Since taking office two months ago I have been asked the same question by many people: Why would you agree to be president of a synagogue? It is a good question, and there are a number of responses. The first is that I didn’t agree to be president of just any synagogue; I agreed to be president of Beth El, which is my home. This is a community where everyone is welcomed, where everyone can have a voice, where our participation is valued and where our friendships matter. That is the Beth El that has given so much to us and which we enjoy giving back to. On a personal note, as you can tell from my picture on our website, I am a Pirate fan. Twice recently Beth El has provided an opportunity combining community and baseball.
In July, thanks to a very generous anonymous donor, over 120 Beth El members enjoyed a wonderful afternoon in a World Series suite at PNC Park. Our donor thought of everything: great seats, buses to take us to and from the game, and delicious kosher food for all. I have never seen so many people so happy at an event! A couple weeks later I was invited to represent Beth El at Jewish Heritage Night at the ballpark. Imagine my delight to be on the field with other Jewish community leaders, have our pictures shown on the scoreboard, and be able to share the moment with friends and family!
Speaking of my team, one of the rewards of this office is that I get to work with so many good people. In particular, my starting line up consists of veteran and rookie vice presidents. I have spent hours, no, days with our Executive Vice President Warren Sufrin learning all of the ins and out of Beth El, and using each other as sounding boards as we move initiatives forward. It doesn’t hurt that Warren has been a close friend since the day we reconnected at one of the first events Jan and I attended at Beth El. I don’t recall what the event was, perhaps a Friday night dinner, but I do recall that he looked like he hadn’t changed since we were at EKC years before.
I have also spent many worthwhile hours with our other vice presidents, some of whom have continued from last year and others who are new to the Executive Committee. Tracy Gross and Bonnie Gordon somehow agreed to stay on in their respective positions of Fundraising and Membership (I suspect that a Harry Potter-type potion was involved). These are both vitally important jobs. Tracy and Bonnie deserve our respect and support for extending their commitment to our community.
It has been a pleasure getting to know, or getting to know better, our new vice presidents. Dave Sirota has taken on the daunting task of replacing a legend, Dennis Holzer, as Financial VP. Dave has already shown a great willingness and aptitude for taking on the financial reins. Dave will be the voice that reminds us that we can only spend what we take in, and that before we agree to do something we had better figure out how we are going to pay for it! It is one thing to replace a legend; it is a wholly different matter to be the daughter of one! Susie Seletz, our first VP of Volunteerism, is the daughter of our beloved Sam and Hannah Balk. What does the VP of Volunteerism do you may ask? She asked the same question. While the Congregation created the position, and we have given her ideas, goals and parameters to follow, it will be Susie’s hard work that will establish the position in ways that benefit our community.
I am also very happy to work with Francine Rosenthal. As Education VP Francine has the enviable task of working with our wonderful Religious School Director, Rabbi Amy Greenbaum. What is the true purpose of a synagogue if not to educate our children? I have every confidence that you will be pleased with the creative and joyful learning our children will continue to receive. Eric Perelman, our Administrative VP, has already taken on his position with interest, ingenuity and skill. Along with trying to beat me in Fantasy Football, Eric is taking the lead in projects too numerous to mention.
Each of our vice presidents has come into office with a positive spirit and a desire to do what is best for Beth El. But none can do it without the support of their families, friends and the entire Beth El community. You all have the opportunity to step forward and help. Your involvement in the community is vital for the success of Beth El; and it is a rewarding experience for you too. Remember, Beth El is the sum of all of us.
I look forward to working with you and hope to see you during the High Holy Days!