Kol Shofar Annual Meeting, June 23, 2010
CONNECTING OUR SACRED COMMUNITY…
Walking into the JCC for the annual Kol Shofar meeting was a wonder and a joy. The room was filled with chatting, smiling, excited congregants all coming to hear our business updates for FY 2009-10, vote in the new Board slate and to join together to celebrate our community.
After almost 25 years of attending annual meetings and having to call and beg people to participate, imagine my surprise to see a room filled with 150 excited congregants! This could not have been a better tribute to our community, to our Board and to all of us Kol Shofarniks. I was inspired by the warmth, the outreach and the energy of the evening!
The meeting ran smoothly and all who came up to speak did so from the heart. Our outgoing president, Joshua Steinhauer, was eloquent in his thoughtful speech providing the basis for healing and understanding needed after a tumultuous last few months. Steve Grossman, our intrepid treasurer, held forth on the incredible efforts of so many people to make our synagogue continue to run efficiently and on budget, during these unpredictable financial times.
Howard Zack and Ron Brown, who have worked every day overseeing our new building, were kvelling about our new spiritual space – and with good reason – anyone who has seen the building is overcome with its transformation. It is truly inspirational and everyone will be moved by the magnificence of our new home.
Honoring our staff, in particular, Kirk Kim, was a special moment. We have a wonderful, dedicated group and each person gives his/her all to our shul. Kirk Kim has been a stalwart to our synagogue and after 25 years he is the embodiment of Menschkeit!
Our wonderful volunteers were also honored. In particular, Jo Cohen, who feeds us each week as we finish our morning prayers anxious to stand in line for our Kiddush lunch. Nana Meyers was honored for her dedicated commitment as our Gabbai, without whom it would be very difficult to even have our morning prayers! She makes it happen.
Finally, it’s about us. Our incredible board will be led by our new, engaging and enthusiastic president, Karen Hirsch. Our wonderful Rabbi Chai, who is leading us into our new sanctuary life with her caring, thoughtful heart… and all of us: our vibrant, tenacious, spirit that embodies the call to bring people together, to engage in our community and to pray together in our inspirational space. Kol ha’Kavod to Kol Shofar!
For more photos, click here .
ROSH HASHANAH 5770: PRESIDENT JOSHUA STEINHAUER’S ADDRESS, 9/19/09
I. Building Project
In the past few years, we as a congregation, and certainly the leadership of the congregation, has been focused on a mission: To get the permits, financing and capital needed for our temple renovation project and to get the construction underway. The challenges we faced were great. Together, we overcame those challenges, and together, we will continue to meet the critical challenge that remains: To maintain and strengthen the participation in our capital campaign. We should all be very proud of what we are accomplishing. Now, we can see:
- The new Beit Am rising from the ground. The walls are up. It will be a beautiful new space to gather, to study, to pray, and to celebrate.
- The sanctuary dome has been revealed, the floor has been raised, and our sanctuary is being totally transformed. It will be a beautiful, intimate, serene and spiritually uplifting space.
If you were able to come to the ground breaking or to participate in last month’s placement of the prayers in the gravel, or seen the pictures on our web site or in the On the Move emails, you have seen this transformation. But I can tell you — when you’re there — you can really feel it: That we are not just renovating a building. We are doing something miraculous, exciting, inspiring and transformative for our community. We are doing something we will always be able to be very proud of, and for which we will be remembered. I am pleased to be able to tell you that we are on budget and on schedule to move back in next summer. We will celebrate our next High Holidays and start the next school year, all together on Blackfield Drive.
II. New Challenge
While the construction proceeds, we have a new and even greater task that demands our attention. We must decide:
- What we are going to do with this new gem?
- What will we make of this new transformative space?
- What is possible for the next chapter in the life of CKS?
III. Time of Change and Challenges
We are truly blessed to have extraordinary learned and inspiring Rabbis. We also have a wonderful, dedicated and gifted staff. They do an excellent job for us. Look at the current Sound of the Shofar, and the Fall Program Guide, and you will see a wealth and diversity of spiritual, educational, and social opportunities.
But, as wonderful as our programming opportunities are, we must ask whether we can make our synagogue experience richer.
- Can it be more accessible, welcoming and meaningful?
- Can it better meet our members changing needs and concerns?
I don’t have to tell you that we are living in times of tremendous technological and social changes. For the Jewish community too, our era is one of extraordinary changes and challenges.
Challenges to keep our Judaism vital amidst the tremendous secularizing influence of our American culture.
IV. STORY: Fragmentation
Recently, a conflict came up for me with respect to the scheduling of an important meeting . It seems that the meeting was tentatively set for the day of a Jewish holiday.
I noted the problem to my colleague, and told him that we would need to reschedule.
“Why, are you Jewish?” he asked.
