Rosh Hashanah 5783 Message from TBA President Julie A. Silbermann
One of the greatest pleasures of being Temple president is the opportunity to address the congregation during the High Holy Days. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to serve as your president and speak to you once again. We have accomplished much in the last year as we continued to steadily navigate through COVID-19 variants and changing pandemic protocols.
As we welcome the New Year, we pray for health and prosperity. We reflect on the importance and sanctity of these holidays. We ask to be written in the Book of Life for another year as we chant our sacred prayers. And we worship together in person and digitally. But make no mistake—we are together no matter how we worship.
The center of our spiritual lives is Temple B’nai Abraham. For those members that are new, I welcome you to our wonderful Temple family. I hope you will engage with us and participate in our services, programs, schools, cultural events, and social activities. To those of you who have made Temple B’nai Abraham your home for many years or even generations, I look forward to your continued participation and presence at all of the events we have to offer.
Today marks the sixth time I have spoken to you, as president, on the High Holy Days. And each of those remarks has had a theme.
This year I want to concentrate on numbers. We know that Numbers is the fourth of the Five Books of Moses. This book continues the history of the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness. At the start of this book, in parashat Bamidbar which means “in the Desert,” God commanded that a census of the Jewish people be taken, “On the 1st day of the 2nd month in the 2nd year…” (Numbers 1:1-4:20). And why did God command a census when He already knew our numbers? The Hebrew term for census-taking is s’u et rosh, or literally “lift up the head.” Giving a d’var Torah is not in my skill set but perhaps the answer is because we are all important and we all count. God wanted us to count heads so let me begin with thanks to those people that we, as a Temple family, count on.
As I reported last year, demographics are changing and this is a significant factor which continues to have an impact on us. In addition, the pandemic and the growth of digital viewing has resulted in people questioning membership at religious institutions across the country. Despite these upsetting national and local statistics, Temple B’nai Abraham has added over 30 new member units to our congregation since last Rosh Hashanah and the numbers are still growing. We welcome members in every age bracket and family unit configuration. Our multi-generational ties strengthen with each year and the congregation benefits from the history brought by our seasoned members, as well as the energy and involvement of our new and younger families. Thank you to you, our membership, for your continued support. If you are returning to the synagogue, welcome back! If you are viewing digitally, we are so glad that you, too, are with us and hope to see you back in person soon.
Our clergy, numbering three, are wonderful. The number three is noteworthy in Judaism as it signifies the harmony of opposites. The blending of pieces that create a whole which is larger than the separate pieces. Rabbis Vaisberg and Edwards and Cantor Epstein tend so beautifully to our spiritual, pastoral, and educational needs. Thank you to Rabbis Vaisberg and Edwards and Cantor Epstein for being there for us count on.
Our Early School and Jewish Learning Program provide a comprehensive education to our children from pre-school age through teens. Our numbers reach almost 250 children in our Jewish Learning Program beginning with kindergarten. Makom, our High School program with Confirmation, is growing and our Teen Tikkun Olam program is full of Jewish teenagers interested in social action and community aid. Thank you to Early School Director Debbie Aronson Ziering and Jewish Learning Program Director Melissa Weiner for being there for us to count on.
Temple B’nai Abraham depends on a dedicated staff led by Tracey Bent to keep our facility and grounds safe, beautiful, and up-to-date. I’d like to specifically point out our flood remediation project, resulting from last year’s Hurricane Ida, is almost completed if you look out the side windows of the sanctuary. This was a huge undertaking overseen by Tracey and our incredibly capable Buildings and Grounds Committee. Thank you for being there for us to count on.
I hope that many of you have had the opportunity to speak with or meet Mara Suskauer, our Executive Director. There isn’t an issue, problem, or other item that Mara doesn’t handle with confidence, ease, and expertise. Thank you, Mara, for being the newest member of our Temple B’nai Abraham team that we count on. By the way, this year is Mara’s first High Holy Days at Temple B’nai Abraham so please wish her a hearty Shana Tovah when you see her!
