Posted on June 8, 2022
I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself and give you my hopes for the next two years. Probably the first thing that you should know is that I am a Jew by Choice. I have been told that I am the first Jew by Choice that has had the honor to be elected as President to the Temple Shir Tikva Board of Trustees. I started my Jewish journey when I began dating my husband, Adam. I was curious about the customs and traditions that were so important to him and his family, so I visited my college library and started reading. It was as if puzzle pieces in my head and heart started coming together to form a picture of who I was.
We were married in a Jewish ceremony four years later and two years after that I went through the process of formal conversion. 21 years since then and I am still reading and learning. The latest culminating in becoming a Bat Mitzvah yesterday with 14 other members of our congregation.
Adam and I have three amazing daughters: Rachel, Emma and Sasha. It was the addition of our daughters, the support of Adam’s family and the friends I made at the JCC Preschool in New Jersey that steadied my stumbling steps in living a Jewish life. We moved back to Massachusetts days after Rachel & Emma’s Mitzvah in 2015 and after some Temple shopping, joined Shir Tikva in 2016.
One service listening to Cantor Hollis’ amazing voice and despite the uncertainty of having an interim Rabbi, we decided to give Shir Tikva a chance. We enrolled Sasha in Religious school and hoped for the best. Sometime in that first year I was feeling disconnected, so I made an appointment with Cantor Hollis. After some rambling and some tears, I think, Cantor Hollis hooked me right up. I joined our amazing choir and instantly felt connected. My involvement, beginning with our choir and later the board, increased my commitment to our community by building friendships and personal connections that I would not have felt otherwise. I have heard that others are feeling disconnected as well, especially during COVID, I encourage you to get involved. Volunteer. Take a class. Come to services. Come to one of the many social events our committees have created for you. Reach out to our clergy, they are there for us. In my experience, if you are feeling disconnected, I recommend Cantor Hollis’s couch—but you should know you might end up standing up here making a New President speech.
As a member of the Board, I have seen the dedication of our clergy and professional staff during an incredibly challenging time, constantly redefining what services, education and community looks like. I am in awe of their passion and devotion to our children through Hineini and the ELC. And to our congregation as a whole creating multiple ways for our community to come together in engagement and prayer, both on Shabbat and holiday services, all while navigating an ever-changing landscape. Even when our doors were sometimes closed, our community was not.
We have not been idle over these last few years. We have used the time to clean and organize closets, scoured our membership database- giving us a true picture for the first time in years as to the number of families in our community. We have made multiple process improvements creating better efficiency in our administration, including the creation of individual B. Mitzvah webpages, and new event forms. We have made repairs including: improved lighting both inside and out with energy conservation in mind, new divider walls between the sanctuary and social halls, and purchasing a canopy for the courtyard to expand our ability to gather safely. We have replaced non-functioning equipment and dramatically improved our technology making it possible to increase access to our community and tefillah in multiple ways. Tomorrow you will see a video of our improvements with new cameras and wider viewing angles, increasing the feeling of community. We have deepened our partnerships with other Jewish Agencies including: JCRC, JFS and CJP, as well as furthering our connection with the Mosque, UPB and GFCC. We have, as you heard earlier, spent considerable time thinking and planning for our future with a strategic plan. We are ready to get started! But we need your help to fulfill the vision that we have for our community. In the Strategic Plan, we need to draw on the energy and talent and resources of everyone in the congregation. It is not a set in stone road map, but a living fluid plan and it is ready for your ideas and enthusiasm. I encourage you to join us in creating the community we all want to be a part of.
With an eye on our future, Temple Shir Tikva is a proud member of the ninth cohort of the OnBoard program, a unique program designed to strengthen and develop the skills of board members of organizations under the auspices of the Jewish community. This amazing opportunity was by invitation only and we are thrilled our reputation as a dynamic and engaging synagogue meant that we were selected. We are incredibly grateful for being chosen to participate in the OnBoard program and look forward to sharing with the community how this program has positively influenced our organization.
As President– elect this last year, I have thought a lot about what I wanted to say, what message I wanted to convey to our congregation as I take on this role. I kept coming back to this poem by Tyler Knott Gregson that showed up in my social media feed around Valentine’s Day. It spoke to me, so much so that I saved it to share with you:
“I didn’t know how else to say it, so I said She made me more. More alive, More aware, passionate and calm. Perhaps the best we can do for those we love is to make them MORE. Always so much more than they ever thought possible”
This is what I want all of us to feel about our Shir Tikva community. MORE. So, I am asking you to be MORE with us. And let us be MORE with you. Thank you.