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Annual Meeting 2020

06/01/2020 07:22:10 PM


Harry Merkin

I am incredibly pleased and excited to accept the vote of the congregation to be your next President. And I am both awed by the responsibility and thrilled at the opportunity to help lead our community forward for the next two years.

First I want to thank Scott Cohen for helping me get ready. Scott has been a great partner and wonderful guide for the last year plus. I know that he passes the baton with mixed feelings – he even had a countdown clock at one point but that seemed to fade into the background as we got closer to the actual transition. Scott has shared everything with me over the last year and provided great wisdom regarding what it means to be president of Temple Shir Tikva. Yes the buck stops with the president but at the same time you get unique perspective on the many successes and joys our temple shares with our members. I think I am ready, but as Scott and other past presidents have said very wisely, “every president gets at least one crisis during their term”. And in this case, we all know what it is – the pandemic around us.

To that end I want to publicly acknowledge and thank Rabbi Danny, Cantor Hollis, Rabbi Jordi, Alison Weikel, Susan Altman and the entire clergy and professional staff, including the administrative staff, for handling this sudden, unexpected and pervasive crisis with amazing presence, thoughtfulness and agility. And my gratitude also extends to the religious school teachers and the ELC teachers, all of whom had the continuing engagement, connection and welfare of our families in their minds and their hearts. The transformation of our community to a virtual one has taken an enormous effort and I am sure you will agree that the results have been special. We are attending services in record numbers, Zoom b’nei mitzvot have taken place and school and adult education experiences have moved to beyond the building. We have proven that not only can this be done, but also that conventional attendance in person, while a wonderful experience that cannot be matched, is but one option for the future. And we have also proven that Temple Shir Tikva truly meets you where you are.

Looking ahead, there are significant considerations for how and when we will resume in person activities. As you saw in the slate from the Nominating Committee, Amy O’Donnell is heading up our COVID-19 response and planning efforts, with a Task Force representing many skills and perspectives and represented by an At Large Board position. The lay leadership, in partnership

with our clergy and professional staff, will do the right thing for the health and well being of our members. We must be safe – this is the most important Jewish value, and that will always lead our reasoning. We are already looking at the Jewish calendar going forward and will be making plans and sharing them with you for how we will worship and celebrate as a community.

At some point, most likely during the next year, we should be able to move into a new phase of living, where contact is once again relatively safe, with a vaccine available to all. We look forward to this time.

We are very proud to have strong core values as a community and act them out through our Social Justice programs. With the frustration and pain that much of the country is experiencing right now, our clergy have been prominent in our community even in the last 24 hours. Both Cantor Hollis and Rabbi Jordi were present at the peaceful protest in Wayland yesterday and all three of our clergy have signed a letter from the Wayland Interfaith Leaders Association that eloquently articulates everyone’s responsibility and commitment to fight racism, the other “virus” among us in addition to COVID-19. Hatred of any kind cannot be tolerated.

And although COVID-19 may be the elephant in the room right now, there are other important challenges and opportunities before us. Temple Shir Tikva continues to thrive, grow and progress in many ways. Our mission to become the center of Jewish living in MetroWest and to make Judaism relevant in the 21st century continues. During the next two years, we will embark on a strategic planning initiative, to further define our journey forward, and how we plan to get to our stated goals. Our mission and vision are clear; now we must define, to the best of our ability, how we will get there. This will be a comprehensive exercise – one that will leverage the expertise of supporting organizations such as CJP and the URJ, and will also lean on the formidable strategic talents of our members. And Roy Lurie, our Leadership and Governance Trustee, will lead this effort. More to come as the plan for the plan crystallizes.

And of course TST will continue to serve the many cohorts that make us special. I am extremely excited about the caliber of our incoming Board of Trustees – there is tremendous commitment, perspective and skills among them. Anyone in my position is only as good as their team, and this team is second to none. I do want

to do a special shout out to Mary Beth Rettger who not only co-chaired the Executive Director Search Task Force with me, not only is becoming the At-Large Trustee for Human Resources, but also is going to keep the Executive Director seat warm starting tomorrow, until Marc Weiss joins us on July 1. Thank you Mary Beth.

My first housekeeping item as President, and it is an important one, is to let you know that the membership packets for the upcoming year are going to be physically mailed to you starting tomorrow. Please watch for them and respond promptly, so we can continue staying in touch with important updates and sustain the vitality and sustainability of our sacred community.

And finally I want to thank my wife Debbie, who reacted without hesitation a year and a half ago when I told her I had been asked to serve as President, and was thinking long and hard about it. She said “you have to do it – you will forever regret it if you say no. You were meant to do this.” I haven’t looked back since.

I am looking forward to a healthy, safe and fulfilling time for our congregation. Thank you very much.

Wed, September 23 2020 5 Tishrei 5781