“Yes, day and night”, I replied.
“Oh, that explains it”, he responded, “I’m only Jewish at night.”
IV. Fragmentation and Diversity
While this exchange was in part in jest, it reveals a common fragmentation in our thinking about being Jewish in this secular world. We too often think of being Jewish, as a part time activity. Something that we only participate in when we come to temple to participate in a program, a class, or to pray, or when we observe family holiday celebrations. At other times, we may only consider ourselves culturally or ethnically Jewish.
What does it mean to us “to be Jewish”?
We have chosen to be members of this synagogue and to come here for this Rosh Hashanah service. By doing so, we acknowledge that our “Jewishness” is about something more than shared ethnicity and culture. But, for many of us our Jewish lives remain separate from our secular lives.
Kol Shofar is our ethnic neighborhood and our moral, cultural and spiritual center. But, it is also our bridge:
- A bridge to Torah — to that Tree of Life that has sustained the Jewish people;
- A bridge so that our Jewish values and learning will provide the meaning and guidance we need to help us grapple with life’s challenges.
We can do a better job building that bridge for everyone to use. To recapture our Judaism in a way that it is vital and vibrant.
In addition to this issue of fragmentation, we must recognize the broad spectrum of interests, concerns, experience, backgrounds, learning, practice, participation and engagement with “Jewish” living within our own community.
- How we recognize and address the diversity in our community has profound implications for the future of Kol Shofar.
- Is it possible for us to be truly welcoming to new faces as well as to familiar faces?
- Is it possible for us to be truly welcoming — to everyone regardless of the stage they are in on their personal Jewish spiritual journey? To recognize the sacred in each other and that we are each part of the Jewish whole?
- Is it possible for us to be truly welcoming and non-judgmental of people’s varying levels of learning, practice and participation?
- Is it possible for us to be truly welcoming, non-judgmental and to meet each other’s changing needs and concerns; no matter what spiritual, educational or social needs brought us here?
- Is it possible for CKS to provide meaningful caring and support as we each face our own challenges and struggles?
- Is it possible for us to act toward each other as a sacred community, even when we disagree with each other?
- Is it possible for Kol Shofar to be a place where people are empowered to find and create community on their own terms within the framework of our congregational practices?
- Is it possible for us to do our synagogue work in new ways?
The answer to all of these questions is YES.
While we tend to think of synagogues as being static institutions, the truth is CKS is not immune to the forces of change that are all around us. Synagogues change, but by their nature they tend to change slowly.
This year, during our re-building project, our project of building transformation; when our social fabric, patterns and customs are a bit unglued, we have a chance to start a process of putting things back together in new and perhaps creative ways that will be truly meaningful to us. I’m not talking about changing liturgy, eliminating programs, or classes. But we can examine how and why we do things, and whether the way we are doing things furthers our sacred mission. We have an opportunity to create new or evolved visions to solve old (and new) problems. It is an opportunity to embrace the possibilities.
Whether we will make the effort and seize this opportunity is our most profound challenge and responsibility.
We need to address it with the same vigor and dedication, the same optimism and sense of the possible, and with the same extraordinary participation that our community has shown with respect to the building project. We have a great community here. But we can be more. We can be more meaningful and engaging. We must engage with each other to see what is possible. All of us, as a Jewish community.
This is not solely a leadership conversation. These are conversations — this is work, for all of us. We must share our views and experiences and explore what is possible under our new dome together, under the big tent that is Kol Shofar. We are in the process of engaging a facilitator to help us advance those conversations. Someone trained in group processes and with experience with faith based communities like ours.
In January, we are bringing a special guest, Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman. He is the author of a book called “Rethinking Synagogues”, which I recommend to you. He has been working with these issues for some time through the Synagogue 2000 (now Synagogue 3000) Project. He will help us further our thinking and discussions.
We must first review and hone our Vision statement, and then work through a process of putting our vision into action. Your input, perspectives and participation are vital. There is no one “big idea” to ensure the vitality of our future. We will allow all of the information and input we gather to mix together, like a wonderful stew where flavors simmer and mingle, find new connections and produce something, perhaps different from what we expected.
VII. Goal – Connections
Our goal as a community, and my goal as President, is to begin these conversations, as a community, and, through this process, which will take some time, to achieve greater vitality, and greater points of connection.
- Connections between our Jewish values and our individual secular lives and concerns;
- Connections between us as individuals, who care about each others’ lives and stories;
- Connections that help and encourage each of us, wherever we are on our journeys.
- Connections that help us see Kol Shofar, not simply as a place where programs and services happen, but rather a place for meaningful encounters.
- A place where we come not out of obligation, but rather because we are compelled to encounter our religion, faith and spiritual matters.
- A place that empowers us to find and create those Jewish connections.
