A Message from CBI’s Executive Director, Harvey Brenner:
As you are aware, while the staff and clergy of CBI, are quarantined and not functioning at ‘normal’ levels, we each are sharing what may have been our monthly Bulletin articles. Each week, one of us is circulating a column or letter that carries some message of learning, torah, hope or “derech eretz” to you.
It’s now my turn, and since this sort of ‘outreach’ was originally my idea, you’d think I would have an easy time of selecting a subject, composing my thoughts and circulating the email. Nothing could be further from the truth!
I guess, I’m somewhat stymied because I still find it unsettling to come to our building, check the mail, answer messages, pay bills, etc., all without the company of others. No classes, services, students, preschoolers, teachers or members are present; just me, and a few of the maintenance people who have diligently sanitized (and are now repairing, repainting and sprucing up) the building, preparing for our eventual reopening. I guess I miss the stimulation and ‘organized chaos’ that is the heart-beat of a thriving, active, high-functioning synagogue (one that is rich with activity and learning). Without people, we’re just four walls and some religious artifacts and furniture. Simply put, I miss you!
Anyway, here goes…..
On our last trip to Israel, as a participant in my NAASE Executive Director’s annual conference, my wife and I (and our group of ~100 directors and spouses/partners) visited several “Yad b’Yad” schools, day care centers and communities throughout the northern half of the country. Here, side by side (hand in hand, is the literal translation) Israelis and Arabs live, work and socialize together, all in an attempt to foster greater fellowship and tolerance through better understanding. Arab kids sit together with Jewish Israelis, all taught by either Arab or Israeli teachers (or both!) and very quickly, lines of demarcation and difference fade away. Friendships form and hatred vanishes.
So one afternoon, about 25 executive directors and some of their school administrators were sitting together “schmoozing” and sharing what their job requirements and scope were versus what ours was. They didn’t seem to have an equivalent of an ‘executive director’ at Yad b’Yad, so it was after much trial and error that I shared the following “job description” which seemed to resonate with them and with which they could connect: “I do everything the clergy won’t do, the educators can’t do, the maintenance folks forgot to do and the lay leadership doesn’t have time to do!”
Admittedly, it was said, (a bit sarcastically) with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek, but in ruminating about this column over the past few weeks (in the confines of that empty, Corona Virus-quarantined building) it has made me more aware of the truth of the statement more than ever before.
We, the leaders, educators and staff struggle almost daily to maintain meaningful connections to you, our congregation. We try to create ever more meaningful opportunities to interact with you and for you to interact with each other, all while maintaining proper ‘social distancing’. Scheduling ZOOMeetings and learning sessions on two separate ZOOM accounts, “Free Conference Calls” on two call-in centers and disseminating all the various links, meeting IDs and connectivity information, are just a few of the “Covid Congregation Director Duties”.
We hope that you and your families are finding the offerings to be stimulating, informative, meaningful and beneficial, all while keeping ‘halacha’ and ‘best practices’ in mind. While I don’t contribute programming to these efforts, I coordinate and monitor everything else behind the scenes to make it all possible. Together, we schedule them, arrange for the technology to be available and then publicize the event(s) to you, the congregation. I’m available if/when there are the inevitable glitches to fix the problems so that, as the old adage goes, “the show must go on!”
I love what I do and I take great pride in seeing the fruits of our combined and collective labors. The phrase, “Teamwork makes the dream work”, resonates within all of us on staff as we are all better because of our relationships with each other and with you, our ‘Kehilla Kedosha’, or ‘Holy Community’.
I pray every day that this congregation be spared pain, suffering or loss and that we can return to “normal” (is “full” a better word?) operating levels as quickly as possible. May HaShem continue to favor us with God’s Blessings and deliver us to the other side of this pandemic safely, together and very soon!
Harvey M. Brenner, FSA, FTA