2008 Yom Kippur speech by the President
It is again my pleasure to welcome you to Kehilat Gesher.
May I ask how many of you are here for the first time?
A special welcome to all of you on behalf of the KG Boardmembers.
I told you last year that it was hard to prepare my first speech. This one was even harder, but for a different reason…
… with the North Pole melting, a quarter of the mammal species disappearing, and now the biggest world economic crisis in 70 years,
… I thought that perhaps I should make a somber serious speech, but
… I cannot, because Kehilat Gesher is a source of light.
I realized as I was preparing, that when I would welcome you on behalf of the board that some of you may not know exactly what a synagogue board does.
Let me reassure you. We on the board don’t know either… but that doesn’t stop us.
When Rabbi Tom tells us that G intended for the world to be not perfect, well, our group is just divine.
So, when the board meets, we ask Rabbi Tom to introduce our meetings so that we can at least try to pull ourselves together.
But, to explain, let’s just say that we spend our terms on the board like a bunch of worried Jewish mothers (okay, there are a few fathers), worrying over the congregation, worrying whether our eldest daughter is going to one day find an appropriate suitor who will bring her all the beautiful things she needs, worried that we are spoiling her by acquiring things that she should do without, or on the contrary worried that if we are too tough on her, she won’t be fun to be around.
And so of course we all think that Kehilat Gesher, our daughter, is unique.
For example, while we are not rich, we have more of most things than any other synagogue I know.
- Your synagogue is reform or conservative. We are Conservative AND Reform.
- You are of Ashkenazic or Sephardic. We are Ashkenazic AND Sephardic AND Farsi AND some of us are none of the above.
- Your synagogue does English and Hebrew or French and Hebrew. We do trilingual
- Your synagogue is located in town or out of town. We have both plus this big location.
- Your community does an annual fundraiser.
- We ask for volunteers and money every time we see you
And even when we don’t see you, it’s in the weekly emails.
Our challenge, out of all of the above, is to build one community amid this diversity and to help our members connect with Jewish tradition in whatever way is meaningful to each individual.
And to that end, I would like to salute the few individuals without whom we would not be here tonight. No, I don’t mean our Moms and Dads!
I refer to the original board members, Betsy Matheny and Michelle Green, joined soon after by the Cohns, Haas, the Rubinsteins, the Rosens, the Beders, some of our earliest members. And Rabbi Tom, our original and one and only rabbi.
Thanks to these very few people, today, 15 years later, our teen daughter Kehilat Gesher is bringing spiritual support to hundreds of people, visitors and members on YK, and people young and old are following in the Jewish faith that they would have possibly abandoned, if it weren’t for the liberal approach and the tone set for us by Rabbi Tom.
And I am proud to have followed so many years later in their footsteps.
But you know, they didn’t tell me the whole story about my job. They said, « You’ll see. It will be so satisfying (to be President) because our greatest legacy to our children and the future of Judaism is not material wealth, it’s our values. Don’t worry about the money »
So why am I here on YK, with those postcard type pledge cards to also talk about donations ?
Because Yom Kippur is no stand-alone product.
it takes a whole community 366 (in leap year) days a year to make Yom Kippur possible. It takes people. It takes a rabbi, a talmud torah director (Javier, raise your hand) and his 5 teachers, a secretary, Jenny Waters, whom you’ve met by email if not phone.
It also takes volunteers :
- to organize each and every holiday whether you come or not,
- to do the community newspaper Passerelle whether you read it or not,
- to do the websites and blog, whether you visit or not
- to put up the calendar on time, whether you check the program or not,
- to bring in challah on Friday night, always the same ones,
- to drive the teens around to activities on a Saturday night,
- to organize teen tikkun olam, bringing food to the poor,
- to organize tikkun olam for Israeli war veterans, for retired people,
- to be the choir, the musicians
- to be the volunteer cantor during the High Holidays.
- One of our members for the past three years has been standing outside with the security guards for most of the holidays to make things easier for everyone to get in.
And, every year, despite the volunteers, the rest costs more. How much ?
Our current annual expenses, are a huge sum for our numbers, and member fees bring in less than half: 180k €, which would require more than 1200 € per member per year.
Without the recent spring appeal, we would be in deficit.
We are always looking for ways to improve, to build an inclusive community that inspires you to become involved, and that is relevant with lifelong opportunities for Jewish living, learning and celebration.
So, take the post card you see in front of you, or take even two, we have a lot of them too, but send one of them back to us with your promise to help Kehilat Gesher keep spreading the liberal message. Here in the world’s third largest Jewish community with a high rate of drop-outs, KG can make an impact.
And just remember when you make your donation, we won’t react like the ungrateful Jewish mother in Tom Friedman’s Rabbi’s joke which I won’t repeat in English, but I will say it in French…
A frail 80-year-old mother is celebrating her birthday and her three sons each give her a present. Harry gives her a new house. Harvey gives her a new car and driver. And Bernie gives her a huge parrot that can recite the entire Torah. A week later, she calls her three sons together and says: “Harry, thanks for the nice house, but I only live in one room. Harvey, thanks for the nice car, but I can’t stand the driver. Bernie, thanks for giving your mother something she could really enjoy. That chicken was delicious.”
Nor will we be like the quintessential Jewish mother who gave her son two neckties, a red and a blue . He wore the red one and when she opened the door, she said, So, you don’t like blue?
Thank you and have an easy fast!