Report from President Andrea Hirschfeld
at Congregation B’nai Israel Annual Meeting
May 27, 2015
First, I would like to thank those Board of Trustee members who will not be returning next year: Steve Chizzik, Art Fredman, Elizabeth Cohen, Lisa Goldberg, Michael Klausner, Neil Yaris and Charles Shapiro. We thank them for their service to the congregation, for all they have done, and no doubt will continue to do. I would also like to welcome our new and continuing Trustees… I know we will have an exciting year ahead.
At last year’s annual meeting, I mentioned that our 90th year would be a pivotal year for our community – and I believe in many ways it was. We all did great work, developed some wonderful sustainable programs for the future, welcomed new members from the Union shul that very sadly closed its doors, and with the excellent work of our finance committee, have a clearer understanding of the challenges that lay ahead so we can ensure our future here in Millburn for another 90 years.
At the start of the 90th year, our logo competition solidified exactly what was important to us – generation to generation – l’dor v’dor and 90 more! We had five winners in all age categories and used the logos throughout the year. The year started with a very well attended multi-generational kick-off event – introducing many people to each other.
To continue our celebrations, we had a great inter-generational Chanukah celebration event with the appropriate Chinese food and movies; a great speaker series – for the first time in our history – and to my knowledge, only the second time we have had the JTS chancellor speak; and an extremely well received artist in residence weekend with Josh Warshawsky – that highlighted yet again the important role music plays in our ritual life.
Our capital improvements during this pivotal year have started! We just ordered new pews, that will be in place for the High Holidays! We will be milling and paving the parking lot in early August. Additional railings will be installed on our Bima. And, as the cash from pledges are paid in the second year, we will finalize the improvements to the sanctuary with new woodwork around the bima and windows, and new glass to replace the plastic on the main window wall.
In the second half of this year, we were fortunate to add Rabbi Sharon Litwin to our staff as Director of Congregational Learning. Rabbi Sharon is proving to be a wonderful asset and comes with a wealth of experience as both an educational director and an associate rabbi and is enthused to be part of our B’nai Israel family! Though a Teaneck resident, she plans to be here every other Shabbat, at several parlor meetings this summer getting to know our students and their families better and answer any concerns or questions for next year, and even upcoming years with our nursery school families. We look forward to having Rabbi Litwin more engaged in the education across generations toward the second half of next year.
This year saw the start of our first Sulam program for emerging leaders. This program is a product of United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and ushers a cohort of possible future leaders through a curriculum designed to address leadership issues through text study with the Rabbi and life and learning questions with a lay facilitator. Rabbi Bayar and I did this with 14 students this year – most of whom will continue the study in the next year as they work on and lead committees. Rabbi and I will be running another class next year and are available to speak with anyone interested.
As promised, we are helping to ensure our future as we instituted our legacy planning program with MetroWest and the Grinspoon Foundation. Dan Ramer, Elizabeth Cohen and their dedicated committee are making a significant difference in the life of our future B’nai Israel congregational family. Anyone can make a meaningful legacy gift to B’nai Israel – speak with them if you would like more information on the simple ways to leave your legacy gift .
I am excited to get to work on next year with our new and existing board members. It has been over a decade that we have looked at our constitution and committee structure and will begin that process next year with a newly formed Governance committee. In addition, we will be developing new ways of approaching outreach and engagement as our local demographics have, and possibly continue, to shift. We will, as a board, take some time in the next month to set some goals for B’nai Israel next year and work toward them together. As I reaffirm committee teams and begin putting others together, I appreciate how fortunate we are to have a fantastic group of dedicated hard working volunteers without whom we could not offer so many wonderful programs. If there are any committees you are interested in for next year, please contact me at any time!
One final note – I am often asked if I like being president and I have to say many people I talk with are surprised by my answer. I enjoy leading the community as best I can. I am honored to be trusted with this position and try to be open and approachable. Being the president truly is a position that is in between members and leaders, members and staff, and members and each other. I have come to respect many opinions, although I can’t always get satisfaction for everyone. And I enjoy the challenge of working with a very diverse membership and ensuring our future. For your trust, I thank you.