A Time for Reflection

Posted on April 6, 2021 by Leigh Miller, president

This last year has been challenging for all of us, with great difficulties for many, and tragedy for some. In recent weeks, I have started to feel sentiment beginning to turn toward optimism, as the trends in infection rates and deaths fall and we contemplate when the vaccines can begin to deliver us from our communal restrictions. As we begin to look forward, it is my sincere hope that each of us will have learned something different about ourselves during these challenging times and that we will continue to explore or even treasure some newly discovered aspects of our lives.

I generally wouldn’t describe myself as either a “glass half full” or a “glass half empty” kind of guy. Rather, I often see my role as interpreting exactly how much water is actually in the glass – and this role has defined how I spend much of my time – whether at work, in my prior role as treasurer, my current role as temple president and sometimes (but not always), even at home.

In recent weeks I have tried to take stock of what I will take away from these long months of the pandemic and wanted to share some of these with you:

  • I have turned into a homebody – yes, because I had to, but also because I find I’m enjoying it. After a dozen years of hopping around the world for work, and more than 30 years of commuting to New York City, I will admit that I have loved working from home – and that spending my day in front of a webcam isn’t all that bad. I do not miss the 5:00 a.m. alarms to start my commute to the city. Nor do I miss the travels to different time zones that wreaked havoc with spirit and body, often leaving me to wonder how I was going to be able to stay awake for my next meeting or dinner with colleagues.
  • Having been an empty nester for the past few years, I have treasured our time with the kids while they were home. It was wonderful to be a family – all together again – for more than a weekend or a vacation. The months we spent together last spring, during the summer and again during this most recent winter break were memorable times that I will treasure always.
  • The neighbors we spent time with 20 years ago, watching our children play together in the cul-de-sac of our block, had all gone their separate ways as our kids grew older and activities and work pulled us in many directions. We’ve now all reconnected, this time with our COVID puppies, and have rediscovered how nice it is to chit-chat on each other’s lawns while the dogs frolic.
  • Little or simple things can be looked forward to – and can make a difference in how I feel each day. I’ve learned I need to spend time outside every day, and if I don’t, the blues arrive pretty quickly. So, regardless of the weather, I will take the dog for an hour-long walk, go for a hike, snowshoe or crampon on the mountainbiking trails near our home, sit in our backyard around our fire pit and patio heater with friends, head to the beach for a racewalk on the boardwalk with Shari to the ice cream shop, or go to the golf course, by myself, to walk and carry my clubs. Each of these activities is cathartic in its own way, and I have learned how essential they are to my well-being.
  • And speaking of golf, without business travel or vacations to pull me away, I found the time to play more golf in 2020 than ever before. While that may seem a wonderful luxury, I have concluded the more golf I play, the worse I get – and that I really don’t care either way. Golf is simply the excuse to be outside, get some exercise and just be.

I recently reread the article that I wrote nearly one year ago for our March/April 2020 edition of the Shofar, just weeks into the pandemic. The quote that struck me most read as follows:

“While I suspect there will be more difficult days ahead of us than there have been behind us, one of the few certainties we can count on is our temple clergy, professional staff, temple leadership and temple community to be there for all of us.”

I suppose the first part of that quote was a wild understatement, but the second part could not have been more prescient. Certainly, this past year has validated everything I could have hoped the institution of Temple Beth-El could mean at a time like this.

I am so thankful to our clergy and professional staff for their dedication, energy and passion. I’m tremendously grateful to the members of our lay-leadership, boards and committees who have all helped us navigate some of the most challenging times since the founding of our beloved temple. Perhaps most of all, a big thank you goes out to each member of our community for adapting, contributing and staying positive.

My hope for our community is that we have truly turned the corner, that there are now more difficult days behind us than ahead – and that there will be positive learnings that each of us will be able to take away from having survived this crisis. Most of all, I look forward to being together again – worshipping, celebrating and socializing with all of you.

I suppose that the real hugs (and squeezes) will have to wait a bit. But for now, we’ll have to settle for a big virtual hug, and perhaps one day soon, we’ll be able to transition to an actual elbow bump!

May each of us go from strength to strength.

Leigh Miller


Originally published in the March-April 2021 issue of the Shofar. For more issues of the Shofar, visit the Shofar archives.