Temple Sholom President’s Yom Kippur Sermon

Hi, I’m Craig.

First, I want to thank you. This is the second and last of my two years of the honor and joy it is to be our president. I wasn’t quite sure what this would be like when I started, and I have to tell you, it’s been incredible. Sholom is an amazing community. I’d like to thank the members of our board and all of our committees that tirelessly do our meaningful work inside and outside of our Temple walls; I’d like to thank our incomparable clergy for leading and inspiring us in worship, for being our foundations during the happiest and saddest times of our lives, and for helping us to join together to make our world a better place; and I’d like to thank our wonderful staff for keeping all of the intricate gears going that make the inner workings of our Temple and community possible.

This year we said goodbye to our dear spiritual educator, Rabbi

David Sandmel, who is now serving all world Jewry as the Director of Inter-Faith Relations for the Anti-Defamation League. If there ever was a time to have our passionate and wise friend helping the world navigate the complex and all too often stormy seas of inter-faith relations, this has to be it. As our new Director of Lifelong Learning, we welcome Jay Rapoport, an inspired, engaged, and thrilling leader for our students of all ages. If learning is important to you in any way, seek out Jay, say “Hi”, and talk to him. He’s only been here a few months, but already his uniquely personable presence can be felt in all of our learning programs.

We also welcome Marla Krupman as our new Director of Development. Marla is an accomplished and talented development professional who has helped many great institutions make significant strides forward. Marla will be connecting with you soon: please greet her with warmth.

It is with great emotion that we greet this year as the last before our beloved Cantor Aviva Katzman’s retirement. She has dedicated three decades of her life to our community’s musical soul, and how can we not say goodbye without a few big tears? She’ll continue in Sholom as Cantor Emerita, pursuing spiritual passions that we share. We’ve begun a search for our next Cantor and are seeking involvement by all who are interested, and I am certain that we will find someone worthy of the musicality that is core to who we are. But, Aviva, you are a one and only. We love you, and I’d like to take this opportunity to say, thank you for everything that you are and have been for us.

This past year we completed our Sh’ma statement, and I’d like to

thank our visioning committee and all of you who contributed to this core description of who we are, a sacred community that embraces, inspires, and matters.

As president, I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes Sholom the incredible community that we are and what it is that we need to do to build for our future. We are a very diverse group of people that share at least one thing that’s really important: We all share a connection to Judaism. But who are we, and what should we be doing?

The first question crystallized for me one night this past year when I returned from a board meeting and my younger daughter Lia, who was still at home in her last year of High School, asked me what I was doing for the past few hours. What first ran through my mind was to describe how we conducted an exercise in preparation for strategic planning or contemplated and voted on a policy proposal, but a mechanistic description like that seemed just a touch unsatisfying. So I answered, “we’re working on the future of Temple Sholom for you.”

It was as if I had given her the best present in the world, all wrapped up and with the prettiest bow. She had the widest smile that I think that I’ve ever seen. Neither of us knew what was exactly inside that beautiful present, but we both knew that it would be wonderful, and that it would be for her.

So how are we going to figure out what’s inside that present and how to get there? That’s what we’re doing with strategic planning, and it involves each and every member of our Sholom community.

What is strategic planning? In essence, it’s considering where and

who we’ve been, where and who we are now, and where and who we want to be in the future, and planning how to get from here to there.

We’re assembling a core team of committed, hard working and

experienced congregants led by John Bremen and Steve Fadem who will serve to connect all of the working parts that will go into strategic planning. We’re in the process of putting together groups to address seven key facets of our community: מֶמְשָׁלָה , or governance; מָקוֹם , or space; לִמֻּד , or learning; הַקְדָּמָה , or advancement; קְהִלָה , or community; חָזוֹן , or visioning; and עֲבֹדָה , or worship. These aren’t mutually exclusive: they overlap, and they’ll be connected together as we move forward. Think of what your passion is, and let us know where and how you’d like to be involved. As with the creation of the Sh’ma statement, we need everyone to join in.

And truly, we need everybody. When I told Lia that I was working on the future of Temple Sholom for her, I was talking about a future for myself and for all of us, too. As far as our community goes, it is a meaningful place for everyone who belongs to it and cares about it, and that is all of us. So who is this planning for the future for? It is for all of us. And who is doing it? All of us.

 

Let’s start this new year off with a small and fun step towards

planning our future. Real progress comes not from starting with an answer, but from beginning with a great question. Now that our great Jewish reset button has been pressed, a new year is here before us, and our hearts and minds are fresh, in the next week, come up with a question about our Sholom community. Then find someone and ask them.

If you’re thinking, who should I ask? Here’s an idea: OK, right now, look around where you’re sitting and introduce yourself to someone new. OK, now get some contact information.

Fantastic. Together, we’ll start by creating a sea of questions about our community and the beginning of the most important conversation that we could all have.

We do need support for the beautiful and historic physical space we inhabit today, for the programs and services that benefit all of us, and most importantly, for our future. Please give what you can. It’s a special moment for Temple Sholom and our community, and a time of great opportunity to make a real difference.

What will we be doing this coming year? We’ll be making a beautiful present that inside holds the future of Temple Sholom and our community. Unwrapping it will be the joy of the century for all of us.

 

Shanah Tovah!