On Yom Kippur, during the Musaf Service, the Cantor will chant a prayer called Hineni. The translation of this tremendously powerful prayer is “Here I am”. It is the response used in the Tanakh when G-d personally calls on someone. Abraham responded with Hineni when G-d asked him to offer his son Isaac. When G-d spoke to Moses on Mt. Sinai, Moses said Hineni. “Here I am, willing and able”. It is a complex and emotional statement. On a deeper level, the meaning is “Here I Stand”. It is an understanding that although it may be difficult, it is a binding commitment.
As a community, we too must offer ourselves to do what needs to be done. Our gift is the opportunity to answer the call. We all come to Temple Beth Sholom for spiritual, educational or social fulfillment. Participation in our various activities brings pleasure and is a source of strength for our community. Maintaining and improving the synagogue facilities, as well as providing for programs and services may come at great personal costs for our volunteers. Our leaders have responded to Hineni. They have made a stand.
The Hebrew School has been working hard in creating a program that not only teaches our children about prayer and Jewish life, but has instilled a love of the beauty of Judaism which can lead to a lifelong appreciation. The Education Committee is creating multi-generational programs with the Hebrew School and Adult Education for Chanukah and Tu B’Shvat. This coming year, much of our programming will involve joint participation of all of our committees. We would like to schedule Temple dinners for each of the major holidays.
The Adult Education Committee will have weekly and monthly events. There will be a Klezmer concert, a three session series of Israeli Dance Classes, a Lunch & Learn Series at noon on Thursdays, and Rabbi Scolnic’s Sunday Morning Series in the Sanctuary. You may get involved in the Yiddish Group, Book Club, Writer’s Group and the Hebrew Table.
The Men’s Club will have Sunday brunches and programs every month this year. I hope that you will join us for the World Wide Wrap in February. A Global Day of Jewish Learning is scheduled in conjunction with the Jewish Federation.
The Sisterhood has an active calendar of events beginning next month with the incredibly popular singing group, The Maccabeats, performing here at TBS.
The L’Chaim Series of Lectures has been created to help individuals in their retirement years. This highly successful program has been an attraction to the general public throughout the Greater New Haven area. People have gained insight in coping with issues that affect their daily lives.
Our Social Action programs are the strongest in Southern Connecticut. Our programs include the Kol Nidre Food Drive this evening, as well as the Thanksgiving Food Drive and the Isaiah Project. On the 4th Sunday of every month, we provide the volunteers at the Downtown Soup Kitchen. We provide supplies and clothing drives for Covenant to Care. Every month, we provide fruit to the New Haven Home Recovery. We would like to make the Walk for Hunger an annual tribute to Diane Kaplan, of blessed memory, honoring her for her lifelong passion for Tikun Olam. Diane made an impact on all of our lives. She stood for Hineni.
I have highlighted some of our programs to show how Temple Beth Sholom is growing. We believe that in order for a Conservative Shul to grow and thrive, we must strengthen this sense of community. TBS is at the nucleus of our Jewish community, but its influence extends far beyond its walls. We are strong because of your unwavering commitment. In these difficult economic times, we have been fiscally responsible and stayed within our budget without raising our membership dues. With the help of some generous benefactors, we have been able to restructure our mortgage and make repairs to the building. At this time of year when we make our High Holiday Pledges, I cannot stress enough how important you are to the success of our Shul. As in the prayer Hineni, this is our chance to say “Here I am” and also “Here I Stand”. At a time when we all make personal sacrifices, our devotion, physical and financial support to Temple Beth Sholom must grow to meet our expanded needs.
Tonight, I would like to honor a member of our Shul who has stepped up over the years and who said “Here I am”. He is dedicated to Jewish ritual life, and maintaining a Jewish home. His involvement in the Jewish Federation has enabled us to better serve our changing population. As a President of TBS, he placed a priority on social action. We rely on his professional expertise to protect the interests of our Temple. As an organizer and fundraiser, he successfully ran the Comedy Night. He was far more entertaining than the Comics that evening. His wit and sense of humor is refreshing. It is my pleasure to present this year’s President’s Award to Stuart Katz.