Rosh HaShanah Remarks - 5773/2012
Now in our 35th year, Temple Shir Tikva stands at the threshold of a significant occasion – our Double Chai anniversary or 36th year. As we prepare for this important milestone, let’s take stock of our congregation.
Shir Tikva is surrounded by the vibrant Jewish community of Greater Boston. There are numerous first-rate Jewish educational institutions; a multitude of Jewish non-profit organizations; and great Jewish thinkers, writers, activists and philanthropists all around us.
Shir Tikva is filled with these same talented and committed people who have many ideas and skills to share with our congregation and the community at large. Our congregants are entrepreneurs, inventors, doctors, consultants, artists, financial advisors, at-home Moms and Dads and much, much more. Our congregants are not just leaders in their chosen field, but leaders in their charitable endeavors and giving. We have a formidable base of energy, talent, knowledge and resources to accomplish any goal. It comes as no surprise that over the past 35 years, we have grown from a small group to over 550 families; built this gorgeous synagogue and educational center; and developed life-long educational programming, beautiful worship services and award-winning social action programs.
These great assets of ours coincide with an important trend in the Reform Movement. Now more than ever, Jewish families are seeking what some call spirituality and others label engagement in the life of their synagogue. Surely, this is a natural response to living in a world punctuated by sudden and substantial changes and residing in a place where our days are packed with working, caregiving, studying, shopping, emailing and schlepping – all at the same time. Now is the time for the synagogue to serve as what one author calls “a dynamic institution responding to the social and individual crises in which people naturally find themselves as they search for moorings in a rapidly changing world.”
Addressing a recent graduating class of Rabbis at Hebrew Union College, Barry Shrage, President of the Greater Boston Combined Jewish Philanthropies, best described this phenomenon: “Many [congregants] will be joining your synagogues with a greater longing for spirituality than the last generation, higher expectations for meaning and purpose than the last generation and a hunger for meaningful caring communities, serious learning, real education for themselves and their children, serious volunteer engagement in the world or a yearning to express their Jewishness through a commitment to social justice.” That’s Shir Tikva. So, how do we move forward?
Preparing for our Double Chai 36th Anniversary, the partnership of the lay leadership, the rabbis, cantor and professional staff, has a stronger desire than ever and, indeed, a sacred responsibility to better weave you into the fabric of Shir Tikva by providing spiritual nourishment, educational programming or social action opportunities in a manner that complements and, where needed, compensates for the rapidly-changing, fast-paced world in which we live.
To do this, so many of you have worked so hard over the last several months to allow me the privilege of announcing multiple key initiatives organized around our Double Chai Anniversary: a Chazon or Visioners Initiative, a Membership Initiative, an Education Initiative and a Human Resources or HR Initiative. Through these efforts, Shir Tikva will continue on its path to becoming what has been termed a “visionary” congregation – one that effectively develops and applies powerful, widely-shared and understood visions of a Jewish sacred community.
First, our Chazon Initiative is a community-wide program designed to define and fund the pillars of Shir Tikva’s growth for the foreseeable future and, in so doing, enhance congregational engagement. Nearly 200 of you recently completed our congregational survey which provides us with an excellent foundation of information. Informed by the survey results, we will hold three congregational engagement meetings in late October and early November. Small group discussions led by facilitators will glean more information about how you see the future of our congregation and how Shir Tikva can better meet your needs. We strongly urge you to attend one of these sessions so that your voice can be heard. Already, we have a wonderful Mission Statement: Now we need a vision, a vision for Shir Tikva for its 36th year and beyond. That vision must come up from you, the congregation, not down from the lay leadership, rabbis, cantor or professional staff. Join us and help set the vision.
This process will set the stage for the second phase of the Chazon Initiative, a financial campaign during our 36th year targeted to support the pillars or anchors of the vision that you have identified. We need to grow our financial resources to fund our vision and secure our fiscal future. Crafting and then supporting an updated, well-defined notion of what our Temple stands for will serve as a uniting principle informing all of our efforts – a hallmark of a visionary congregation.
Our Membership Task Force is also hard at work updating and considering substantive changes to all our membership categories from “Seniors” to “Young Families.” During the coming year, it will be looking at ways to enhance “in-reach,” the experience of our existing congregants, and “outreach” our efforts to bring new members to Shir Tikva. While we have no designs on supersizing Shir Tikva, better retention and growth of our membership are vital to the health of our Temple.
Our Education Task Force is now re-examining our educational structure and programming. It has an eye on the future to ensure the qualitative excellence of our educators and programs and consider the latest, cutting-edge educational programming. We will continue to better integrate education into all aspects of temple life like so many other visionary synagogues.
The HR Committee is entering the final stage of its work with the rabbis, cantor and professional staff to create clear job descriptions and measurable goals. This year, we begin a program of periodic evaluations and reviews. Reflection and review of this nature has one purpose: Fostering the continued individual and collective growth of the Shir Tikva team so important to any visionary congregation.
In addition to partaking in our usual wonderful array of study, worship, social action and just plain social activities, I personally invite any one of you who wishes to participate in these initiatives – or on any of our committees or any other aspect of temple life – to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Well before anyone had even conceived of the personal computer, 24-hour news cycle or many of the forces of modern times which help shape today’s society, Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, The Sabbath. Heschel states that, “The higher goal of …living is not to amass a wealth of information, but to face sacred moments. In a religious experience…a spiritual presence…imposes itself on man. What is retained in the soul is the moment of insight…. A moment of insight is a fortune….” We’ve all experienced these moments. We usually sense or feel them around life cycle events or milestones in our lives. At Shir Tikva, we are the sacred moment makers, the enablers of personal moments of insight that enrich our lives whether by the work of our hands, the feelings in our heart or the thoughts in our mind. Reach out. Play your part in the 35th year of Shir Tikva’s journey so that together we can make more sacred moments than ever.
Amen, Ken Yehi Ratzon. (“Amen, may it be so”).
Brian C. Levey, President
Temple Shir Tikva
September 17, 2012