board of Directors, and Members of the Congregation,
It is an honor to stand here before you as the next President of the Board of Directors. There have been many distinguished people here before me and they leave a tough collective legacy to follow. I want to thank Hinda for her leadership, advice, support and friendship over the past two years; and the outgoing Officers and Board Members for their years of dedicated service. I know they will all be back again to serve in one capacity or another. Last but certainly not least, I want to thank Stuart for serving as the Installing Officer.
Most of you know that this building that we now refer to as Temple Beth Sholom was originally the Hamden Jewish Community Center. As the name implies, it was the center for Jewish life in the growing Hamden community and it was truly a vibrant place. Operating out of other buildings for a few years, the founders recognized the need for education and focused their efforts on teaching children and adults. Once this building was built, they started hosting social events, sponsoring sports teams and, most importantly, holding services. Our founders recognized early on what congregations world-wide are struggling with today – that although social events are great fun, there are many choices for social outlets; just having fun is not enough to keep people together. It is not what we are primarily about. We are here and we are together because we are Jews. We share common history, common values, common culture, and a common support of Israel.
There is a saying that distance makes the heart grow fonder. I would like to suggest that in the case of religion, the opposite is true. Distance weakens bonds to faith. Over the next year, I will be asking all arms of the Temple to refocus some of their events to Shabbat, either Friday night, or Saturday morning. By adding extra encouragement and incentives, we will aim to reintroduce people to the beauty of our Shabbat. Some accommodations will have to be made to make services a little more accessible for people. Whether that means providing a changing area to encourage people to come before or after a sporting event, making breakfast food available, or providing babysitting, it will be incumbent on us to be creative and flexible.
Additionally, this year the results of the Federation’s census will be available to us. I will be asking a diverse group of congregants to form a committee to analyze the demographic data about the local Jewish population, and begin the process of developing a roadmap for the next ten years. We are well positioned with a strong, active membership and have done very well in these difficult economic times. As the economy improves, we need to be positioned to capitalize on the growth potential to ensure that our institution is secure for the next generation.
Those of you who know me know that I have been involved in the Boy Scouts for my entire life, both as a child and as an adult. As a Scout, each individual pledges an oath on their honor to, amongst other things, do their duty to G-d. If a Scout goes on to attain the rank of Eagle Scout, he then pledges an additional oath that requires him to be an example to others through his actions and to give back to his Troop and community. I would like to suggest that we as Officers share a similar, although not formalized, oath. Each Shabbat, before the Torah is returned to the Ark, the Rabbi leads us in a prayer for the community which includes a special blessing for “those who unite to establish synagogues for prayer, and those who enter them to pray, and those who give funds for heat and light, and wine for Kiddush and Havdalah.” Every week I hear this it reminds me that, in the words of the immortal Elwood Blues, “we are on a mission from G-d.” During this next year, I hope to be able to articulate a clearer mission for the Board, expanding on what is currently in the bylaws, to help guide us in the future. I look forward to working with each of you over the next year.