I take my responsibility and my commitment, just like the presidents before me, very seriously. I find that in these recent years my passion for TI and Judaism has become ever more important to me. My “Jewish DNA” has been activated and realized beyond my wildest imagination. This position has totally energized me and I am grateful that it comes with the added bonus of a 26 hour day and a reserved seat on Shabbat, too!
I am so proud to be standing with you today and to be able to share this experience with my wife, my children, my parents and all of you.
I really must be the luckiest President of any synagogue, because I don’t have many of the problems many of my other Temple President friends have. Members don’t complain about the ECLC or the Religious School. To the contrary! They don’t complain about the lack of options or the stodginess of our services, of a cantor who can’t sing or a rabbi who can’t lead. To the contrary! When I walk in here, into our Temple, the warmth and sense of community is tangible. I know why my three children and all of your children and friends love it here at Temple Israel. Not only the doors, but the hearts of our clergy and staff are open to us all. We live not just by a synagogue’s best practices, but by Jewish values as well. In a challenging world, in challenging times, newcomers and long-time members alike are so fortunate to share together in this incredible feeling.
We are here to pray for a good new year, but today I need to say extra prayers for the physical well-being of our temple. As I walk through this building, I hear the voice of my grandfather – my grandfather, who with his brother, hands-on built Kingsley Jewish Center in Brooklyn. I hear his voice urging me to do the right thing when it comes to the physical well-being of our temple.
I need to tell you something – you may have heard rumors that the time has come for us to take responsibility and fix this rapidly aging building. Several of us have begun to seriously explore how to bring this facility not only up to the present, but into the future. We must take responsibility to sustain Temple Israel, not just for the sake of the present, but also, more importantly, for the future.
We have inherited so much from the past. Others in the early ‘60’s made this building a modern reality when they were a congregation of just 273 families. We proudly stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, who gave us over 50 years here, but that which they created so boldly is now worn and sagging on its best days. Synagogues were so very different in the 50’s and 60’s. They were mainly for Services and life-cycle events, and not meant for a hyperactive, 21-century, cutting-edge community that engages our members 7 days a week, across all seasons of the year, enriching children and families, educating all ages, and engaging the wider community.
I’ve always been touched by the insightful teaching that our task is “To make old, new, and to make the new, holy.” This was done for us, so how can we do any less for our generation and for the generation of tomorrow? We are the Children of Israel, who have an historic view to make the old, new, and we do that really well here at Temple Israel. And we are just as good at making the new, holy. We are the envy of many here in NYC and around the Jewish world. Our professional leaders, which we are blessed with, are consulted daily by their peers. We are in the building business not only in light of our facility, but in the building
of Jewish lives. Regardless of your background or where you are from, we want you be a part of our community, a committed member here.
Not all of you knew me as a child, and I want to come clean. After all, it’s the High Holy Days, our Days of Awe. Sometimes the truth hurts. I was not the best student in Hebrew School. My parents are willing to confirm that with much detail. My rabbi growing up was larger than life, a significant presence in the Jewish world; scary and stern, Rabbi Waxman at Temple Israel in Great Neck knew me quite well, and I can admit today, that it was not for all of the best reasons. But Rabbi Waxman, I do remember at least one thing you taught me! The Hebrew word for children has the same root as the word for builders. “B’nai” means children and “Bonim” means builders. Regardless of our current age, we were once children and others built for us. We have a responsibility to all of God’s children, young and old, here at Temple Israel, to maintain for today and to do even better for tomorrow. We need to make the “old, new” and we need to do that together.
Our journey here at Temple Israel is just beginning. There is an end to this morning’s service as there was to the past year. But there is no end to our stories. What I wish in this New year is that we all will be part of a conversation about our journey. We want to hear your stories, whether it’s about children or whether it’s about our building – about our B’nai Yisrael, our Children of Israel, or Bonim, the building of tomorrow.
Your membership and your support are not taken for granted. We sincerely thank you in advance for supporting and sharing in all these holidays and in the life of Temple Israel. To you and your family, may God bless you with prosperity, good health and much happiness in New Year! Amen