Dear Fellow Congregants.
Thank you so much for electing me as your new President for 2022-23. It’s a position I take very seriously, and I will strive to do my best to serve the congregation’s needs. I bring a great deal of synagogue leadership experience both at Temple Oseh Shalom and at my two previous congregations. Over the past 30 years, I have worked on, or chaired, a variety of synagogue committees, including Membership, Adult Education, Strategic Planning, Ritual, Leadership Development, and Outreach. I’ve even served on Nominating and Search Committees.
Professionally, I spent over 25 years in the retail industry, much of it with Macy’s Department Stores, where I ultimately served as Director of Training. As a volunteer, I taught synagogue leadership classes for the Atlanta Jewish Federation. I also developed the materials used to train volunteers for the URJ Biennial Conferences. I hold a master’s degree in Organization Development from Georgia State University and have years of experience helping both businesses and non-profits grow and change. (Our recent Imagine Oseh Shalom meetings are just one example of the type of work I did.)
That aside, I want to share my hopes and my vision for Temple Oseh Shalom as I step into my new and most challenging role thus far. Temple Oseh Shalom is an evolving organization. Since our inception 16 years ago, we’ve experienced a large turnover in membership. Many of our founding members have either moved away or passed on. At the same time, our newer members have brought fresh ideas and often different expectations. The nearly 80 congregants who recently participated in Imagine Oseh Shalom included both long-term and newer members. They gave us a good indication of what they want to keep, what they want to change, and where they see us headed in the future. Many of their suggestions can be acted upon fairly quickly and are already being addressed by our Board and our committees. At the same time, we will soon begin the process of planning for the longer-term.
In the year ahead, I hope to see increased member participation in temple activities and events, especially now that Covid is largely behind us. As well, we are an organization that is driven by volunteers, and I’d like to see more of you get involved. Many of you possess special talents and skills from which our congregation can benefit. I hope to see more people step forward and offer to share those with us. Similarly, our religious services are enriched by our members’ participation when they are called up to the bimah to recite blessings, do readings in English, or perform other Honors. Please… when you receive a call from the Ritual Committee offering you an Honor, I hope you’ll say YES!
Speaking of religious services, during our recent Imagine meetings, many of you brought up changes you’d like to see. Keep in mind that our members come from a wide variety of religious traditions, ranging from Classic Reform to Orthodox. We want to continue to honor all these different backgrounds and are working closely with our Ritual Committee and Rabbi Kanter to begin to address these concerns. Imagine participants also mentioned pastoral services, such as calls or visits from the Rabbi or Care Committee, as an important congregational need. Seeing to the individual needs of 500+ members presents both a challenge and an opportunity. I have already begun to convene a group of congregants to serve on a “task force” that will explore different ways TOS can more consistently meet these pastoral needs.
Our Membership Committee is broadening its focus so that its activities are three-fold: recruiting people to become members; integrating new members into temple life; and retaining longer-term members whose interest may have waned. We also want to increase the number of members we have by raising awareness of our congregation’s existence. If you, or someone you know, has experience with Publicity and/or Public Relations, I’d love to hear from you.
One of my own goals for Temple Oseh Shalom is for us to become more connected with the greater Jewish community of the Lowcountry. We have already begun that effort by co-sponsoring or participating in recent education programs with our local Hadassah chapter, and with Congregations Mickve Israel in Savannah and Beth Yam on Hilton Head. I look forward to continuing to build alliances with these and other local Jewish organizations like Chabad, the Sun City Shalom Club, and more. In my view, we are not in competition with one another… and the more we do together, the better it is for the entire Jewish community.
There’s something else that came up frequently at our Imagine meetings. Even though 75% of our current members reside in Sun City, we are not a “Sun City congregation.” We need to be more inclusive of the 125+ members who live elsewhere in Bluffton, in Hardeeville, and on Hilton Head. This means being more welcoming at services and other temple events, providing opportunities for congregants to get to know one another, and especially by not referring to Sun City when describing our congregation. Moreover, if a temple event is being held at a facility inside Sun City, don’t assume everyone knows where that is. Include an address in your announcement!!
Finally, please know that I will always be open to your ideas and concerns. Feel free to call or email me when something is bothering you, as well as when you are pleased with something we’re doing. I welcome your feedback. In return, I ask that you be patient as your Board and committees work on addressing the needs of our congregation. And, while this will not always be feasible, we will always seek to be as transparent as possible.