- Connections that meet our need for sacred community.
- Kol Shofar is all of this, it is a welcoming home, for many of us, but not enough of us. But it can be.
a. This Rosh Hashanah
It is a good and healthy thing for us to participate in an examination of our synagogue’s-institutional soul (Cheshbon Hanefesh), and to participate in institutional Teshuvah — to redirect our path, as necessary, toward becoming a more sacred community. This Rosh Hashanah, I am asking you to invest in yourselves, in your families and in your Jewish community. To open yourselves to the possibilities of what your Judaism and what Kol Shofar can be for you. If we open ourselves to these transformative possibilities, then, like the building project, we open ourselves up to the miraculous. To the possibility of creating an inviting, exciting, life enhancing and spiritually and intellectually rich synagogue for our times.
b. Why Now
Before I close, I want to acknowledge — these are difficult times for many of us. And, you should know these are also very difficult times for our synagogue. We are all stretched thin. During this time of re-construction, some members have decided to suspend their membership until the project is complete. This is not unusual. But it is a challenge for us. Other members’ life circumstances have required them to adjust their financial commitments. Or, in some cases, made them feel that they could not maintain their memberships. We should all do what we can. But, no one should ever feel that they cannot be a full participant, or that they re not welcome, because of their circumstances. Some might say that perhaps this is not the time to start a visioning/planning process. We should retrench, hold tight. My answer is that while this is certainly a time for extraordinary budgetary prudence and care, we cannot wait for a sunny day to address these fundamental issues.
Now, more than ever, our members need what Kol Shofar, our community, our Torah, can offer. This work that we are embarking on, truly is the best use of our scare resources. Let us move forward, Let us dream boldly of the possibilities.
On behalf of my family and the Board of CKS, I wish you a L’Shana Tova.
THE KOL SHOFAR YEAR IN REVIEW
From building our Sukkot to rebuilding our synagogue.
Kol Shofar Annual Meeting, June 3, 2009 at Westminster Church
After snacking and schmoozing on the Westminster patio the 2009 Annual Meeting was called to order at 7:40 by Diane Zack. Rabbi Levy set a joyful tone for the evening with an inspirational drash, and invited everyone to sing-along to Yibanay.
Business items followed beginning with Steve Grossman, our treasurer, presenting and asking for a motion to pass the 2009-2010 budget. Mark Levy delivered a short Executive Director’s report and a big thank you to his hardworking staff that helped get us moved out of 215 Blackfield and into Davidson, Kent and Westminster this year. What a job! Then Orah Sholin, Education Director gave us some Beit Binah highlights and things to look forward to next semester.
The centerpiece was President Joshua Steinhauer’s “State of the Synagogue, the Year in Review”. It’s always amazing to hear the year’s accomplishments summed up; you think ‘wow, we did all that’? Especially in ’08 and ’09: we operated on a tight budget, finalized the new building plans, got permits, closed the TNC lawsuit, moved the sanctuary, office and Beit Binah and culminated the year with the long awaited Groundbreaking Ceremony.
We bid farewell to veteran board member Elaine Levy and to Sheira Kahn, welcomed new members Matt Mercurio, Pam Marcus and Frances Wisch and then voted to approve the new board slate. We also heard from Mark Swoiskin (Panim el Panim), Fay Landau (VP Membership), Sandy Strauss-Stern (VP Education), Dina Hatchuel (Youth Affairs) and Shirley Berman (VP Finance) who shared some of their creative ideas and plans for the new year.
The emotional highlight of the meeting was bestowing “Volunteer of the Year” awards upon our dedicated Building Committee Chairs: Ron Brown, Howard Zack and Jared Polsky and Capital Campaign Chairs: Barbara & Scott Waxman and Diane & Howard Zack for their seven year commitment to visioning, launching and implementing the new building and fund raising projects. Kol H’kavod!
Diane presented our annual Kehillah awards to our members of long and short standing and then Rabbi Derby left us with moving words about the importance of interpersonal connection to propel our sacred community into the next fiscal year on an upbeat note.
We closed with a slide show recapping our ’08-09 special events accompanied by Rabbi Chai on the guitar. Great fun to see our friends and fellow congregants participating in and obviously enjoying themselves at events like the Board/Staff Retreat, Beit Binah Hanukah party, L’Hitraot, Torah march to and reception at Westminster, the Purim Spiel, Shabbos Night Fever, family retreats, Scholar in Residence weekend, Blessing of the Sun – Birkat ha’Chamah, and the Groundbreaking Ceremony.
Kol Shofar’s Board of Directors is a group of energetic and committed people who care deeply about our congregation and the Jewish people. The Board usually meets once a month, and the meeting is open to all congregants.
Congregants may contact any Board member using the information in the Kol Shofar Directory, or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org