And who do we count on the most to make Temple B’nai Abraham the outstanding house of worship that it is? You! Our congregants, our volunteers, our committee chairpeople, our board members, and our officers. One by one, we count on you to make us whole, to make us vibrant, to make us productive. My biggest thanks go to you for all that you do for Temple B’nai Abraham. Our numbers, our success, our vitality is because of you—the Temple family.
So back to numbers. Today begins the year 5783. Today is the first day of Tishrei in the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar. The parsha is from Genesis, the First book of Moses. The secular year 2022 marks 169 years since our incorporation. These numbers speak for themselves. We have longevity and we have legacy and that is again because we have you.
As I stand here on the bimah giving my last Rosh Hashanah remarks, it is with much gratitude that Max, my children and their spouses, my grandchildren, my pandemic puppy, and I wish you and your families a sweet new year. May it be filled with good health, prosperity, happiness, and peace. In this increasingly volatile and dangerous world, let us wish for peace at home, for the state of Israel, and throughout the world.
From my home to yours, a most heartfelt Shana Tovah.
Julie A. Silbermann
Immediate Past President
Jeffrey A. Klein, Esq.
Jakob B. Halpern
Jeffrey A. Klein, Esq. 2020-2021
*Bruce H. Greene, z”l 2017-2020
Julie A. Silbermann 2013-2017
Edward Meinhardt 2009-2013
BJ Reisberg 2005-2009
Jeffrey D. Roth 2003-2005
Sandra L. Greenberg 1999-2003
Merle H. Kalishman 1995-1999
Ira M. Starr 1991-1995
Marilyn Rosenbaum 1987-1991
*Joel J. Rogoff, z”l 1983-1987
Peter M. Klein 1981-1983
Martin H. Kalishman 1977-1981
*I. Samuel Sodowick, z”l 1973-1977
*Abram Barkan, z”l 1971-1973
*Dr. Sol Parent, z”l 1969-1971
*A. Sam Gittlin, z”l 1965-1969
*Leo Brody, z”l 1963-1965
*Norman Feldman, z”l 1959-1963
*Leo Brody, z”l 1954-1959
*Louis Rosen, z”l 1953-1954
*Samuel Klein, z”l 1949-1953
*Michael A. Stavitsky, z”l 1939-1949
*Albert Hollander, z”l 1926-1939
*Phillip J. Schlotland, z”l 1913-1926
*William S. Rich, z”l 1896-1912
*Moritz Beria, z”l 1871-1896
*Lesser Marks, z”l 1853-1870
* z”l-of blessed memory
President’s Remarks for Yom Kippur – Wednesday, October 5, 2022
As we gather together today to participate in the moving service of Yom Kippur, I experience a multitude of feelings and emotions. I eagerly await the guiding words of our Rabbi. I look forward to joining with our Cantor to sing traditional holiday songs. I listen to the haunting melodies of our most sacred prayers. I worship with those who are here today both in person and digitally. I mourn for those who are no longer with us but live on in our hearts and memories. I am privileged once again to speak to you on these High Holy Days, my last, as president of Temple B’nai Abraham.
On this sacred day, I am reminded of our obligations to each other as individuals, as a congregation, and as a Jewish people. We have the power to enhance the security of our present and ensure the survival of our future. We, as a congregation, are charged with the responsibility of taking care of our synagogue and community so that we, the Jewish people, will thrive.
As we know all too well, the last couple of years have been incredibly difficult for so many of us. We have been challenged by the pandemic, but through it all, our Temple family has been here for us.
A synagogue is defined by some as a place where you can be sure you will see someone you know. A place where people know your name and know your family. It’s kind of like “Cheers”! It’s a place where your children have grown up and received their Jewish education and where you have made your lifelong friends. A synagogue is a place where people care about you. The urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg calls these kinds of locations “third places” which serve as a bridge between an individual and society at large. According to Oldenburg, “first places” are your homes and “second places” are your work environments. “Third places” are where people form a community and establish bonds. How blessed we are that we can call Temple B’nai Abraham our “third place.”
So, let’s go back to numbers–the theme I introduced on Rosh Hashanah. Just like the Torah portion of Terumah (Exodus 25) which details the specifications for building the Ark or when Noah is given very precise directions from God on how to build his Ark in Genesis 6—so many cubits wide, tall, etc., so we, too, have precise instructions for how to build and support our Jewish community. How to truly blend the individual with this “third place.”
