This is the blessing for communal leadership.
It emphasizes the responsibility we all have to work and strengthen our community. What we do today is, in Judaism, a sacred task. Elie Wiesel says, “To be part of a community, to shape it, and to strengthen is the most urgent and the most vital obligation facing the Jewish individual.”
I think all of us our here today for that very reason. We recognize our obligation to strengthen the United Brothers community and to make sure that we continue to thrive for the next 113 years.
By virtue of attending the annual meeting, I think everyone here understands this and UBS is blessed by your support and commitment. As a member of this congregation, I want to thank everyone here for demonstrating this commitment.
I became president of UBS rather abruptly earlier this year when Beth Rabin moved to Colorado. It was a little disorienting at first, but members of the board stepped forward to help advise and mentor me. I want to thank the board as a whole for their help but especially want to thank Herb Sackett and Steve Krohn who were enormously generous with their time. Every synagogue has its own “minhag” or ways of doing things and these two helped this “new kid on the block” to come up to speed quickly.
One of the first questions I had for them was “How does everything get done? Who sends the emails, who picks up the mail, who answers the phone. Who organizes the onegs, this potluck dinner, the newsletter? It was then I realized how fortunate this congregation was to have a dedicated – and I mean truly dedicated — group of volunteers who labor tirelessly on behalf of all of us. So, thank you, thank you, thank you.
But I’d like to recognize someone in particular for their dedicated and inspired work done on our behalf. Brenda Stahl has been everywhere. She has been responsible for both organizing and conceiving our book club and this year’s wonderful and sold-out seder – both of which truly strengthen us as a community. And beyond those activities she’s helped organize, with Harriet, today’s dinners, the onegs and I’m sure I’m leaving stuff out. In recognition of this work, I’d like to present Brenda with this President’s Award.
Our congregation, thanks to all of you, is in pretty good shape. Our finances are in order, membership is up a bit, attendance at services is also up and more people are participating in our programing. But the board needs to work hard this year to sustain this momentum.
• Membership is always the key to the future success of the congregation. We need to continue to attract new members, not to simply replace those lost through normal attrition but to keep growing. It’s not unreasonable for us to have a goal of 60-65 memberships. Beyond that we might start straining this building’s capacity but that would be happy worry to have.
o To help attract new members, this year we are going to revamp our website. It needs to be updated and made more attractive. Erik Skoug has volunteered to help with this in addition to his work on the bulletin. The website is truly the main mechanism people use to learn about us these days. Just last Friday I met a visiting couple – and potential members — who walked by our building and “looked us up on the web”. They liked what they learned there and decided to join us for services.
o We are working to make sure that when people attend our worship services, they view the experience as meaningful and worthwhile. To that end, I’ve started to have regular offsite meetings with Scott so that he has a better idea of congregational expectations. These meetings have all been extremely positive and Scott and absolutely committed to working closely in partnership with the board.
o The purchase of the new cushions helps too. Having a sore tush should not be one of the take-aways from our services.
o But there is something you all can do to help. When you see someone new at our services, introduce yourselves and welcome them. It was that welcoming experience that attracted Faye and me UBS and we all have a part to play.
• We will be spending time on our physical plant this year. Most immediate is that the Rhode Island fire code mandates that, by the end of 2014, we upgrade our fire detection systems to the new standard. This will be a somewhat expensive task. We’ve received two preliminary bids and the cost will probably be between 5 and 10 thousand dollars. This is not a discretionary expenditure – we’ll have to do it.
o The building will also continue to have various aches and pains. Just last month we needed some moderately expensive plumbing work to replace a crushed drainpipe.
• Organizationally we need to revamp our committee structure. The formal committee structure outlined in our bylaws is totally unrelated to our needs. Herb Sackett has done some excellent preliminary work in this area and this will be an early priority of the board.
• Lastly, I want to continue to formalize our “IT” infrastructure. This is something I started last year and we subscribed to a cloud based synagogue management system called Chai Track. The jury is still out on whether or not this was a good decision, but we’ll continue to evaluate it.
So, to the board members who were just elected, welcome aboard. Remember, the work we do is sacred work and a mitzvah. To the congregation, thank you for your support and help.