Highlights from 2016 Annual Meeting of Congregation B’nai Israel
More than 80 congregants were in attendance for the Congregational Annual Meeting held on Tuesday, June 14th. Presentations were made by all senior staff, as well as from our Membership Committee co-chair, Endowment Committee chair and Treasurer. The 2016-17 budget was passed by those in attendance. Written reports were submitted by Adult Forum, Adult Learning, B’nai Mitzvah Scheduling, BBRS PA, BBRS Board, Endowment, Facilities, Hearts and Hands, Membership, and Sanctuary Restoration.
Below are brief summaries and highlights from the evening:
President Andrea Hirschfeld led the evening off with comments about our changing demographics and national environment; the decline in Jews identifying as Conservative and the lack of Jewish families moving into the Millburn/Short Hills area – where most of our membership has been from in past years. Such realities shouldn’t make us cringe but should instead cry out to us to look at them as hard realities and rise to the challenge to judge, as we have always done through every presidency before us, “where we are and where we want to go…to decide what binds us together and thus what type of services and programs are needed and wanted.” (David Touger, 2009).
Andrea lauded how fortunate we are to have a line up of dedicated, passionate volunteers and lay leaders which is not at all the status quo for most organizations. We should be extremely proud of our accomplishments over the past year:
— Two great hires– Rabbi Sharon Litwin and Steven Kandler – both seasoned professionals who bring a wealth of experience and passion to their positions. Each is visible within our congregation on Shabbat and receptive to leadership and congregants alike.
— Terrific committee chairs who are asking the really difficult, big picture questions about priories and the future.
— Our Legacy Circle program now in its second year has secured 36 participants, allowing CBI to be awarded a second $10,000 grant from JCF and the Grinspoon Foundation and is working toward a third grant in 2016-17. Legacy Circle is one way to continue to support CBI as a charitable organization that provides employment to clergy, Jewish professionals, educates the next generation, provides religious services and programs to not only members but the surrounding community.
— A new way to support CBI has been introduced by becoming a Synagogue Sustainer, our newest membership level, this year.
— Andrea thanked the new ad-hoc Minyan Committee that has been formed to oversee our twice daily minyan – another service we provide not just to our own membership but for the entire local community.
— Andrea also thanked the Membership Committee and the data analysis done by Maureen Genderson, whose work highlighted the flux we have been in for the past eight years.
Recognition of all of this and that Rabbi Bayar will be retiring in 2019, gifts us the opportunity not to “flee from something” but to “seek something.” Andrea announced that current Executive Committee members – Mariela Dybner, Jamey Potechin and Stacy Merkel – will co-chair the effort to consider “tomorrow’s CBI.” They will initially be guided by a strategy team of members who work daily in innovation and change: Matt Goldberg, Greg Daniel, Phil Darivoff, Roz Engel and Jeff Cohn.
Andrea exclaimed “obstacles are the stuff that dreams are made from. We share so much as a community together, prayer, our families, our simchas, we mourn together, and help each other. Now let’s dream together! “
Staff reports followed.
Cantor Wallach expressed her feelings of pleasure and privilege to be part of CBI for 18 years. Aside from all her work with the congregation – 24 b’nai mitzvah families, the High Holiday choir, the CBI Yom Tov volunteer band and, teaching in BBRS – she is hoping to infuse more music into services and is considering forming a musical Task Force.
Rabbi Litwin expressed that she has had a wonderful year professionally. Besides her daily work with BBRS, she is working with Aleza Rosenberg to plan a year-long comprehensive adult learning program to start after the High Holidays. In BBRS over 80% of students completed Shabbat attendance requirements, the Friday Shir Shabbat service has taken off, 3rd-6th graders are completing their prayer assignments, the Parents Association continues to sponsor many successful events. Finally, she is always available for consults and help!
Rochelle Baron has had two classes for each age and a very successful Transition Two’s class. Afterschool activities were added and well attended. She welcomes a diverse local population – “a mini United Nations” – due to our reputation of being very welcoming and all families understand and appreciate that their children are learning all about the Jewish holidays and Shabbat rituals.
Steve Kandler commented that he was completely struck by all the lay involvement in this synagogue after all his years as a director in other shuls and as a member of 3-4 other shuls. He is working on making billing and payment more transparent and simpler, particularly through introduction of an online membership system.
Rabbi Bayar acknowledged how wonderful it was to see so many people at this meeting, thanked CBI for the opportunity to be here for 30 years prior to retiring in 2019. He said the congregation has two years to assess and plan for our future needs until we would begin a search in 2018 – and that this time, though stressful, should be one of great excitement. He believes we should hire the best person out there: “Hire a mensch, hire someone you want to talk to, hire someone that you want your children to want to talk to.”