Posted on May 24, 2021 by Leigh Miller
We are truly living through history. I suppose that may be true each day, but the events of the last 14 months are ones we will reflect upon for the rest of our lives and will surely retell to future generations of our families.
I’m sure it is now obvious to all of us, that as difficult as the decision was to close our building last spring, that the process of reopening is substantially more complex. Yet finally, the light at the end of the tunnel which once felt so distant has been moving ever closer – with worship services transitioning back to in-person (with a virtual option) and our religious school and other programs returning by fall.
By every measure, the achievements of our staff and the resilience of our community in the last year have been extraordinary. Looking back, we somehow managed to migrate all of our operations, worship and education to a virtual environment while successfully navigating through our own financial challenges, undertaking extraordinary levels of fundraising, applying for government PPP grants, closing the sale of our Beit Am building, and implementing security projects to ensure our community’s safety. We also managed to hire Cantor Risa Wallach, our not-so-new cantor, announcing the retirement of our beloved Sarah Gluck and hiring a new Assistant Director of Education, Samantha Eichert.
With all of the obstacles and negativities the world placed in front of us, we were never paralyzed, and we never allowed ourselves to get down – we simply worked together to sort out how to move forward. I have been amazed at how high-functioning our professional staff and lay leadership have been and how we have been supportive of each other. At this same time, other congregations have suffered the consequences of poor leadership, less caring professional staff, and bad decisions – losing sight of mission, losing clergy, and ultimately engaging in a race to the bottom. But that was not possible with all of you. We expected too much of ourselves and too much of each other to allow anything but the best of intentions to come through and anything other than the most thoughtful actions to occur. And as we move to bring our community back into our physical spaces, I’m 100% confident that we will have (and are already having) the right discussions, debates and ultimately the right decisions for our community to be able to continue to move toward normalcy.
There have been many times during this last year when congregants have commented that because my time as president occurred during COVID they “felt sorry for me” or that I had “bad luck.” I don’t agree (well, maybe there were a few days last March when I felt sorry for myself). I can say with certainty that I feel that I have been the luckiest of presidents of TBE. We have been through something extraordinary together and successfully worked to bring our community through this once-in-a-century crisis. We have not only survived but arguably thrived and, thanks to so much generosity, have managed to retain our financial stability. Most importantly, we have done this together, we have done it right and it is my sincere hope that our relationships will individually and collectively be stronger for having navigated this terrible time together.I am so grateful to each and every one of you – and this gratitude is immeasurable.
As my time as president comes to a close, I could not be more pleased and proud to leave you in the hands of the wonderful people who will be leading our congregation in the years to come. Gary Cohen and Andrea Bradley are two of the brightest, kindest, and most thoughtful people that I have ever met. They are already leading us through the challenges of our reopening process and will be amazing role models for future Presidents to come. My on-going commitment to them and to this temple family is that I will continue to support all of you as you have so warmly supported me.
May we all go from strength to strength. May each of you and your families remain safe and healthy. May the world find peace.
Originally published in the May-June 2021 issue of the Shofar. For more issues of the Shofar, visit the Shofar archives.