For the physical building of our Temple, we are constantly fixing, updating, refurbishing, and beautifying. Next summer, we are undertaking a huge project to renovate our Sanctuary with new pews and carpet, as the current pews and carpet were damaged from Hurricane Ida last year. Have no worries—we seek to recreate the same warmth and comfort in the Sanctuary that we have always had. And we will do so in precise measurements—perhaps not in cubits—but with extreme care and attention to numbers.
The spiritual building of our Temple family is overseen by our clergy. Rabbis Vaisberg and Edwards and Cantor Epstein tend to our pastoral, spiritual, and educational needs. It is impossible to quantify in numbers what our clergy team brings to us and our community but I daresay it approaches an infinite amount of commitment and care.
The Temple’s statistics continue to be good. Financially, we are sound and secure. Our investible assets are overseen with care and expertise. And despite difficult demographics, as I have reported before, we are growing in membership with over 30 households joining since last Rosh Hashanah. We are a very community-minded temple family and have a “Mitzvah of the Month” project managed by our active Social Action committee. Countless meals, hygiene products, and other necessities have been collected and distributed to those in need in our own and local communities. We are reinstating our Caring Connections committee to reach out to congregants who need a helping hand or a friendly voice. All of these activities define us. And make us who we are. A thriving, secure, and vibrant synagogue.
That all being said, and back again to numbers, it takes three things to make all this happen. It takes toil–the work and dedication of our volunteers and staff. It takes time—countless hours from our members to achieve our collective goals. And finally, it takes treasure—financial support from you. Let me share some facts with you. Our collected dues do not cover our expenses. We provide dues remission to a growing number of our families in need. We subsidize the education of each and every child in our Jewish Learning Program and are able to offer additional educational scholarships as needed. Please remember–we are commanded to help those in need and we are fortunate to be able to offer this help to our temple family members. Every day we read of economic uncertainty and turbulence. We feel it at home and we feel it here at Temple B’nai Abraham, too. For those who are in a position to do so, please, be generous with your treasure. Our annual giving program, Partners in Leadership, is only successful with your help. It is of vital importance that we all participate in this program. Let us be so successful that we can say 100% of our households have participated—each at their own level of financial ability. Let us be able to say that 100% of our congregation has done their part with toil, time, and treasure. Back to Parashat Terumah (Exodus 25), in this portion we learn that when you give, you receive.
It is quite bittersweet for me to conclude these remarks. I cannot find the words, which is unusual for me, to explain how honored I have been to serve you, the congregation, as president on and off for so many years. Thank you for that honor and privilege. I am proud to say that Temple B’nai Abraham, in its 169th year since incorporation, is flourishing. And that is because of toil, time, and treasure from you.
May we as a congregational family have a good, sweet year. May we be inscribed in the Book of Life for another year. May we all be blessed with good health, loving family, and dear friends.
G’mar chatimah tovah and tzom kal. A meaningful fast to all.
L’Shana Tova u’metukah.
CURRENT COVID PROTOCOLS
Aug. 24, 2022
The Officers and COVID-19 Task Force, including senior staff and medical advisors, continue to meet on a regular basis to discuss the implications of the COVID-19 variants on our community. Here are Temple B’nai Abraham’s current COVID-19 protocols to attend services:
For all attendees, if you are not feeling well, please stay home and take care.
We will no longer monitor vaccination status but strongly recommend that guests of all ages be vaccinated and boosted.
We ask that unvaccinated individuals take a home COVID-19 test and stay home if the test is positive. We will no longer be checking tests— we are using the honor system.
Masks are optional, based on your personal comfort level. We do, however, strongly recommend the wearing of a good quality mask for your protection. If you do not have a mask, we will provide one.
This information is subject to change based on the rate of COVID-19 cases and recommendations from health officials and our COVID-19 Taskforce. Updates to these policies will be provided as needed.
Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh L’Zeh. We are all responsible one for the other, and we are all in this together.
Thank you for your understanding.
Julie A. Silbermann