I’m going to start this article by telling you it is being written for selfish reasons. Having said that, I’m still hoping that all of you find it meaningful and appropriate, but the truth is, I need this for me.
Over the last year (wow, it’s really been a full year) that we have been unable to be together inside our beautiful building, temple business has nonetheless continued. As president, I have attended many meetings, including The Executive Committee, Board meetings, Temple Foundation, Budget and Finance, Staff Meetings, the Reopening Task Force, as well as three different search committees, just to name a few. All of these groups exist for the purpose of conducting temple business. Some are ongoing and continuous, while others are temporary.
At these meetings, all on Zoom, of course, we do what we need to do. Some last an hour or so, and some go on much longer. Fortunately, because of the current technology, we are able to see each other, address the business at hand, but also laugh a bit, be playful, and catch up with friends. I am proud to be associated with so many people who are giving of their time, energy, and intellect, for the benefit of our temple.
I know you will find this hard to believe, but from time to time, we experience disagreement. What’s the old joke? Two Jews and three opinions? But that’s okay. In order to accomplish our tasks and find resolution, differences of opinion are necessary. It would be artificial, and completely absurd if everyone agreed on everything all the time. All of us have common ground as members of Temple Israel, and we all have the same ultimate goal, that is to make decisions that are in the best interests of our temple.
And while I enjoy the interactions, as well as the opportunity to see people and perhaps kibbitz a bit, we are still working. There is a reason they call it work. We are engaged in various tasks, which include, studying, discussing, presenting opposing viewpoints, and making decisions. What we are not able to currently participate in is the “parking lot” meetings. This is a phenomenon that occurs after many meetings when small groups of people gather outside the building on the way to their cars. We either continue the discussion we had been having, perhaps engage in a little gossip (despite its prohibition in our tradition), or just catch up with each other. From time to time we make plans to see each other socially, or spend even more time sharing what’s going on in our lives.
The absence of this, of course, is not unique to those attending meetings. The lack of social interaction is something we all have been experiencing for far too long. But what’s happening is, I, along with many others, are continuing to do the work we have always done, but without the social aspect that is so fulfilling. I’m spending so much of my “Temple time” working on temple business without the opportunity to engage as we had prior to the Pandemic. My frame of reference in regard to Temple Israel has been sliced and diced down to crunching numbers, following agendas, and dealing with issues that require attention and response. When your exposure to an organization is largely limited to business responsibilities, and this what you have been doing for over a year, your perception becomes skewed. With so much of my attention having to be focused on the business at hand, I have lost sight of who we are.
But here’s the good news; I was recently at a couple of meetings (so what else is new), when people were asked to go around the room (Zoom room) and tell a little about themselves in regard to the temple. They shared their time as members, how their children have gone through Torah Center, and all the great friends they have made over the years.
Hearing those stories was nothing new to me, but I was surprisingly startled, and in a good way. I have been so bogged down in the “work,” I had forgotten why we are all here, and what so many of us are getting as members. One of the most meaningful stories I heard, was from someone who described going “Schul Shopping.” Their first stop was at Temple Israel, and because we were so welcoming, they didn’t need to go anywhere else. They had found their home. Other folks in the meetings described how much they love being in the Temple Israel family, what it has meant to themselves and to their families.
I recently received a text from a friend asking if we have had many members resign over the last year. I was very pleased to respond that we haven’t, and asked him why he wanted to know. The answer was he had heard about another synagogue that lost about 25% of their membership during that time, and he was curious if we had experienced something similar.
We are all here for many different reasons; spirituality, social connections, learning (for ourselves and our children), religious observance, as well as other purposes. It goes without saying that we are all chomping at the bit to get back to some form of normalcy, both at Temple, and in the rest of our lives.
What I need to remember, and not lose sight of, is the reason we are all proud members of Temple Israel. Despite the budget numbers that need to be studied, the agendas that need to be constructed and followed, the differences of opinion, and the rest of the business that requires attention, we are still an amazing place, even after nearly 100 years. Temple Israel is my home, and I love it more today than ever before.
As I said at the outset, this article was for me. But if anyone out there has experienced similar feelings, you have my permission to use these words for yourselves as well (but you have to give me 50 cents).
We will be back. And when we are, it will be just as great as before we left.
Please continue staying safe and healthy.