Exterior of Temple Israel Long Beach


Steve Gordon

Volunteers, Extraordinaire

October 5, 2020

Over the last 6 months, our conversations, activities, meetings, and virtually everything we have done over that time, have been dominated by the Coronavirus Pandemic (after writing this sentence, I smiled at my use of the word “virtually.” There was no pun intended, but it certainly fits our current landscape). I have written about alternative programming, and the efforts of clergy, staff, and lay leaders alike, to develop meaningful opportunities for our engagement. My article last month dealt with the High Holy Days, and what our experiences could be, given the current limitations. It is my hope that when reading this, you are coming off a meaningful High Holy Day experience. I further hope that when we welcome in year 5781, our wishes of Shanah Tova will be done face to face, with handshakes and hugs.

This month, I would like to share with you an observation I recently made. As president, I have the privilege (some might use a different word, but I’m going with privilege) of attending a whole bunch of meetings. These meetings are typically Zoom gatherings of various committees. Some of these groups I gave a shout-out to during my remarks on Rosh HaShanah, but there are others who are equally deserving of our thanks and appreciation. They include, but are not limited to, the following:

Rabbi Transition Committee – Co-chaired by Melissa Newman and Jan Stein, this is a group of people who have been charged with easing Rabbi Fox and his family’s transition into our community. They are the folks who have arranged the meet and greets. They have developed the opportunities to “Ask Rabbi Fox.” And they produced the fabulous interview conducted by Adolfo Guzman Lopez. At the most recent meeting I attended, one of the agenda items was to evaluate the events that have been done so far, as well as to discuss additional ways for Rabbi Fox and the congregation to become further acquainted.

High Holy Days Task Force – This committee, led by Rabbi Fox and Cantor Hass, had the extremely difficult task of trying to make the High Holy Days something more than simply another set of services for us to watch on our computers. And while Rabbi and Cantor were responsible for the spirituality of our experience, the technical aspect was an enormous component of the project. I would like to express a sincere and heartfelt thank you to Paul Levitt, Jerry Levy, Adam Brown, and Sushila Love, for their effort, creativity, and dedication. The number of hours they put into this was above and beyond. It was largely behind the scenes, and unknown to most, but well deserving of our appreciation. Re-entering the Building Task Force – I wish I could say this group no longer needs to meet, but sadly, that’s not the case. Even with no real end in sight, this committee is meeting on a regular basis, evaluating current conditions, and discussing what makes sense for us to do, in addition to what not to do. Thank you to Eric Shatzkin, for recognizing the need, and for putting this very talented group together. Thank you also to all those serving on the committee, and for lending us your expertise. It is greatly appreciated.

Budget and Finance Committee – In addition to the ongoing work of developing and monitoring our budget, this committee is engaged in the study of our long term financial sustainability. This project was the brainchild of our treasurer Rick Burney, and is a much needed evaluation of our anticipated revenues and expenses. It is just getting started, but the various data are falling into place. As a fluid project, it will be updated as time goes on, with actual figures taking the place of assumptions.

Next 100 Years Campaign – Thank you so much to Amy Lipeles, who envisioned what this committee could do, and who did not stop cajoling all of us until the results of her efforts began coming to fruition. Thank you also to Janet Schultz and Susie Amster, for partnering with Amy to lead this group on its very important goal of providing financial sustainability to our beloved synagogue. Temple Israel Foundation – The Foundation is a completely separate entity, but its charge is to raise and manage funds for the benefit of Temple Israel. Alan Lilien, as newly installed president of the Foundation, oversees a board of trustees dedicated to making good financial decisions.

Personnel Committee – The complexity of human resources functions and responsibilities are often and easily overlooked. Not anymore. Under the direction of committee chair Linda Burney, our newly formatted personnel committee is helping to develop processes and procedures for the many important human resources tasks that are so crucial to any place of business.

Digital Engagement Task Force – Alan Lilien (yes the same Alan Lilien who is Foundation president), has spearheaded the development of our digital presence, or more specifically, the creation of our new website. This project is long overdue, and I thank Alan and his team for the terrific work they have done.

Ritual Practices Committee – What’s a temple without a ritual practices committee? Thank you to Mark Dressner for chairing this essential component of who we are and what we do.

Board of Directors – There is no way I could provide a list of committees without mentioning our board of directors. This is a group of 21 individuals who have donated a significant number of hours for the benefit of our temple. From developing and implementing policy, to evaluating and making financial decisions, the board’s primary responsibility is that of representing its constituency, our congregation.

Each of these committees and task forces are engaged in their own individual slice of temple business. There is, however, one common denominator that I have witnessed in nearly every meeting I’ve attended. When I look around the Zoom Room, and listen to the participants, I realize that every single comment, and every single question, is motivated by one shared goal: How do we make, and keep Temple Israel the great place that it already is? Everyone has preferences. Some are in line with other’s desires, and some are not. Either way, the commitment and passion displayed by all, I find to be breathtaking, and makes me proud.

I consider myself truly fortunate to be working with all these exceptionally talented individuals. And we, as a congregation, are equally as fortunate to be the recipients of all their hard work.