Kol Nidre – High Holiday Message
When I sat down to write my speech, I put on my Andy Grammer Spotify playlist. Andy Grammer is a singer/songwriter known for engaging, energizing, and empowering his audience through songs that have a positive and inspirational message that everyone can relate to.
Last year he released the album called The Art of Joy. One of the songs called “Joy,” conveys a message of resilience, finding happiness in the face of adversity, and cherishing the love and relationships that bring joy into one’s life. In fact, the chorus emphasizes this power of joy, by repeating the phrase “I found joy in my life.”
And, yes, maybe the “Joy” in the song is really Andy Grammer’s wife, but “Joy” can be anyone, anything or anywhere. It can be your friends and your family, the restaurants where you eat, or the things that you do. It can be where you are tonight – Temple Beth Sholom.
I found joy this year by going to Friday night, Saturday morning, and weekday evening services. I’ll be honest, I really didn’t think I would be going to many services when I first became President. However, after a while I began to find joy in disconnecting from social media and reconnecting with myself, and with all of you.
When we connect with each other, we build a stronger community. We also start collaborating with each other and with other organizations. You will be seeing more of this during the upcoming year.
One of our first collaborations [happened] on October 5th from 5-7:30pm at the Eli Whitney Museum for the J.E.D.I. Sukkot – no, I’m not talking about Star Wars – J.E.D.I. stands for Jewish Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, an initiative from the Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven. At this free event, [members from the community enjoyed] eating food and singing songs and listening to stories around a campfire.
Ira Kleinfeld from our Adult Education Committee, has also been working with the Jewish Federation, and with Congregation Mishkan Israel, and the Jewish Historical Society of Greater New Haven on a four-part adult education series that will be held here and at Mishkan Israel. The series, which begins in November, will cover The American Synagogue, Interfaith Families, Anti-Semitism, and Zionism in America. Scholars will be presenting at each session, and of course, there will be light refreshments.
TBS was recently accepted into the 2023 cohort of synagogues for the Anti-Defamation League’s initiative called, Kulanu: Synagogues in Action Against Antisemitism. Kulanu, which is Hebrew for “all of us,” is an annual program dedicated to empowering congregations to address antisemitism and hate in their communities through education, advocacy, and community engagement.
We welcome anyone ages 15 and up to be part of our working group. [Please email me at email@example.com if you would like to join the group.]
Both the four-part series and the Kulanu initiative will help us build meaningful connections with other synagogues and organizations in the Greater New Haven area.
One of our congregants, high school junior Hailey Weissman, will be cultivating joy by working with the Hebrew School. She will be teaching groups of children parts of the Friday Night Shabbat service. Then, on scheduled Friday nights, the children will be showcasing what they have learned and practiced. Hailey’s initiative is a great example of the next generation of leadership at TBS, and what it means to not only spread joy, but also have ritual courage at an early age.
I found my own ritual courage this past year when I read from the Torah for the first time at Sisterhood Shabbat, and then again during Sukkot. Also, Rabbi Scolnic and I have started something new for the President to do on Shabbat mornings. Whereas the President has always opened the ark at the beginning of the service and then read the announcements at the end, we have added an English prayer in the middle. Depending on which prayer the Rabbi announces – just because he likes to keep me on my toes – I, and hopefully it will continue that all future Presidents, will lead in the reading of A Prayer for the Congregation or A Prayer for Those Who Serve the Community.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that on March 30, 2024, we will be celebrating Rabbi Scolnic’s many years at Temple Beth Sholom with the event “40 Years in the Dessert,” which will include many desserts and lots of entertainment. As we all know, Rabbi Scolnic is the glue that keeps our community connected.
The programs and initiatives mentioned tonight, and the ones that have yet to be thought of, can only happen with your support. This year’s High Holiday Appeal letter should be arriving soon from our Chairperson, David Slossberg – it is possible it even arrived yesterday. The money raised from the Appeal allows us to continue expanding our programming; helps us provide a secure place to pray, learn, and eat; supports the operating costs and the maintenance of where we are all tonight (at least those who are in person); and keeps us connected with ALL of our members, both near and far.
It’s also important to note that it takes many volunteers to keep our Temple moving forward. Our lay leadership, board members, trustees, committee chairpeople, and committee members are all volunteers. But, they are also teachers, lawyers, doctors, engineers, and retirees. They go from their day jobs, their appointments, and their errands and come here to attend board meetings, committee meetings, and planning meetings.
They decide what will be served for Oneg and Kiddush; and they shop and prepare for them, too. They fix a broken fence, or make arrangements to have our floors waxed and our light bulbs changed. They also confirm that we have security at our services, events, and on Sundays for Hebrew School.
They stuff and mail envelopes with important information, and they edit the weekly Temple Tablet, the monthly Bulletin and the website. They plan fundraisers and programs that are entertaining and educational – that brings all of us together.
They do all of these things because it brings them joy knowing that what they are doing will have a long lasting impact on our community.
Last Kol Nidre, my address was about asking yourself, “How can I help?” And many of you did reach out to me. This year, I want you to think about “What can you do at TBS that will bring you a little joy?” Not only do we want you to find your ritual courage, but we also want you to find courage to volunteer.
If cooking and eating gives you joy, make your favorite recipe for a Kiddush in our kitchen, or come to a special dinner and help with setup or cleanup.
If coming up with new programs and fundraisers gives you joy, but you don’t know what to do with them, just come find me. I’ll help you make the connections you need.
I promise you that if you haven’t already, this is the year you find joy in your life at TBS.
President’s Award 5784
Andy Grammer has another song called, “I Was Born for This” which is about self-belief, perseverance, and embracing one’s true calling in life. The chorus, “I was born for this, I was born for this, I was born for this right here,” emphasizes the idea of feeling destined for greatness, and the belief that everyone has a unique purpose in life…So let’s talk about this year’s President’s Award Recipient.
Temple Beth Sholom has been part of this individual’s life for over five decades.
This individual watched her parents actively participate in Sisterhood, Men’s Club and the Mitzvah Committee. She followed their footsteps by becoming involved with different TBS committees and groups. She was Sisterhood Co-President not once, not twice, but three times – and one of those times was with her sister. She was Temple President, Board of Education Chairperson, Nominating Committee Chairperson, ByLaws Committee Chairperson, and Fundraising Vice President. Currently, she is a member of the Board of Education and the Safety & Security Committee.
Tonight’s recipient also taught the Kinderlach program and Primary 1 classes for several years, as education has always been her passion.
Tonight’s recipients helped plan and implement the recent 36th Anniversary Roast of Rabbi Scolnic and the Temple’s 75th Anniversary, among many other programs and fundraisers. She also performed in one of Steve Schulefand’s musical variety shows – and we’ll have to wait and see if she returns for another performance in March. She also worked side-by-side with her late husband on the Live and Silent Auctions that were among the most successful fundraisers in the 1990s and early 2000s.
She was born for THIS. She was born to be a mother, a sister, a grandmother, an aunt, a great aunt, an educator, and a leader. She was born to put others before herself. She was born to work well with others. She was born to be an inspiration to her two daughters and everyone around her. She was born to be part of the Temple Beth Sholom community.
If you haven’t guessed already, this year’s President’s Award recipient is Hinda Piscitelle.