Let Us Raise Up the Light

Posted on June 9, 2023 by Andrea Bradley, president

I am honored and privileged to be your new temple President.

I’d like to thank Rabbi Gluck and Amy Rubin for all they have done, and will do, to help me be the best leader I can be. It is an honor to follow in the footsteps of past TBE presidents like Robin Osman, Jay Lavroff, Leigh Miller, of course, Gary Cohen, and others. I am grateful for their wise counsel and guidance and most importantly, their friendship. So many of our past Presidents have reached out to me with welcome and support, for which I am eternally grateful. I expect there will be stumbles in my term as President, but I promise you my earnest efforts and ask for your understanding.

Although I am just now becoming President, I have been involved at TBE for a long time serving first as financial secretary, on the then-called Social Action committee organizing things like the Nothing But Nets fundraiser, on the Education committee making pancakes for a religious school fundraiser, working on strategic planning and the URJ’s congregational benchmarking assessment in 2017, and more. These past 4 years as vice president, learning the ins and outs of what makes our Temple Beth-El community so special, have been invaluable in preparing me to become President.

Along the way, our family found its Jewish home at Temple Beth-El. Nick, who became bar mitzvah at a different synagogue, easily found his place in Confirmation Academy and Post-Con. Nick continues to help Lisa by chaperoning religious school trips. Nora and Connor celebrated their b’nai mitzvah at TBE and stayed through Post-Confirmation Academy as well. My dear husband Patrick, who is Catholic, has been warmly embraced by all of you and in return, he has supported me and our connection to TBE at every step, including this new one with me being President.

Perhaps the most transformational work I got involved with here was in 2013 when I joined the Brit Kehilah, a now 10-year-old “task force” that led TBE to focus on building relationships in our words and our actions. Critical efforts like drafting the TBE Ethics Code, which was adopted in August 2021, had their roots in the work of the Brit Kehilah. Looking back now, it’s hard to remember how transactional we used to be in the way we talked about being part of our TBE community. We used to talk about dues and programs, now we talk about people and their wants and needs.

My focus as President will continue to be on building relationships to create a culture of belonging. Over the past 10 years, we have embraced what it means to be “warm and welcoming.” But belonging and engagement is more than involvement and affiliation. Relationship building is both a foundation of our community and an initiative we need to continually commit renewed energy to. My efforts this year will be to join with you in taking this further – creating deeper relationships that make us feel accepted for who we are, make us feel seen and valued, and allow us to have authentic connections with each other and our temple.

During a recent URJ webinar about engagement, people were asked to describe what it means to belong. The answers included “a place where everybody knows my name and something special about me”, “feeling like you are not judged and can be yourself”, and “understanding and committing to the fabric that holds the community together and contributing toward strengthening it.” These notions of authenticity and mutuality resonate with me. My family has benefited tremendously from being a part of our TBE community – and my hope is that you and your family will also feel that warm embrace of belonging and the need to strengthen our community as a result.

I am excited by the many opportunities ahead of us at Temple Beth-El. I share with you the enormity of Rabbi Gluck’s retirement announcement and understand that for many, change is unnerving. I have always been energized by change – perhaps that why I am Temple President as this juncture in our temple life.

At Tuesday night’s calendaring session, we quickly filled the temple calendar with all manner of reasons to gather – celebrating our Tikkun Olam work, Young Family pizza Shabbat dinners, mindfulness Shabbatot, getting to know the Syrian refugee families we have befriended, kicking off the start of the Religious School year, and more.

In celebration of Rabbi Gluck’s retirement, we will have a star-studded lineup of guest speakers and preachers, each of whom wants to share with us in honoring our Rabbi’s lifetime of commitment to Judaism, people and Israel, among other things. In addition, we have several special concerts planned with Jewish musicians who are friends and favorites of Rabbi Gluck’s. We will worship together and study together, and we will party together. We are planning a grand celebration for mid-May as well as other casual gatherings to send the Rabbi off to his retirement.

We also will be working together as a community to identify a successor rabbi. Our initial plan, subject to Board approval, is to hire an interim rabbi for the year starting July 1, 2024, with a permanent hire to begin on July 1, 2025.

My goal is to include everyone in thinking about the future of TBE – whether through a series of community conversations, parlor gatherings or 1-on-1 meetings. We hope to get started on these this fall. We will have a chance to share our stories and how they impact our hopes and wishes for TBE. What we learn will inform our hiring processes as well as the work we hope to pursue in the coming years to revisit our mission, vision and values statements to ensure that they reflect all that we know and love about TBE.

We are blessed to have a talented and deep team of leaders at TBE who will shepherd us through the work of the year ahead. So many of our past presidents, board members, Oversight Committee members and loyal volunteers, many of whom are here tonight, will be actively engaged. I am so grateful for their willingness to work with me. I am more than fortunate to partner with Jeff Resnick and Frank Derby, our 1st and 2nd vice presidents, in guiding the work ahead. Our personalities and experiences are great complements and will position us for great success – and great fun too! With Amy Rubin, Lisa Friedman, and Stephanie Weiss, our community is blessed with visionary and committed professionals who already are doing an excellent job of running our Temple Beth-El. Adding icing to the cake are Melissa Pyle, Andrea Dean, Kathy Shanklin, Fernando, Jennifer and Luis, who keep TBE in tip-top shape on a million different fronts. I am particularly lucky to have a close relationship with Cantor Wallach who has been with us for almost three years now, and who has a 5-year extension to her contract. Cantor Wallach knows us, our culture and our community. She will play an essential role as we go through this transition together.

I am also blessed to have an amazing family supporting me – my sister Barbara has traveled from San Francisco to celebrate my installation and help with my recuperation. Somewhere, someplace, our parents, Leon and Zena Fish, are bursting with pride tonight knowing that the Jewish faith they instilled in us burns bright today. Thank you, Barb. In the Bradley household, we often refer to ourselves as “Team Bradley.” In good times and in challenges, we are there for each other. My becoming temple President is possible because of my family and their confidence, encouragement and love. Thank you to Patrick, Nick, Nora and Connor for helping me get here today.

In this week’s Torah portion – Parashat Beha’alotecha from the Book of Numbers, the people of Israel have completed and dedicated the tabernacle at Mount Sinai and are preparing to continue their journey through the desert to the Promised Land. God commands them to light the menorah, or lampstand – saying “when you raise up the lamps, let the seven lamps give light at the front of the lampstand.” The commandment is not simply to kindle the lights. Rashi explains that raising up the lamps requires greater care and attention because you must wait until the lamps are kindled and the flame continues to rise on its own. The Midrash brings another concept of “raising up” light in explaining that in this Parashah the responsibility lies with the people of Israel, not God, to be the light for the world. The light of the lampstand is not intended to illuminate the tabernacle, but to show the path forward and project light out into the world.

I love this idea of being in partnership with all of you in raising up the light as we begin our new congregational year. When we work to light the pathway for others and for ourselves, we must do it in a way that “raises up” the light so that each person’s light continues to be lit in a self-sustaining way, not simply kindled. I love the notion that this is a shared responsibility of all of us. Working together we can shed light on the big world, for all of humanity, and for our smaller world, here at Temple Beth-El. I invite you to join me in this work.

Ken yehi razon – may this be God’s will.

Shabbat shalom,

Andrea Bradley, temple president