Sunday, July 30, 2017

The State of the Congregation

 From the pages of Kadima, the newsletter of Congregation Adas Emuno:

A Message From Our President

Dr. Lance Strate

The State of the Congregation

For the past four years, I have begun by stating that the state of our congregation is strong, and I want to begin again by saying that we remain strong as a congregation, despite the challenges that we face.

The source of our strength is in our people: our members, our clergy, our leadership. And so I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge a group of dedicated, hardworking, and talented individuals. I want to thank our officers, Vice-President Elka Oliver, Financial Secretary Mark Rosenberg, Treasurer Marilyn Katz, and Recording Secretary Susan Grey, for all that they have done for Adas Emuno, and will continue to do for our shul in the future. I also want to thank the other members of our Board of Trustees, Carol Bodian, Annette DeMarco, Michael Fishbein, Judith Fisher, Jody Pogach, Michael Raskin, Norman Rosen, Lauren Rowland, Ronald Waxman, Doris White, Sandra Zornek, and of course our past president, Virginia Gitter. Our board has never shirked its duties or ignored its fiduciary responsibilities to our congregation (the commitment reflected in the late hour that our meetings often run to), and I believe we can all be grateful that there is so much potential for future leadership represented on our board.

While I will not go over every committee and name all of the chairs and volunteers who make things happen, instead I will say that you all are the lifeblood of this congregation, and your contributions are recognized, understood, and treasured.

We continue to be blessed by a dream team of clergy, and I simply cannot say enough about Rabbi Schwartz and Cantor Horowitz. But I will say that our rabbi is a true scholar and teacher, whether he is standing on the pulpit, speaking to individuals in the social hall, teaching Torah Study, adult education or confirmation class, or setting an example by his own efforts at social action. He is our spiritual leader, our role model and guide, and we are so fortunate to have him, and his wife Debby, as part of the Adas Emuno family.

Cantor Horowitz performs her dual role as cantor and religious school director with grace, inspiration, and authority. The beautiful and moving music she brings to our services is echoed by the music that can be heard on Sundays in the voices of our students and teachers engaged in Jewish learning and education. For this reason, I am very pleased to report to the congregation that Cantor Horowitz has signed another two-year contract, so that she will continue on as our Cantor-Educator for the near future. This represents the longest period of continuity regarding our temple’s clergy for many years, certainly longer than I can remember, and I believe we can take pride in this achievement and be thankful for such good fortune.

In support of the Cantor and our services, as well as other activities we take part in, such as musical performances, talent shows, and Purim spiels, we have recently made a major improvement by replacing our old, cobbled-together, secondhand sound system, which was failing, with a new one. It is one that will continue to serve our congregation (which I do not hesitate to characterize as musical and discerning) for many years to come. I want to express our sincere gratitude to Kurt Roberg for his generation donation that enabled us to purchase this new system. A special thanks also to Elka Oliver for spearheading the mission. And on the subject of the Purim spiel, I just want to say that it is such an honor and pleasure for me to be able to help make that one of our many special events and observances.

This past year has been in many ways a quiet year for our congregation, but it also has been one in which we have made our voices heard, becoming political collectively as so many of us have become individually of late. This includes Rabbi Schwartz’s efforts, endorsed by the board, to have Leonia declared a sanctuary city, and our letter of protest to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding the status of egalitarian worship at the Western Wall. The significance of these efforts lies not in the fact that they did not achieve their stated goals, but in the ways in which we, as a congregation, have become engaged with our community, our nation, and our people.

Our sesquicentennial is just four years away now, and it is imperative that we think about the future, to plan a celebration, but also to insure that our congregation survives for another 150 years. Our greatest challenges remain above all, membership, as our numbers have declined, and the demographics of the area do not work in our favor. We need to put more effort into trying to recruit new members, especially families with school age children, as our religious school enrollments have also gone down. On the bright side, Rabbi Schwartz has spearheaded an effort to establish a temple youth group, and this will serve not only our teens, but our efforts to be more attractive to potential members. But we need everyone working together to keep our little shul on the hill going strong. Financially, we are healthy for the short term, but in the long run we need members to keep us healthy.

We have our work cut out for us, but I think we all know that there is something special about our congregation, something worth working for, and something that makes it very rewarding to do so. I want to call on all of our membership to come to our aid in the coming year, and beyond, to do whatever you can, to go above and beyond, to support our shul, through donations, and through your thoughts and time and participation as congregants, volunteers, and Adas Emuno ambassadors. Our congregation is strong, and with your help, with all of us working together, we will continue to go from strength to strength. Thank you.

June 15, 2017

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